Saturday, 14 January 2017

An imaculate bunker

  (DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offense 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 )

It is the year 2017 and if they ever invent time travel, I will gather up all of the dog face selfies and take them to the people who invented the internet, and say "I know you think what you're doing is great, but this is what it becomes. Please don't do it."

It occurs to me that in fifty years, when 90% of the human race won't remember life before the internet, all someone would need to do is figure out how to switch it off and civilisation would come to an end, whereas fifty years prior to 2017, the end of the world was expected to far more dramatic.

After World War II there was a global realisation that weapons now existed that could easily wipe out everybody. In spite of both America and Russia fighting against Germany together in World War II, they weren't exactly buddies. In fact propaganda at the time painted both sides as the devil incarnate. When nuclear weapons became a thing, tensions increased and the governments of the world collectively went "AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!"

In the 1950s and 1960s, 1,563 bunkers were dug across Britain, from which members of the Royal Observer Corps could monitor and record nuclear blasts, and in theory keep themselves safe should a bomb drop on our merry little island.
These bunkers, or ROC posts, were tiny subterranean rooms at the bottom of a fifteen foot ladder into the ground. They were equipped with toilets, bunk beds, furniture, and all the technology required for the people stationed there to do their jobs and also communicate with other ROC posts and the Royal Observer Corps Shropshire HQ which is now a vets near the Abbey.

The equipment was allegedly quite crude, the air vents presumably would have let radiation into the bunker should a strike actually occur, and the telegraph poles used to communicate would have been flattened in a nuclear blast. So while I do have the deepest of respect for the Royal Observer Corps and the fact that they did a job that definitely needed doing, to the point that they'd allow themselves to be stationed in these tiny unideal rooms, I can't help but wonder if more could have been done for them? But then, nuclear weapons were a terrifying reality to come to terms with. We forget this, growing up in a world where they just exist. There was a time when this reality was new, it was scary, and the governments didn't really know what to do, but to keep the people feeling safe had to at least make it look like they were doing something.
Over half of the bunkers closed down in 1968 but a few stayed open until 1991. A lot were then demolished, and many more were trashed by trespassers. But some remain in immaculate condition. Most are sealed shut, but a few are open to whoever happens to find them.

Prior to this blog post, I had been inside five of these things in Shropshire. Their layout is often identical, to the point that every time I upload a photo on Instagram of one, people unaware that there is more than one will comment saying "Oh so you've been to Nesscliff." Yes, I have been to Nesscliff. But no, that is not necessarily the one depicted in the photo. The fact is, everybodies been to Nesscliff. For some reason it's the most well known one. It's not in the best of conditions. In fact in terms of quality it's quite low down in comparison to some of the others I've been in. But if you're ever in Nesscliff and a storm breaks out, it would still make comfortable shelter. The last one I went to was immaculate, and the third one I went to was stripped of personality but still pristine and quite capable of supporting squatters. People write in and ask me where these places are. But I stopped disclosing their locations purely because Cockshutt and Church Strettons bunkers are completely trashed, and giving out the locations of these beautiful things is just too risky. The Urbex Community is really a bunch of nitwits.
But then I often refer to the places I explore as Sandcastles, purely because they definitely won't be around forever. In fact every place I've ever revisited has been a little more trashed than it was first time. Everything is temporary.

But needless to say, upon discovering the location of my next bunker, my partner Raptor and I swung down our fireman poles and dived into the Raptormobile ready for a drive into the Shropshire wilderness. And we were very successful.

 But check it out. And just think, hundreds of these exist, dotted around the country. How much do people walk past every single day without realising? People ask me all the time how to find the  places that I blog about. The answer is simple. Look at your surroundings and ask the crucial question "What is that?" And don't look to other people for the answer. Go and find out.
In this case, having done the research, found the door and opened it, it seemed a shame not to descend the ladder into this time capsule.

As you can see, this place is pretty much untouched since its closure.

 I mean we lit the candle ourselves but it was already down there.

There are still bunk beds and the original mattresses against the back wall.

Also against the back wall is this closeable air vent, which is a common feature on ROC bunkers.

There's also a ceiling vent but these tend to have a screw-on lid.

The candle is reflected in a mirror mounted on a wall, because even in a nuclear apocalypse, vanity is important. On the wall would have been all of the telecom equipment.

But as you can see, now decorating the remains of the telecom equipment is what appears to be a vintage dirty magazine. But lets not judge. The people stationed here were only human, and it's nice to see a home-from-home workplace as unhomely as this given a bit of character.

On the noticeboard was this map which shows the locations of other bunkers, some I've been too, some which are locked tight, and others that are gone completely.

This notice caught my attention, because it's instructions for what the people stationed here would do if there was a "transition into war." It really drives the point across how tense times were. They really believed that a nuclear war could break out at any moment, and did what they could to prepare.

The tense atmosphere of the place is lightened somewhat by this letter. It's dated 1991, so it's towards the final days of this place being operational. It reads "We should just like to thank you all for the very enjoyable evening which we spent with you on the 13th May. It was kind of you all to give your time and to show us what really goes on down below."
I mean, I guess things were a lot less tense by 1991. I imagine in the 1960s they wouldn't have been so keen to show people around.

