RAF Barnham Cold War Atomic Weapons Site - October 2016

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shatners

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RAF Barnham Atomic Weapons Site – October 2016

Having read about the key part that RAF Barnham played in Britain’s cold war nuclear deterrent I had to get down there and see it for myself and have to say as old military sites go this cold war beauty was absolutely fascinating… it really is a place where time has stood still and it has a real cold war era feeling about it as you wander around.

The day before setting off I had a refresher looking through the old photos of the site from the sixties online and decided just for nostalgia to photograph my wanderings in a similar style, 35mm lens, f1.4, black and white. I have done a bit more research when I got home to try and add some context to the photos.

History

Barnham Nuclear Storage Site was active during the early part of the Cold War and was one of only two such facilities built in the UK to store the BLUE DANUBE free fall nuclear bomb. The nuclear storage site was built during the mid 1950s to maintain the BLUE DANUBE away from the V-Bomber bases as well as holding the 'second strike' stock should nuclear war break out.

On official records, Barnham Nuclear Weapon Storage Site was known as a "Special Storage Site" and served the 'southern' V-Force bomber airfields, occupied by No 94 Maintenance Unit (MU), with Faldingworth's 92 MU covering the 'northern' bases. Barnham went on to store the RED BEARD nuclear weapon which succeeded BLUE DANUBE.

Ultimately, the depot had a relatively short life span, ceasing to be capable of holding nuclear weapons in the Summer 1963.

How the site looked in 1955 when it was still very much top secret.



The site today:



Approach road to the main outer gate



Main gate watchtower overlooking the approach road



Internal concrete fence with no man’s land in front



Batch of fifteen fissile core safe houses, this is one of four quadrants of such buildings within the inner pentagon.



Watch tower three, there is one at each point of the pentagon positioned on the outer perimeter fence giving a clear view of the approach and no man’s land between outer and inner perimeter fences. Within no man’s land were hundreds of trip wires connected to flares. The outer perimeter fence was patrolled by RAF Police dog handlers who would check in at the towers.



Top of the watch tower



Looking down at the search ‘Speary’ light



Watch tower four showing the no mans land between outer and inner perimeter fences.



This is one of three high explosive storage buildings. This is where the actual bombs minus the fissile cores were stored. The veranda has a heavy duty crane joist underneath so bombs could be lifted from convoys and quickly transferred into the building.



Looking at the front of high explosive bomb store 1 with its original blast doors



Inside high explosive bomb store 1… still has its original “anti spark” flooring but has now been separated into separate units inside, it would originally have been a single enormous room with no internal walls, only support pillars.



High explosive bomb store 1 from the rear to give an idea of scale. All the walls are not bonded to the support pillars, the idea being in the event of an explosion the walls are blown out, collected by the adjacent blast banks and the roof stays on.



Watchtower 5









One of the 57 Fissile core safe house with the Nuclear sign on the door











This building is located in the centre of the inner pentagon. It is where plutonium cores were assessed and maintained. The blast wall is to protect the building from explosions in the adjacent high explosive bomb stores, not from within the building itself.



A combination lock on one of the 57 fissile core safe houses



The door alarm trigger fitted on every frame of each of the fissle core safe houses. In the event of a door being opened, an alarm would trigger in the guard house. All door opening had to be pre-approved so the guard house knew in advance. If the alarm triggered without prior approval all hell broke loose… dogs, guns etc…



External alarm and power system components on each of the fissile safe houses



One of the few complete fissile core safe units concreted within the floor of a safe house. This safe house has two safes in the ground side by side so would not have been used to store plutonium as they could not be kept within close proximity of each other. Most likely these safes would have contained cobalt cores used for testing the plutonium in the building five pics up.



 
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shatners

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The explosives maintenance building.



Gate watch tower in the distance, canteen building to the left, admin block to the right



Underground water tank, 30,000 litres for firefighting. This was connected to a ring main which ran around the full inner pentagon to each quadrant of fissile core storage safe houses. Additionally each quadrant has one of four large water reserve pods which were also for firefighting. Just visible to the rear left is the RAF dog food prep building and behind that is the old kennels compound.


Thanks for looking :D
 

Conrad

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Wow, thats awesome. Nicely shot as always.
 

Newage

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Love it.
It`s been one of the places I`v wanted to go to for ages, I`m in the area often as I visit RAF/USAF Lakenheath quite
a bit and it`s only just down the road.
The B&W images do the place justice - epic.

Cheers Newage
 

shatners

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Thanks all... very kind :D

more please. very the "prisoner" are there others like this place?

Thank you mate... yes this is the south base, there was an identical north base which still has the six main central buildings remaining but pretty much everything else is gone including all but three of the safe houses :-(
 

Mikeymutt

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That sir is a cracking report.your shots are superb as always and the black and white has captures the mood of the era completely.I enjoyed my wander around here a few year ago.I keep meaning g to go back.did you know on the other side of the road is the remains of an all old mustard gas factory.not loads left
 

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