There are hundreds of little doors all over the UK, inconspicuously leading down into the ground. These were established in the 1950s for the Royal Observer Corps. From 1925 onwards the role of the Royal Observer Corps was to detect enemy aircraft but as tensions rose in the Cold War, they were given the additional task of reporting nuclear blasts.
1,563 subterranean posts were set up, each consisting of an entry hatch down a narrow shaft to a room aproximately 15 feet by eight feet in size, which would contain desks, cupboards, chairs and beds. A smaller room contained a toilet facility, however it was just a barrel with a seat on it, with no actual pipes or flushing mechanism. At the opposite end of the larger chamber from the entry shaft was an air shaft.
Straight away, one can see the flaw here. While the underground room was equipped to detect nuclear blasts and determine the number and strength of nuclear explosions, the air shaft would have provided an access point for radiation in the event of a nuclear strike, negating the entire purpose of being subterranean. In addition, while the bases themselves were subterranean, their communication between all the other ROC posts depended on above-ground telegraph poles, so in the event of a bombing, they would have been flattened and the people stationed in the ROC posts would have been cut off from the world.
The majority of ROC posts were shut down in 1968. The rest were closed in 1991. Some were sold to mobile phone companies, and masts erected in their foundations.
Allegedly only a few ROC posts have a different layout to the common style, and one of the more notoriously unusual designs is underneath Windsor Castle. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the details that make its design unusual or different are probably features that enable it to serve as a more efficient bunker than the more common ROC posts. Unfortunately I can't see the one underneath Windsor Castle. But Shropshire is not lacking in its surprises.
Oswestry's ROC post is sadly filled in, while just across the border Llanrhaeadr, Llanfechain and Lake Vyrnwy ROC posts have been completely demolished, with only a few traces left hat they ever existed. The door at Cockshutt is welded shut, and the one at Much Wenlock is padlocked. The one at Whitchurch still contains beds, allegedly, but lacks a ladder.
But Nesscliffe??? I was surprised when I found it, because the door was wide open!
This meant someone had been here, or was even still here, so I approached with caution. But it soon became apparent nobody was around. Whoever had left this open was long gone.
The shaft was deep and narrow. The ladder was decades old, and hadn't received any kind of maintenance since the posts closure in 1991. Only a fool would risk climbing down it! DO I LOOK LIKE A FOOL????
Ah... Well, now that that's been established, let's take a look!
(LEGAL DISCLAIMER: As an explorer, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model.)
The main room was lacking in its beds but the rest of the furniture was there. This may seem surprising but look at that shaft again. Why pay a team to lug the furniture up that ladder (a health and safety nightmare) when one could just leave it as it is?
Looking at the room, it's difficult to imagine this place containing a couple of beds. These seem to have been disassembled and removed, but imagine how cramped this place would have been with them in. Imagine being stationed here, and having to get out of bed just to sit at a desk and wait for nuclear blasts that never happened.
Imagine how awful it would be if you couldn't stand the person you were stationed with.
Yeah, I don't think we give the Royal Observer Corps enough credit.
I was saddened to see that this cupboard contained nothing. However, I did have to wonder how long the pink toilet paper had been down here.
Here's the air shaft. It appears to be closeable, but when I tried to shut it, it was rusted in place.
And finally we have the unflushable toilet facilities. I didn't peek inside, but I'm guessing it was a cleaner sight than the toilets in some pubs and clubs in Shrewsbury.
Imagine working here with someone you couldn't stand and a nuclear blast did go off, cutting your communication, leaving you cut off from the world in this teeny makeshift bunker/office with the person you hate, and this toilet. We're all very lucky people.
I can't believe so many ROC posts exist out there. Of course if I went out and documented more straight away I imagine this blog would get rather repetitive and dull. So next I think I'll be out in Powys exploring something new. I know the name of the blog is shockingly inaccurate, increasingly as time progresses. But I lived in Oswestry for ages, so Powys kinda feels like home too. And I have a keen interest in exploring a few Welshier places.
In the meantime, if you have any information regarding this place or any other place I've explored, do get in touch via the blog comments or via social media. I have Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Find me, add me, we'll be buddies.
Thanks for reading. Stay awesome.