Site Records

Site Name: Campsie AAOR serving the Londonderry GDA

Co. Londonderry
Northern Ireland

RSG site visit 12th June 2002

[Source: Nick Catford]

30 Post War Anti Aircraft Operations Rooms (AAOR) were built, 26 in purpose built two level windowless blockhouses with the other 4 utilising already existing buildings. There is speculation that others may have been built or at least planned. The PRO lists a Norwich AAOR (1 Group 16 Brigade) but there is no evidence that this was ever commissioned or even built. A London West AAOR is listed at RAF Uxbridge (1 Group 67/82 Brigade) and although there is some documentary evidence to suggest this AAOR was at least planned the West London GDA is documented as being controlled from the AAOR's at Pendell Camp and Lippetts Hill. An early 1960's aerial photograph of RAF Uxbridge shows no buildings resembling a standard design AAOR.

Duncan Campbell lists AAOR's for the Leighton Buzzard and Falmouth Gun Defended Area's (GDA) in War Plan UK but there is no evidence whatsoever to support these two sites.

Photo: External view of the blockhouse
Photo by Nick Catford

In Northern Ireland there was a single AAOR at Lisburn serving the Belfast and Londonderry GDA but, according to the PRO, Belfast and Londonderry were originally separate GDA's and while Lisburn AAOR was built and commissioned there is no further record of an AAOR for Londonderry and no record of the brigade that would have manned it. The Londonderry AAOR has now been found a few miles to the east of the city, 150 yards south of the A2 at Campsie.

The building is set into a small quarry but the top with its distinctive 'chimney' is visible from the road. It is a two storey concrete blockhouse of the standard design with both floors above ground. There are two entrances, one on either side accessed through a covered porch. The steel blast doors are still in place and open.

Once inside it is clear that although the concrete shell of the building has been completed, it has never been fitted out and finished. Apart from the two outer doors there are no internal doors or door frames, no electrical wiring of any kind anywhere and all the internal walls are bare concrete and have never been painted.

Photo: The unfinished 'Ops Room'
Photo by Nick Catford

The steel beams to support the wooden gallery around the two level 'Ops. Room' are in place but the gallery has never been installed. The unpainted steel columns for supporting the gallery are all lying on the floor next to their recessed hole in the floor but have never stood upright. All the rooms on the lower level are in place and follow the standard layout with solid walls.

On the upper level the room layout is formed by installing thin partition walls, these have not been fitted and the upper level consists of three long rooms and a smaller room at the back that would have become the 'Multiphone & Switchboard Room' with windows overlooking the gallery and gun commanders dais. The open doorways onto where the gallery should be are all in place presenting a danger to the unwary explorer.

Photo: 1960's aerial view of the Campsie AAOR (right) with one of the heavy anti-aircraft batteries defending Londonderry seen on the left.
Photo from Subterranea Britannica Collection

The front stairway has been blocked as have the two inner rear stairways while the two outer stairways are accessible giving access to the upper floor. There are numerous holes in the outer wall of the building where vents and other fittings have never been installed.

The building is currently used as an animal shelter and has numerous straw bales on the floor on the upper level. Animals are able to get in to the building through one of the large holes in the wall.

Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Keith Ward and Wayne Davies

[Source: Nick Catford]

Last updated 28th September 2003

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