What a bombshell! Green fingered resident unearths nuclear bunker
12 May 2011
Chris Bidics was trying to level an area when his spade hit something metallic. After digging further, he discovered an iron trapdoor two feet under the grass, opening into a bunker believed to be from the Fifties.
Three metres deep and two by three metres wide, the shelter has thick cabling that could be used for communications, electric sockets, a light fitting, and a line of pegs on the wall.
Mr Bidics, 35, originally from Hungary, said he had been fascinated by Cold War history for years. "I am obsessed about this stuff, interested like a kid would be," he said.
"I grew up behind the iron curtain so we had all these civil defence drills in my childhood in the early Eighties and we had public shelters. We were getting ready for the worst.
"I even talked, jokingly, about moving the ground and putting a shipping container under the house to make a bunker. Now I don't need to. It's my dream come true." During the Cold War Britain developed a national warning system in case of nuclear attack, and public information campaigns, such as Protect and Survive, advised people what to do if the bombs fell.
Terry Charman, senior historian at the Imperial War Museum, said the nuclear bunker was the first of its kind to be discovered in a back garden. He added: "Ordinary families could, at great cost, purchase their own shelters, or convert a World War II shelter into an approximation of a nuclear bunker. This doesn't seem to be a conversion.
"I believe it was law in Switzerland that every resident had to have a bunker or access to one. In Britain it is quite unusual, even for a police station or local government building."
The house is on the site of the old West Hampstead library, destroyed by a Second World War bomb. It is thought to have been Government-owned until the family of Mr Bidics's wife Heidi bought it in the early Eighties.