A mysterious bomb-proof bunker that can house 90 people is one of the best places to be in the UK if a nuclear war ever occurs, though it was designed for a very specific group of people
The safest place in the UK, should World War 3 break out has been named – but you’d have to be part of a very exclusive group of people to get in there.
Britain has long had secret contingency plans for what happens if a disastrous nuclear war breaks out, with senior members of the government, broadcasters, military and even the Royal Family thought to be among the VIPs who would be whisked to safety.
While it was assumed for many years that the end of the Cold War meant that atomic bomb-proof bunkers would no longer be needed, Putin’s war in Ukraine and increased hostilities across the Middle East have left the international stage looking its most dangerous in decades.
If things were to escalate and weapons of mass destruction began flying towards our country, one spot in leafy Worcestershire is probably where you want to be.
Wood Norton looks like an unassuming, if rather grand, stately home from the outside – but behind it is hidden an impressive system of underground rooms. Built in the 1960s by workers who had to sign the official secrets act, the BBC’s bunker is tucked underneath a hill, and was created to operate as an emergency broadcasting centre in the event of a nuclear attack.
In a declassified set of Cold War documents released in 2016, known as the War Book, it was explained how Wood Norton would have been used by the BBC in the event of a serious attack on the country. The bunker could house 90 people, with living quarters located inside, and the exclusive list of staff who would have been allowed to enter included engineers, announcers, 12 news editors and sub-editors, and “two nominations from Religious Broadcasting”. All output for the Wartime Broadcasting Service would be controlled directly by the Government – and BBC Radio 4 would be the only station left, providing important news and updates.
The entire Wood Norton site, including the main house, used to be owned by the BBC. It was purchased at the beginning of WW2 to serve as hidden base for the corporation in the event of war breaking out in London.
It was then converted to an engineering training base after the war, before the bunker extension was built in the 1960s. Wood Norton Hall was sold in the early 21st century under former BBC Commissioner General Gregg Dyke, and is now a posh country house hotel – though there are still purpose-built facilities in the grounds which are used by the broadcaster today.
The bunker itself was reportedly used in 2010 by continuity announcers during the refurbishment of Broadcasting House, and the facility was also used in 1999 in preparation for the Millennium Bug, reports Gloucestershire Live. It is also thought to have been included in contingency plans for moving the BBC out of London during the Coronavirus pandemic.