This page shows the locations used over the duration of the cold war and briefly describes the type of building used to house the Regional Government Headquarters.
Former RGHQ Locations
The map and the table below show the locations of the Regional Government Headquarters. The history of Regional Government before the sixties is beyond the scope of this topic as information about their communications networks is very sparse and not enough is known to be able to write anything meaningful.
Where the same Regional Code appears twice in the table, the first entry was later replaced by the second location around the time shown as 'In Service' date.
Regional Government Headquarters Locations
Region 2, North East
Region 3, East Midlands
Region 4, East
Basement Govt Building
Region 5, London
Region 6, South East
WW2 Radio Station
Basement Govt Building
Region 7, South West
50s till 85
Purpose Built RGHQ
Region 8, Wales
Region 9, Midlands
Region 10, North West
64 till 80
Basement Govt Bldg.
Region 11, Northern Ireland
Regional War Room
Purpose Built RGHQ
Region 1 Scotland
Purpose Built RGHQ
Rotor Bunkers Used as RGHQ
In the fifties, the Royal Air Force replaced the ageing WWII radar with centimetric radar in what was known as the ROTOR plan. This built an elaborate network of 39 bunkers at radar sites around the UK. On the East and South coast these were buried deep underground. On the West Coast where they were less vulnerable the bunkers were only semi-sunken. The plotters at radar stations reported to one of four Sector Operations Centres (ROTOR SOC) of similar design to the radar bunkers but larger with three levels.
If enemy aircraft were to approach the UK, the SOC would scramble interceptor aircraft. Most of the ROTOR radar bunkers became operational around 1952 but the rapid development of aircraft and radar technology quickly made the ROTOR plan redundant. As the speed of bomber aircraft increased it became necessary to control the interceptor fighters directly from the radar stations, making the SOC redundant. New radar was developed with an increased range that meant fewer radar stations were required. Many radar stations were closed or put into a care and maintenance state.
By the sixties, the government had many recently built and expensive bunkers now very embarrassingly left redundant. When the policy of Regional Seat of Government Headquarters was introduced, many of the ROTOR bunkers were utilised for these headquarters. Four ROTOR SOC bunkers (Bawburgh, Barnton Quarry, Kelvedon Hatch and Shipton) and four radar bunkers (Anstruther, Bolt Head, Hack Green and Skendleby) became Regional Headquarters.
All the ROTOR bunkers were built to similar specifications. The most noticeable feature of a fully submerged bunker being the entrance in a bungalow style guard house with a veranda. The guardhouse is connected via a tunnel into the main bunker. The only other surface features are the ventilation shafts and a lattice communications mast.
Other Bunkers used as RGHQ
Purpose Built Government Buildings used for RGHQ
At Southport, Basingstoke and Hertford, three government office buildings were constructed with reinforced basements that were used for Regional Government Headquarters. A bunker was built at Chilmark, Wiltshire in 1985 as a replacement for the RGHQ 71 bunker at Ullenwood, Gloucestershire. In Scotland, the former ROTOR bunker at Anstruther, Fife was replaced in 1990 by a newly built bunker at Cultybraggen.
Other buildings adapted as RGHQ
In the sixties, a section of a former ordnance factory at Brackla, Bridgend was converted to RGHQ 82. Another ordnance factory at Swynnerton, Staffordshire became RGHQ 91. In Region 6, WW2 tunnels known as the 'Dumpy' level in Dover Castle were adapted as RGHQ in 1962 before it moved in 1987 to the former WWII propaganda radio transmitter site at Crowborough. Two former government WWII Cold Stores located at Hexham, Northumberland and Loughborough, Leicestershire were adapted in the early eighties for use as Regional Headquarters 22 and 32 respectively.
Drakelow or Kinver
In July 1941 construction started on a matrix of tunnels designed as a factory for aircraft engines and as a RAF store having a combined floor area of 285,000 square feet. The tunnels are at the same level as Kingsford Lane which passes by the North side of the site and is about 150ft below the top of the sandstone ridge that formed part of the Drakelow estate. OS Ref SO820810
After engine production finished, parts of the tunnel complex have been used as a Regional Government Headquarters from the late fifties until the 1992 stand down. During that time it has been known variously as, the Regional Seat of Government No.9 Kinver; RGHQ 92 Drakelow or possibly Kidderminster. (the nearest large town) The gallery shows the lattice communications mast on the top of the ridge that linked into the HO sites nearby. A separate wooden pole carried the UHF Discone for use on the military band.
I took these black and white pictures of the tunnel entrances facing Kingsford Lane shortly after closure. They show the main entrance and standby generator engine air intakes and exhaust pipes.
In 1954, Drakelow, under the guise of codeword MACADAM was earmarked as a possible location for the Central Government War Headquarters (CGWHQ) as a replacement for, or addition to, Corsham but no work took place in preparing the site.
Current Use of the Former Bunkers
After the disbanding of the UKWMO the RGHQ bunkers have been placed on the market and some have been sold to landowners or private companies. Four have become museums open to the public. Kelvedon Hatch in Essex and Anstruther in Fife are underground ROTOR bunkers. Hack Green in Cheshire is a semi-sunken ROTOR bunker with a good display of exhibits from both sides of the Cold War. Dover Castle, former RGHQ is also open to the public. These secret bunker museums have their own web sites. All are well signposted for visitors, the phrasing of the signs like this one on the A525 at Audlem, gives many motorist a chuckle.
The Ullenwood RGHQ was in a former Anti-Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) a semi-sunken two storey bunker. A replacement was built in 1985 at Chilmark and since then had been used by Gloucester County Council. On a recent visit I have to assume it is now in private ownership as a large country house has been erected in the grounds. The bunker has been clad with local Cotswold stone to match the house and tastefully landscaped into the garden.
The former cold store at Loughborough that was converted to become RGHQ 3.2 in 1973 was demolished in 1996 and the site used for housing.
The other cold store at Hexham RGHQ 2.2 has also been demolished but as of April 2017 was just derelict land.