Rural Cheshire is the unlikely location of a chilling reminder of the threat of Cold War, as we discover.
Hack Green was once one of the nation’s top-secret defence sites. Hidden away down a winding country lane in rural Cheshire, the nuclear bunker only escaped the veil of military secrecy in 1993 – whereupon it was bought by Cold War enthusiast Rod Siebert, who has spent the intervening decades preserving this monument to the fraught relationship between east and west.
It all began innocuously enough. Hack Green started out as a Royal Observer Corps base and later became an RAF radar station. And then, in 1976, the Ministry of Defence pumped what is thought to be around £32m into the base in order to turn it into a structure that could survive an all-out nuclear attack. Hack Green became a vast underground complex with its own generating plant, life support systems and emergency water supply for 135 personnel. In the event of an attack on the North West, the civil servants and military personnel stationed at Hack Green would have been responsible for gathering the region’s remaining resources and assisting in the reestablishment of national governance.
When Rod Siebert bought Hack Green, little remained of the command centre that would have presumably been inside. Yet every room is now full of Siebert’s vast collection of memorabilia and archive material that tells the story of the bunker and the servicemen and women who worked here. Display cabinets show off gas masks, radiation suits, military uniforms and examples of Soviet equipment and weaponry. Hack Green also boasts the UK’s largest collection of Geiger and Radiac instruments, which sits alongside some of the most terrifying Cold War relics on show here: the dismantled nuclear weapons that Siebert installed – with the acquiescence of the MoD and Atomic Weapons Establishment.
It contains the most terrifying reminders of the Cold War: dismantled nuclear weapons
Much of the bunker has been set up to show the day-to-day workings of Hack Green at the height of its powers. A mock-up of the Government Departments office plays soundtracks of radio announcements directing civilians on how to deal with their dead, for example, while there is also a BBC studio, British Telecom exchange room, decontamination units and even a sick bay (with a mannequin clad in blood-stained bandages).
“If the next world war is fought with nuclear weapons, the war after that will be fought with bows and arrows,” reads an Albert Einstein quote on one wall. It’s a chilling reminder – as is Hack Green itself – of what could have been had the bunker ever been pressed into service.