Reading War room on the Main Reading University campus at Whiteknights

July 1, 2017
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On Wednesday 31st January four members of Subbrit visited the Reading War room on the Main Reading University campus at Whiteknights, those present were Keith Ward, Steve Fox and Duncan Halford (who arrange the trip).

The bunker is on the South side of the Campus behind the new Agricultural building. (You can get to the bunker from the Earley Gate entrance), it is a two floored semi sunk oblong bunker on an east/west alignment which was built in 1953 along with 12 other identical ones built around the country.

      

These are at Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham, Cambridge, London (5 buildings), Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Tunbridge Wells & Belfast. They were used as RSG until it realised that they would not be big enough for the purpose and so in most cases their government use life was quite short. The main entrance and the emergency exit are on the east corner of the bunker, the main entrance facing north and the emergency exit on the south side. On the main entrance there are three doors, the first is made of metal about two inches thick though not solid it does have a large metal frame. Going trough this door you turn right and you face two more doors, the first one is wooden with a small window in it with two metal bars for protection.

The next door is the blast door, it is not particularly thick but it has four large locks on it, two at the top and two at the bottom. The strange thing is that the handles are on both sides of the door. Standing just inside the door on your left is the female toilets and shower block, there are four toilets, four sinks and one shower unit and a small boiler. The water to the shower and toilets has been turned off. Moving out of there with your back to the blast door, in front of you is the plant room, which runs north/south between the two sets of toilets. A lot of the original equipment is still there including the generator, which still works. The hand pumps for the fuel tank still work though the fuel tank does not have much protection as it is outside.

            

Turning right and moving further into the bunker you come to the first stairwell with a water tank over part of it, at this point the corridor splits and you can either move along the front of the bunker (east/west) or turn left and head south past the plant room on your left and the upper part of the control room on your right, so moving past the plant room before long you come to a door, which has been added, by the university as a fire door, this would not have been there when the bunker was active.

About half way down the corridor there is a door on the right, which leads into the upper part of the control room, at the end of the corridor there is another door, which again has been added by the university again as a fire door. In front of you is the exact opposite of the front entrance, a stairwell leading to the lower floor with a water tank over the stairs. On your left is the other entrance to the plant room then the male toilets. On this side everything has been removed, the sinks, the urinals, the toilets and the shower and it is now used to store potting compost for the horticulture department. To the right of this is the other blast door and outer entrance. Now moving further round the bunker past the stairs heading west you come to a set of four doors on your left and another door on your right leading to the control room. I don’t as of yet know what the rooms on the left were used for.

At the end of this corridor you turn right again and start heading north, this time you walk down a corridor which has been made up by the university, it was one large room but they have added a false wall in between the control room wall and the outer the outer wall of the bunker to make a lockable room while still being able to walk right around the bunker

When you reach the end of this corridor you come to another door and after turning right you’re on the final leg of the upper floor (heading east). Towards the end of this corridor you come to two doors on your left leading to separate rooms and opposite two more doors into the control room.  The floor between the two levels of the control room has been filled in to make more use of the building and the university library for document storage uses the rooms.

You are now back to the first stair case, once you get to the bottom of the stairs the corridors splits east/west and north/south (exactly the same as the upper floor). Going along the north/south corridor you immediately come to another university added fire door, continuing along this corridor you have the lower part of the control room on your right. There are three doors on this side each containing smaller rooms, which I presume, would have been sub-offices for controllers. At the end of this corridor there is another fire door and the other stair case. Turning right you start walking westwards along the back of the bunker, this corridor is not straight unlike the other east/west corridor. The first room you come to will be a small tank room, the tank has been removed and the room is now empty, there were two tanks on this floor, the other is in the exact side corner of the bunker, I presume these tanks were water tanks as the fuel tanks are outside the building.Moving on from this room the corridor goes left then right along past the side of the tank room, the university has made up the next bit of the corridor. (The wall on the right is false).  Moving on further you turn right again coming to the door to this new room, it would have been one large room when the bunker was active but the false wall was added to make a lockable room while still being able to walk right round the lower floor.

Walking on from this, the next room again has had a false wall added; the new lockable room is on the left, (see photo below) with the corridor at an angle rather than a dogleg. This room is believed to have been the communications centre as there is a hole in the back wall leading to the roof and a hatch in the opposite wall to pass information through into the next room.

Coming out of the room you now start heading north through a small dog leg, the wall on your right is the west side of the control room but the wall on your left is false again to make another lockable room. When this room was original it would have run two thirds of the bunker. At the end of this corridor you turn right and walk east along the front of the bunker, both walls on this part of the bunker are original, there are four small rooms on your left, the last one being the tank room (the exact opposite to the one on the south side of the bunker) as described earlier but this time it still has its tank. There is also a door about halfway down the corridor on your right leading directly into the control room.

Once you get to the end of the corridor there is another fire door and your back to the staircase again.

The bunker was still active until 1991/1992 and is believed to have been a communications centre linked to Warren Row only a few miles up the road, how long the people inside would have had to have held out for is uncertain mainly because there is no sign of any kitchen set up inside the bunker but also because all the filter ducts are on the roof and would not have survived for long, there final reason is that the fuel tank for the generator is outside the bunker with no protection. The pictures below were taken on the last visit by Subbrit members, that day there were some university workman around and we were able to borrow a ladder and gain access to the roof. The first three photo’s show the doors to gain access to the filters, it would have been interesting to see how well these towers would have withstood a nuclear blast.

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