Shirley is one of 13 regional war rooms built between 1951 and 1953. It is one of a network of bunkers built shortly after the war that were the predecessors of the RSG’s. By the mid 1950’s they were considered inadequate and obsolete. Some were modernised and continued to serve a role in the cold war defences but that at Shirley was quickly redundant and was eventually sold to its present owners, Transco, in the 1970’s.
It is a two storey windowless blockhouse measuring approximately 80’ X 60’ at ground level with an 60’ X 60’ upper floor. There are a number of ventilation towers on the lower roof.. Internally the room layout is almost identical to the now demolished war room at Tunbridge Wells visited by Sub Brit members in 1997. The building is generally in good internal and external condition and is used in part for archive storage by Transco.
The entrance is in the south east corner with a dogleg giving access to the first room, the ladies toilet and shower room. This room contains all its original fittings, showers, wash basins, hot water tank and toilet cubicles with curtains across each cubicle. The toilet roll holders still contain rolls of hard paper (the sort you don’t put your fingers through). Beyond the ladies toilets is a four way junction straight on into the ventilation plant room, right into a north - south corridor, left into an east - west corridor and a flight of stairs to the upper level. The plant room still retains all of its ventilation plant and a door at the far side leads into an ‘L’ shaped room that contains a large 1950’s electrical cabinet for controlling the standby generator which is located in a small room in the leg of the ‘L’. The large generator, dated 1953 appears to be in excellent condition.
A doorway at the far side of the room with the electrical cabinet leads back into the north - south corridor where there is another dogleg to the emergency exit. Before dogleg are the male toilets and showers with fittings identical to the female room. Returning to the four way junction, passing the stairs, the east - west corridors turns 90 degrees to the north where there is a single small room which contains a hand cranked lift for sending documents to the upper floor. It consists of two wires running through a square hole in the ceiling. There is a handle at each end and pulleys that allow a small metal basket to be winched up and down between levels.
Diagonally opposite this room an empty room gives access to the main control room well in the centre of the ground floor. This room was originally two storeys high with a gallery above looking down into it but a false floor has been installed by Transco with a service lift to the upper level and a ladder for emergency access. On the west side of the room there are curved Perspex windows, similar to those in AAOR’s, looking out into the control room from three small rooms accessed from the north - south corridor. There is also a hatch in one corner of the east wall for passing documents quickly into the next room. There are three rooms on the east side of the lower floor, each with a document hatch between them. There is a second staircase at the southern end of the north - south corridor.
The upper floor is slightly smaller than the lower floor and consists of the control room ‘well’ in the centre of the building (now floored over) with a room with Perspex windows looking down into the well. There is a corridor going round three sides of these two central rooms with a number of small rooms accessed from each side. On the east side of the building the corridor enters one long room which was the canteen/kitchen. A long counter, sink and hot water tank are all that remains. There is a flat area above each stairway with piping which presumably housed water tanks.
Those present were: Nick Catford, Dan McKenzie, Richard Challis, Keith Ward, Andrew Smith.