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Disasters Underground


Regular User
Disasters Underground by Nick McCamley

Very interesting background to the RAF underground bomb stores in WW2 with plans of most sites. Recommended

On 27 November 1944 the underground RAF bomb store at Fauld in Staffordshire exploded, destroying two farms and much of the village of Scropton, killing seventy men and women in an instant. Approximately 4,000 tons of bombs had exploded en-mass in the mine, which was some ninety feet below ground, leaving a crater nearly half-a-mile in diameter. The Fauld disaster still maintains the dubious distinction of having been the largest and most devastating explosion ever to have occurred on the British mainland.
"Disaster Underground" tells the complete story of the events that led up the this incident and of all the subsequent investigations. It is a story of ineptitude and incompetence in every aspect of the RAF’s wartime administration.

To set the scene the early chapters describe in some detail the birth of No.42 Group, the arm of RAF maintenance command responsible for supply of ammunition and explosives to the fighting units. The development, design and construction of all the surface ammunition depots constructed in the inter-war years is described in some detail. A major portion of the book is dedicated to the development of the five huge underground reserve depots at Chilmark, Fauld, Harpur Hill, Llanberis and Linley, and subsequently to the disasters that overtook all of them except one.

Briefly: the Fauld depot blew up, Llanberis fell down, Harpur Hill was evacuated before it could fall down and Linley was abandoned before it collapsed completely. Only Chilmark lived out the war comparatively unscathed.

Every aspect of the Fauld disaster is investigated in great detail based upon the official Court of Inquiry papers and other documents only recently released into the public domain. Similarly, this book’s examination of the collapse of the Llanberis depot is based upon evidence never before published.

Until now the extensive but long abandoned underground depot at Linley has been something of a mystery but "Disasters Underground" throws new light on it and provides, for the first time, detailed plans of the site.

The penultimate section of the book looks at the RAF’s (and the British government’s) disastrous foray into chemical weapons during the Second World War and its post-war consequences. Subjects touched upon in this section include the mustard gas factory and underground storage site at Rhydymwyn in north Wales, the sinister ICI poison gas factories in the Runcorn area, and the Forward Filling Depots with their huge underground bulk storage tanks for poison gas, strategically sited near the bomber bases. All of these were subject to mishaps, great or small.

The final section deals with the farcical methods used to dispose of the vast redundant stockpiles of mustard gas and captured German ‘Tabun’ nerve agent left at the end of the war, and of the role of the Bowes Moor depot and the ports of Siloth and Cairnryan in this disposal.

The book is illustrated with over sixty photographs including numerous, previously unpublished, photo’s of the underground depot at Fauld immediately after the explosion.

Detailed plans of all the underground sites are included, along with aerial photographs and plans of many surface depots.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Thanks, I will be getting a copy.

There is an excellent book on the Fauld disaster called "The day the dump went up". It has interviews with people who were in the mines when the explosion took place and with people from the local villages who lost family and friends. It also goes into the enquiry in detail.

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