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Report - Grove Air Raid Shelters/RAF Chenies/Sundon Pits Road Trip - April 2011

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by Els, May 6, 2011.

  1. Els

    Els Obsessed with BS7671
    Regular User

    Aug 6, 2008
    Likes Received:
    Around my Shire there are a few places I've always wanted to visit. They are nothing special but put altogether I think there is enough material to make a decent report. So, with a few days off work over the Easter break, it's time for a mini road trip… ​

    1st stop...

    The Grove Air Raid Shelters.

    The LMS Railway, with some foresight one presumes, bought a large area of land near Watford along with it's now disused Manor House for use as their HQ in the event of a war, away from their current HQ in Euston Station. As events transpired, by Easter 1939 with the on going approach of WW2, the move had started in earnest, being known as Project X.

    Extra space was required in addition to the manor house so a quite a few wooden huts were built around the estate, although not enough in time for the move. This meant that some people ended up working a three day week due to the constraints on space. As well as the huts and numerous other buildings, they eventually managed to build quite a collection of concrete air raid shelters, the one survivor being the subject of my pictures. With the rest long gone, the site is now a golf course and conference centre.

    I would have to say, looking at their construction, that I personally felt they wouldn't stop a falling bag of sweats let alone a fuck off German WW2 bomb tossing its nuts off all over them. Still, having said that, I did read that a few bombs where dropped on to the site but where they landed I don't know. Me, I reckon during a raid I would have taken my chances elsewhere other than in these shelters.

    This is quite an interesting site if you like WW2 relics and for while I did find it quite entertaining. It does give some really quite extraordinary photographic opportunities with the light pouring in through open man holes and entrances in to the pitch black below. A few bits and bobs are still in place, like the decayed benches, a few original light fixings and original signage. I'm not really sure why the owners don't tidy it up a bit and turn it into some kind of museum. The only down side; I would have to be honest and say it does get a bit samey after a while, with one corridor looking very much like another.







    2nd stop...

    RAF Chenies ('HAM') R8 GCI ROTOR Radar Station

    After WW2, the UK Government was caught some what with their pants down by seriously underestimating the threat of Soviet nuclear attack. It was found that a way was needed to develop an early warning system to counter this threat which leads to the creation of the ROTOR project, essentially a chain of radar systems capable of providing an early warning of any imminent Russian nuclear strike.

    RAF Chenies was built as part of phase four of the project and is one of nine of the R8 type ROTOR stations built. It was both the only ROTOR station to be constructed on a green field site and the only one to be kept fully operational, the remainder were built on ex-WW2 sites and kept in a state of "readiness".

    Other ROTOR bunkers nearer the east coast had been constructed as sub-surface bunkers but as Chenies was located more centrally it was felt the need for protection was lessened so the buildings are of a wood-fiber and asbestos construction.

    By 1958 its role as a chain radar station bunker drew to a close as the ROTOR project ended. Disposal was considered but for a while it was almost redeveloped as a missile silo site for the "Blue Streak" program before that too was cancelled. Instead it was later was used as a Strike Command communications facility up until the mid 1980's until being listed for disposal in 2004. The Met Office still have active radar on site used to estimate rain fall in the south-east.

    The site itself is mostly striped and vandalised and is really just a set of large, empty rooms. Also, due to its construction of wood fiber and asbestos, it has not stood up to the Neds and the weather as well it might which also lends the buildings a sort of cheap, nasty, pre-fabricated kind of feel.

    To be fair, it does still have some seriously nice equipment in place, such as the electrical intake/switch room which is full of old equipment but best by far is the emergency generator house still complete with the original generator and peripheral equipment. Both make for some seriously nice photography.

    Empty Radar room.


    Transformers (robots in disguise).



    Hear no evil.


    Hung up.




    3rd Stop...

    The Sundon Quarry Bunkers.

    There really isn't any information I can find on the history of this site other than it was quarry and it's now abandoned – Duh! What I can tell you is that it Supplied Grey Chalk and Chalk Marl to the cement plant which operated between 1898 and 1976. But where the cement plant was I don't. On site maybe? Anyway, years ago a fellow explorer of the time put up a report on this place and I always meant to go and have a look for myself. Trouble is I was always put off by the fact that the quarry is huge and the bunkers small so I always thought my chances of finding them to be quite slim. Well, on the day fortune smiled and I found them in about then minutes. Quite what they are I don't know. Oil tanks? Storage? Air Raid Shelters? I like Air Raid Shelters best so that's what they are for me. Very small but perfectly formed and again some fantastic light opportunities. Lovely to dive into them and feel the cool air within on such a warm day. Like jumping into a swimming pool. And they didn’t stink of piss which is always a bonus.


    Bendy corridors

    Piss stains.




    4th Stop. Additional bonus 12" remix track...

    The Lancaster Cockpit.

    Held in a private collection and open to Joe public for a few days every year is a faithful replica of an Lancaster cockpit. Urban Exploration? Well, no. Interesting couple of pictures to round things off? Well, why the hell not?



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