Cold War monitoring post uncovered near Wokingham

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The Underground Monitoring Post (UGMP) under excavation by Wessex Archaeology. (IMAGE: Wessex Archaeology)

An unusual underground Monitoring Post (UGMP), used during the Cold War, has been revealed during an excavation by Wessex Archaeology near Wokingham. The structure is part of a national network of 1,563 UGMPs, which were built for the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) between 1957 and 1965 as part of preparations for the reporting of radioactive fallout should a nuclear strike occur.

The structure was initially spotted during preliminary surveys of the site, carried out in advance of the construction of the Arborfield Cross Relief Road, which is part of the wider Wokingham Borough Council’s Major Highways Programme. It is relatively rare to uncover such posts during an excavation, and this one appears to be particularly unusual.

‘It is a fantastic find, made more unusual by the fact that it was also constructed back-to-front,’ explained Dr Bob Clarke, Wessex Archaeology Senior Research Manager. ‘These structures were built by local firms using prescribed blueprints, which in this case was misinterpreted by the builder. We suspected that an underground room may have survived even though the surface features had been demolished in the mid-1970s. It’s an extraordinary find as many of the sites connected with the Cold War are still secret.’

This specially reinforced UGMP was in use from 1961 until 1968, and would have been used by three ROC Observers – all volunteers. They would have been responsible for monitoring the effects of any possible nuclear strike in the area, recording the power of the explosion, distance from the ground, and any subsequent radiation. This information would then be reported back to the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO), who would have used the data to predict long-term results and issue warnings to the rest of the country. Prior to the post’s construction, this area was also used as an above-ground observation post from 1936.

As the structure runs through the planned route of the relief road, it will be fully removed prior to any construction work and there are plans to install a memorial stone to mark its location.

This article appeared in CA 351.

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