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Raf Daws Hill

Hob Uid: 1549728
Location :
Buckinghamshire
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : SU8702191795
Summary : RAF Daws Hill was established in 1942 when the Air Ministry requisitioned Wycombe Abbey School and its lands (see record 1108035). The site originally consisted of a large underground bunker and a hutted encampment to the south and east of Daws Hill and on parkland near to the Abbey. It was used as a headquarters by the United States 8th Air Force until the end of the war. In 1946 the Abbey building was returned to the school, however, the land occupied by the camp and the bunker was sold to the Ministry of Defence. In the 1950s, RAF Daws Hill, also known as High Wycombe Air Station, was used again as a base by US forces during the Cold War. Between 1958 and 1965 it was the headquarters of the 7th Air Division USAF in the UK, part of US Strategic Air Command. It continued to have an active role during the Cold War and its facilities included a nuclear bunker. At the end of the Cold War its use reduced, however, around the year 2000, the site was developed by the US Navy for use by the United States Visiting Forces (USVF) and became known as USVF Daws Hill. This site includes two housing areas (Service Family Accommodation) - the Doolittle Estate and Eaker Estate (named after General Ira Clarence Eaker, commander of the US Eighth Air Force during the Second World War) and a technical area with workshops, a bowling alley, school, tennis courts and dormitory buildings. The base was also home, between 1971 and 2007, to the London Central Elementary High School - a United States Department of Defence Dependents School. In the 1980s a Peace Camp was also established at Dawes Hill.In 2007 the US left RAF Daws Hill and it passed into the hands of the RAF and continued to be used as Service Family Accommodation. In 2011 an announcement was made by the Ministry of Defence that the site was to be disposed of.
More information : In March 1942 the Air Ministry requisitioned the Wycombe Abbey School to provide a Headquarters for the Eighth Air Force of the US Army Air Force. The facilities included a large hutted encampment south and east of Daws Hill and on the lower parkland near to the Abbey. An underground bunker was also built under Roundabout Hill. The buildings were returned to the school on 9th May 1946, however the bunker and lands to the south and east of Daws Hill were retained (and sold to) by the Ministry of Defence. (1)

RAF Daws Hill was used by American military forces in 1942 taking over Wycombe Abbey School and lands until 1945. The American forces returned to the air station in 1952 and it was occupied at various times during the Cold War. It contained a nuclear bunker (2,100 square metres). It was occupied fin the 1980s by the US Navy and a Peace Camp was established there between 1982 and 1984.
The station was home to the London Central Elementary High School (one of the US Department of Defense Dependents Schools) between 1971 and 2007. An accomodation and facilities complex was also established at Daws Hill with the creation of housing units, warehouses, garages and other support buildings (eg a bank, post office, bowling alley, sports grounds and a social club. The US vacated the site in 2007 and it returned to the Ministry of Defence. In 2001 RAF Daws Hill was put up for disposal by the Minstry of Defence. (2)

Photographs of the site. (3)

The site was rebuilt in around 2000 for United States Visiting Forces (USVF). It includes two housing areas (service family accommodation) - the Doolittle Estate and Eaker Estate and a technical area with workshops, a bowling alley, school, tennis courts and dormitory buildings. (4)

The disposal of the site (2011) requires the vacation of the service family accommodation (SFA) at Daws Hill by RAF staff.
RAF Daws Hill (also known as USVF Daws Hill) was formerly the headquarters of the United States Navy in Europe and was formerly handed over to the RAF in October 2007, after the US forces moved out. Daws Hill was formerly the United States Visiting Forces (USVF) site which included technical and Service Family Accommodation (SFA) areas.
The housing area is in two areas: the non-standard construction 39 Doolittle SFA, built by the USVF and the 28 Eaker SFA. (5)

Daws Hill was the headquarters for the 7th Air Division USAF in the UK. The base was also known as High Wycombe Air Station, part of the US 8th Air Force. This site brings together peoples' recollections of their time at the base. (6)

RAF Daws Hill was also known as High Wycombe Air Station in the 1950s/60swas the headquarters of the 7th Air Division USAF in the UK from 1958 until 1965. The 7th Air Division was part of the US Strategic Air Command and had responsibility for air base construction and development. (7)

During the Second World War a three-storey underground command headquarters, codenamed PINETREE, was established in the grounds of Wycombe Abbey School. Between 1942 and 1945 it was the nerve centre of operations for United States Army Air Force’s daylight bombing offensive over Europe and co-ordination with the RAF’s night time raids. In the mid 1950s the bunker was refurbished and used by the United States Strategic Air Command 7th Air Division as its main European planning and operations centre. From about 1970 to 1981 the bunker was unoccupied, but from 1982 it was again refurbished as the United States European’s Command’s war time headquarters. During this era the facility also had responsibility for computing the flight paths for aircraft and missiles in the European theatre of operations. It is believed that operational activity in the bunker ceased in 1991 and it has subsequently been unused. The bunker is in a fenced compound and is associated with a number of ancillary surface structures.

Former RAF Daws Hill, which has also been known by a number other titles, lies to the south of High Wycombe and immediately to the north of the M40. Topographically, it sits on a plateau above the River Wye to its north and to the south is the broad valley of the River Thames. During the Second World War, Wycombe Abbey School was requisitioned and to the south of Daws Hill House an extensive hutted and tented camp was built to accommodate United States Army Air Force (USAAF) personnel. This was known officially as Station 101, and also as Camp Lynn after the first USAAF airman to be lost over Europe. In the 1950s this land was sold to Air Ministry and permanent accommodation was provided for US personnel including housing, recreational facilities, and a primary and high school.

