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REGIONAL SEATS OF GOVERNMENT or RSGs were the best known aspect of Britain's civil defence preparations against nuclear war. In fact, however, naming conventions changed over the years as strategies in Whitehall
Whitehall
changed.

In the aftermath of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima
Hiroshima
and the Soviet Union's development of the atom bomb , it was clear that London could not survive a nuclear bombardment. Although considerable effort still went into secret construction of military citadels under London , the solution was to disperse the machinery of government into small pieces in the provinces, where there would be a greater chance of survival.

Experiments along these lines had taken place during the Second World War , when a system of regional commissioners existed and key departments were moved out of London to Bath , Harrogate and Cheltenham
Cheltenham
, among others. However, the idea of a regional commissioner dated back to the First World War
First World War
and the 1926 general strike .

CONTENTS

* 1 From the Second World War
Second World War
to the H-bomb * 2 The H-bomb era * 3 RSGs * 4 After the Civil Defence Corps * 5 Last phase of Cold War
Cold War
* 6 After the Cold War
Cold War
* 7 Gallery * 8 See also * 9 References * 10 External links

FROM THE SECOND WORLD WAR TO THE H-BOMB

The Civil Defence Corps was revived in 1948 by Act of Parliament , and the next year it was decided to construct a network of two-storey, hardened war rooms built on government sites and with concrete walls ranging from five to seven feet thick.

Construction started in 1953 and was completed by 1965. The sites chosen were

* REGION 1 (Northern)

* Kenton Bar in Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne
, a former RAF operations room dating from 1940

* REGION 2 (North East)

* Lawnswood, Leeds
Leeds

* REGION 3 (North Midlands)

* Chalfont Drive, Nottingham
Nottingham

* REGION 4 (Eastern)

* Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge
Cambridge

* REGION 5 (London)

* Five sub-controls in the outer suburbs were established – see Civil defence centres in London

* REGION 6 (Southern)

* Whiteknights Campus, Reading

* REGION 7 (South West)

* Flowers Hill, Bristol
Bristol

* REGION 8 (Wales)

* Coryton, Cardiff
Cardiff

* REGION 9 (West Midlands)

* Shirley, Birmingham
Birmingham

* REGION 10 (Scotland)

* Kirknewton, near Edinburgh
Edinburgh

* REGION 11 (South East)

* Tunbridge Wells

THE H-BOMB ERA

Yet by the time the last of the war rooms was completed, the development of the hydrogen bomb made them anachronistic. Instead of a long war, planners now expected a short devastating attack on major cities. The war rooms were built too close to major population centres, and with a staff of only 45, were insufficient for the dispersed network that civil defence planners then thought would be required.

It was then expected that central government might itself cease to exist, and control would pass entirely into the hands of a regional commissioner, of cabinet rank, who would wield absolute power in his region. His staff would replicate all parts of central government.

In tune with this philosophy of dispersal, work continued to refurbish and expand a former underground aircraft factory and ammunition store at Hawthorn, Wiltshire
Hawthorn, Wiltshire
, built in a vast complex of former Bath stone quarries near Bath, as a final emergency national seat of government.

In 1956 the Home Office issued a specification for a vastly expanded network of bunkers with space for 300 staff, capable of resisting a near miss, linked into communications systems such as the BBC, and capable of operating for several months.

However, in the following year Britain was hit by one of the recurrent economic crises which marked the 1950s and 1960s, and the plans had to be scaled back. In particular, the new RSGs were, wherever possible, to use existing facilities, with none in the end being purpose-built. This spirit of economy was to mark all UK preparations for nuclear war. They were completed between 1958 and 1961, and the construction was done in complete secrecy, with Parliament, as well as the public and the press, unaware of the work being carried out.

