Site Records

Site Name: RAF Faldingworth (92 Maintenance Unit) Nuclear Bomb Store (Permanent Ammunition Depot)

OS Grid Ref: TF027850

Sub Brit site visit 28th October 2003

[Source: Nick Catford]

In the early l950s the former RAF Faldingworth was selected for development as a dedicated storage and maintenance facility for nuclear weapons, in particular for Blue Danube, Britain's first nuclear bomb. An second facility was built at Barnham in Suffolk. Faldingworth was completed by 1957 and was able to supply a number of squadrons at airfields on the east side of the country.

Blue Danube

The two sites are similar. Faldingworth, which came under the control of No. 92 Maintenance Unit, covers 23 acres with a roughly five sided pattern with projecting bastions that allowed the whole of the perimeter to be seen from the internal patrols. Added security was achieved by building watch towers at the corners. Inside the perimeter mesh fence which was topped with barbed wire there was a second concrete panel wall, also topped with barbed wire.

The guardroom and other many of the domestic and other buildings were located within the outer perimeter fence but outside the inner compound with access to the inner sanctum through a pair of sliding electrically operated gates mounted on rails. Dogs were allowed to run loose within this area.

Photo:One of the three non-nuclear storage buildings
Photo by Nick Catford

The weapon storage area consists of three different types of buildings, 3 large protected blockhouses for the storage of the non-nuclear components, these being the outer bomb casings and the high explosive parts of the bomb.

The three stores were arranged around an internal loop road with grassed earth banks along three sides of each building. At the entrance to each store there is an overall roof supported on concrete pillars with a gantry crane for lifting the heavy Blue Danube bombs from the large delivery trucks. Rooms to either side of the entrance housed ventilation plant for the blockhouse. Each rectangular storage blockhouse was 58 metres x 18 metres divided into 11 bays long by 3 bays wide with two internal lines of supporting concrete pillars.

This aerial view taken in 1968 clearly shows the hutches

The three storage buildings have been retained at Faldingworth and are now used for secure storage. One remains in original condition while another has been completely refurbished with a lowered ceiling and new fluorescent lighting; the third is currently empty awaiting refurbishment.

Plan of Faldingworth in 2003

The fissile cores were stored in 57 small buildings known as 'hutches', set within a hexagonal revetted area with blast walls grassed earth banks and trees.

The 'hutches' were arranged in five groups between the non-nuclear stores with the buildings linked by walkways to the compound ring road. There were two types of buildings, Type A (of which there were 48) buildings would have held a single core and Type B buildings would have held two cores. The hutches are built from rendered concrete blocks with a flat concrete roof. The metal faced wooden doors were fitted with 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.

Fissile core container still in place in one of the
hutches at RAF Wittering - Photo by David Farrant

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. Faldingworth had sufficient storage capacity for 132 fissile cores although it's likely that only a small number were ever stored there.

Photo:One of the three surviving hutches
Photo by Nick Catford

Most of the hutches have been demolished but three have been retained and preserved although they are derelict and empty. The maintenance building has also been retained and is used for storage. The inner compound wall and gates have all been removed.

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.

Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 1st November 2003

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