37 monuments in 30 days, and what I learned along the way.
Friday 20 November 2015
Not long ago I wrote a post about the disused military facilities at RAF Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire. That was a pretty intense article, featuring a lot of information and a huge number of images. I’ll follow it up at some point though, with this – a shorter look at three other disused military sites around England.
Fremington Army Camp, Devonshire
Fremington Army Camp is located in North Devon, and at one point was used as a training base for the US Army Air Corps. It dates from to WWII, when the base’s hospital received casualties brought back from the D-Day landings. As of 2009 though, the outdated facilities and lack of requirement led to the final closure of the base.
Today the buildings are disused, the site enclosed within a wire fence and patrolled by private security teams. The plan is to redevelop the area for housing – but before any of that happens, I was curious to take a peek inside at the layout of the old base.
ROC (Royal Observer Corps) Post, Sussex
Thankfully, this facility was never used as per its original design. Over 1,500 of these tiny bases were constructed across Britain during the Cold War period, and their role was to monitor and report on surface atmospheric conditions in the case of all-out nuclear war. Each post was to be staffed by a team of three and contained a work desk, radio gear, bountiful freeze-dried supplies, charts for recognising Soviet aircraft and full radiation suits with gas masks in case of unavoidable trips to the surface.
The project was discontinued in 1991, and many such sites have since fallen into ruin. This particular ROC post has been restored though – and although there wasn’t much to look at inside the tiny subterranean space, the visit still offered me a glimpse into the nightmarish alternate future that Britain was preparing for.
RAF Wartling Rotor Radar Station, Sussex
This radar station was built in 1939, and served as a reporting facility for a number of RAF bases in England. Hundreds of German bombs were tracked and intercepted thanks to the crew at RAF Wartling – and the original base covered several levels beneath the ground, fitted with what was then state-of-the-art communications systems.
After years of disuse though, the radar base is no longer looking quite its best. It was completely flooded for some years, until recent efforts to excavate and maintain the place as a museum. I visited halfway through that process. Most of the water had been removed, though the lowers floors were still thick with silt and mud. Mixed in with the debris, I’d find pins and counters which had once been used to track enemy positions on map tables.
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