RSGS

The regional seats of government were;

* REGION 1 (Northern)

* Gaza Barracks, Catterick Camp , this did not provide real protected accommodation

* REGION 2 (North East)

* Imphal Barracks , York
York

* REGION 3 (North Midlands)

* Plans for a new site at Grantham
Grantham
were abandoned, as new assumptions about Soviet targeting strategy assumed that Nottingham would avoid heavy fallout, and so to save money the old War Room there was expanded to serve as the RSG

* REGION 4 (Eastern)

* The existing War Room at Cambridge
Cambridge
was expanded to serve as the RSG

* REGION 5 (London)

* The five London War Rooms were retained

* REGION 6 (Southern)

* Warren Row, near Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames
, an underground aircraft components factory which dated from the Second World War
Second World War
and which provided limited accommodation

* REGION 7 (South West)

* Bolt Head , near Salcombe in south Devon. This was a former protected radar station, one of dozens built by the RAF under the ROTOR Plan, only to find that the pace of military development, in particular the development of new radar technologies, and replacement of manned aircraft by guided missiles, was faster than construction, so leaving a whole set of bunkers redundant

* REGION 8 (Wales)

* The Barracks, Brecon
The Barracks, Brecon

* REGION 9 (West Midlands)

* The Drakelow Tunnels , near Kidderminster . Another underground factory from the World War II era, built to handle dispersed aircraft engine production by the Rover company.

* REGION 10 (North West)

* Fulwood Barracks , Preston , as at Catterick, there was no real protected accommodation here.

* REGION 11 (Northern Ireland)

* Regional War Room, Mount Eden Park, Belfast
Belfast

Another former ROTOR station – Barnton Quarry in the western outskirts of Edinburgh, became the Scottish National HQ, with three subsidiary bunkers, North Zone at Anstruther in Fife, another former ROTOR station, East Zone using the former war room at Kirknewton , and West Zone taking over a former anti-aircraft control station at East Kilbride .

The existence of the entire network was blown open in 1963, when a small group called Spies for Peace , acting on a tip-off, broke into RSG6 at Warren Row and – anonymously – produced a pamphlet exposing the network, Danger! Official Secret. The Spies For Peace were never caught and the result was a political scandal.

The RSGs entered public consciousness – evidently, the government was spending large amounts of taxpayers' money to protect itself while doing nothing for the mass of the population who faced annihilation in a nuclear war. Investigations by other journalists uncovered and published the sites of most of the other bunkers in the network, and despite this being technically illegal, none were ever prosecuted.

Yet by this time the structure of civil defence was changing again, as the government realised that a more flexible system of protected sub-regional controls (SRC) was needed in order to revive a link between central government and local authorities who would bear the brunt of post-attack planning. Regional Seats of Government would not now be hardened structures and would be established as soon as possible after attack, under pre-arranged plans at locations that would be selected in the light of circumstances.

More ex- ROTOR stations were pressed into service, and a handful of reinforced basements were built under Government office blocks to serve as SRCs. However financial stringency again meant that this plan was never fully carried out and the complete network of SRCs was never built.

AFTER THE CIVIL DEFENCE CORPS

By the time that the Civil Defence Corps was run down in 1968, following yet another economic crisis, the network was as follows:

* REGION 1 (Northern)

* Hexham in the Border Country, using a former hardened cold store from the Second World War.

* REGION 2 (North East)

* Bempton , a former ROTOR bunker on the Yorkshire coast * Conisbrough near Doncaster
Doncaster
, a former anti-aircraft operations bunker.

* REGION 3 (North Midlands)

* Skendleby , located in a very remote area of rural Lincolnshire, a former ROTOR bunker * Loughborough
Loughborough
, a former hardened cold store.

* REGION 4 (Eastern)

* Bawburgh outside Norwich
Norwich
, a former ROTOR bunker * Hertford , a new SRC built under Sovereign House, a government office block in the town.

* REGION 5 (London)

* Kelvedon Hatch , near Brentwood in Essex, a very deeply buried former ROTOR bunker.

* REGION 6 (Southern)

* Basingstoke
Basingstoke
, a protected basement built under the HQ of the Civil Service Commission. * Dover Castle (protected accommodation dated back to the Napoleonic wars , but a large citadel was built here for naval operations during the Second World War) * Stoughton Barracks , Guildford
Guildford
.

* REGION 7 (South West)

* The Bolt Head/Hope Cove RSG near Salcombe , Devon. * Ullenwood , a former anti-aircraft control on a hilltop site near Cheltenham
Cheltenham
Spa .

* REGION 8 (Wales)

* A former ammunitions storage bunker at Brackla Hill , Bridgend . * Sites for a North Wales SRC were considered at Llandudno Junction as well as a protected basement under Government buildings at Ruthin
Ruthin
, but neither came to fruition.

* REGION 9 (West Midlands)

* The Drakelow RSG and a former ammunitions store at Swynnerton , Staffordshire.

