Site Records

SiteName: Paddock (Alternative Cabinet War Room)

Brook Road
Dollis Hill
London, N.W.2.
OS Grid Ref: TQ223863

Sub Brit site visit: 19th April 2001 and various later dates

[Source:Nick Catford & Ken Valentine]

Having seen Dollis Hill for himself, Churchill decided that the War Cabinet should meet there in order to 'try out' the facilities to ensure that the bunker was able to fulfill its intended role. He stated, "I think it important that PADDOCK should be broken in". Prior to this meeting Churchill visited the site on a number of occasions on his way to Chequers for the weekend and he showed his wife Clementine and son Randolph "the flats where we should live" and "the deep underground rooms safe from the biggest bomb".

It was at this time that the war headquarters was given the code name PADDOCK. It is unclear how this name came about. In the 19th century Tattersalls had established racing stables in the area which became known as the Willesden Paddocks. When the stables were cleared for housing after WW1 one of the roads in the vicinity was named Paddock Road and it has been suggested that the name came from there. The real reason however is possibly more mundane. The Government had a list of pre-selected code names and it is more likely that PADDOCK was the next in line. That name was certainly used by Churchill on 14th September 1940 and CWR2 was always referred to as PADDOCK after that date.

Photo:The cabinet room - this is where Churchill chaired the war cabinet on 3rd October 1940. Note the message hatch from the teleprinter room in the end wall.
Photo by Nick Catford

Following Churchill's visits to Dollis Hill he said, "We must make sure that the centre of Government functions harmoniously and vigorously. This would not be possible under conditions of almost continuous air raids. A movement to PADDOCK by echelons of the War Cabinet, War Cabinet Secretariat, Chiefs of Staff Committee and Home Forces GHQ must now be planned and may even begin in some minor respects. War Cabinet Ministers should visit their quarters in PADDOCK and be ready to move there at short notice. They should be encouraged to sleep there if they want quiet nights. All measures should be taken to render habitable both the Citadel and Neville's Court. Secrecy cannot be expected but publicity must be forbidden."

The War Cabinet met at PADDOCK at 11.30 a.m. on 3rd October 1940. The meeting was attended by Churchill, twelve other Ministers and the three Chiefs of Staff. Churchill was not impressed by PADDOCK, in a minute to the Cabinet Secretary on October 22nd he wrote "The accommodation at PADDOCK is quite unsuited to the conditions which have arisen" and he told one of his chief war advisors Sir Edward Bridges, "The War Cabinet cannot live and work there for weeks on end .... PADDOCK should be treated as a last resort"

The surface building - now demolished

In his memoirs published in 1949, Churchill was a little vague about the location of PADDOCK and the date of the cabinet meeting stating, "A citadel for the War Cabinet had already been prepared near Hampstead, with offices and bedrooms and wire and fortified telephone communication. This was called PADDOCK. On September 29th I prescribed a dress rehearsal, so that everybody should know what to do if it got too hot. I think it important that PADDOCK should be broken in. Thursday next therefore the Cabinet will meet there. At the same time other departments should be encouraged to try a preliminary move of a skeleton staff. If possible, lunch should be provided for the Cabinet and those attending it.

We held a Cabinet meeting at PADDOCK far from the light of day, and each Minister was requested to inspect and satisfy himself about his sleeping and working apartments. We celebrated this occasion by a vivacious luncheon, and then returned to Whitehall. This was the only time PADDOCK was ever used by Ministers."

The last sentence is untrue as there was a second meeting of the War Cabinet on 10th March 1941. This was, in part, another exercise to ensure that the war room was still able to fulfill its function but it was also to impress the Australian premier Robert Menzies who was in the country at the time. Menzies was able to address the cabinet with a 40 minute review of the Australian war effort. On this occasion Churchill did not chair the meeting due to a sudden bronchial cold and the meeting was chaired by Clement Atlee, the Lord Privy Seal.

Photo:The main plant room in the sub basement with the stand-by generator in the centre, control cabinet for the generator left and ventilation plant right.
Photo by Nick Catford

In October 1940, shortly after the first War Cabinet meeting at Dollis Hill, a descriptive note was written about daily life at PADDOCK. "Government now occupied not only the 19 rooms of the basement and the 18 rooms of the subbasement but also the ground floor with its 22 rooms and lavatories. These rooms were used predominantly for work while other workrooms were available in the main Post Office building. Staff could use the Post Office canteen for meals and had living and sleeping accommodation in Neville's Court, where about thirty NCOs and men were quartered so as to allow a 24-hour guard over the whole complex to be maintained."

By the end of 1940 the danger of Whitehall being devastated by enemy bombing had receded and in January 1941 Churchill gave up his double-flat in Neville's Court. When the Germans turned their attention towards Russia in June 1941 it became clear that PADDOCK may never be required. The armed guards were reduced from forty to half a dozen but five rooms at PADDOCK continued to be earmarked for Churchill and his staff, seven for other War Cabinet Ministers, three for War Office chiefs, seven for Home Forces Advanced GHQ and ten for part of the War Cabinet secretariat and Joint Intelligence Committee.

Photo:The upper basement spine corridor. Note the serving hatch from the kitchen on the left. Note also the sign pointing to Floor 28 which is the surface building.
Photo by Nick Catford

These arrangements continued with little change for another two years into the summer of 1943 when Churchill, warned about the progress of German plans to bombard London with V-weapons, reviewed the list of all available citadels in London and chose as his own safe place not PADDOCK but the bottom floor of the new purpose-built North Rotunda (code name ANSON) in Great Peter Street, Westminster. In the autumn of 1943 the best of PADDOCK'S furnishings and furniture were removed to the North Rotunda.

PADDOCK had now served its purpose and was redundant. A skeleton staff remained until the end of 1944 when the bunker was finally locked up and abandoned.

During WW2 all military, civil and manufacturing sites that were considered important enough to be guarded by the military were given VP (Vulnerable Points) identity numbers. This was done under the Protected Place Order No. 1 (1939). In 1939 for example, London District Command was responsible for the GPO Research Station at Dollis Hill with a VP number of VP56 and Paddock was VP60, by 1941 these had changed, The Post Office Research Station was VP1635 and Paddock was VP1644. After this prefixes were introduced with letters denoting the controlling authority and in 1942 the Post Office Research Station was E9102 (E = General Post Office) and within this site Paddock was a further VP No. O9002 (O = Miscellaneous) which indicated a guarded site within a guarded site.

After the war the upper basement and above ground building were used by the post office as extra laboratory space and some rooms were used for recreational activities; the staff drama group also used the bunker as a changing room after performances. The research station closed 1974 when the Post Office moved out to Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. The Post Office finally vacated the site in September 1976.

For a few years Cadbury Schweppes occupied the building as offices but in the early 1980's whole site became the Dollis Hill Industrial Estate. It would appear that the bunker was not used during this period.

For further information and photographs of PADDOCK click here

[Source: Nick Catford & Ken Valentine]

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Last updated: 04 01 2011
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