This poster again drove home the paranoia of the Cold War era. It's basically what to do if you spot a foreign vehicle. Nowadays nobody cares if a vehicle has a foreign plate.

Well, those "Keep Britain British" fascists care. But nobody who matters cares.

This crate once contained a hand operated siren.

In every ROC bunker I've found so far, apart from Church Stretton and Cockshutt because they were vandalised, there has been an identical supply cupboard, used to hold food and various other things.

 Mmmm... Yum!

I'm not sure how they washed themselves but here's some vintage soap.

And a vintage kettle.

This is a vintage dustpan, hiding amongst pink toilet paper.

Lots and lots of pink toilet paper.

More vintage soap.

More pink toilet paper.

But on the actual desk itself there's loads of paperwork.

Going by this notebook, it seems that following closure the bunker was accessed in 2012. But then, given that it's open to anyone who knows where it is, this is probably someone like me. Although, I don't leave a trace that I've been anywhere.

In the visitors book, I learned that the intruders from 2012 were just three students from Meole Brace Science College.
I had no idea Meole Brace even had a science college. The kids jokingly refer to themselves with military titles but it's pretty obvious that they're just playing.
But then according to the guestbook someone else visited in 1991 and has written their purpose of visit as "Being Nosy" which is funny, since that's a legit visit from when the site was still open.

The "Crew Duties" folder was pretty interesting. It contains health and safety information as well as what to do in a transition to war.

But the parts that really struck me were instructions on how to build traps to catch food, as well as how to build improvised cooking equipment.

It was quite eerie stuff. I won't show all of it here because there's about ten pages, but yeah, these guys really were prepared for the end of civilisation. These were pretty tense times. 

 This pump is used to remove rainwater. In many of these ROC bunkers they're damaged and smashed so it's quite nice to find one looking so pristine.

 Also still intact is the toilet. Now, if you didn't already feel sorry for the ROC guys stationed in these tiny bunkers, you will now. The toilet is basically a barrel with a seat on it in a tiny cupboard. And I guess if your job involves living in a tiny room underground, and sharing that space with another human, and having this for a toilet, one had better hope that they got on with whoever they were stationed with. Look at your work colleagues today. Could you live with them here?

It's not all bad news! The toilet room has an air vent too!

And that's pretty much it from this bunker. Unless something drastic has happened in the last month or so, it's still out there exactly as you see it, a testament to another time when things were very different. It's odd because nuclear weapons are still a thing, but now we're a world mostly full of people who grew up in a world where they were a thing, so we're not nearly as on edge.

It's so strange and brilliant though that the Cold War left so much behind.

So this is the sixth ROC bunker I have been inside, but I think it's about the eighth I've actually come across, seeing as the majority of them are sealed shut. No doubt I'll find more but I highly doubt I'll find many unlocked in such good condition as this one.

As always, thanks for reading. If you are on social media, you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter. Remember that I wont disclose locations, and respect my decision to not do so, and also remember before you type a Facebook status or go Donald Trumping (The new term for Tweeting), keep in mind that the internet will be here long after you've gone. What you put onto it will last longer than you do. People a century from now will be reading what we write to study our era. Every social media update is another line added to your obituary. Social media is a species-wide battle for relevance and yet in person we don't dare look at our fellow humans. The fact that striking conversation with a stranger is considered an eccentricity is something I actually despair over. Talk to people. Make each other smile. Turn someones day around. Compliment a stranger.

And of course, share this blog wherever you want.

Stay awesome! xxxxxx


  1. Fascinating! The purpose of the ROC was to observe nearby explosions by recording the direction of the flash on a very primitive circular pin hole camera. Funnily enough my first job as an apprentice at the the Post Office Telephones was servicing the alarm units that were positioned in police stations and other public buildings and which would have sprung into life in the event the bombshell dropped. Later ivworked on defence equipment not knowing it's full purpose at the time but which I often recognise in pictures such as yours. The earlier ww2 post invasion defences, pill boxes etc are really interesting too and several around shropshire.

  2. Great to see the ROC post still in such good condition. My father was in the ROC in the 1960's in a shelter just like this in Yorkshire. He had joined because he really liked aircraft and enjoyed the aircraft recognition part of the work. As it developed it became more and more nuclear fall out readings and my father did not fancy being safe for a few weeks underground whilst his wife and child were left to sort themselves out at home! He left the ROC in 1969 and followed his son into the Air Training Corps as an civilian instructor retiring from that in 2008 at the age of 80! The post is still there although being built in flat agriculture land it was liable to flood and I remember my father showing me how the pump worked to empty the inch or two of water that would build up over time.

  3. Very interesting. I love this type of thing. I don't think I would dare go down if I found one though.

  4. The Chris Jones who signed the visitors' book on 13th May 1991 "being nosy" is probably the same one who signed the St John's letter? It's signed C Jones (Mrs) so that everyone knows she's a happily married lady.

  5. I went there around January time too, absolutely all the paper work had gone :( even the pink toilet roll :-o