As we walked to a lookout point above the old harbour, those with an eye for these things could see the trademark giveaway of the Swedish Cold War shelters. This is a small orange sign (maybe three inches square) with a blue triangle within and the word SKYDDSRUM or bomb shelter. The one we were about to visit was massive and would have accommodated around 5,000 people. Its name is Kvarnberget or Mill mountain – named after a windmill which once graced its upper slopes. Entrance was through a secure gate and followed by a descent down a stairway. This was followed by a curving passage to help deflect bomb blast.
In the shelter itself, the entrance area has generator and air-handling machinery and a small control booth with public address and radio facilities. Four immense shelters around 60 metres long are intersected by cross passages at top and bottom. One of the shelters is currently used for storage by the city but the other three were accessible. One has scores of stacked bunks and all have basic water points spread along their long walls. Refurbished in 1993, the site is on 48-hour readiness even today.
The bottom cross passage forms the emergency exit and is much larger than the other. Indeed it is large enough for a truck to drive along for the delivery of supplies. The cross passage itself is unprotected but each of the four large shelters terminates in a massive set of blast doors. A few other rooms exist – probably for food and first aid, but there is surprisingly little catering or support space.
Tucked away up a flight of stairs was a final treat. For a period this was the civil defence control room for Gothenburg, code-named ‘Sunflower’ (Solros in Swedish). This set of rooms is on a single level and includes a single blast-protected emergency exit. This exit also has decontamination facilities and like all drains within the complex, the drain gully can be closed off to prevent over-pressure outside the shelter causing foul water to flow backwards and contaminate the building.
Within Sunflower was a central control room – still equipped with maps of Gothenburg and, in particular, other shelters. When the command centre was opened, Gothenburg was a much smaller city and it became clear that to have a civil defence centre in the middle of the area that might itself be damaged would prevent free flow of vehicles and staff. Consequently Sunflower was replaced by a much larger centre to the east of the city.