13 Group Fighter Command Headquarters History

Posted by: StuffyDowding

13 Group Fighter Command Headquarters History - 24/03/11 11:36 AM

I am just one of eight volunteers that form Bunker Thirteen, established in April 2008. We got together for one reason and that was to take over control, restore and eventually open the former 13 Group Fighter Command Headquarters Bunker as a place of wartime education to schools, colleges, youth organisations and the general public.
Since the time we all got together we have gathered quite a large following of supporters including large organisations such as Yorkshire Air Museum, RAF Uxbridge Battle of Britain Bunker, Beamish Open Air Museum and many others including various AirCrew Assocaiations, RAFA and the WAAFs Association. We are currently gearing up to become charity registered.


The Headquarters Bunker - History

Originally an above ground installation, 13 Group Fighter Command Headquarters Bunker complex was built in 1938 as one of four Sector Ops Rooms, under the Sir Hugh Dowding, Strategic Air Defence over Great Britain, becoming fully operational in December 1939. It was the sister bunker of the RAF Uxbridge bunker, modelled from the same plans and first commanded by AVM Richard Saul.

The primary role of this bunker was to plot and track all aircraft movements across its area of coverage which was from North of the Humber, All of Scotland, Northeast England and Cumbria and Northern Ireland - the largest area to cover of all the Sector Operations Rooms.
When the Battle of Britain commenced, 13 Group was relatively quiet as most of the action was in the South, covered by 11 Group but the headquarters saw its biggest, decisive action on the 15 August 1940 when the Luftwaafe launched it biggest assault from airfields in Norway.
The High Command of the Luftwaafe made a grave mistake, summising that the Northeast had no fighter cover, thinking that most were down defending the south. They were immensely wrong and summising on those false facts, the Luftwaffe launched a huge formation of various types of Bombers - Heinkel 111's, Dornier Do 17's and Junkers 88's. The Messerschmitt 109's did not have the capability to fly across the North Sea and take part in combat so the bombers were more or less unescorted. Instead the Luftwaffe sent the slower, twin engine ME 110 which would be no match for the Hurricanes and Spitfires. The pilots in the Northeast were up here resting from combat in the south but were still eager to get back in to combat. More imformation about this decisive can be found on our website:

http://www.bunker13.co.uk

In 1943 the aerial cover was taken over by 12 Group and a new group was established in Scotland - 14 Group. The role of the headquarters bunker changed to a communications and cyphering centre and a filter room was built, 1/3 of a mile away in nearby Blakelaw. Two very large masts were erected which could monitor aircraft transmissions, radio transmissions and decoding messages was the order of the day as well as the usual tracking of aircraft movements.
The bunker was decommisioned in 1946 due to surplace of requirements and was past back to the local authority which used it as a cold war base for local dignitories and civil defence until 1967 when the bunker was vacated and left to dust. All wartime equipment was scrapped, leaving the bunker as an empty shell.


The Headquarters Bunker - Today

In 1990 there was a plan to restore the bunker as a museum as part of the Imperial War Museum's Northern Branch but due to dissagreements all plans were scrapped. The land was then sold to one developer who more or less specialised in industrial units. Their plans were to develop the site as a shopping area but once again this was not agreeable and the land was sold off again to the present developer who has built a large housing estate around the bunker. As part of the councils agreement with the developer in a contract named Section 106, the developer had to maintain the bunker to a certain standard by the time 50% of the houses were built. This did not happen.
We emerged in 2008 and it was a hard slog getting to where we are today, although the city council has been with us all the way.
The developers plan was to mothball the bunker, with no use (it is a Grade 2 Listed Building) and let it decay. We could not let this happen because it is a vitally important building to educating the future generations.

The bunker itself is in exceptional condition for its age and is now very unique in the fact that it is only one of two left in the whole country of its type, the other is 11 Group Uxbridge. 10 Group and 12 Group are more or less destroyed, one of them totally flooded.

We are hoping to take over control, restore and eventually open it up as an educational tool to the northeast and indeed to anyone who is genuinely interested in WW2 History.

We are now a limited company and gearing up for charity registered and have been promoting and fundraising at local events in the hope of erecting a granite memorial to 13 Group Fighter Command.

The Headquarters Bunker, if given the chance, would be an asset to Newcastle, the Northeast and indeed the whole country. Yorkshire Air Museum is fully behind us 100% and promises to help in the re-equipping of the bunker of its wartime fixtures and fittings. Our plotting table has been located at a northeast museum. It is in storage and has been promised to be returned once we take over.

You can view more information about us and the Fighter Command Headquarters on our website: http://www.bunker13.co.uk

Thank You for taking the time to read this post.

Best Regards

John (Bunker13)