Site Records

Site Name: Wilton Park (Beaconsfield): Eastern Command War Headquarters & AFHQ 5

Minerva Way
OS Grid Ref: SU960902

Sub Brit site visit 8th March 2005

[Source: Nick Catford]

In 1965 the RSG's were abandoned and were replaced by smaller Sub Regional Controls and dispersed regional teams. The military element was replaced by new Armed Forces Headquarters (AFHQ) in each region.

Photo:External view of Eastern Command War HQ
Photo by Nick Catford

The sites for the AFHQ's were selected in 1967; most were in unprotected accommodation at the peacetime command or district HQ's. The bunker at Wilton Park was brought back into use and was designated as an AFHQ. At this time London's control was divided into five sub-regions and the bunker at Wilton Park became a coordination centre for military command of London by the five Sub Regions. During the 1960's the bunker was also regularly used by the Royal Observer Corps for training exercises.

In 1971 when the London Civil Defence Region reformed eventually becoming region 5 in 1974. At this time Wilton Park was redesignated as AFHQ 5.

Other wartime AFHQ's were:

  • Region 1 Ouston, Northumberland
  • Region 2 Imphal Barracks, York
  • Region 3 (not confirmed) Chalfont Drive, Nottingham
  • Region 4 (not confirmed) Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge
  • Region 6 No AFHQ - several Sub-District HQ's
  • Region 7 Unknown
  • Region 8 The Barracks, Brecon
  • Region 9 Unknown
  • Region 10 Fulford Barracks, Preston
  • Northern Ireland - Central HQ, Armagh
  • Scotland - Barnton Quarry, Edinburgh
In the 1980's a refurbishment of AFHQ 5 was planned but evidence within the building and eyewitness account suggests very little was done to update the bunker as the office accommodation on site sufficed as the peacetime HQ, which would only have moved into the bunker in times of tension.

Plan of the Wilton Park bunker as built. Some rooms were later divided with thin partition walls
Drawn by Bob Jenner & Nick Catford

One confirmed use for the bunker was for the Thames Valley Flood Coordination Headquarters with an operations room to coordinate military/police/fire and local authorities in the event of London and the Upper Thames Valley flooding. The bunker was used in 1977 firemen's' strike and was also used a number of exercises codenamed GIRAFFE. The opening of the Thames Barrier in 1984 saw closing of the flood control centre at Wilton Park and the subordinate GLC flood control centre in the former Kingsway tram tunnel in London.

In 1990 it was proposed to build fully protected AFHQ's in each region; AFHQ 5 at Wilton Park was to be totally refurbished to full NBC protection standards but the plan was halted by the end of the cold war.

Since that day no use has been found for the bunker and with all services disconnected it is now in a very poor internal condition. The bunker is very damp throughout with standing water up to 18" in the lower plant room area. Some of the internal partition walls have rotted and fallen away and in places the suspended ceiling has collapsed onto the floor.

Photo:The flooded plant room
Photo by Nick Catford

The bunker stands on the site of White House kitchen garden and is surrounded on two sides by a high brick wall which used to enclose the garden. The bunker is similar in size but twice the length of an anti aircraft operations room but there the similarity ends. The main entrance is in the middle of the longer north face with twin steel doors protected by a high porch. At the east end of the north face is one of two emergency exists consisting of two smaller steel doors again protected by a concrete porch. The second emergency exit is located on the west face and is identical. There is a faded wooden notice fixed to the west face which reads 'Headquarters Thames Valley Flood Control'. An exhaust pipe and silencer from the standby generator project from the south face.

Photo:The bunker at Wilton Park seen from the top floor of the derelict 15 storey accommodation block. The brick wall surrounding the White House kitchen garden can clearly be seen.
Photo by Nick Catford

Once inside the main entrance, there is a small lobby giving access to an 'L' shaped corridor, to the right are the 'domestic' rooms, toilets, kitchen, canteen etc. and straight ahead the communications centre and beyond that steps down to the plant room. There is a second short corridor along the east side; this can only be accessed by walking through the Comcen or one of the other adjoining rooms. The GPO/BT room is accessed from this corridor and at the end of the corridor there are further steps down to the plant room.

Click here for more information and pictures of
Eastern Command War HQ/AFHQ 5

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 25th March 2005

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