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NO 20 GROUP ROYAL OBSERVER CORPS HEADQUARTERS

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  YORK COLD WAR BUNKER
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Situated to the rear of Shelley House on Acomb Road, York, is the semi-sunken earth covered headquarters building of Number 20 Group, Royal Observation Corps, which operated from 1961 to 1991. It was opened on 16th December 1961, replacing a World War II surface building near York racecourse. It was built following a standard 1958 Air Ministry specification which was designed to provide protection for a staff of around 60 men and women from the radiation and blast effects of contemporary nuclear weapons. It is a rectangular three-storey reinforced concrete structure built into a slope using "cut and cover" techniques, whereby a pit is dug, the structure built and then covered over, with the underground elements being waterproofed. Its function was to collate and plot positions of nuclear explosions and areas hit by fallout in the event of a nuclear war and to pass these on to other emergencey government bodies. The headquarters is known to have been on alert in October 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis and its alert status subsequently varied according to the international situation at the time. In the budgetary cuts of 1968, a large number of monitoring posts were decommissioned, and the York Group Headquarters gained responsibility for most of the posts in No. 18 Group following the closure of the headquarters at Leeds. The headquarters was modified in the late 1970s to early 1980s with the removal of part of the earth banking for the addition of a telescopic radio mast adjacent to the main entrance and the replacement of the emergency exit ladder shaft at the south western end of the building with a flight of stairs. The Royal Observer Corps was stood down on 30 September 1991 following the end of the Cold War in 1990 with the signing of a non-aggression agreement between Warsaw Pact and NATO countries. The site is in the care of English Heritage.

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