* REGION 10 (North West)

* There was little existing protected accommodation in the north west and so a brand new SRC was built under a technical college at Southport
Southport
.

* REGION 11 (Northern Ireland)

* Regional War Room, Mount Eden Park, Belfast

The situation in Scotland remained the same. By the 1970s, the risk of war had receded dramatically, and Britain had been forced to devalue the pound. So this network was reduced to a care-and-maintenance basis only. There was no new construction and no renovation of surplus military accommodation. Investment in communications was almost negligible, and in the event of a nuclear war, the infrastructure would have been largely useless.

The coming to power of Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
in 1979 led to the last hurrah of UK civil defence. A review in 1980 called for the network to be recast as Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ), which would be equipped with up-to-date communications and either based on the existing SRCs or housed in completely new accommodation. The programme was slow to start however, and three new sites, carried on again in complete secrecy, were not completed until the 1980s with only a few years to go before the end of the Cold War
Cold War
made civil defence entirely redundant (the cost of the new bunkers was claimed to be £80 million each.)

LAST PHASE OF COLD WAR

The final shape of secret dispersed regional government in the UK looked like this.

* REGION 1 (Scotland)

* A purpose-built HQ was constructed on a military base at Cultybraggan
Cultybraggan
near Comrie in central Scotland

* REGION 2 (North East)

* Hexham

* REGION 3 (North Midlands)

* Skendleby * Loughborough

* REGION 4 (Eastern)

* Bawburgh * Hertford

* REGION 5 (London)

* Kelvedon Hatch

* REGION 6 (Southern)

* Crowborough in Sussex (the Basingstoke
Basingstoke
site suffered from leaks.) A bunker had been built here during the Second World War
Second World War
to broadcast to occupied Europe under the code name Aspidistra.

* REGION 7 (South West)

* The Bolt Head/Hope Cove RSG/SRC and a new bunker to replace Ullenwood (which was too small) at Chilmark near Salisbury – an odd choice of location as a different bunker at Chilmark was used by the RAF for storing nuclear warheads.

* REGION 8 (Wales)

* Brackla Hill, Bridgend and Wrexham, the latter based the former No 17 Group HQ Royal Observer Corps at Borras, Wrexham which had become redundant in September 1991 with the disbanding of the ROC

* REGION 9 (West Midlands)

* Drakelow * Swynnerton

* REGION 10 (North West)

* Hack Green , a former ROTOR bunker near Nantwich , Cheshire * Langley Lane at Goosnargh near Preston, a former Royal Observer Corps bunker dating back to the Second World War. * The Southport
Southport
SRC had to be abandoned as it suffered from flooding.

* REGION 11 (Northern Ireland)

* Woodside Industrial Estate, Ballymena , County Antrim – Purpose built two-storey semi sunk protected bunker. Declared operational 1989.

AFTER THE COLD WAR

By 1992, the end of the Cold War, brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union, meant this network was now a luxury. Faced with – again – the need for economy, the UK government began to run down the network. The bunkers were closed one by one and sold off to the private sector where buyers could be found.

Some, such as Warren Row, became protected storage facilities operated by security companies. Others – many of them contaminated by asbestos – were simply abandoned. Those at Hexham, Loughborough and Kirknewton were demolished. The Tunbridge Wells war room has also been demolished (taking three months to accomplish rather than the planned-for two weeks). Crowborough is used by Sussex Police
Sussex Police
for training, whilst Cultybraggan
Cultybraggan
first returned to army use and is now owned by the local community in Comrie. A handful – Kelvedon Hatch, Hack Green, Dover and Anstruther – became museums.

GALLERY

*

Surface building accessing the subsidiary bunker at Anstruther . *

Surface building accessing the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker . *

Surface building accessing the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker
Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker
.

SEE ALSO

* Region 6 War Room
Region 6 War Room
* Royal Observer Corps * Spies for Peace

REFERENCES

* ^ A B "Half-way through term already". University of Reading .

* Peter Laurie, Beneath the City Streets, Granada Publishing Ltd, 1979, ISBN 0-586-05055-8 . (First published 1970, Penguin Books.) * Wayne Cocroft, Roger Thomas, Cold War: Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946–1989, English Heritage, 2003, ISBN 978-1-873592-81-6 . * N J McCamley, Cold War
Cold War
Secret Nuclear Bunkers, Pen

.