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RAF Greenham Common was abandoned many years ago and the site
is now part business
park with the rest being returned to common land. The runway has been
removed and the last part of the hardstanding area for aircraft was
being dug out whilst we were there. Many new buildings have been built
to provide accommodation for a variety of businesses but a large number
of the original structures remain
We started at the Command centre which was exactly the way it
when the US pulled out all those years ago. The building is part of the
IMF Treaty and as such must be left in this condition until May 2001.
We were shown around the building by a member of staff from the Greenham
Trust and were free to photograph what ever we liked.
We entered a conventional office building (which was being refurbished)
and walking down a short corridor we came to the blast door which was
the entrance to the (modestly) fortified part of the building. We were
now standing at one end of a very long corridor. All rooms in the bunker
were off this corridor apart from the air plant room and decontamination
centre. More on those later. We walked to the far end of the corridor
and worked our way back.
We started in the command room itself (at the far end of the corridor)
which still had the moving wall boards in place. The room is rectangular
with the boards mounted along one (long) side. The entrance to the room
is down a few steps and is directly opposite the wall boards. There are
2 security doors leading into the command area which had 2 rooms behind
it which acted as galleries. These doors provided an 'airlock' system
and whilst strengthened and fitted with toughened glass did not appear
to offer much in the way of blast resistance. Entry through these doors
was controlled by numeric keypads. At one end of the command room was an
escape hatch. This led directly to the outside and demonstrated how the
walls were just 2 foot thick offering limited blast protection. Our
guide informed us how the sole purpose of this room was to get the final
launch codes to the missile trailers once received from the US command.
All targets were already programmed into the missiles and the fissile
material was (according to our guide) already in the missiles.
The floor throughout the building was a raised computer type and there
were lots of cable trays in place. Directly behind the Command Room were
2 smaller rooms which had darkened windows looking out onto the wall
boards. Walking back up the corridor the next accessible room was a
former telephone room. The US didn't trust BT and brought in their own
telecomm equipment which was housed in this room. Some of the racks
remained but were stripped of cards etc. The fire extinguishing system
was Halon and in many of the rooms were 'Halon gas abort' buttons to
stop the discharge of Halon in those rooms.
Behind this room was the comm's room for the telephone system. There was
some paperwork left in this room which indicated that there had been
direct telephones to other military bases occupied by the US in Britain
and to other British/NATO command bunkers. Some of the flooring was
removed in this room and allowed us to see some of the cable trays etc.
Along one wall was the mounts for the phone wire looms for patching and
routing. Directly off this room was a small room containing a large
number of high power lead acid batteries. This was the standby power for
the phone system.
Across the corridor was the air plant room and decontamination centre.
The air plant room was one of 4 plant rooms and contained the aircon and
filtering system for the bunker. This was in reasonable working order
(our guide powered a lot of it up - a bit noisy at points) and there
were a large number of Oxygen cylinders in a rack. These were for use if
the outside vents needed to be closed due to Chemical attack, high levels
of radiation etc and would provide oxygenation for the bunker.
Just down from this plant room was a hot water boiler and storage tank
in a small separate room. Then we came to the decontamination centre.
This was a very interesting facility. In the event of war the blast door
at the far end of the corridor would have been sealed from the inside
and the only way in or out would have been through this facility which
led to the outside through a series of blast doors and a turnstile.
At the entrance to this area was a control panel which was fully
functioning as indeed were most facilities within this area. The
control panel provided remote door operation between the various
sections of the decontamination area.
I'll describe this area in 2 sections - leaving the bunker and entering
To leave the bunker you would gain access from the control panel area in
to a secure corridor which led to the room for putting on a NBC suit.
From here you would follow the blue arrows painted on the floor to a
blast door that led to an airlock. Go through the blast door and there
are fold up benches along one side of the air lock room. Another blast
door leads from the airlock to the outside. Directly beyond this blast
door is a security turnstile and small guardroom to control access to
Our guide informed us that the US had an armed soldier permanently
stationed in full NBC gear during exercises in the airlock room with
another colleague outside in similar attire.
