Cold War site still intact underneath the transmitting station
Brookmans Park Transmitting Station - 1986
Photograph by Ron Kingdon, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
Broadcasting Service (WTBS) to be activated in the event of a nuclear attack.
A bunker, built underneath the Brookmans Park Transmitting Station, was one of 11 at sites around the country.
The twin-wave broadcasting facility was considered to be a crucial part of the nation’s communications strategy in the event of nuclear war.
|Brookmans Park Transmitting Station and George's Wood. Brookmans Park, 1947|
Image with original caption courtesy of Britain From Above
Regional seats of government
Details of what would have happened if there was such an attack were contained in the BBC War Book, a collection of documents kept in two large safes.
There were 11 bunkers spread across the UK. These were known as Regional Seats of Government, and would also have sheltered government ministers and staff. The majority were protected from attack.
According to an article on Reddit, the Brookmans Park bunker, unlike the others, did not have protected accommodation because it was considered to be too close to London to survive any blast.
Each bunker had a BBC broadcasting studio staffed by five people.
The BBC headquarters bunker was at the Engineering Training Department at Wood Norton in Worcestershire, where 90 BBC staff would be assembled, including engineers, announcers, 12 news editors and sub-editors, and ‘two nominations from Religious Broadcasting’.
Output would be controlled by the Government.
If nuclear war broke out, BBC staff chosen to broadcast from the bunkers would be sent a letter which they would be instructed to destroy after reading.
According to an article in Prospero, the BBC newspaper for BBC pensioners published in December 2016 (embedded below) staff would be offered transport to their posts, but if they took their own car they would not be able to park it there.
The article, written by former BBC correspondent Paul Reynolds, continues by describing what staff would be told to take.
As for kit, ‘informal clothing only will be necessary’. The letter advised them that they should bring reading material and ‘small recreational items’.
If war loomed even closer, letter number two would be handed over. This said: ‘You have been selected for emergency duty and you will be going to…’ The bunker’s name would be filled in at the time.
Delicately, the letter also said: ‘The length of your stay cannot be foreseen, but it might be for several weeks.’
Paul Reynolds says staff were advised to take clothes, soap and towels for 30 days. The food in the bunkers (free of charge) would be in packs, with five daily menus. These would provide 2,000-2,400 calories per day, with a vitamin supplement. Sleeping would be communal, though suitably segregated.
Broadcast warnings of nuclear attack would have come from the BBC headquarters at Wood Norton. Peter Donaldson, a Radio 4 newsreader with a known and trusted voice, recorded the most recent warning announcement:
‘This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted…’The whole article about the BBC war books is embedded below.
The location of the Brookmans Park nuclear bunker
The site of the Brookmans Park bunker has appeared on a planning proposal document produced by a company bidding to develop the site of the Brookmans Park Transmitting Station for commercial and housing development (document embedded below the following image). Scroll to pages 24 and 25 in the embedded document for references to the bunker.
Satellite view of the Brookmans Park Transmitting Station
Created on Map Hub by Hertfordshire Walker
Elements © Thunderforest © OpenStreetMap contributors
Comments and information welcome
If you have anything to add to this feature, or just want to add your comments, please use the comment box below.