(Disclaimer: This project is purely for the victimless documentation of history. We fully understand the risks/dangers involved in these adventures and do so in the full knowledge of what could happen. We don't encourage or accept responsibility for anyone else following in our footsteps. No location is ever forcefully broken into. We utilise existing openings only. No criminal offence is committed in the making of this blog.No location is ever occupied. No location is ever vandalised. Nothing from any location is ever taken or destroyed.
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Hello everyone! Given that on my international blog, I've been focusing a lot on war-related stuff, like a first world war German airfield, a second world war Nazi base and a Cold war Soviet tank barracks, I wanted to do one back in England! Here in England, it occasionally stops raining, and I decided to use one of those ten minute intervals to dash out to some old airfield ruins. Shropshire actually had over thirty airfields back in the day, and I've only been to a few. And while some would say that it's rather depressing to think that the world is littered with in the remnants of two successive world wars, I do think that they deserve documenting while they're still here.
Lets get stuck in! Adventure awaits! Starting with my personal favourite of the bunch, a World War 2 Battle Headquarters quietly tucked away in the Shropshire hills!
The rest of this structure is visible, sticking out through the dirt, but back in the 1940s it would have been completely subterranean. It was from this little facility that an airfields Defence Officer could co-ordinate his team and defend the airfield in the event of an attack. They were thought up in 1941, initially above ground but later underground as the war escalated.
These can actually be found all over the country, and their design mostly carries a sort of uniformity. In that sense, I see them in the same way that I see the ROC bunkers of the 1960s. However the Battle HQs have had a couple more decades left to rot.
This here would have been a stairway leading down into the facility, and serving as its primary entrance. It's been filled in, which is a little disappointing, unless you're a plant that's always aspired to have a staircase-shaped pot to grow in. Fortunately, we're in luck! There's always an escape hatch!
In spite of being considerably older and even more neglected than ROC posts, the escape hatch of a Battle HQ is slightly less intimidating, because it's smaller. It leads to the observation room, the floor of which is only a few feet deep. One can stand up straight in an observation room, even though it doesn't look it on the outside, and so anyone with good upper body strength can pull themselves out of the escape hatch if the ladder happens to not be there. To the right of the ladder, you'll notice that stairs continue to descend into the rest of the facility.
The observation room is surprisingly spacious, but I couldn't go in straight away because of a fucking bat flapping around that I'd somehow disturbed on my entry. I decided to photograph this room last, and continue on with the rest of the facility. I like bats. I don't like disturbing them.
Here's the stairway leading down. It doesn't look like a stairway because there's loads of dirt over it, and I'm fairly certain that the slab there likely once covered the hatch to stop people getting in.
The stairs lead down to the defence officers office, and quite frankly it felt wonderful to be here. Unlike ROC bunkers, I've only been to a grand total of three Battle HQs prior to this, and they've all been flooded! Sometimes I can at least access the observation room, but sometimes I can't even get down the hatch. Somehow this one is still dry.
So the airfields defence officer worked here. Every decision regarding the defence of the airfield would have been made right here in this room, and relayed to the Messengers room and the PBX room via the hatches in the far corner.
Here's the exit out into the Battle HQs main hallway.
Here's the filled in "main entrance" at the end of the hallway. To the right are the two doors, the closest being the defence officers room and the furthest being the messenger and runners room. Behind me would have been the toilet. It's not there now, but the vacant, underground, neglected-for-70 years space is still in better condition than the toilets in some pubs and clubs.
In some design variations, another doorway on the left would lead to a small bedroom for the defence officers men.
This is the PBX room, which is situated at the back of the Messengers and Runners room. The Runner was responsible for relaying messages to the defence units stationed around the airfield that couldn't be reached by telephone. Those that could be reached by the telephone were contacted via the telephone equipment in the PBX room.
This is all that remains of the communications equipment.
