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Report - RAF Barnham Cold War Atomic Weapons Site - October 2016

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by Shatners, Oct 16, 2016.

  1. Shatners

    Shatners Silly Bugger
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    RAF Barnham Atomic Weapons Site – October 2016

    Having read about the key part that RAF Barnham played in Britain’s cold war nuclear deterrent I had to get down there and see it for myself and have to say as old military sites go this cold war beauty was absolutely fascinating… it really is a place where time has stood still and it has a real cold war era feeling about it as you wander around.

    The day before setting off I had a refresher looking through the old photos of the site from the sixties online and decided just for nostalgia to photograph my wanderings in a similar style, 35mm lens, f1.4, black and white. I have done a bit more research when I got home to try and add some context to the photos.

    History

    Barnham Nuclear Storage Site was active during the early part of the Cold War and was one of only two such facilities built in the UK to store the BLUE DANUBE free fall nuclear bomb. The nuclear storage site was built during the mid 1950s to maintain the BLUE DANUBE away from the V-Bomber bases as well as holding the 'second strike' stock should nuclear war break out.

    On official records, Barnham Nuclear Weapon Storage Site was known as a "Special Storage Site" and served the 'southern' V-Force bomber airfields, occupied by No 94 Maintenance Unit (MU), with Faldingworth's 92 MU covering the 'northern' bases. Barnham went on to store the RED BEARD nuclear weapon which succeeded BLUE DANUBE.

    Ultimately, the depot had a relatively short life span, ceasing to be capable of holding nuclear weapons in the Summer 1963.

    How the site looked in 1955 when it was still very much top secret.

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    The site today:

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    Approach road to the main outer gate

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    Main gate watchtower overlooking the approach road

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    Internal concrete fence with no man’s land in front

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    Batch of fifteen fissile core safe houses, this is one of three quadrants of such buildings within the inner pentagon.

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    Watch tower three, there is one at each point of the pentagon positioned on the outer perimeter fence giving a clear view of the approach and no man’s land between outer and inner perimeter fences. Within no man’s land were hundreds of trip wires connected to flares. The outer perimeter fence was patrolled by RAF Police dog handlers who would check in at the towers.

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    Top of the watch tower

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    Looking down at the search ‘Speary’ light

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    Watch tower four showing the no mans land between outer and inner perimeter fences.

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    This is one of three high explosive storage buildings. This is where the actual bomb minus the fissile cores were stored. The veranda has a heavy duty crane joist underneath so bombs could be lifted from convoys and quickly transferred into the building.

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    Looking at the front of high explosive bomb store 1 with its original blast doors

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    Inside high explosive bomb store 1… still has its original “anti spark” flooring but has now been separated into separate units inside, it would originally have been a single enormous room with no internal walls, only support pillars.

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    High explosive bomb store 1 from the rear to give an idea of scale. All the walls are not bonded to the support pillars, the idea being in the event of an explosion the walls are blown out, collected by the adjacent blast banks and the roof stays on.

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    Watchtower 5

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    One of the 57 Fissile core safe house with the Nuclear sign on the door

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    This building is located in the centre of the inner pentagon. It is where plutonium cores were assessed and maintained. The blast wall is to protect the building from explosions in the adjacent high explosive bomb stores, not from within the building itself.

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    A combination lock on one of the 57 fissile core safe houses

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    The door alarm trigger fitted on every frame of each of the fissle core safe houses. In the event of a door being opened, an alarm would trigger in the guard house. All door opening had to be pre-approved so the guard house knew in advance. If the alarm triggered without prior approval all hell broke loose… dogs, guns etc…

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    External alarm and power system components on each of the fissile safe houses

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    One of the few complete fissile core safe units concreted within the floor of a safe house. This safe house has two safes in the ground side by side so would not have been used to store plutonium as they could not be kept within close proximity of each other. Most likely these safes would have contained cobalt cores used for testing the plutonium in the building five pics up.

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    #1 Shatners, Oct 16, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016

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  2. Shatners

    Shatners Silly Bugger
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    The explosives maintenance building.

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    Gate watch tower in the distance, canteen building to the left, admin block to the right

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    Underground water tank, 30,000 litres for firefighting. This was connected to a ring main which ran around the full inner pentagon to each quadrant of fissile core storage safe houses. Additionally each quadrant has one of four large water reserve pods which were also for firefighting. Just visible to the rear left is the RAF dog food prep building and behind that is the old kennels compound.

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    Thanks for looking :D
     
    #2 Shatners, Oct 16, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
    coldfinger, oldiesDJ, mw0sec and 11 others like this.
  3. elhomer12

    elhomer12 0118999881999119725...3
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    Very nicely shot :thumb I should do stuff like this occasionally, I get lazy with a DSLR and zoom lens, haha
     
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  4. betamax toploader

    betamax toploader 28DL Full Member
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    Very good work. :thumb
     
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  5. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    Looks in better condition than it did 7 or 8 years ago ?
     
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  6. trikey

    trikey 28DL Full Member
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    Nice report, I like this a lot.
     
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  7. Shatners

    Shatners Silly Bugger
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    Yeah, English Heritage recognised that this is the only place of its type so worked with the owner to make safe some of the key structures, in particular the bomb storage buildings and their verandas which had been suffering from crumbling concrete.
     
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  8. urbanks

    urbanks 28DL Member
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    Very impressive. What are the future plans for the site? Hopefully not demolition
     
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  9. Shatners

    Shatners Silly Bugger
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    Thank you mate... no definitely not demolition, its now a scheduled monument being the most complete example of its kind (there was only ever two and the north base only has its main buildings remaining now, all but three of the safe house have been demolished).
     
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  10. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    Ta
     
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  11. Don't TreadOnMe

    Don't TreadOnMe 28DL Member
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    Beautiful pics, felt like I walking through the site myself. Thanks for sharing
     
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  12. latentux

    latentux 28DL Full Member
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    Great report and I'm really liking the photos. :thumb
     
  13. CureForPain

    CureForPain Definitely not a Cylon
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    Man, this place is incredible. Looking at the prefab blandness of those fissile core houses makes my skin crawl, it's all so...mundane? It's hard to wrap my mind around just how insanely dangerous the stuff inside those dull little box would've been. Your black and white treatment is perfect too, great gallery.
     
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