Chaffinch was originally built as an ammunition store for the nearby Air Force base at Säve in the 1960s. Between 1965–66 it was converted into its civil defence role. After a short briefing in the cafeteria we were given free rein of the complex.
The site is in a remarkable state of preservation. Along a long access tunnel, a substantial cavern has been excavated and within this, protected by blast doors, lies a robust concrete inner core building. This has decontamination facilities and accommodation spread over two storeys. Downstairs is essentially domestic space – dormitories, kitchen, restrooms and cafeteria. Upstairs is a large command centre with air handling, emergency generator, radio room etc. The whole is decorated in a predominantly orange finish but the feel is more of a contemporary IT suite or private hospital. After a lightning strike in 1990 the complex was refurbished and finally closed in 1996.
It looks, however, as if it closed yesterday, and the equipment is all operational and in pristine condition. The dormitories have bedding, lockers and small nets for personal possessions all in place and are quite spotless. A display board by the entrance gives the allocation of each bunk in the (separate) male and female dormitories.
Upstairs, handbooks, maps and manuals are all in place as is the communications kit. We resisted the temptation of seeing if the siren activation panel was still in working order! A large Faraday cage was present where duplicate sets of all electronic equipment would have been stored in the event of the primary set-up being compromised by an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). Emergency exits on both levels led around the inner building from where secondary exits and the radio shaft could be accessed. All external entrances were heated to minimise humidity and I think everyone agreed that the overall feel of the bunker was such that it would have been a very pleasant work environment.