I love the quirkyness of travelling on the canals. You never know what you might come across around the next bend, or if you will be allowed to tell anybody about it. In this particular case we did know what to expect because we had passed the signs for it last year but like the dutiful upstanding citizen that I am I hadn’t blogged about it. I am, of course, talking about the well publicised and clearly sign posted “Secret Bunker”. This time we decided to pay this oxymoron of a museum a visit and I thought that if you promise not to tell anybody I could tell you all about it.
Back in the days when the Americans and the Russians were standing on alternative sides of the playground hurling abuse at each other, you know, calling out things like “We’ve got more missiles than you” and “My Dad’s bigger than yours” our government of the time thought it might be a good idea to dig a big hole in the ground and hide in it. They realised the importance of being able to continue running the country even though the country might only consist of flattened towns and cities and a few million charred corpses.
They actually dug quite a lot of holes to fool the Russians but in these relatively less grumpy times the holes have fallen into disuse or been converted to very big wine cellars or secure data storage facilities. Fortunately for us the one at Hack Green near Nantwich has been turned into a fascinating, if macabre record of those dark and dangerous times. We spent a jolly two hours wandering the labyrinth of rooms reading about the effects of multiple nuclear warheads raining down on our green and pleasant land. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me as I had been an ardent CND campaigner at the time so I was reasonably familiar with the government pamphlet “Protect and Survive”. We were reminded in one room that in order to survive several thousand kilo tons of nuclear devastation all we would need were a few internal doors leant against a wall and some suitcases piled against them. There was nothing much to worry about because the politicians and military big wigs would keep everything running along just fine while we spent a couple of months hiding in our temporary wooden shelters eating cold baked beans and listening to the radio for the all clear.
In another room there was a reconstruction of a Russian facility from which they would be firing their missiles. Alongside the big red buttons, launch keys and important looking telephones there was a table with a bottle of beer and a glass on it. Presumably this was so that when the operator had completed the destruction of civilization as we know it he or she could kick back with a relaxing beer with the satisfying feeling of a job well done.
As you wander from themed room to themed room the exhibits seem to range from chilling realism to ridiculous parody with shop mannequins dressed as nurses complete with vivid blue eye shadow and ruby lips juxtaposed with life sized models of nuclear war heads. It’s really quite bizarre.
I emerged into the blinding sunshine to be reminded of the warnings against the initial flash of a nuclear detonation and was left wondering just how successful these underground bunkers would have been in the event of a major conflict. Would the communications and emergency infrastructure survive and would there be enough of us left to rebuild? Or, as has been suggested in the past; if a nuclear war ever took place would the next war be fought with bows and arrows?
Hopefully we’ll never have to answer those questions but it doesn’t do any of us any harm to reflect on how close we came to self destruction back then and how easily we could slip back down that slippery slope. If you are in this neck of the woods I would thoroughly recommend a visit to this fascinating museum but please don’t tell anybody where you have been, or where it is. It’s a secret.