From what I understand, Battle HQs never really made it out of the just-in-case phase of the early war when there was still fear of the Germans actually invading and setting foot on British soil. That never actually happened, and many Battle HQs actually fell out of use while the war was still on. While I'm sure it was good practice to run drills, just in case, many Battle HQs are found without fixtures or decor because they simply were never actually used.
The thing about Battle HQs is that to the unknowing, this just looks like rubble. Someone might walk their dog past here and think "A building once stood here." Little do they realise, the building does still stand here!
Just down from this Battle HQ is something else that I love...
This is a seagull trench! They're a defence facility, pretty similar to Pillboxes. But unlike pillboxes, these are pretty much a reinforced trench, set low down, giving the folks inside an ankle-level view of the landscape and any approaching enemy. This meant that they could open fire on any enemy with relative safety, although the Germans never put them to the test. The roof would likely have been camouflaged with grass too.
They're called Seagull trenches because from the sky they look like a bird with its wings spread. Why the Larus Marinus was chosen to be the namesake, I have no idea. They're possibly the most irritating avian on the planet. What sort of message does that send? "Guess what, Hitler? Not only are we going to gun down your men, but we're also going to poo on your head and steal your chips!"
There are definitely more fearsome birds out there. Owls send a nice message "Strike at night, shoot some Nazis." Buzzards, too. Even the noble Robin would make Hitler stop and think "Scheisse, now Father Christmas knows I'm a naughty boy."
The metal squares are where machine guns would have been mounted to fire through. In some rare cases, seagull trenches actually still have more of the frame left over, but I've only ever come across that once.
I'll throw a photo in just to show what the contraption looked like, but it's not from this particular Seagull Trench.
Seagull trenches also have a degree of uniformity to them, but rather depressingly there are allegedly now only 21 of these left in the entire country. This is my fourth.
Onto something else entirely, we have this curious contraption rusting away in a Shropshire field...
Now I've never seen one of these before, but allegedly it's a decoy airfield control bunker.
There would have been a generator in this room that would have allegedly powered some lights that were strung along the field to look like an airfield. The Nazis would often bomb the UK at night, which is what led to the blackouts. The dummy airfields were an attempt at tricking the Nazis into wasting their bombs on the wrong place. But while the preservation of the actual airfield was the priority, this facility was apparently manned too, which must have been a pretty intense job.
It's only small, but after nipping here I swung by a couple of pillboxes.
Pillboxes are basically little structures with openings in them for the folks inside to fire through at advancing enemies. They tend to be found in fields around old airfields, and some that are still active, although given that you're more likely to see a nun wearing a strap-on than a hostile military invasion on UK soil, all remaining pillboxes are either derelict or converted into sheds and other uses by the landowners. This is one that watches a bridge over a river, and on the other side of the road is a second identical one.
They're rather simplistic in design, but I like them anyway. Years ago, I actually found a decapitated sex doll in a Pillbox. It was in the night, too, so I literally just saw it illuminated by torch light. Its head was right next to my foot, staring up at me! It sure made me jump! Has Ouija LeMay been hiding bodies of the Welsh Mafia again? She'll get no Christmas card from me if my blog is used for such nefarious purposes. But I digress. The point is, Pillboxes are samey but it's always worth taking a look. I think it's pretty cool of the landowner to preserve them, too.
Here's the second pillbox. It's pretty much identical.
Check it out! I might as well have used the exact same two interior shots!
So that's it for now, but I'll almost certainly cover military ruins again at some point. The thing is, a single pillbox doesn't, in my opinion, inspire a blog post. It's pointless going out to one of these and then writing about it here. So when they do pop up, it'll be in an accumulation of other military stuff, like today. I really like Pillboxes, and Seagull Trenches too. The real treasure for me was the Battle HQ.
Anyway, my next couple of posts are going to be on my international blog. I need to dot the I's and cross the T's in Berlin, tieing off some loose ends, and then I'll be writing about a derelict mansion in Wales, two articles which don't really have a place on a blog about hidden places in Shropshire.
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Thanks for reading!