To enter the bunker you would pass through the turnstile and enter the
airlock room. You would then go through a separate blast door into a
foot bath area where there is a large, deep trough in the floor which
had a high pressure water jet in it to blast off chemical contaminant
etc from the lower area of the suit. Next was a large bin full of powder
which would be sprinkled on the suit to dry up any chemical contaminant.
Then it was on to the radiation monitoring room. This had a built in
shower for removing dust and contaminant etc. Next came NBC suit removal
room where the suit was passed through a steel hatch into a 'dirty room'
for it to be cleaned and re-used of possible. This room also had
radiation monitoring and was equipped with showers for personal washing.
Next was the drying room which still had a notice on the wall asking
servicemen to 'take one towel and dry off then dress using available
clothes and return to work area.' The door from this area led back to
the control panel. The control panel could fully lock all doors in the
decontamination area and intercoms were provided for communication with
each room. A full PA system (which still worked) was also available in
this part of the bunker.
Returning to the main corridor.....
The next room on the left was a large empty room with an escape hatch
and a safe door leading to a strong room. Purpose of this room is unknown
but it was stripped of everything. It could have been a dormitory but
there was no evidence of this.
Next on the right were more plant rooms. these 3 rooms were all
interconnected and formed the remainder of this side of the bunker. The
first was power management and pump control. This seemed to be the main
control area for the bunker infrastructure and the panel still lit up.
Most of the plant still functioned our guide told us but it cost in the
region of 800 an hour to run so was only turned over once a month. Off
this room was the air intake room which had a large number of ducts and
hig power fans. Another escape door led to the outside world. Beyond
this room was a small plant room containing the emergency generator
which could provide 500Kw of power.
On the other side of the corridor were the toilets and an additional
plant room with compressors and air circulation units. We were now back
at the blast door at the top end of the corridor.
One interesting feature of this bunker was the still working pneumatic
tube massage carrying system. From the outside it was difficult to tell
that the building was indeed fortified.
Alongside was the old armoury which now houses an archive storage
company. We were not able to visit this building.
On the way out we drove past the former VMF (Vehicle Maintenance
facility). This is also and IMF Treaty listed building but were were
unable to visit it as it is in a locked compound. The key is held under
IMF conditions in a locked and sealed bag and we had no authorization to
enter this area.
We then proceeded to the missile silos.....
were in a separate part of the air base and again are listed under
the IMF treaty. We were extremely lucky to get to visit them.
A total of 96 missiles were stationed at Greenham and there were 6 of
these silos. The silos are built on the surface and have huge lowering
doors which seal the ends of the silos. They are fully drive in drive
out. All the doors are now fixed in the down position and apart from
one of the silos the hydraulic rams have been removed. We're not sure
why just one set remain but they rams are fully lubricated and protected
with bubble wrap and over tubing. This could be something to do with the
IMF treaty. The hydraulic system was still in place on all the silo
walls together with the instructions for operating them. Many features
remain including telephone handset boxes and part of the electrical
installation. All silos are identical apart from one which had a
different personnel access.
We moved on to the guardhouse which still sits by the multiple gates
which were used for entry. This building remains in tact but is empty.
The windows were heavily reinforced and the building appears to have
some blast protection. A personnel turnstile for entry on foot still
exists but does not work.
Continuing on we visited the other buildings on the site some of which
were open for us to look in. All were empty. Earlier in the day our
guide had informed us that the Russians still visit the site a couple of
times a year for inspection purposes. One of these buildings had a rack
for M16 rifles standing by the door. We were not able to ascertain the
purpose of many of these buildings but many were large enough for medium
size vehicle access. The internal doors were in tact on one of these
buildings. we then continued to the control tower. Unfortunately,
it was not possible to gain access to this.
A few photos from Greenham during the building of the Cruise site.
I should point out that all 3 sites visited
are secure and there is security present and CCTV.
You are however allowed to walk freely over the common..