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RAF Holmpton

Ensign of the Royal Air Force

near Holmpton, East Riding of Yorkshire. England
Aerial View of RAF Holmpton 2013
Type RAF Command Bunker
Coordinates Latitude: 53.6839
Longitude: -0.0673
Built 1951 (1951)
Height 100 ft deep excavation
In use 1953–present
Fully maintained
Open to
the public
Controlled by RAFHPS
RAF Holmpton Guardroom

The Guardroom

RAF Holmpton Access Tunnel

The Access Tunnel to the Bunker

RAF Holmpton is a former Cold War era nuclear bunker that was built in the 1950s as an early warning radar station. Located just south of the village of Holmpton, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, RAF Holmpton is still (2013) a part of the Defence Estate (DIO) but is managed by the RAF Holmpton Preservation Society Registered Charity 1143594 [1] In 2004 a major Public Exhibition opened at the site which now hosts regular public tours of the fully restored Cold War Bunker.

Between 2003 and 2009 RAF Holmpton was restored by the Holmpton Initiative Project Planning Office (HIPPO) which took on the original project as an Independent Finance Initiative at absolutely no cost to the UK taxpayer. In 2010 HIPPO completed its work and maintenance of the site passed to the Joint Support Unit. In August 2011 the JSU closed and The site is now maintained by the Royal Air Force Holmpton Preservation Society (RAFHPS) Registered Charity Number 1143594.[2]

The site runs to about 36 acres (150,000 m2) and comprises a number of surface structures along with a secure 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2) command bunker which is about 100 feet (30 m) below ground.


The Bunker Design type R3-M2 (R3=Rotor Bunker Design R3 - M2=Including 2 additional mezzanine floors) was first built in 1951-3 and started life as an early warning radar station, part of the ROTOR program. An R3-M2 is a larger version of the standard UK R3 Bunker and RAF Holmpton was the only example of this type of structure in the UK as 1: It combined several Radar functions in the one building and 2: was a prototype for three similar bunkers built in Europe during the Cold War. The Bunker is set in an excavation of about 120-foot (37 m), it is encased in 10-foot (3 m) of solid concrete all round with tungsten rods providing additional stability to the outer shell. The shell is then encased in brickwork and lined with pitch to form a waterproof membrane. Between the top of the bunker and the surface there is a concrete burster slab inserted to provide a deflection of any incoming ordnance. In the late 1960s it became a Master Comprehensive Radar Station trialling the Ericsson 'Fire Brigade Auto Intercept Radar System' and later going on to house a massive Elliott & Plessey computer system for the 'Linesman Radar Project' All Radar functions at the site eventually closed in 1974 and for the next few years the site was used for training. In the 1980s the Bunker was converted to form the new Emergency War Headquarters for RAF Support Command However with the ending of the Cold War in 1991 this function ceased and the site returned to training until 1994 when it was given a major refurbishment to become the first experimental (trialling) headquarters for the new UK Air CCIS system Electronic Warfare Advanced Communications System. This function remained at RAF Holmpton until 2002 although the CCIS Operations Room, known as AREA 7 remained intact until the end of July 2012. Throughout its years as a Radar Station and through the years of Support Command & CCIS, the site also contained an operations area for the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) and although the Corps was 'stood down' in 1992 with some ROC units remaining as NBC cells until the end of 1995, one last Monitoring Unit remained at RAF Holmpton until December 1997, during the planning and implementation of a new electronic monitoring system. This made RAF Holmpton the very last place in the UK where any members of the Royal Observer Corps ever served, and is a unique part of the site's history. In 1997 this project was abandoned and the site was then maintained under contract until 2003 by AQUMEN Defence. During this time it was used for occasional training by the RAF Regiment & the TA. In 2003 management of the site passed to HIPPO (The Holmpton Initiative Project Planning Office) and plans were soon underway for a public exhibition which opened to visitors in 2004.

It is also worth mentioning that between 2003 & 2008 the site also housed the Defence Archive Unit which held plans and documents relating to cold war sites throughout the UK. In 2008 the majority of the archive was transferred to another organisation and is currently being digitised for publication on the web. The remainder of the Archive Unit then operated as a consulting facility finally closing on 1 November 2010 (cutbacks) with any last historic documents being passed to the National Archive in Kew.

1951 to 1953: Construction.

1953 to 1974: Operating as a Radar Station.

1974 to 1984: Used for Training.

1984 to 1991: RAF Support Command HQ.

1991 to 1994: Used for Training.

1994 to 2001/2: UK Air CCIS Experimental HQ.

2002 to 2003: Care & Maintenance.

2003 to 2004: HIPPO starts restoration Project.

2004: Public Exhibition Opens.

2009: HIPPO completed its restoration works and all maintenance of the site passed to the Joint Support Unit.

2010: Public tour and exhibitions extended into new areas. Ownership of all the historic collections passed to the RAF Holmpton Preservation Society.

2011: Further improvement works were completed for the 2011 Visitor Season, including a much improved public tour along with two new cinemas, enhanced features and a new RAF Holmpton Multiscreen Show. In August the RAF Holmpton Preservation Society became a registered charity.

2012: The visitor season closed (early) at the end of August to allow work to start on a major refit of the site. This will bring an entirely new public tour in 2013 opening up areas of the bunker never before seen by visitors - including the long forgotten original 'Heart of the Bunker' and the just decommissioned Area 7. There will be new interpretations, films and demonstrations. This is scheduled to start on 23 March 2013.[3]

2013: An entirely new PUBLIC TOUR opens this year, and for the very 1st time visitors will be able to visit the long forgotten 'heart of the bunker' that once housed the original twin level 1950's operations room - The new tour will then head up to the formerly secret 3rd floor of the bunker revealing for the 1st time AREA 7 where the UK Air CCIS HQ remained until 2012. The remainder of the Public Tour is also being fully updated for 2013 with new presentations and demonstrations and many additional exhibits and improvements.[4]

2014: For the new visitor season further improvements and planned for the Public Tours which re-open to visitors on 15 February 2014.



Since the first tours in 2004 the exhibition has continually grown with regular updates and improvements, now (2012) making RAF Holmpton the 'reference standard' of Cold War bunker tours in the UK. All visitors are now given guided tours of the site's many facilities, including four underground operations rooms, the guardroom, communications rooms, dormitories, offices, kitchen, officer's mess, life support operations systems, canteen and hospital, the coding & computer rooms and many other areas of interest. One gallery features a display map of 'Cold War' target sites in the UK. There are also films and presentations about the Cold War, the activities of the Royal Observer Corps, the site and its operations. In 2013 following extensive restoration works the public tour opened for the first time the long forgotten heart of the bunker revealing the site of the original twin level 1950's Operations Room along with the just decommissioned UK Air CCIS HQ known as "Area 7" - The tour concludes in the 1960s RAF Radar Operations Room with an Award Winning Multiscreen Show depicting just how RAF Holmpton would have operated during a Nuclear Attack.[7]


  1. Charity Commission
  2. "RAF Holmpton 2003-2009". Royal Air Force Holmpton Preservation Society. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  3. Information provided by The RAF Holmpton Preservation Society 2011 (Registered Charity 1143594).
  4. RAFHPS Charity Number 1143594
  5. The Time Chamber
  6. English Heritage Archive
  7. "Visitor Information". Royal Air Force Holmpton Preservation Society. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 

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