UNDERGROUND STRUCTURES OF THE COLD WAR.

Mark Barnes
 
 
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There is a huge book produced by English Heritage called Cold War: Building For Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989. You could probably shelter under it; such is the scale of the thing. It is a stunning piece of work and really draws you in with a level of intense, yet grim, fascination.

In a slightly handier format, and extended to foreign shores; is this guide to subterranean Cold War structures by Paul Ozorak. It is one of those books anyone will get something out of, be they fans of history, architecture or engineering or just interested in how crazy people can be.  The book takes the form of a gazetteer of bunkers (for want or an accurate generic) worldwide and many have been photographed by the author himself, making clear his huge knowledge and vast enthusiasm for the subject.

Whether Mr Ozorak would like me to call him an anorak or not, I do not mean it in a negative way. The fact is, being able to explore sites like this and seeing the huge  efforts put into their construction is something of a hoot. Big or small, and in this case big is often the keyword; these places offer a glimpse into the business of purveying or surviving Armageddon and the scary reality of this cannot be lost on anyone of a certain age.

Like many other P&S titles, this is, perhaps, more of a book to dip into rather than read straight off. The research and the effort to produce it deserve credit in themselves, but it is beyond straightforward review because I am unsure of what I might criticise.

Of all the Cold War sites included, the one I know best is the nuclear bunker at Kelvedon Hatch in Essex. This was a place where Her Majesty’s Government were intended to sit out the firestorm and keep what was left of the country on the straight and narrow. The bunker is reached through the doors of an otherwise innocent looking farmhouse before you descend a steep slope into the underground world of weirdness the ministers and their staff were meant to inhabit.  These days the bunker is a tourist site where you can buy your fridge magnet before you leave. It is also the venue for happy annual military event where the ironies of seeing vehicles and living history enthusiasts is not lost when you consider how things might have been had sanity not prevailed.

Mr Ozorak reminds us just how crazy things were and his work adds to our knowledge of the huge resources used before the big thaw brought an end to the Cold War.

Mark Barnes.

UNDERGROUND STRUCTURES OF THE COLD WAR.
The World Below
By Paul Ozorak
Published by Pen & Sword Military   £25.00
ISBN: 978 1 84884 480 3