Posts Tagged ‘Cold War’

This post continues from Part 1.

From 1827 the tunnels had remained derelict although from graffiti carved into chalk walls, it is known that soldiers were based there guarding an ammunition store in the 1850’s and 60’s. This is because they were on high alert for invasion although this threat never came to anything. In the First World War, the same tunnels were also mainly used for ammunition storage and perhaps as emergency stationing for soldiers about to make their short trip across the channel to the trenches of Northern France and Belgium. The tunnels were under the control of the Royal Navy during the First World War.

Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey

Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey who died in 1945 from a plane crash. Photo from FanPop.com

Without much action for the next two decades, the tunnels were called back into action when the Second World War commenced. They were first converted into an air-raid shelter in 1939 although later became a secret military command centre and underground hospital. In May 1940 Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey directed the biggest operation ever seen at the site, from deep inside the White Cliffs, – Operation Dynamo, also known as the evacuation of Dunkirk.

The tunnels needed to be upgraded and transformed and this was a big mission itself. Over three miles of new and secret tunnels were dug out (by hand) to accommodate these changes. New levels of tunnels were commissioned from 1941 to provide separate, hidden and secure centres of operations for Army, Air Force and Navy. Many of the older tunnels were fired back into use by being lined with plywood or corrugated iron, of which much remains today. In addition space was needed for kitchens and mess rooms, maintenance and communications centres, barrack accommodation and a hospital for the wounded. The existing casemates were converted into offices, workshops, a telephone exchange, generator and planning rooms.

By the end of the war there were completed tunnels on three levels, one below the other.

A – Annex level, which from 1941 contained the hospital, dormitories, kitchens and mess rooms.

The planned B – Bastion level, behind Casemate level, was to be combined military headquarters and dormitories, but was never completed and never used.

C – Casemate level (the original 1797 tunnels and casemates planned by Twiss), held Admiralty Headquarters’ plotting, telecommunications and planning rooms, workshops and offices.

D – Dumpy level, the lowest level, built in 1942, was intended to be the main operations headquarters for the Army and Air Force.

Wartime life at Dover Castle

Photos Copyright English Heritage Photo Library

Post War

The DUMPY sign still at the Castle.

The Admiralty retained an interest in the tunnels until 1958 when they were handed over to the Home Office for a new defence function – a Regional Seat of Government to be used in the event of a nuclear war. The final phase of the working life of the tunnels came in the 1960s during the Cold War when tensions between East and West were at their height. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962, with its serious threat of nuclear war, particularly concentrated the minds of politicians and military planners in Britain. The government response was to identify a number of sizeable and secure fall-out shelters from which some vestige of local organisation could be continued in the event of a nuclear attack by the USSR. Dumpy level of Dover’s still secret, underground tunnels was chosen as the Regional Seat of Government for South East England, known as R.S.G.12. This Government centre was to be controlled by a cabinet minister with a staff of service personnel and civilian administrators after a nuclear war.

The work of converting the tunnels started again although this time converting them into radiation proof T.V. and radio studios, living accommodation and operations centre. Doomsday rehearsals and civil defence training were carried out regularly in the modified tunnels throughout the 1960s although the tunnels became increasingly difficult to maintain (and keep secret) during the 1970s. It was also realised that the porous chalk would have offered barely any protection against contaminated rainwater percolating down from any nuclear winter at ground level. The tunnels were abandoned as a Regional Seat of Government but were kept secret until 1986 when they were passed into the hands of English Heritage for eventual opening to the public.

Present Day

Scent bottlesToday English Heritage take pride in creating a realistic experience for people to a glimpse into what it would have been like during the war. The tunnels are open to the public with tours available for free (entrance fee to the site applies). While some of the tunnels maintain the wartime look and feel, some are making the most of technology with projections and immersive sound effects. Bottles like these are used to create realistic smells of some unusual things such as the boiler room, beef and a general musty smell.

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Walking past these bungalows you wouldn’t think anything of them – they’re just someone’s average home, but the buildings are far from average, they were actually built to withstand an atomic explosion.

