Cold War U.K. Regional Government Headquarters

This page shows the locations used over the duration of the cold war and briefly describes the type of building used to house the Regional Government Headquarters.

Former Regional Government Headquarters Locations

During the cold war years, Regional Government underwent a number of different change of concepts and name changes, finally ending the period as Regional Government Headquarters RGHQ or Zone Headquarters in Scotland. These centres have also been known as Regional Seats of Government (RSG) or (RSOG). In some official documents the term Zone has been applied throughout the United Kingdom.
The map and the table below show the locations of the RGHQ. The history of Regional Government before the sixties is beyond the scope of this topic as information about their communications networks is very sparse and not enough is known to be able to write anything meaningful.
Map of Cold War, UK Regional Government Headquarters
County assignment to each RGHQ
RGHQ Subordinate Counties
Humberside, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire
Cleveland, Durham, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear
Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire
Leicestershire, Northamptonshire
Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk
Bedfordshire,Esses, Hertfordshire
5 City of London, London Boroughs
Kent, Surrey, East Sussex, West Sussex
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire
Avon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire
Devon, Cornwall
Clwyd, Gwynedd
Dyfed, (mid, south,west) Glamorgan, Gwent
Stafordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands
Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire
Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside
Cumbria, Isle-of-Man, Lancashire
East Zone Lothian and Borders
North Zone Fife, Grampian, Highland & Islands
West Zone Central Scotland, Dumfries & Galloway, Strathclyde
Where the same Regional Code appears twice in the table, the first entry was later replaced by the second location around the time shown as 'In Service' date.
RGHQ Locations
CodeLocationOSGB Ref.Lat/LonIn ServiceOriginal Purpose
 Region 2, North East
2.1ShiptonSE54261854.049323, -1.173673early 1960sRotor SOC
2.2HexhamNY93864454.974174, -2.098389early 80sCold Store
 Region 3, East Midlands
3.1SkendlebyTF43870953.215705, 0.152108mid-60sRotor
3.2LoughboroughSK54120552.779381, -1.1994051981Cold Store
 Region 4, East
4.1BawburghTG16508052.626561, 1.197407mid-60sRotor SOC
4.2HertfordTL32512351.793666, -0.080131mid-60sBasement Govt Building
 Region 5, London
5Kelvedon HatchTQ56199551.672587, 0.256073early-60sRotor SOC
 Region 6, South East
6.1Dover CastleTR32042051.130260, 1.3144831962WW2 Tunnels
6.1CrowboroughTQ47629251.043200, 0.1040921987WW2 Radio Station
6.2BasingstokeSU63952451.267181, -1.08573160sBasement Govt Building
 Region 7, South West
7.1UllenwoodSO93617451.855152, -2.09432850s till 85AAOR
7.1ChilmarkST98530051.069329, -2.0227851985Purpose Built RGHQ
7.2Bolt HeadSX71637450.224852, -3.798431mid-60sRotor
 Region 8, Wales
8.2BracklaSS91680551.512992, -3.56350760sOrdnance Factory
 Region 9, Midlands
9.1SwynnertonSJ84533252.896273, -2.23239262Ordnance Factory
9.2DrakelowSO82081052.426619, -2.26518950sWW2 Factory
 Region 10, North West
10.1SouthportSD34017453.648858, -2.99940764 till 80Basement Govt Bldg.
10.2Hack GreenSJ64748353.030811, -2.52781184Rotor
 Region 11, Northern Ireland
11.1BelfastIJ32170254.562681, -5.95900460sRegional War Room
11.1BalleymenaID13804354.873228, -6.2256291989Purpose Built RGHQ
 Region 1 Scotland
N ZoneAnstrutherNO56808856.269707, -2.699108mid 1960sRotor
N ZoneCultybraggenNN76820256.358035, -3.9955431990Purpose Built RGHQ
E ZoneKirknewtonNT10468455.900348, -3.434541mid 1950s 
W ZoneTorrence House, East KilbrideNS65352655.747975, -4.1475121953AAOR
HQBarnton Quarry, EdinburghNT20374855.959579, -3.278149before 1963Rotor SOC

