Site Records

Site Name: RAF Barnham (94 Maintenance Unit) Nuclear Bomb Store (Permanent Ammunition Depot)

Elvedon Road
Barnham, Suffolk
OS Grid Ref: TL852798

Sub Brit site visit 6th November 2003

[Source: Nick Catford]

The fissile cores were stored in 57 small buildings known as 'hutches', set within the pentagonal revetted area with blast walls and grassed earth banks. The 'hutches' were arranged in five groups between the non-nuclear stores with the buildings linked by walkways to the compound ring road.

Photo:One of the plutonium core hutches and the protected walkway
Photo by Nick Catford

These walkways were defined by steel guide rails to prevent people straying onto the grassed area between them.

There were two types of buildings, Type A (of which there were 48) buildings would have held a single plutonium core and Type B buildings would have held two cobalt cores. The hutches are built from rendered concrete blocks with a flat concrete roof. The metal faced wooden doors were fitted with combination locks with additional electrically operated bolts that could be operated from the main control room. The cores were held in stainless steel containers mounted in an aperture in the concrete floor.

Added protection was achieved by surrounding the building with copper earth straps. Each hutch had a sealed intrinsically safe bulkhead light in the ceiling and intrinsically safe electrical switches. Barnham had sufficient storage capacity for 132 fissile cores although it's likely that only a small number were ever stored there as only 25 Blue Danube bombs were ever built at a cost of £1M per bomb.

Radiation sign on the hutch door
Photo by Dan McKenzie

All the hutches are still standing as are most of the railed walkways linking them to the loop road; lamp posts are placed at regular intervals along the walkways. All the buildings are derelict and empty and have been stripped of all their electrical fittings. Some of the hutches still have an aperture in the floor where the stainless steel container for the core was located and some still have a black radiation symbol on the door. The concrete panel fence is largely intact although some panels have been removed to give access to the area between this fence and the outer mesh fencing which is also intact.

Photo:The maintenance and refurbishment building
Photo by Nick Catford

Of the other building in the inner compound, one was for maintenance and refurbishment. This was located just inside the main gate behind a high concrete blast wall; the Blue Danube required a lot of regular maintenance to keep it ready for use. The building could be entered through two air locks, one located at each end. The building immediately behind housed electrical and ventilation plant and a photographic darkroom. This building is still there as is a storage building in front of it.

Most of the domestic buildings located between the two sliding gates are also still standing although the main administration building and RAF police building has been gutted by fire. All these buildings are of Seco construction, a prefabricated building system consisting of hollow plywood beams and columns. One of the watch towers is located amongst this clutch of buildings and the others still stand at the corners of the pentagon giving a good view along the perimeter fence. The towers are in good condition and can be climbed although the wooden decking at the top is rotting.

Photo:One of the watch towers located at the five corners of the external compound fencing. The open ground behind the watch tower is still an active MOD training area.
Photo by Nick Catford

Four further buildings are located alongside the access drive and outside the perimeter fence. The first, close to the road, is the outer picket post, this is derelict. Beyond this the MT section and two two stand-by set houses and between them another building that was probably a fuel store.

The remaining part of the WW2 ammunition depot remains an active military training area although all the high explosive magazines have been demolished and replaced by modern buildings of Barnham Camp. The area is still known as RAF Barnham, a dispersed subsidiary of RAF Honnington. The Little Heath forward filling depot (for mustard gas) was located on the south side of Elveden Road. Most of the WW2 buildings are still standing and now house the East of England Tank Museum.

For further pictures of RAF Barnham click here


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[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 9th November 2003

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