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Report - Western Command HQ Bunkers, Chester, March 2012

Discussion in 'Underground Sites' started by Leaf1471, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. Leaf1471

    Leaf1471 Tourist Information Depot
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    Western command was a command of the British Army established in 1905. During the the Second World War it had control over Wales and the Counties of Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Cheshire, and Beachley, Gloucestershire, playing an important part in the war effort. Chester was the home of Western command HQ until the command was dissolved in 1972.

    The HQ moved into a custom built neo-Georgian property located near Queen's park, Chester following the buildings completion in 1936. This building also featured underground bunkers to facilitate meetings and protect military personnel from potential air raids over the course of the second world war. Following the dissolving of the Western command in 1972, the impressive building was eventually re purposed as a bank, eventually becoming the local headquarters for HBOS. The building is currently disused following HBOS's relocation last year. It is still heavily secured as a result of its former occupants. The bunkers, however, remain underneath the site.

    Information regarding the bunkers is indeed a scarcity, however several local history resources suggest that in 1943 and 1944, the Western command bunkers played host to secret meetings between Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower and General De Gaulle.

    These impressive tunnels where located almost by accident after a leisurely stroll around Chester. I noticed a potential entrance to a confined space and returned better equipped expecting to find an entrance to a drain or sewer. Until I researched the site following the explore I had no idea of existence, and searching suggests that it hasn't seen urbex attention before now.

    Long tunnels link the bunker to ventilation away from the site
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    The architecture comprises of a variety of brick, stone and quarried sandstone sections, which support various rooms built in with timber and iron.

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    At one stage various entrances existed to the bunker. While this is evidenced from below, there is no way out from these locations anymore. The ladder shown leads to a manhole located somewhere within the property, which will most certainly not budge

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    Stairs to nowhere...(but a very heavily barricaded doorway)

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    The bunker shows several collapses, likely a result of the porous sandstone in which it sits allowing large scale water damage...

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    And lastly, a few of the remaining original features....

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    This is an excellent spot. Still cant believe that not only did I not know it existed, but we stumbled into it expecting something totally different :D

    Thanks for looking,
    Leaf
     
    #1 Leaf1471, Mar 14, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2012
    WildBoyz, the126, new-age and 2 others like this.

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  2. CGGE

    CGGE 28DL Full Member
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    I remember when I first found this, was around 15 and on my way home I lived in Handbridge at the time, after going in I researched it and couldn't believe i'd never seen it before! The council are now considering either filling them in or turning them into a tourist attraction, they've been bricked up too!
     
  3. DTNman

    DTNman 28DL Member
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    I worked under HQ Western Command for a lot of the 1960's looking after a major hub of the Defence Telegraph/Telecoms Network and the HQ's Communications Centre which was located down there. The only access was down a set of steps from the basement of the main building. The tunnel entrances onto the river bank were always bricked up with just a ventilation brick in them. The rock walls were hidden behind plaster-boarded walls and it was a lot neater and drier. I'm surprised that it wasn't known about but having said that, we didn't disclose what went on down there. For some years after 1972 it was still owned by the M.O.D. and used as an Army Pay Office which had previously been located in Hoole Hall on the other side of the City. In the 1960's there were a lot of army huts used as offices as well as the main building which was only ground floor and first floor in those days. During WW2, most of the nearby big Victorian houses were commandeered by the Army and we had telephone cables direct to them from beneath the main building. The second floor and the neo-Georgian look was added after it was bought by the bank. It was added quite recently in the days when it was owned by the bank. It is now (2016) owned by Chester University as one of their campuses. Happy days down in what we called 'The Catacombs' !
     
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  4. Suboffender

    Suboffender 28DL Full Member
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    Thanks for the history, always good to hear first hand knowledge on somewhere, back when It was operational :)
     
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