On the outskirts of my hometown of Nantwich is a place called Hack Green. There's nothing really there except a few houses, fields, cows; it's a typical rural environment. However, in the middle of one of the fields, at a distance from the road, there stands an ominous and sinister place made of concrete, metal and razor wire.
I remember travelling past it in the car when I was a child; there was talk of it being some kind of military base, even a nuclear fallout shelter; whatever it was, it didn't appear on any maps. At the time, I didn't understand what nuclear fallout meant; I soon learnt about it at school, but I still didn't appreciate that there had been a serious threat of an attack in the years before I was born.
When I was about 12 or 13, I was intrigued by the ‘near future’ novels set in a post-apocalypic world. Books like The Tripods Trilogy and Day of the Triffids, both about the lonely struggle of life in a ruined world, fascinated me. It's this popular but morbid fascination with survival after world changing events such as nuclear war that leads us to places like Hack Green.
So now, this mysterious place has been declassified and opened to the public as a museum. The so-called ‘Secret Nuclear Bunker’ dates back to the end of WWII, when it was used as part of ROTOR, the UK's air defence network set up when Russia started testing nuclear weapons in 1949.
In the 1970s, it was converted into a Regional Government HQ for Cheshire and Greater Manchester in the event of nuclear war. It still contains all of the broadcast equipment for the ‘Protect & Survive’ films that were to be shown to help people through the nuclear winter. To my generation, it seemed perfectly reasonable to de-classify places such as this; the nuclear threat just didn't seem possible anymore. But with the current state of world affairs, can we be so sure?
Personally, I think that the perceived threat of nuclear weapons used against us is nothing but spin on the part of Bush and Blair to further justify the bombing of Afghanistan. However, there are some who believe that the declassification of places such as Hack Green is a premature move; that this isn't some ancient building unearthed and preserved for our enjoyment, but a military operations centre that was active as late as 1993.
Even though Hack Green is right on the door step of my hometown, I still haven't visited it. I'd like to go, but the short amount of time since it was used for military purposes repells me from it. All we can hope for is that this building is never needed again to help protect us; that peace will prevail.More information about the bunker [including images] can be seen here.