Rotor Bunkers Used as RGHQ

In the fifties, the Royal Air Force replaced the ageing WWII radar with centimetric radar in what was known as the ROTOR plan. This built an elaborate network of 39 bunkers at radar sites around the UK. On the East and South coast these were buried deep underground. On the West Coast where they were less vulnerable the bunkers were only semi-sunken. The plotters at radar stations reported to one of four Sector Operations Centres (ROTOR SOC) of similar design to the radar bunkers but larger with three levels.
Hack Green RGHQ 10.2 Semi-sunken Bunker [2008]
Hack Green
If enemy aircraft were to approach the UK, the SOC would scramble interceptor aircraft. Most of the ROTOR radar bunkers became operational around 1952 but the rapid development of aircraft and radar technology quickly made the ROTOR plan redundant. As the speed of bomber aircraft increased it became necessary to control the interceptor fighters directly from the radar stations, making the SOC redundant. New radar was developed with an increased range that meant fewer radar stations were required. Many radar stations were closed or put into a care and maintenance state.
Bawburgh RGHQ 4.1 Guardhouse [1992]
old photo
By the sixties, the government had many recently built and expensive bunkers now very embarrassingly left redundant. When the policy of Regional Seat of Government Headquarters was introduced, many of the ROTOR bunkers were utilised for these headquarters. Four ROTOR SOC bunkers (Bawburgh, Barnton Quarry, Kelvedon Hatch and Shipton) and four radar bunkers (Anstruther, Bolt Head, Hack Green and Skendleby) became Regional Headquarters.
Shipton RGHQ 2.1 Guardhouse [2008]
Shipton Guardhouse
All the ROTOR bunkers were built to similar specifications. The most noticeable feature of a fully submerged bunker being the entrance in a bungalow style guard house with a veranda. The guardhouse is connected via a tunnel into the main bunker. The only other surface features are the ventilation shafts and a lattice communications mast.

Other Bunkers used as RGHQ

Purpose Built Government Buildings used for RGHQ

At Southport, Basingstoke and Hertford, three government office buildings were constructed with reinforced basements that were used for Regional Government Headquarters. A bunker was built at Chilmark, Wiltshire in 1985 as a replacement for the RGHQ 71 bunker at Ullenwood, Gloucestershire. In Scotland, the former ROTOR bunker at Anstruther, Fife was replaced in 1990 by a newly built bunker at Cultybraggen.

Other buildings adapted as RGHQ

In the sixties, a section of a former ordnance factory at Brackla, Bridgend was converted to RGHQ 82. Another ordnance factory at Swynnerton, Staffordshire became RGHQ 91. In Region 6, WW2 tunnels known as the 'Dumpy' level in Dover Castle were adapted as RGHQ in 1962 before it moved in 1987 to the former WWII propaganda radio transmitter site at Crowborough. Two former government WWII Cold Stores located at Hexham, Northumberland and Loughborough, Leicestershire were adapted in the early eighties for use as Regional Headquarters 22 and 32 respectively.

Drakelow or Kinver

In July 1941 construction started on a matrix of tunnels designed as a factory for aircraft engines and as a RAF store having a combined floor area of 285,000 square feet. The tunnels are at the same level as Kingsford Lane which passes by the North side of the site and is about 150ft below the top of the sandstone ridge that formed part of the Drakelow estate. OS Ref SO820810
After engine production finished, parts of the tunnel complex have been used as a Regional Government Headquarters from the late fifties until the 1992 stand down. During that time it has been known variously as, the Regional Seat of Government No.9 Kinver; RGHQ 92 Drakelow or possibly Kidderminster. (the nearest large town) The gallery shows the lattice communications mast on the top of the ridge that linked into the Home Office radio sites nearby. A separate wooden pole carried the UHF Discone for use on the military band.
I took these black and white pictures of the tunnel entrances facing Kingsford Lane shortly after closure. They show the main entrance and standby generator engine air intakes and exhaust pipes.
Drakelow Main Entrance, Adit A : Adit B, Generator Hall
Adits A + B
In 1954, Drakelow, under the guise of codeword MACADAM was earmarked as a possible location for the Central Government War Headquarters (CGWHQ) as a replacement for, or addition to, Corsham but no work took place in preparing the site.

Drakelow Gallery

Tunnels at Drakelow RGHQ92
1970‘s Mast at Drakelow RGHQ92
Military UHF Discone

Current Use of the Former Bunkers

Secret Bunker This Way
Secret Bunker Signpost
After the disbanding of the UKWMO the RGHQ bunkers have been placed on the market and some have been sold to landowners or private companies. Four have become museums open to the public. Kelvedon Hatch in Essex and Anstruther in Fife are underground ROTOR bunkers. Hack Green in Cheshire is a semi-sunken ROTOR bunker with a good display of exhibits from both sides of the Cold War. Dover Castle, former RGHQ is also open to the public. These secret bunker museums have their own web sites. All are well signposted for visitors, the phrasing of the signs like this one on the A525 at Audlem, gives many motorist a chuckle.
Ullenwood RGHQ [2009]
former headquarters
The Ullenwood RGHQ was in a former Anti-Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) a semi-sunken two storey bunker. A replacement was built in 1985 at Chilmark and since then had been used by Gloucester County Council. On a recent visit I have to assume it is now in private ownership as a large country house has been erected in the grounds. The bunker has been clad with local Cotswold stone to match the house and tastefully landscaped into the garden.

Demolished RGHQ

The former cold store at Loughborough that was converted to become RGHQ 3.2 in 1973 was demolished in 1996 and the site used for housing.
The other cold store at Hexham RGHQ 2.2 has also been demolished but as of April 2017 was just derelict land.
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