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RAF ROTOR STN Kelvedon Hatch

"Let us not be deceived we are today in the midst of a cold war" - Bernard Baruch

RAF ROTOR Station, Kelvedon Hatch

Hidden deep in the Essex Countryside you will find one of the most important secret military complexes of the Cold War, RAF ROTOR Station,Kelvedon Hatch. This bunker was part of a huge and elaborate air defence radar system built by the British Government in the early 1950s to counter possible attack by Soviet bombers. It was known that the Soviets had made exact copies of the B-29 Superfortress as the Tu-4 Bull, and these aircraft had the performance needed to reach the UK with a nuclear payload.

The estimated cost to build the bunker is 1.6 billion pounds. The ROTOR SOC (R4 Sector operations control) was diminished and the UKWMO and Nuclear reporting cell became incorporated into the Home Office RSG (Regional Seat of Government) and later changed to RGHQ (Regional Government Headquarters), to provide command and control of London sector of flight command. During the 1960’s to early 1990’s it was maintained by the UK Government as an emergency government defence site. The bunker was built to provide MOD workers protection from Nuclear strikes and to continue government operations with the survival of the population if a Nuclear attack did take place. The bunker was decommissioned in 1992 and was sold back to the original owners and is now a cold war museum.

The bunker is 125 feet underground with 10 ft reinforced concrete with an estimated 40000 tons of concrete used The entrance is by a bungalow which leads to a 120ft tunnel on its lowest floor of 3 floors. It has it's own water supply, heating, air conditioning and generators and would accommodate up to 600 people for 3 months. A massive radar system was set up to help foresee Soviet bombers.

Ground level has plant and equipment, plotting room, communication and BBC broadcasting centre. The Middle floor was the Government Level, with an officer of commissioner (Political cabinet ministers) who held the power of life and death. The top floor was sleeping accommodation, sick bay, wash rooms and canteen.

Additionally, ROTOR re-arranged the existing RAF Fighter Command structure into six "Sector Operational Commands" (SOC) with their own command bunkers (three level 'R4' protected accommodation). Only four of these were built. Additional "Anti-Aircraft Operations Rooms" were built to coordinate the British Army's AA defences in the same overall system. The entire network of bunkers, radars, fighter control and command centres used up 350,000 tons of concrete, 20,000 tons of steel and thousands of miles of telephone and telex connections.

As a result of the introduction of the Type 80 (Green Garlic), many of the existing ROTOR sites were rationalized into Master Radar Stations (MRS), while the rest were made redundant, some only two years after opening, and all of the AAOR sites were closed. A few of these were re-used for government department ('RSG's) and local authority wartime headquarters. In the mid-1960s the MRS's themselves were replaced with a new system called Linesman/Mediator.

After the end of the Cold War many of the sites which were retained by the government were now sold off to private buyers or converted into museums and some transferred to the National Air Traffic Control Centre. The Kelevdon Hatch bunker was decommissioned in 1992 and was sold back to the original owners and is now a cold war museum.

The museum is well worth a visit. You will be transported back to a time when the Cold War was at it's height and you will witness the three lives of the bunker starting with it's role as an RAF ROTOR Station, then a brief period as a civil defence centre through to its most recent life as a Regional Government HQ. Designed for up to 600 military and civilian personnel, possibly even the Prime Minister, their collective task being to organise the survival of the population in the awful aftermath of a nuclear war. The bunker was built on land requisitioned from the local farmer J.A.Parrish. As the Cold War ended, the bunker and it's staff were no longer required by the Government. The costwas aproximatly 3 million pounds a year to just to keep on standby. When decommissioned in 1992 the bunker was bought back from the government by the Parrish family, at a closed bid public auction, and is now privately owned. The famnily has spent many years and hours of work finding original equiment used in the bunker and has built a vast collection of technical memorabilia which many ex-servicemen will have worked on and will probably bring back many memories.

Did you work at the Secret Bunker?

Have you any memories of the RAF ROTOR station? Please add them to our Then and Now page.

How to get to the Secret Bunker

For more information please visit the Muesums website via the link below:

- Essex Secret Nuclear Bunker