In the early 1950’s Civil Defence was reactivated in the Channel Islands as it was in mainland Britain. On the mainland this was short lived with the disbanding of the Civil Defence Corps in 1968 but Civil Defence was retained in Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney and is still actively providing emergency cover for the three islands. Each has its own CD Centre based in an ex-German military bunker.
In Guernsey, the Civil Defence headquarters is located at the former German Fortress Commander’s bunker in Oberlands Road La Corbinerie. This is a two storey semi-sunken blockhouse linked by an underground tunnel to a similar blockhouse on farmland to the west. This second bunker was formerly used by the Commander of the 319th Infantry division responsible for all the coastal defences. The Fortress Commander’s bunker houses the island’s Civil Defence Centre.
The second bunker has always been known as the ‘Bailiff’s Bunker’ and was originally intended as protected accommodation for the law officers, crown officers and the Bailiff. In reality they would probably not come here and the bunker would be used to house extra personnel during a major alert.
A German barrack block alongside has been refurbished and is used by the States’ customs agency.
The Civil Defence bunker is surrounded by a security fence. There are two radio masts alongside a low mast with a short wave beam aerial and a pump up mast with VHF and UHF aerials. There is a siren on the roof and sensors and detectors for monitoring radiation, wind speed and wind direction and temperature.
The original German gas tight entrance doors have been replaced by two wooden doors, the second door opening directly into the control room which still retains a large floor standing wood framed Perspex display screen similar to the A & B screens found in ROC Group HQ’s. The centre also acts in a similar role as the ROC Group HQ’s with 4 monitoring posts (3 on Guernsey and one on Alderney) reporting to it. These posts would be manned during an emergency or war but are equipped with automatic monitoring equipment continually sending data to the CD HQ. The computer terminal displaying this data which includes radiation, wind speed and wind direction and temperature is located in the control room. These days the nuclear threat is more likely to come from an accident at the nuclear waste reprocessing plant at Valognes near Cherbourg than from nuclear weapons.
There are various maps in the control room of Guernsey, the Channel Island and Europe, these are sandwiched between the Perspex screens and on the walls. There is also a large desk and chairs.
On the right a door leads into the radio room with a light above the door indicating whether the BBC studio is ‘on air’ The studio itself is located just inside the radio room accessed through two narrow swing doors. There is a second ‘on air’ light above these doors. The studio is similar to those found in mainland RGHQ’s including an Audix mixer, cassette player, tuner, headphones, record deck, monitor speaker, clock and microphone. There is a simplified line send to Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney with receive from the mainland. The room is much smaller than RGHQ studio’s with no window. There is a sealed box from the Home Office marked ‘Public Warning Tapes - Do Not Open’ this presumably contains the tapes that should be played in the event of a nuclear attack. There is a map of Guernsey on the wall.
The BBC haven’t taken part in exercises since the mid 1990’s although the studio is maintained in a fully operational state.
The radio room itself has peg board on the walls. There is a rack of portable radio transceivers and pagers with radio links to all the emergency services. There are two Home Office issue Marconi 50 watt radio transceivers for local communications, including Alderney. At the back of the room is a door into a small workshop that was once the Fortress Commander’s bedroom. There are various notices on the walls and a map of Guernsey.
At the rear of the control room there are two doors, one leads through into the local radio net room with a small message hatch in the door. The data from the four monitoring posts comes in to this room. There are also a number of FAX machines and an AUTEX machine here. A door from this room leads into a small room with five acoustic booths each with a telephone. These would be manned by the emergency services during an alert.
The final door at the back of the control room leads to the stairway down to the lower level. At the top of the stairs is another room which was the original German ventilation plant room but now houses the SX50 ECN (Emergency Communications Network) unit in its Faraday cage. This is still maintained by BT in good order. There are also 3 computer terminals, phones and a large wall board for messages and maps.
The lower floor is the domestic area with a corridor with two dormitories on either side. The dormitories retain their bunks and folding beds. At the end of the corridor is the canteen with a long wooden table with chairs round it. At the back of the canteen is a small kitchen with a microwave cooker, preparation surface and a sink.
At the bottom of the stairs another door leads into the original heating plant room. All the plant has been removed. The room is currently used for storage with several redundant BBC microphone amplifiers, a microphone mixer and an ROC fixed survey meter trainer. There are also numerous sealed canisters containing radioactive sources for use in exercises. There are several old situation boards located in the bunker.
A second short stairway leads down to the 80 foot tunnel connecting the two bunkers. The second bunker is lit but empty apart from a few desks. Additional furniture, phones, computers etc. would be brought in if the bunker was ever activated.
During an emergency a standby generator would be brought to the site to power the bunker in the event of an electricity failure.
The three monitoring posts on Guernsey which also acted as Sub Controls are at St. Martin, Vale and Torteval. The forth post is on Alderney and is located within the Alderney Civil Defence HQ in Longis Road WA35843050
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford, Keith Ward and Robin Cherry.