The Story of Burlington

Many people in the UK will know about and even have visited the Cabinet War Room and Paddock in London, the government emergency war headquarters up until the end of World War II but very few people will know anything about the secret bunker which took over from these sites in the early 60s.

The emergency government war headquarters in Corsham is one of the MOD's best kept secrets. Although conspiracy theorists have pestered the MOD and urban explorers have pushed their limits around the bunker no member of the public has ever seen inside. For the last few decades, although known about despite the MOD denials, no details or photos of the bunker have leaked out through the blast proof walls until very recently. The bunker has gone through many different codenames in the past, including Hawthorn Central Government War Headquarters, Stockwell, Subterfuge, Turnstile and Burlington, over recent years it has been referred to by the MOD as Site 3.

Site 3 was constructed in the Northern part of Spring Quarry, originally a stone quarry, Spring Quarry was acquired by The Ministry of Aircraft Production in 1940 from the Bath and Portland Stone Company which had been worked for building stone for the last century. Work started the following year converting the quarry in to the biggest underground factory. By 1943 parts of the quarry had not been converted and with the threat of bombing decreasing some companies did not move in to the factory. The war had finished by 1945 and the factory closed down with a bill of over £20,000,000. Spring Quarry was passed over to the Ministry of Supplies soon after the war who used the site for Admiralty stores.

In the late 40s the cabinet started drawing up plans for an emergency war headquarters outside of London, sat directly under JSU Corsham (formerly known as RAF Rudloe Manor) the northern part of Spring Quarry made the perfect secure location for the site.

In 1956 the government abandoned Paddock with the view to convert Corsham in to the main Emergency Government War Headquarters, this would have been the alternative seat of power in the event of a nuclear strike on the UK. Housing the Prime Minister, Cabinet Office, local and national government agencies, intelligence and security advisors and domestic support staff. Conversion worked started on a forty acre section of Spring Quarry towards the end of the 50s and by 1961 the bunker sat beneath the Defence Communication Services Agency's headquarters, was put in to operation.

Site 3 adjoins the MOD's Tunnel Quarry, originally part of the Central Ammunitions Depot, this quarry has it's own branch line at the eastern end of Box Tunnel on the main GWR line from London and an underground station, this meant that the government could quickly evacuate from Whitehall and been taken straight to the secure bunker facility. The Prime minister and key cabinet members would have been flown to the site by helicopter. The bunker was designed to safely house up to 4000 government ministers and civil servants in a totally self sufficient, blast proof, radiation proof bunker 1km long and 200 meters across, 100 feet below Corsham in the event of an attack affecting London.

Site 3 had all the facilities the inhabitants would need to survive over a sustained period of time, there was medical centre with examination rooms, wards and a dental surgery, a bakery, a laundry and the bunker had two kitchens and serving areas one at the top area 7 and one at bottom area 12 and a small but comprehensive collection of books holding a database on which it was hoped the devastated country could rebuild, this included maps, scientific and technical manuals and acts of Parliament.

The bunker contained accommodation for the Prime Minister and his family, despite their importance the room set a side for the PM was the same as most of the other rooms in the complex except for the PM’s walls had been white washed. The PM’s accommodation included a private bathroom with toilet, sink and bath. Elsewhere in the bunker washrooms were provided with showers and rows of dozens of wash basins.

Travel around the bunker was by battery driven vehicles which were stored and charge in their own underground vehicle depot, one of these vehicles has “ALIEN” written where you would expect to find a registration plate, so there was at least one alien underground in Corsham after all.

The bunker’s storeroom had racks of metal shelves with everything from butter-pat makers to glass ashtrays; from toilet brushes to teapots. The bunker was also packed with tinned food, office equipment and enough fuel to run the large generators for 3 months. The bunker is so large that all the main corridors are signposted using American-style names such as First Avenue.

The Government once safely inside Site 3 could run the country as normal with help from the MI5 and MI6 from the Prime Minister's map room. The bunker's primary role was to act as a hub and maintain communications within the UK and with the outside world, there was a huge GPO telephone exchange to keep them in touch with various parts of the country. The giant wooden switchboards are from the 1950s, but the directories were updated as recently as 1989. In the teleprinter room stacks of unused swivel chairs remain in their original plastic wrappers, roughly 100 in total.

In the early 1980s the Emergency Government War Headquarters was given an overhaul as part of the expansion of the UK Monitoring and Warning Organizations. A large section of the bunker was separated from the rest and converted in to a Nuclear Reporting cell which employed between 50 and 100 staff, this are of the quarry was never put in to opperation and is today the Quarry Opperations Center.

The bunker’s facilities were kept ticking over until the early 90s and the 50-strong staff was reduced to a skeleton crew of just four.

By 1991 the cabinet refused a £40 million upgraded and the bunker was wound down, it was slowly emptied of fuel and food supplies and the reservoir was drained. The bunker did however remained part of the MOD estate and on the care and maintains books costing the country on average £500,000 a year to maintain and was still an integral part of government's war plans for this reason the site remained classified. The site was kept on stand-by, ready to put back in to action in the event that the government required it due to a threat to the UK.

By the mid 90s Site 3 was starting to drive the conspiracy theorists nuts. Believing that Burlington as part of RAF Rudloe Manor was a sinister part of what they called the UK's own version of Area 51, their wild speculations included the fact that Rudloe Manor was the home of UK UFO research and that Burlington was a facility in which the government stored captured UFOs or worked with aliens to achieve mind altering technologies. While JSU Corsham have now confirmed that they had previously been involved in the subject of aerial complaints, they clarify that this was only in a co-ordinating role, the reports were simply forwarded to Sec(AS)2a, and no further action was taken.

Site 3 has remained a decoy site for the new relocation bunker up until December 2004 at which time it was declassified. The future of Site 3 is now uncertain, the MOD have already started offering parts of Spring Quarry to development to private investors and it looks like Site 3 will go the same way. The MOD is looking for a company to bring new life to the site. English Herritage have also expressed an interest in preserving part of the site for historic interest.

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