A Cold War Bunker in Formby (update)

Formby Civic Society, Festival of British Archaeology event

Sunday 28th July 2013 – Reg Yorke

A visit to the remains of Ravenmeols Subterranean Cold-War Nuclear Monitoring Post, was organised by the Formby Civic Society, History Group on Sunday 28th July 2013.

The very existence of a national network of nuclear monitoring posts created in the early 1960s was kept secret until after they were dismantled in 1991. Particularly as they were constructed mainly underground, covered by 3 feet of soil, (or in our case sand, they have never attracted much attention).  In the recent past however, a website http://www.subbrit.org.uk/  established by ‘Subterranea Britannica’ and several well produced and illustrated books, have publicised their role and technology,  designed to minimise the horrendous impact of a possible nuclear attack. Despite this few members of the public have been aware of their existence and purpose, and the voluntary contribution of many dedicated members of the Royal Observer Corps has remained largely unacknowledged.

Lack of awareness has also resulted from the extremely exposed position of the Formby post situated south of Albert Road, and subsidence of the underlying dune which in fact caused it to be abandoned about 1967, when a new post was constructed at RAF Woodvale within the perimeter of the aerodrome, and which remained active until 1991.

Enough remains of the Ravenmeols post to see exactly how it operated and to sense the dedication of the Royal Observer Corps members who manned it during that critical period.

During our visit we were accompanied by three former local Royal Observer Corps members, Don Brereton, Harry Rigby and Bob Jones, who provided excellent first-hand information regarding the operation of the post and its equipment. Although the subterranean chamber is now half filled with rubble the team-work of the Observer Corps crew and operation of the key instruments was clearly described.

Although it was known that the site had previously been used for an earlier aircraft spotting observation post during World War II, we were interested to discover that that the earlier observation post was itself created on a first World War Royal Navy gunnery look-out on the same site. Overlooking as it does the important approach to the Mersey by the Queen’s Channel/Crosby Channel, Formby Point has clearly played an important part in coastal and national defence for a very long time.

The Formby Civic Society would like to express its thanks to the former members of the Royal Observer Corps, who joined us last Sunday and provided so much interesting information. We also grateful to Nick Catford, author of ‘Subterranean Britain: Cold War Bunkers’ for his interest, technical advice and provision of photographs of similar posts elsewhere.