This is in the basement of the council offices and having met our guide he duly filled us in on some of the background of the site and his role. He was a former RAF Wing Commander who had joined the council in 1990 to write it’s war plans! The bunker had been built in 1982 when the council offices were constructed and comprises of a series of rooms off a long corridor (can you see a pattern emerging here?). We entered through double swing doors in the basement area and immediately through these doors was a heavily reinforced gas and blast door with 3 locks on it. We estimated this door weighed over a ton but could be pushed with one hand. We were now standing in a large room which would have become the dormitory area. A panel in the wall indicated an emergency escape route but our guide pointed out how the occupants of the bunker would need to hack there way (using the tool provided) through concrete and rubble in order to reach the escape shaft which led up into the pavement above. One wonders how long this would have taken and whether food supplies would have lasted out! Thoughts of the WW2 film ‘The Great Escape’ sprung to mind!
Moving along the corridor we were not able to access every room. At the far end was the old plant room which housed the generator (now removed). A second blast door at the end of the corridor led into another section of the building. Walking back up the corridor on the right was the old kitchen which had a second escape tunnel out to the street. We were going to attempt to crawl down the tunnel but were not able due to the amount of junk piled up in the room. The whole bunker is currently used as a store and is packed with thousands of items and archive files.
Carrying back along the corridor were chemical toilets and then the former scientific advisors room which still had maps and charts on the wall. The next room was locked but the next was the old comms centre which had the Faraday cage for the BT kit (identical to the others).
Our guide explained how the bunker was designed to support the emergency team for 14 days. One of the current uses included training for the fire brigade on search and rescue as with the door closed and lights switched off the facility is totally light tight.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Dan McKenzie, Richard Challis and Andrew Smith.