This was a classic Sunday afternoon “what shall I do?” moment, quite why I ended up deciding to do three and a half hour’s driving to explore a tiny Cold War Nuclear Bunker in Wiltshire I don’t know but that’s the thing about Urban Exploration – it piques your interest just enough to make you do crazy things. Before visiting the Alderbury ROC I knew very little of it’s history, I’ve since done some research (mainly on Wikipedia) and it’s quite an interesting piece of history I’d never heard.
The Royal Observer Corps were in existence from 1925 to 1995 and their first significant operation was to act as aircraft spotters in WW2 where their task was to radio in any sightings of enemy aircraft or flying bombs. After the war ended they were briefly stood down after being in continuous operation from September 1939 to May 1945 then as the peace transitioned into the Cold War their role changed. The new role was to report nuclear explosions and monitor the nuclear fallout, to do this the crew of three would have to be prepared to spend up to 21 days underground in a 16ft x 7ft x 7ft bunker, between 1958 and 1968 over 1,500 of these bunkers were built across the country.
On arrival at the site I had to straddle a barbed-wire fence and then found the hatch easily, it was weighted down by a large flint boulder and the hatch opened easily once it was removed. Having never been to an ROC post before I felt a little apprehensive as I looked down the pitch black hatch, 20ft above a dark and slightly watery looking floor – anything could’ve been down there. I strapped on my head torch and proceeded downwards and I was surprised to see how small these bunkers were. Having been down there for just a few minutes I heard voices approaching, I stayed quiet for a brief time to gauge who the people were and what they might be doing. I was somewhat paranoid of being locked down there by the landowner or some random miscreants so before they reached the hatch I yelled out “HELLO?”, this startled the new visitors briefly and then they hung their heads over to see what was going on. It turned out that they were fellow explorers like me and they seemed like a nice friendly pair and it was nice to meet them both.
The bunker itself was surprisingly small and contained a pair of bunk-beds, a couple of cupboards, a crate and quite a few pieces of paperwork and documentation including fallout charts, instructions, aircraft identification diagrams and so on. This particular bunker was in pretty good condition, I gather from Googling around that many are not quite this neat and tidy, this one was apparently used by the BBC at some point in the recent past.
Having been down there for probably 10 minutes or so I decided to pop back up (as did my fellow explorers) and call it a day. It took us a few minutes to figure out how to shut the hatch (don’t force it, there’s a bar you need to shift and then it works) and then I replaced the boulder and headed back to the car.