Rudloe Site 3 - Visit 31 Oct 2007

Former UK Government War Headquarters Complex - Rudloe Site 3

I was exceptionally fortunate to be able visit the former UK Government War Headquarters (Rudloe Site 3) on 31 Oct 2007. What a truly amazing place. If you have never heard of "Burlington" and the Rudloe Manor bunker complex, I really do recommend Nick McCamley's book Secret Underground Cities and his excellent and comprehensive website, or the BBC's more recent article on the Corsham Quarries.

The Mines of Moria have nothing on this - this is REAL ! Burlington was the UK's version of the Diefenbunker or to a lesser extent, Cheyenne Mountain. Although de-classified since 2004, the complex is not open to the public, and I doubt it ever will be. We were the first tour in over a year, and possibly one of the last. Radon gas, dry & wet rot spores, dust and asbestos all form real hazards to those who enter. Large areas are now shut off to human entry for reasons of safety.

The photographs here, taken on my mobile phone, would probably have seen me court martialled and shot fifteen years ago; this was one of the most secret sites in the world, whose existence was only finally acknowledged by the UK Government in the mid 1990s. Nowaday's it lies spookily, sadly and surreally empty. Every day, I work just above this complex; even though I had read McCamley's book and various internet articles on Rudloe Manor and the Corsham Bunkers, it is difficult to explain just how amazing and unreal it was to actually visit the vast abandoned city beneath my feet. I am sorry to say I saw no orcs, dismembered aliens or disused spacecraft. But it is a large place, I could have missed something and I do seem to have this blank in my memory of events!

The site contains vast quantities of unused artifacts and machinery. It was never used, manned only by a skeleton "caretaker" crew, waiting for the day when up to 4000 bemused military & civilian officials (most of whom had no idea that they had been selected as one of the chosen few) would be whisked away from their families and homes at short notice and deposited 100ft under the limestone rock of Box Hill, to survive Armageddon and "lead us to the New Jerusalem".

Because it was never used, everything in the complex is "as new"......or as new as it can be after 70 years down there. Empty offices, with stacks of unused and still wrapped chairs and desks, galleys with factory fresh 1950s ranges, utensils and dishes. The atmosphere is totally surreal.

Invariably, your first thought is what a waste that the equipment was never used, but then your second thought is to thank God that it was never used. This is a crucial part of Britain's Cold War history. It should be a museum, but health and safety, and basic economics suggest that it will never be. Later this year, or early next year, this site could be gone for ever. English Heritage have been offered the site, but they can't possibly afford to maintain it. Every day it deteriorates a little bit more.

On to the Pictures.....

My sincere thanks to the Mine Manager and his team for showing us around. I will remember this one for a long time. Apologies for the quality of photography - but not bad for a mobile phone camera in the dark though !

"Speak Friend and Enter" - disregarding the many hazards and risks, our intrepid explorers decipher the ancient elvish runes, board their vehicles and set off into the mines


The Bunker is not small, nor are the roads flat or straight. We travelled around on these electric carts at breakneck speed. I clung frantically to the back of this one, with my lady guide and driver explaining that it had been built from the remains of two ancient wrecks, and that they occasionally had bets on who could make the longest skid marks.


I nearly fell off the truck taking this one - with my torch in one hand and the mobile phone/camera in the other. The underground site is huge, so electric trucks are required; in 2.5 hours we ONLY did the formerly secret Cold War Govt HQ - there is substantially more than this to see in the WW2 areas.


Difficult to see, but this is a part of the mine where the MOD has not made any changes - it remains exactly as it was when the Bath Stone miners left in 1939 (graffitti on the wall confirms this). What you see in this picture is an alcove containing a manual crane used to move the Bath Stone after it had been carved out by hand.

Pick axes, cranes and many other mining tools lie exactly where the miners left them 70 years ago.


One of my colleagues examines a crane - you can see the mining debris left in the passageway - apparently less than 60% of what was cut was useable - the rest remained in the shafts as debris, all of which had to be cleared in the occupied areas.


Strange though it may seem, some of the graffiti is of historic interest:


The GPO Telephone Exchange. Manual of course. There is a switched exchange (and a digital one) too, but with little light and nothing to see apart from grey boxes, I took no photographs. Apparently the switched exchange is still one of the largest ever built. The operator's log is still there, with a poignant and short final entry "system switched off"........ spooky.


"Whitehall 1212 - Certainly Sir, Just putting you through now Sir"


Supervisor's Desk - and a full set of 1970s Telephone Books.


The essential machinery of Government - Rules and regulations, abandoned where they lay - note the mould on the green one:


Nuclear-EMP-Proof Telephone Exchange - a vacuum message tube exchange - tubes arrive in the in trays with an address written on them - the operators then place them in the relevant out tubes and send them on....


BBC Radio Studio, form where the Prime Minister (initially Macmillan) would have addressed the nation - "My Fellow Brits, this is the Prime Minister speaking. A massive nuclear attack has devastated our country; but I'm alright Jack here in my secret bunker!"

The substantial Hospital area has its own small kitchen - including a pristine butter pat cutting machine ! (the gold thing - butter comes out in a flower shape and is chopped off by a wire). An essential aid to recuperation.

The Canteen, and a never used Coffee machine. Genuine 1951 Coffee Filters provided.


The Galley - never used ovens, ranges, utensils and pots:


Of course, one has to have something to do whilst riding out the Nuclear Winter. Model Aeroplane building Kit in a cupboard, paints courtesy of Humbrol & Woolies.


A whole room full of Legal Statutes and Parliamentary Procedures, including instructions on how to execute traitors.....


Admiralty Charts & Pilots, Navy & Army Lists, Who's Who - we dont just let anyone in here you know....


The Fellowship rush into the Tomb of Balin and examine the treasures in awe - the extensive store rooms contain everything you could want after a Nuclear holocaust:


...including dinner plates, cups, saucers and an electric kettle - how can civilisation fail, when we can still make a proper cup of tea?


A veritable treasure trove of useful items....


Home Sweet Home - for a troglodyte. Have you seen or read The Time Machine ? - HG Wells must have visited Corsham..... these ARE the beds of Morlocks-to-be....

And thats it. I hope to get down again next year to see the old Spring Quarry armament depot, with its famous WW2 wall murals by the artist Olga Lehman (Link to some marvellous photos on English Heritage's website), and its full size railway yard, engine works and 2 platform station (there is a spur and a second entrance at the eastern end of the Box tunnel. If so, I will take a proper camera next time!


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