Hiroshima-after-blast_1945

This photo, taken by the United States Air Force, shows how deadly an atomic bomb can be. This community, Hiroshima, was the victim of an atomic bomb on August 5th 1945.

Following the end of the Second World War, in 1946, plans were submitted to build atomic proof bungalows on Canvey Island.

A plan of the houses - find more at CanveyIsland.org

A plan of the houses – find more at CanveyIsland.org

What was planned?

The plans show that they were to be made of 9” brick or 9” Concrete Hollow Blocks and waterproof cement rendering with bitumen felt flat roofs. The houses were either to have a flat roof or a pitched one. The floor on the first floor states 5” ‘Hyrib’ or 9” Hollow Concrete Blocks.

The single bungalow to the west of Miramar Avenue was originally supposed to be a pair and further west, stretching to Maple Way, there were plans for three sets of four three-bedroomed terraced houses with a balcony over the doorway, built on similar lines to the bungalows.

The Atomic bungalows, at the junction of Long Road/Miramar Avenue were originally going to be the start of a large estate of houses and bungalows spreading all the way to Maple Way to the West and North for A. De Angelis Esq but, for an unknown reason, the estate never materialised.

Today

The bungalows that remain today would not be strong enough to cope with a modern day bomb (and most likely one from the 1940s either) although they are a fascinating historic relic. It is possible that they were merely built in a design similar to that of American ‘ranch’ style houses of the time, hence their association with being ‘atomic proof’. We will never know if they would’ve stood up to a 1940s Russian atom bomb or resulting radiation, but it is unlikely.

 

Coalhouse Point where the Thames suddenly narrows was home to several defences since 1402, and a D-shaped artillery battery fort stood here from 1539. The fort was replaced in 1799 with Coalhouse Fort which was rebuilt in 1847 and 1860. The large moat you can see to prevent invaders reaching the fort is a techonological remnant from Medieval defences around traditional castles – Coalhouse/East Tilbury Battery built down the road around 25 years later used a spiked metal fence instead in a ditch which is a step away from the use of moats. We visited the fort in January 2013 but did not get to look inside. The fort was designed to be used to create a ‘triangle of fire’ with Shornemead Fort and Cliffe Fort in Kent, of similar design, against a French attack which seemed more dangerous with their development of the ‘ironclad’ warship in 1859 which was much stronger against explosive and incediary rounds which would cause wooden ships to set alight.

In the park around the fort there was several defences built in the Second World War – from a spigot mortar mount that the Home Guard would’ve fired a mortar shell from, to an XDO Minefield Control Tower than would be used to watch over and detonate a minefield places out in the Thames incase of German craft trying to invade. Liam and I squeezed into this via one of the firing slits (loopholes) and struggled to get out again. I was boosted by Liam to get out with help of our guests, Sam and Jack, pulling from the other side, but there was now no-one to boost BTP Liam out! He had to stack up wooden pallets lying around in the tower under the loophole and still had to be pulled out so hard I thought I might be stretched in-half!

Just south of the fort lies a quick-fire battery built in the early 20th Century presumably standing ready for use through WW1, equipped with 12pdr guns. The guns would’ve been mounted on a metal rail to allow them to be turned and fired/loaded in quick succession hence its name; the rapid fire battery.

On the river Thames foreshore just south of the fort lies an early radar tower built in the Second World War. because radar was a very secret British technology initally the tower was named ‘water tower’ on maps to avoid attention. Through the Second World War the fort was fitted with a Degaussing Station to ensure friendly ships leaving Tilbury Docks were sufficiently proofed (‘degaussed’) from magnetic mines put out in the river to catch the enemy – the only other example of one of these dates from the Cold War on Canvey Island and is now an excellent military history museum.

The first defences in this area were built druing the late Middle-Ages in 1402 to defend the village from a French attack, consisting of towers and earthworks. A blockhouse and jetty once stood near the site of the radar tower. The blockhouse was built under Henry VIII in 1540 as part of the coastal defence scheme, and would’ve held 15 cannons. This was upgraded to house 27 guns 7 years later, with a range of 1-mile. More recently a jetty was built on this site in the Victorian Era to serve the fort as barges would bring in supplies and armaments and the sleepers from this railway link still stand.

