The Mystery of the Octagon

The other day I posted photographs of a run I’d been on. One of the shots included the ruin of a wartime observation post. From what locals had told me, I assumed it had been used in WWII to spot approaching bombers.

Blogger The Benevolent Vegan was intrigued, and asked if I could take more photographs of the structure. I’m pleased she did, because when I went to take a closer look the other day I discovered a lot more about it.

It’s a pretty decrepit, two-storey structure, built of brick and concrete. Presumably there was once a ladder on the outside leading to the upper floor.


Oddly, there’s an octagonal hole in the concrete roof:


After a little online research, I discovered references to “type 14” radar installations being fitted into such octagonal holes. “Type 14” radar was invented in 1944, so if this was some sort of observation post built in WWII it would have been built quite near the end of the war.

A few yards from the ruin, a raised mound attracted my attention. I think I’d noticed this before, but assumed it was something to do with water or sewage. This time I paid it closer attention and discovered a concrete hatch…


OK, so the words “curiosity”, “cat” and “killed” occur to me now, in no particular order, but I couldn’t resist…


A doorway at the foot of the ladder opened into an oblong room. There’s about a foot of water in it these days. Fortunately, I was wearing my wellingtons. It was pitch dark and I had no torch with me but the camera has a flash…


By this time, I was beginning to question the WWII theory. I’m no expert but the fact that this structure was built in this way in this location made me think it was probably intended to withstand a nuclear rather than a conventional explosion. It seems far more likely that, in its present form,  it’s all that’s left of a Cold War radar station, probably designed to provide early warning of any nuclear attack on an air base that lies about 12 miles away. Improvements in radar in the 50s meant it probably fell into disuse soon after it was built. What’s left stands as a reminder that, whatever Bert the Turtle might say, in a nuclear war it pays to be fifteen feet underground in a concrete box – even if you live in the depths of the countryside.