Saturday, 30 May 2015

RAF Condover

Somewhere between where I live and where I work is the mighty RAF Condover. This place was used from 1942 to 1945 to train fighter pilots by the RAF and the USAAF. It covers a huge area but the now-nonexistent runway was apparently made very poorly and as a result there were numerous incidents in which it had to be closed for repairs. By the end of 1944 it had 660 RAF personel and several hundred WAAF (womens auxiliary air force) stationed there. There was also a POW (prisoner of war) camp which held German prisoners. Currently it's a riding school, so I got to meet some lovely horses as I snuck around and snapped what I could find.

And a lot of what I did find, though derelict, was in surprisingly good condition. And the weather was great, so I was feeling pretty happy.

Near these offices was the old control tower, still wonderfully explorable.

I'm going through a phase of photographing the world through the shattered windows of the places I explore. 

A sign clearly hung on this wall. Some would say it's pointless to photograph where a sign used to be, but these little details intrigue me. 

The balcony awarded me a view of the surrounding area, but the stairs looked a little too unsafe, so I didn't go onto the roof.

And here's an interesting relic that I was really surprised had endured all these years. It's an original fuel pump.

There were a few more outer buildings, but a lot of them were being used as stables, and some were in gardens. I checked out a few of the more disused ruins.

But ultimately, I went further afield, away from the riding school, and found a lovely gem tucked away in the woods. The woods themselves were deliciously off limits, with a "no entry" sign decorating the gates. It's okay though. I went via the fence. Heh.

I'm not sure why the RAF liked long windowless buildings. Maybe it was a blackout thing. This one was currently used for storing old furniture. Given its distance from any houses, I found this quite baffling.

While, exploring the woods, a herd of deer burst out of the bushes about five meters away from me, and took off deeper into the woods until I couldn't see them anymore. I've actually never been that close to deer before, they caught me completely by surprise and loving a good pun I was instantly ashamed that my shocked reaction had been "Shit" instead of "Oh dear."

I returned to the lighter parts of the wood, not wanting to disturb the deer. And I found a ruined air raid shelter.

I didn't realize what these ruins were straight away. Basically, it was two doorways, no roof, and there was just a pile of dirt and trees in the middle. These types of air raid shelters were actually above ground, but covered in dirt to disguise them. "inside" was a solitary rusty bin.

Nearby, out of the woods, was an identical designed shelter, in much better condition. I could actually go inside, and it gives a much better idea of what the ruined one had originally looked like.

In a field there was an old firing range.

And lying nearby was this Robot Wars reject, which looks pretty cool.

Vehicles aren't my area of expertise but after a fact finding adventure, I learned that this is a Catterpillar D4 7U model, which was produced around the 1940s and 1950s. So while it's not a military vehicle, it's certainly a relic, and may even have been put to use during the time when RAF Condover was an active airfield, perhaps when it was being closed for repairs.

But by far the most intriguing find, after the control tower, was this beauty poking out through the trees.

I was confused and a little intrigued at first. But I've done some research, and these structures are commonly mistaken for pillboxes and air raid shelters, due to being underground, and due to the fact that one peeks out through those little slits there in the side. But having done some research, I've learned that this is actually called a Battle HQ.

I know, it sounds like something you'd find on a shelf in Toys R Us, but this is the 1940's we're talking about. It was a different era. In the 1940s Batman wore purple gloves and everything!

Seriously, Batman wore purple gloves!

But I digress.

A Battle HQ was a structure designed to give the defence officer a secure location to co-ordinate the defences of the airfield if it came under attack. The majority of them have a standard layout with a main entrance at one side, several rooms below ground and an observation room next to an escape hatch. The observation room is the prominent part sticking out of the ground with the slits in the side. I learned from my research that the previous airfields I'd explored, Montford Bridge and Rednal, both had these structures but that I'd missed them. However, Montford Bridges is in a garden, and Rednals is filled with dirt, so impossible to get into.

The main entrance to the Condover Battle HQ was very difficult to get to, for all the plantlife.

And as you can see, it is flooded. I returned to the observation room to check out the escape hatch.

It was a delight to see that the hatch, while not connected anymore, was still there, and that the ladder was intact, but unfortunately this part of the Battle HQ was also flooded.

Peering in, I could see the doorway to the observation room.

But from my research that this one is flooded is no surprise. Very few Battle HQ's out there are not flooded, and many are completely demolished or filled in. However, the intriguing part is that so many of them still retain the original artefacts and furnishings, and depending on when this one flooded, it may not have been cleared out. Someday the land owners might realize what they've got, and pump all the water out, and who knows what they'll find?

I'm so jealous of the person at Montford Bridge who has one of these in their freakin' garden.

But if anyone has any additional information, stories, or memories, about RAF Condover or any of the other places I explore, feel free to get in touch. I'm on Instagram as shrewsburyfromwhereyouarenot and also on Twitter as Urbexshropshire. Also find me on Facebook- and we'll be buddies.

Take care!