Map of defences/military remains along the Thames from Kent County Council

Map of defences/military remains along the Thames from Kent County Council

To see what other remains we’ve covered in the local area, check out our Interactive Map where you explore the sites we’ve covered.

To commence Beyond the Point’s coverage of the First World War Centenary, in partnership with the Imperial War Museum, we thought we would visit the museum itself. The museum itself spans Duxford, North London, Cardiff, the HMS Belfast, and the Churchill War Museums, which I must say is a clever way of housing locations themselves as museum artifacts on a large scale. Not only is the museum a vital contributor to historic research, but its roots relate to the First World War. It was founded in 1917 in response to the First World War, as an attempt to record the sacrifice and war effort. It was opened in 1920 within Crystal Palace, moving to the Imperial Institute in South Kensington in 1924. This was a close shave considering the palace burnt to the ground in 1936. The IWM again moved in 1936 to the early 19th Century building of Bethlem Royal Hospital, where it remains today. This displacement saw the hospital demolished except for its central section; the rest becoming the surrounding park.

We took a short walk to the premises from our visit to Big Ben which you can read about here. After admiring some of the more recent architecture,a nd also posing for some grungy tunnel shots in our suits, we entered the museum. The most impressive thing they had here initially was the sheer scale and number of the artifacts suspended in the central lobby. From Spitfires, to V1 & V2 bombs (which landed on Britain in the late Second World War), all the way down to Russian T34 tanks, we felt a sense of awe both at these huge weapons themselves, and at how they had been displayed; some suspended from the ceiling by wire alone. We also payed homage to their poppy display.

There was a large exhibition holding artifacts and information about the First World War. I was pretty good but absolutely packed so it was difficult to have a thorough look. There was everything from very ghastly gas masks and camouflage suits; which captured the peril of the front, down to the hand-painted trench signposts which stood bizarrely in the 21st century environment; looking as if they belonged in hell. We also saw nuclear missiles suspended from the ceiling, an ROC post ground-zero indicator, and a bio-hazard observation shelter; like a modern-day nuclear ROC post. It was certainly time well spent.

We recorded a video of our trip that day to Big Ben, the poppies at the Tower of London, and of the IWM. Much of it focuses on Big Ben although it still compliments this article on the IWM.

Hello Beyond the Point readers! We are yet again revealing the unseen history of South-East Essex with us going below the ground level this time! After being invited by the Mayor, we liaised with Kellie Jeffery, Civic Support Officer, and Beyond the Point was given the green light to go below ground level to have an exclusive tour of their emergency bunker. In the late 1980’s plans were drawn up by the Government for more emergency control/command points. Being the late cold-war era, this one was constructed when the new council offices were built, being able to hold officials for up to 30 days. Being no longer strong enough to protect against a modern nuclear bomb, the bunker is now used as an emergency strategic command point for the most likely; oil spillage, gas explosion, flood or COMAH (Control major accident hazards). We have some photos below with the full set being available at our Facebook site however filming wasn’t allowed. We asked permission to take all photos with sensitive information being blurred and un-readable..

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We were given the tour by Miles Glover, the joint emergency planning officer and following the signs for the ‘Emergency Planning Control Centre’ we went down!

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The first room that we came to was this one above. In here lies a couple of televisions, a computer and radio which will be used for communication as well as to link with the press. Everything in every room is kept ready for an emergency to happen at any time. The next room was the main planning room. The general councillors would not go here, instead it would be people who have a ‘role to play’ as councillors would be the link between the public and the ‘big men’.

There was a small room off of this which contained old signs of old job titles (remaining from when it was first built), as well as old maps and also the air circulation control which can be done electronically or manually. This machine cleans the air and circulates it as in the event of an explosion, they would not want toxic gasses, or ‘fallout’, in the bunker!

After this we were lead into the emergency planning stores, featured below. The beds are originally however people wouldn’t sleep here nowadays as there would have to be two exits from the room. In here now is supplies for a rest centre. This includes bedding, pumps and even animal cages! Food isn’t kept in the bunker any more and surprisingly, the council would pop to Morrisons or somewhere for food supplies in the event of an emergency! – No I am not winding you up!

