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Report - - Greenham common 16/11/08 - plus a bunch of history | Military Sites |

Report - Greenham common 16/11/08 - plus a bunch of history

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Hello, I know it’s been done before, but here are some photos of my trip last weekend to Greenham common. Nothing to add of note, apart from a few pictures from the construction and that we got into one of the tunnels. I’ve got a bit carried away with the history as well!

Be gentle, this is my first report after quite a hiatus (first report was this one on Concept 2000 in F’boro:

Anyway, on with the photos:

First view of the GLCM Alert and Maintenance Area (GAMA). Was surprisingly difficult to get in even after being abandoned for 7 years (see history below). The first fence was easy, but the second fence was a 12 foot steel mesh job (the mesh being made to be just a bit smaller than a finger) which was an utter pain to get over, then there were two more easy fences. The 12ft fence looked like it was once topped with an electric wire, if there were no convenient trees, we’d have never got over it without a ladder – dread to think what it was like with 60 odd marines inside!


Amusingly the first thing we saw was some startled deer. They took one look at us and ‘pronged’ off in the direction of the fence. Which they didn’t see - donk. I know we shouldn’t laugh but the look of confusion on the deer’s face was priceless, it did it a few more times just to be sure it couldn’t jump through steel wire! There were a lot of deer in the compound, presumably they get in when they’re little but can’t get out again… unless there is an easy way in we missed! Anyway… this photo looks towards the warhead store and armoury.


My mate looking a bit shifty.


Looking out of what appears to be the warhead store; at least that’s the only suggestion I can find as to what these areas are. The warheads would only have been kept on the missiles at times of heightened readiness – the rest of the time they were locked in here.


The same view, but with my mate looking more butch :rolleyes:


Entrance to one of the bunkers where the Transporter Erector Launchers (TEL) and Launch Control Vehicles (LCC – don’t ask me why the acronym is wrong!). Each bunker has three separate tunnels, the far right two would have housed four TELs (two in each) and the nearest would have had two LCCs. That made up a flight which totalled 16 thermonuclear missiles.


We managed to get into the one of the entrance tunnels to the crew living area. The tunnel was blocked up, but erm, not well enough! As you can see in the tunnel there is a large blast door – we assumed, incorrectly according to the cutaway view below, that this corresponded to the blast door within the main bunker. There wasn’t any real evidence of welding (the rest of the hatches on the site are welded shut) so they may just be rusted shut… wish we’d tried yanking harder now!). May go back and try to get into the crew living area – now that would be interesting!


When trailing the net for more info, I found a few construction pictures at this site ( As you can see quite a lot of concrete went into this little lot…! One thing I’ve noticed tho is that the Wikipedia article on it is incorrect; it says that there is a titanium plate above each of the bunkers – clearly rubbish as you’d not be able to cast one that big, and you can only weld titanium in an inert atmosphere (just ask the Russians who built the Alfa submarines!) – no evidence of the large tent that would be needed in the construction photos (besides which the cost would be astronomical in the 80’s or now for that matter). The plate is probably bog standard steel. Above the steel is 2m of concrete and several meters of sand/clay – apparently it can withstand a 2500lb bomb blast (sceptical about that, maybe if it only exploded on top of the dirt and didn’t penetrate, more reliable sources than Wikipedia suggest a 500lb bomb).

Here is a US government cutaway picture of how each of the bunkers would have been used (we got into the entrance tunnel to the crew living head quarters):


In the event of a war no missiles would have been launched from the airbase itself but instead they TELs and LCCs would have driven out to pre-prepared sites in nearby woods. The sites would have been carefully surveyed in order to give the missiles inertial guidance system a good initial position (no GPS!) – inertial guidance works by knowing a starting position in 3D space and then recording all of the accelerations in each axis, if you know these and know the time that each acceleration took then you can differentiate (the derivative of acceleration is velocity – if you know the velocity and the time…) of and work out your new position – however you need a very good fix to start with. The sites apparently included Salisbury plain, longmoor camp in Farnborough, and the common between woking and Farnborough – I’ll keep a look out for a large flat bit of ground next time I’m running there!

In addition to the bunkers on site there is also the large maintenance building (the big thing that looks like a warehouse), this was sealed up tight, but was used to maintain the TELs and LCCs. I should think it was also where the missiles were attached to the warheads – doubt this was performed in the bunkers themselves. Here is a picture of one of the tractors inside (from Free web hosting | Free web hosting directory) – the door behind the tractor is the door nearest to the bunkers facing out towards the airfield.


According to some reports Russian Spetnaz (their version of the SAS but not as hard) were based outside base since 1983 (when the 400 missiles arrived) and infiltrated the peace protestors outside the camp. These reports have been officially denied, but I’d be surprised if the Russians didn’t have some kind of surveillance of the place – the reports were carried in Janes Defence Weekly, which normally turns out to be right!

In 1986 the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty ended the presence of the cruise missiles – with all missiles being removed by 1991. The treaty stated that all the curise missile stuff must be left in its present state until may 2001 (ten years after the treaty) until that date it was kept in a moth balled state (according to SubBrit who visited in 2000, when they visited the pistons that held the bunker blast doors were bubble wrapped!). Some places on the net state that the Russians still visit to check it’s all still deactivated – I suspect this isn’t the case anymore, but these visits certainly carried on until 2001.

As an aside, I get the impression from all of the manhole covers and construction pictures, there is actually quite a bit of this base underground… couldn’t see an easy way in tho.

Personally I find all this fascinating (as you can probably tell!), as it happened when I was growing up and I can remember the news reports (well the later ones at least!)… anyone who’s interested should check out this website:

Your Greenham | Guardian

Lots of news reports with videos of the bunkers actually being used.

Here’s a video of the TEL and GCC trucks.

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