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Regional War Room 6, Reading

Updated: Aug 19

In 1951 the construction of buildings to protect the functions of government against the atomic bomb had been agreed. One war room was to be built in each of the ten Home Defence Regions into which England was divided.

Reading War Room was built in 1953 along with 13 other sites.

The bunker is located on the wartime government estate at Whiteknights and some of the pre-fabricated buildings which was war time offices.

Regional War Room 6 was the war room for Home Defence Region 6 which broadly covered Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Reading and other regional war rooms were replaced in the early 1960s by Regional Seats of Government which were better equipped, they moved to a place in Henley On Thames known as Warren Row. Up until 2015 the war room has been used by the University of Reading for document storage and by Plant Sciences. The war room was at threat of demolition in 2007 by the University Of Reading to make way for a car park but luckily that never happened, and now the building still stands today with a Grade II listing protecting it from future developments. While Warren Row RSG6 also remains but is now used by a wine company and documents storage centre. Regional War Room at Whiteknights Park is said to be one of only four surviving in England built to the two-storey semi-sunken design bunkers.

The Region 6 War Room is a nuclear bunker dating from the early days of the Cold War, on the Whiteknights Park campus of the University of Reading. It was one of a number of such Regional War Rooms, built during the 1950s and designed to co-ordinate civil defence in the aftermath of an attack on the country. Should an attack occur, the war room would have housed the Regional Commissioner and their staff, who would have directed the strategic response to the emergency throughout the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight. The Regional Commissioner had authority to assume the full powers of the central government if contact with central government was lost. The war room is a two-level windowless building, with the upper level being above ground level, protected by massive concrete walls, while the lower level is below ground level. The building roof has towers containing filtration equipment. The bunker was designed to withstand against weapons of the type used during the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The development of the more powerful hydrogen bomb and the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, meant that the war room was subsequently inadequately protected, and seen as too small to support the large live-in staff that would be needed after a major nuclear strike. Its principal responsibilities were transferred to a new Regional Seat of Government: RSG-6, located at Warren Row near Maidenhead. Some sources suggest that it continued in use as a civil defence communications centre for some period after this transfer. After ceasing to be used for civil defence purposes, the war room was taken over by the University and modified as a secure storage facility for use by the university library. The building still stands today and is found to the rear of the Department of Agriculture building, near the Earley Gate entrance of the University's' Whiteknights Campus. There is no public access to the interior of the building. In recent times, in the University's development plan, announced in autumn 2007, the bunker was to be scheduled for demolition, along with the wartime 'temporary office buildings'. The land was to be used for a car park. However, in March 2009, the threatened building received a Grade II heritage listing and is now protected. The bunker is located on the south side of the Reading University campus behind the new Agricultural Building. You can get to the bunker from the Earley Gate entrance. It is a two-floored semi-sunk oblong construction on an east / west alignment. The main entrance and the emergency exit are on the east corner of the bunker, the main entrance facing north and the emergency exit on the south side. On the main entrance there are three doors, the first is made of metal and although not solid it does have a large metal frame. There are rumours the prefab looking buildings opposite the RSG6 Bunker were once a WW2 Military Hospital, but this not been proven, My Story This is a place I have always wanted to explore, it's the official Reading Area Cold War Government Bunker! Inside it blew my mind, it is very well-preserved, the machines and giant generators are all intact and look like they were in operation recently. As you enter the bunker you go past a rather weird red blast door. Looking at it up close it does not look like it would survive a nuclear bomb, with it being less than 10cm thick. As you head down the corridor you reach a flight of stairs on the right leading down into a flooded basement which had a horrible rotten egg smell to it: I didn't stay to long down there long! As you walk pass the stairs down the corridor I found what was the former Control Room, which now looks to have a false floor added and was full of mouldy books. The windows have been removed, but the frames where the windows would have been are still there. As you go back towards the blast door, on the right is the plant room, one of the most interesting rooms in there, in my opinion. Everything intact and looks like it could work if the power was on.

As you come out of the plant room, walk back up the corridor and turn left, there is another blast door, of exactly the same type as the main front door. In the shower rooms and toilets there was not much to see except piles of potting compost, left by the horticulture department of the university. The basement level was empty except for an interesting looking regional map detailing the local area. All the other rooms had electrical equipment dumped in them by the university staff and growing rooms left over from plant experiments. There was one bizarre looking room at the far end of the corridor in the basement, with some rather weird graffiti on the walls and a bed. My theory is that when the university no longer used the building a homeless person got inside. It's a shame such a cool Cold War bunker in my home town is standing empty. I think the university could do better than leaving it derelict: like possibly turn it into a museum. They could remove the false walls and floors and take away all the modern rubbish left in there. As I exited the bunker, further down the road around half a mile past the former War Time Offices & Hospital Building is a rather strange-looking white box. My first thought was that it was a generator room, but as I looked around it I noticed it had a blast wall. As soon as I saw that I knew that it was an air raid shelter. The shelter didn't have much to see inside except the graffiti, probably left by maintenance staff over the years as well as an odd-looking air compressor which looks like it went out of action a few years ago.

Last photo is a drone shot of the Former WW2 Hospital next to the war room which is said to have been built by POWs.


Callum Cromwell - Reading - United Kingdom - Callums Night Photography

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