Inside the UK’s secret nuclear bunker

Stark warning issued over nuclear threat in Ukraine

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The spectre of nuclear war is looming large over Europe thanks to Russia, which is now nearly four months into its invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has the country’s deterrent on “high alert”, and his supporters in the media have helped fan the flames, at one point suggesting Russia could annihilate the country with a 1,600-foot nuclear tsunami. While most Britons caught in this situation would meet an untimely end, those living near Kelvedon have a safe haven in the village’s little-known nuclear bunker.

Kelvedon is a small, tranquil village of 3,587 tucked into the Essex countryside.

But under the village’s many local shops and pleasant greenery sits a hangover from the Cold War – a secret nuclear bunker.

Kelvedon Hatch was constructed during the 1950s when the UK sought to overhaul its air defence network against possible Soviet attack.

The effort gained life via ROTOR, a radar system with a base at Kelvedon protected by an extensive underground network.

From 1952 to 1992, the site functioned as Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ), designed to protect the population and maintain UK operations.

The bunker lies roughly 38 metres under a seemingly ordinary bungalow split over three layers which people can enter via a nearly 100-metre tunnel to the lowest.

Those working or sheltering inside had a wealth of facilities available, with both heating and air conditioning capabilities, a dedicated water supply and generators.

The generators – which would have protected the site from a potential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack – powered military and communications systems inside.

They interacted with the above world via the top two floors, a “hill” and a radio mast.

Officials outfitted the bunker with CONRAD, a vital Cold War system used to maintain Government communication in the event of a nuclear strike.

The bunker has a capacity in the hundreds and was originally reserved for military and civilian personnel working on-site.

Those living within could survive for months, with canned food included with the heat and water supplies.

When the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s, Kelvedon was decommissioned as an official military base and fell back into private ownership.

The Parish family, who owned the bunker in its pre-military days, took over management.

They turned the bunker with its many Cold War adornments into a local tourist attraction.

As a museum, it serves as an educative tool and has featured in a clutch of television programmes.

How many nuclear bunkers are there in the UK?

Kelvedon is not the UK’s sole nuclear bunker, but it is the largest.

According to Subterranean Britannica, 258 exist scattered across the country.

The vast majority – approximately 214 – are in England, with three in Northern Ireland, 30 in Scotland and 11 in Wales.

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