BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

February 16th - As I passed from Elford to Harlaston, I stopped as I usually do, to check out the state of Harlaston ROC post. What I saw saddened me, as it continues to deteriorate.

These odd green surface structures are the visible evidence of a small, 3-man nuclear fallout shelter. Intended to be staffed by a group of volunteers from the local Royal Observer Corps, they were a state secret. Should nuclear conflict have begun, the crew would man this subterranean bunker equipped with basic recording equipment, water and rations, and take measurements of radiation, weather, fallout, bomb damage and soforth. This information would be relayed - if possible - through telegraphy equipment installed within. Posts were sited all over the country, and worked in groups of 3. Others existed locally at Polesworth, Rugeley and Shenstone.

In essence, should the Cold War have begun, three people would have entered this hole in the ground, and if they didn’t perish, they would have carried out their orders whilst waiting to die of radiation sickness. It’s a sobering thought.

The posts - and the Royal Observer Corps - were stood down at the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, and the posts mostly left to rot. Some were preserved by enthusiasts, some bought by cellphone companies - they make great basetation mounts - but the majority were abandoned, and later discovered in the internet age by urban explorers and cold war enthusiasts.

Sadly, the bunkers were left filled with all their equipment - bedding, instruments, lockers, chemical toilets and whatnot - and have mostly now be broken into, stripped and vandalised. Harlaston has been systematically destroyed. The current owner has repeatedly welded the access shaft shut, only to have it continually cut open. When I visited, there we signs of fresh cutting and the hatch was unlocked.

This is a crying shame. This is part of our collective history, destroyed and desecrated by animals with no sense of the historic and social significance.

High on a hill overlooking this northeast outpost of Staffordshire, good folk would have entered this once immaculate shelter to serve us in our time of greatest darkness. Today, it’s trashed.


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