Thursday, 31 January 2013

A day in a bunker....

Do you know what time you'll be going to work, or what you're going to be doing when you get to work in the mornings?  I very rarely shifts change each week, each day.

Sometimes I know I will be the newsroom or studio....perhaps producing the breakfast or drive programme. Or I may be reading news bulletins late into the night.

If I'm reporting that week, I don't know what story I'll be chasing, or where I'll be going to make prerecorded packages or features. Similarly if I'm reporting live from the radio car, I never know where I'll be sent. And that's interesting!

On Monday. I was the radio car reporter .The shift started at 6am and by 6.15 I was in the studio for a two way with Jonathan Lampon the breakfast presenter. Ten minutes later I was off in the car for a twenty six mile drive along dark, icy roads to the Leicestershire/Lincolnshire border to meet a man in a bunker.

It was a secret bunker , constructed in 1960 at the height of the Cold War when the threat of nuclear war was very real. A frightening time, when British planes were on standby to defend the UK and intercept attacking Russian planes ...or scrambling to attack too.

So why was I in this particular bunker? What was the story of Buckminster Post 62?

Well, Jed Jaggard is a military historian , actor and historical renactor....who takes history into schools and other organisations. He discovered this nuclear monitoring post on google, obtained an indefinite lease on it four months ago, and since then has been cleaning it up.

He's going to run educational visits there...but by necessity  visitor numbers in each party will be small...

 Getting down there was no mean feat. I had to swing my leg over the opening hatch ,put a foot on one bar of the ladder then hoist myself into the hole. Ooh, it wouldn't have been so easy to throw a  wobbly and not bother....but then Jed mentioned that one man who fought in the Second World War, had been down there wearing a neck brace. My pride was at stake. if an injured man in his late eighties could do it, so could I. I lowered my eyes, prayed (because I'm SO accident prone) and climbed down.

Once twenty feet underground, I was in a room measuring eighteen feet by eight feet which would have housed three members of the Royal Observer Corps at any one time. Their mission down there was to monitor the effects of a nuclear blast.

There's still many items of orginal equipment down there. This is a bomb power indicator, which measured the blast waves of a nuclear attack.

There was a cupboard still containing some of the orginal rations - tins of  food, an old chocolate bar, plus an old mini cooker,..a relic from the Second World War.

But considering three people were down there at any one time, there was only one bed....

and one old chemical toilet.

It's a fascinating place, one of over 1,600 other posts  dotted strategically across the UK. Half were disposed of during the strategic defence review of 1968, but this one remained in operation until 1991. This spot, only nine miles from Melton Mowbray , was a key area during the Cold War.
The next open day is in June, and well worth a visit if you're not claustrophobic and are pretty nimble...

But I don't know how those Royal Corps observers stood it down there during their long shifts. I'd had enough after twenty minutes..and couldn't wait to climb up that ladder to light, and fresh air...

As I'd made my way gingerly down the ladder to the observation post this song was swirling around in my head....I give you...The Jam, and "Going Underground  - such a brilliantly written and executed track which has stood the test of time..



  1. Absolutely fascinating - I am claustrophobic on occasion - but possibly could manage this for a brief interlude. The track you have chosen is perfect and i know I will be humming this all night long!

  2. I think you'd manage Mrs H..because you're so close to the hatch..which is kept open! As for "Going Underground" ...I've been singing it all week!

  3. How fascinating! And a grim reminder of the terrible things we were told to believe, during the Cold War ...

  4. Yes, that's why I'm so glad that Jed has taken on the post at Buckminister to preserve it....

  5. What an interesting job you have,no two days the same. I could never have climbed down those steps, imagine being stuck down there.

  6. I'm very lucky to have such a diverse working week....and I tried not to think about being stuck down there as I was climbing down the ladder as well as hanging on for grim death!