No 8 Group Coventry

ASHBOURNE SECTION CROCA -

BBC 1 – “INSIDE OUT” (West Midlands) – 8 September 2003

In early summer, I received a telephone call from Rod Siebert, Curator of the Hack Green Bunker at Nantwich who was looking for an experienced, knowledgeable ex-ROC member who had a uniform which still fitted. I was able to meet the third requirement but left him to judge my suitability for the other two !

The BBC was making a programme for the above series about underground bunkers and I was to take part in some activity at Hack Green. In a telephone conversation with Mike Jackson, the Producer, and on the day of filming I stressed that my ROC job had been down small “holes” in the ground, not in the sort of sophisticated surroundings of the Hack Green Bunker,a former Regional Government Headquarters.

On my arrival at Nantwich, Mike and I went round the bunker looking for suitable location for my cameo appearance – he made various suggestions so I suggested the AWR console since I knew the appropriate procedures, stressing that this had not been, however, a normal operational job for an ROC Officer. Considerations of “journalistic licence” seemed to make this quibble unimportant.

Filming at Hack Green took most of the day – this didn’t worry me since myself and a former colleague were given a conducted tour of the bunker by Roger Pedley, an ex-member of 16 Group who acts as a guide. As I suspected, when the film went on air, the part at Hack Green occupied about three minutes and little of the bunker was shown. There was a short interview with Rod and my giving the AWR shared about a minute with a close-up of my ROC cap and badge which was on the desk !

The overall film, however, was good. It started at Drakelow which started life in WW2 as N01D Shadow Factory for Rover, producing components for aero engines. Parts of it were subsequently converted to Regional Seat of Government 9.2 (late 1950’s) and then to Regional Government Headquarters 9.2 (1980’s). It is interesting that, with the stand-down of the ROC in 1991, this last function was transferred to the former 8 Group Control at Lawford Heath, something which few, if any of us, knew anything about. The film, however, simply concentrated on Drakelow’s shadow factory era.

After the visit to Hack Green, the presenter, Adrian, then appeared down an ROC Post near to Coventry where he made a great play of finding a small packet in the cupboard labelled “Open First” - it contained a can opener and a pack of toilet paper. He was then joined by Jenny Major, the last DGC of 8 Group, who told him something of ROC operations and demonstrated the GZI. They then moved on to the former 8 Group Control which is now a sophisticated satellite communications centre.

The final port of call brought the story up to date – this was a Hereford and Worcester Fire Station where the latest decontamination equipment (as had been used in London the previous weekend in the exercise at Bank Underground Station) was demonstrated. The whole film only occupied about a third of the half hour programme and so, of necessity, only gave a superficial picture but certainly was an eye-opener to the general public who were unaware of what had gone on in the past. It would be nice to see a longer programme along the same lines.

Jon Layne Former Group Officer 8 Group Coventry