One of the most unusual English Heritage properties can be found in York, it’s called York Cold War Bunker. Considering it was decommissioned in 1991, it’s very different than the castles and abbeys we can see in the English Heritage booklet. This is not the first bunker we visit, as we’ve been to Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker a few years ago.
The bunker can be visited only with a guided tour. I think that is the best way to see the bunker.
Unlike other bunkers, this one had a different purpose. Bomb strikes would have been mapped and coordinates would have been sent to the HQ bunkers where the important decisions were made. It is preserved as it was when it closed in 1991.
At the York Cold War Bunker, group 20 of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC).
60 people would have been in the bunker for 30 days. It wasn’t a place for saving people, but for getting data and transmitting it. 120 people would have been trained to work in the bunker, but only 60 would have been able to get in, the first ones to arrive. The rest would have been left out, people were expendable and everybody was aware that this was the situation. After the 30 days they had to work in the bunker, the doors would have open regardless of the situation that was outside. Sounds bleak and cruel, but it had a vital role if the WWIII would have started.
The situation in the bunker wasn’t meant to be pleasant. Water was scares and people wouldn’t have been able to shower. They all would have slept in the same beds, in 8 hours shifts. They had a generator that had enough fuel for the 30 days.
The ROC was a civil organisation operating from 1925 to 1991 and it was composed by civilian volunteers. The civilians were administered by personal from the RAF.
They were part of the nuclear monitoring system. The system was put in place so the government could react fast to impending attack and save as many lives as possible. The job of the volunteers that would have worked here was to establish the Ground Zero of the nuclear detonation, type and size. They also had to gather information about the path and intensity of the fallout, the radiation that follows a nuclear explosion.
All the data gathered by this type of bunkers was coordinated with small posts of only 3 people. It was then transmitted to HQ, big bunkers with up to 450 staff.
This was the generator. It would have had enough fuel for 30 days. If the generator would have caught fire, a metal door would have sealed the room. There were a few batteries that offered backup for up to 8 hours. After that, all the people inside would have had to go out, regardless of what was outside.
The command room. This is the most important room in the bunker. All the data was collected here.
The room was painted in blue – ochre – dark blue to represent a picture of the seaside, with the blue skies, sandy beaches and the blue sea. It was meant to make people happy and relaxed. Not sure some paint would have been enough after a nuclear attack though.
This is AWDREY or Atomic Weapon Detection, Recognition and Estimation of Yield. The device was built as a thunder detector and modified so it can detect nuclear bombs. It had a lot of issues, giving false positives every time there was a storm with thunders or fireworks like for Guy Fawkes night. People were still needed, but it was a good fail-safe if everything else would have gone wrong.
The dormitories looked small and cramped. The thing that I liked the most were the suitcases on top. Those belonged to the volunteers that were trained to work in the bunker. The good thing about getting a location like this only a few years after it was decommissioned is that people still have items that can be donated to the museum.
The telephone exchange from the 1980s. It had direct lines to the police stations, so they could inform the public about the fallout.
I was thinking it will be somewhere in a filed, but no. As you can see, the bunker is tucked away between blocks of flats.
York Cold War Bunker can be found in Monument Close, York, N. Yorkshire, YO24 4HT. The entry fee is £7.50 (adult) and free for members. There is a free car park, quite small though.