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A pile of junk. In a hole.
Kelvedon Hatch 'Secret' Nuclear Bunker (Essex)
Member Name: jamescridland
Kelvedon Hatch 'Secret' Nuclear Bunker (Essex)
Date: 09/04/02, updated on 30/10/04 (1355 review reads)
Advantages: It's a secret bunker
Disadvantages: It's full of rubbish, It's badly put together, It's not even believable
I popped into Kelvedon Hatch (an old regional government nuclear bunker) over the weekend. This was the government nuclear bunker for London from 1972 (though the bunker was built much earlier than that). Apparently the Prime Minister would have stayed there in the event of nuclear war.
Look, um, sorry, but this place is rubbish. In more ways than one.
It's run by people who seem to think it's clever writing little notices everywhere. Not of the "This is the telephone exchange and this is what it does"-type. The "Parents! Don't let your children write on the walls! You wouldn't let them do it at home SO WHY HERE?" type. In scrawly handwriting.
The bunker is full of interesting old bits of equipment, which at first glance looks interesting and authentic, but the more you examine stuff (surely the whole point), the gaps become glaringly obvious.
For example, in a typical officer's room, there were six telephones. One 1990's "Property of the MoD" Plessey telephone. One 1980's RAF telephone from some Welsh base, complete with stamp on the front. (Kelvedon Hatch had little to do with the RAF). One old office extension phone, unique in the building. One Bakelite 1950's phone.
This place is, sadly, little more than a collection of junk.
True, the building's interesting: an underground bunker, entered by the faux-bungalow you see in the picture above. (It's not a bungalow: the windows in the roof are blacked out, because the roof itself is entirely for show: it's got a thick flat concrete blast-deflecting roof to it, not that they bothered telling you.
To demonstrate what a collection of junk this place really was, one room had an early 1990's mobile phone in it - it wouldn't have worked; it couldn't have worked; they wouldn't have used an analogue, clear, mobile phone for communications even if it had. Another room has a
Bakelite 50's AM radio in it. You're underground, surrounded by 10 feet of reinforced concrete, and a Faraday anti-blast cage. You *really* think you'll get Virgin Radio in there? Um, no. It's rubbish.
As someone who knows his broadcasting bits and bobs, I popped into the BBC studio - a place where the government would have tried broadcasting to anyone that was still alive up top. Among the things in the racks of equipment were three signal processors for processing the audio to make it nice and loud - two AM Optimods, and one FM Optimod. Even if there was a radio transmitter on the bunker, there is absolutely no need for three units which all do roughly the same thing, and are mainly designed for music broadcasting. Absolutely no need. Again, I say, it's junk.
There's no thought for historical accuracy. Mid 1990's fax machines live beside 1950's bakelite telephones and 1940's packets of panel pins. A fax machine which printed onto plain paper sat beside rolls of thermal fax paper which wouldn't have been used by that machine. An operating theatre, for treating people who were injured by the blast, was two floors up from the entrance (you enter at the bottom), and in a corridor. You'd have to walk past the operating theatre to get to bed every night. Sorry, it's just not even believable.
To give them their due, they've done some work. There's an audio "wand", which plays you interesting commentary by a bloke with a boring voice who droned along so long and so pointlessly that my other half and I lost patience with it almost instantly. Standing in front of a badly-drawn photocopy of a "not to scale" plan of the base, the bloke wittered along about well, you know, some people might have survived on the surface, but really nuclear war would have been pretty terrible, and look at this badly-drawn photocopy and the scrawly signs telling you that you're on camera and
that you'll be fined if you go the wrong way.
A much better example is Anstruther, in Fife - around an hour's drive from Edinburgh - decommissioned in 1993 and opened in 1994 - where a good attempt has been made to restore the place consistently. Even the BBC studio in there makes sense.
By all means, pop into Kelvedon Hatch to look at the building. But please, don't think anything that you see is in any way authentic. It's not.