Moving onto the next room (he types feeling like a tour guide) we come to the kitchen. The dispensers that you can see are actually taps, filtering water from radioactive material. All of this is original! The room following this is the toilets which are not used due to the waste being stored in the building, so it would only be used if there was an emergency.

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In the event of the door being locked or jammed, you could insert the ‘key’ (in the yellow holder) into a whole in the door, just below the handle, and turn this to open the door. The safety cord is still on the key so it has never been used!

Walking onwards past these big beasts we came to the other entrance to the bunker where people could be decontaminated before going on further. The blue tank in the photographs is where the water (probably mixed with chemicals) used for decontamination, would be stored. We then went onto the generate room, first greeted by hazard signs! (Getting exciting isn’t it!)

Below we can see the generator. The wire going across with the red ‘label’ on it, has magnesium on it. In the event of the generator overheating, the magnesium, which is holding the wire together, will burn up and cut the generator off, causing the sprinklers in there to activate.

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To conclude from this exclusive tour we leave you with these two photos of the council meeting room. This is where press releases will be made from. Public meetings regarding planning permission e.t.c will also be done from here and is used frequently. Keep an eye on the site next week as we have some very special news to reveal!

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Hello everyone! Liam and I were fortunate enough to get a tour round the Stow Maries Aerdrome which is an amazing place and is worth a visit for WW1 and aviation enthusiasts! (A blog post will be coming soon) After looking around the site, we had a couple of hours free to look around the area so we planned to visit the Woodham Ferres ROC post. The only ROC post that we have been to before is the Canvey Island one which has been capped with mud meaning we cannot get in however this one was open and waiting for us!

What are ROC posts? 

ROC Badge

The Royal Observer Corps (ROC) was a defence warning organisation operating from 1925. It was created to provide a system for detecting, tracking and reporting enemy aircraft over Britain. They played a very important part during World War Two. The end of the Second World War brought with it the new and terrifying prospect of nuclear war. In Britain the public would have had a mere four minute warning of the approach of nuclear missiles and it was the job of the Royal Observer Corps to warn the public of the impending attack, report the explosions and plot the path of the deadly nuclear fallout. From 1955 the Corps operated from 1563 ROC underground monitoring ‘posts’ about 7-8 miles apart from each other throughout the UK. In 1968 the Corps was re-organised and about half of the posts were closed. In September 1991 the remaining 872 posts were stood down and were abandoned.

The image below shows the diagram of one. This site is very useful if you want to know more about ROC posts.

Diagram

Woodham Ferrers Post

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We had to walk up quite a steep hill to get there with amazing views looking far and wide in different directions. The first bit that we came to was this, a ventilation shaft. Although posts already had one vent shaft attached to the hatch area, a second one was constructed at the far end of the post, this one lead into the main observers room while the first on the hatch lead to the smaller toilet room/area, metal or wooden louvered vents were attached to either side.

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After this we headed over to the main beast which was a few steps in the opposite directions. I was the first to go down and armed with just a headlight, I was petrified of finding some black spider crawling towards me and I’m pretty sure I am more scared of it that it is of me! I conquered the ladder which was actually no problem and apart from the odd cobweb down below (I wasn’t going to stand and look for spiders!) I couldn’t see any other lurking surprises.

Straight after the ladder, when you have gone down, you are standing on a “sump and sump grill” with the obvious use for this being a place for the people to dispose of liquid waste.

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^There is small room opposite which would have been the toilet. Most of the doors opened inwards due to space which is what the main room one did.

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Apart from the odd burnt bit on the table things were in a reasonable condition considering the post wasn’t locked up.

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The ‘book shelf’ bit at the back would have been used for holding jerry cans which would have been full of water. The metal that remains today would have acted as hooks.

The image above shows a cupboard and a fir blanket dispenser. Posts were equipped with a large cupboard to store items such as medical kits and the stain removing Glitto! The fire blanket holder would have held asbestos fire blankets which were kept in posts in case of fire.

A video will be coming to BTP TV soon on the post and also the WW1 aerodrome however for the meantime our photos can be found here and why not visit/sign up to our forum as we want to get it used a lot more!