If the balloon went up and a Nuclear War started then the BBC would have broadcast a set script to help you feel at ease that auntie was still broadcasting! That broadcast could have come from many of the Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ) around the country which each had a BBC Studio. However it could equally have come from the BBC’s very own secret bunker.
Wood Norton Hall in Worcestershire was bought by the BBC in 1939 as a place it could relocate to from London in the event of war and it saw use during the Second World War acting as an emergency broadcasting centre. Its use continued however into the cold war with the construction of a purpose built bunker on the site built.
Officially Wood Norton is a BBC Training Academy and the bunker complex for emergency broadcasting has never been officially confirmed nor denied by the BBC. Know to those in charge as Protected Area Wood Norton or PAWN is a 175ft long bunker built into the hillside and contains sleeping quarters, broadcast equipment, entertainment such as Ping Pong tables and Pool tables and above ground has a broadcast mast fitted with an ultra high frequency satellite dish. It is located beneath the Bredon Wing and as such is known as the Bredon Basement on signs so as to not give away its true purpose, although anyone reading the security signs would have no doubt that this was not a standard BBC building with statements such as “Access to this site is restricted, please be prepared to identify yourself to authorised staff” with an emergency phone located next to the phones with a hotline to security.
While most would have expected this site to have gone the same way as the Governments bunkers it appears that the BBC may have inadvertently confirmed that it is still very much active. In a recent Freedom of Information Request the BBC Stated “In regards to Protected Area Wood Norton it is the BBC”s Policy that in the interest of National Security we cannot comment or provide information on locations that currently form part of the emergency broadcast network“. This appears to be backed up by the security that still protects the site which is much higher than at any other BBC location.
According to declassified files from the Government War Book and cold war era files that PAWN had been set up to broadcast around 100 days worth of programming (presumably after that it would have been repeats?) and It is known that extra staff and generators were sent to PAWN in 1999 to deal with the possible fallout from the millennium bug.
There is no doubt that as we still live under the threat of Nuclear Attack and the ever increasing threat of terrorism that a plan for continuation of government, and of course, a countrywide broadcast network must and rightly should exist so that in a time of crisis there is a unified message. You also cannot under estimate the morale boost of having Auntie still broadcasting.
Is PAWN the only location of its kind? Almost certainly not but at least now you know where some of your licence fee goes, Auntie’s underground Cotswold retreat!