Typically of valleys in this area, the north facing side of the River Wye is formed of a series of dry valleys, in this instance roughly oriented north to south. It was one of these dry valleys to the northeast of Daws Hill House that was selected for the site of an Air Ministry bunker. This valley and its tops are wooded, which obscures views both into and out of the site.

The park’s woodland was organised into a series of large blocks and the bunker lies in Roundabout Wood immediately to the northeast of Daws Hill House. Along its eastern side was rough grassland that provided a vista from Daws Hill House looking northwards, with small block of un-named woodland and Warren Wood to the east. Today, this is also covered by woodland. The main entrance to the bunker compound essentially follows the line of a woodland track heading northwards from the main camp before it turns sharply to the west. This track originally followed the contour westwards before turning back on itself towards Daws Hill House. Within the compound its line has been lost although it may be picked up again to the west.

Military activity in the area began at least during the 19th century when a Militia and Volunteer rifle range was laid out to the northeast of the bunker complex. In March 1942, Wycombe Abbey School (130649) was requisitioned by the Air Ministry and work began on a £200,000 three-storey, underground bunker, codenamed PINETREE (After the Battle 1995, 38). Initially, it appears that it was jointly occupied by the RAF and the United States Army Force’s (USAAF) before it became the main headquarters for USAAF’s Eighth Air Force and from it the strategic bombing campaign of Europe was planned and co-ordinated (Francis and Crisp 2008, 6). To accommodate personnel a large hutted and tented camp, known as Camp Lynn, was also established to the south and east of Daws Hill House. At the end of the war Wycombe Abbey was returned to the school in 1946, but the accommodation and bunker were retained by the Air Ministry.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s, as relationships between the Soviet Union and her allies and the West deteriorated, United States’ forces, and in particular her nuclear armed bombers, were deployed across western Europe. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 heightened this building tension. As part of the United States’ build up in western Europe on 20th March 1951 the 7th Air Division of the United States Strategic Air Command (SAC) was activated. Its role was to control United States Air Force (USAF) deployed bombardment and reconnaissance forces, and it also had responsibility for the construction of bases to support these missions. In May 1952, USAF’s 3929th Air Base Squadron was established and on 10 September 1952 USAF Site, High Wycombe was activated (After the Battle 1995, 43). It became the Joint Co-ordination Center Europe, responsible for organising nuclear attacks against the Soviet Union and her satellites (Campbell 1984, 49). It was the main European centre for decisions relayed from SAC’s headquarters at Offut Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, and had war broken out it was from High Wycombe that bomber crews would have received the ‘Go’ commands to launch a strike against the east (Campbell 1984, 59). Initially, the 7th Air Division was based at West Ruislip before it moved to High Wycombe Air Station I, which was activated on 1 July 1958 and the headquarters moved to High Wycombe in 1959 (After the Battle 1995, 43). This was a critical period, marking the renewal of the renewal of United Kingdom and United States nuclear co-operation and on 1 October 1958 a fully co-ordinated strike plan for the two air forces was agreed (Twigge 1995, 210). Direct telephone and telecommunications links were also established between Daws Hill and the RAF Bomber Command’s nearby headquarters at Walter’s Ash, High Wycombe (Menaul 1980, 91-92). It was also around this time that United States Thor intermediate range ballistic missiles were deployed in England. These were operated on a dual key system with the RAF crews receiving their orders through Walter’s Ash, while the US verification officers received their orders through Daws Hill (Twigge 1995, 211). During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 Bomber Command ordered the missiles to alert, and the US officers waited for their commands from Daws Hill (Madeline 1995, 224).

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, NATO, in line with its policy of Flexible Response, began a European wide programme to protect, or harden, its key facilities against nuclear, biological, or chemical attack. It was in this context that the bunker at RAF Daws Hill was refurbished and new surface buildings were constructed. In the event of war the bunker was to become the United States European Command (USECOM) headquarters for United States forces not assigned to NATO (Hansard 1982 and 1983b: Campbell 1984, 186-7).

Work on the refurbishment of the Daws Hill bunker began in July 1983 and $13 million was set aside for construction work. It was described as an underground building with a floor area of 20,500 sq ft (1904 sq m). The financial estimates for the work included $2.8 million to harden it against nuclear, biological and chemical attack, and the effects of electro magnetic pulse released by a nuclear detonation. An additional $33 million was earmarked for computer equipment. In June 1986, a further £10 million was spent on a message relay system for the bunker. During peacetime a skeleton crew of 24 was on duty at the complex (Campbell 1984, 186-7: Hansard 1983a). In April 1984, the 7520th Air Base Squadron became the host unit and the bunker probably became operational about 1986, and in July 1987 came under the direct control the US Third Air Force, Mildenhall (After the Battle 1995, 43).

Around this time in response to new threats from the Warsaw Pact, NATO had also decided to deploy a new generation of mobile intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe, including ground launched cruise missiles. In the United Kingdom cruise missiles were based at RAF Greenham Common, Berkshire, and RAF Molesworth, Cambridgeshire. In February 1983, the veteran Nuclear Disarmament campaigner Frank Allaun MP asked if Daws Hill was to be the centre for the production of cruise missile target programmes. The reply was that the computer facilities at Daws Hill were used for planning aircraft and missile routes in the European theatre (Hansard 1983b). Part of the Joint Strategic Targeting Planning Group (JSTPG) it was one of three such centres in Europe tasked with cruise missile operations.

As a consequence of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (1987) and the end of the Cold War, the bunker was declared to be surplus to air force requirements and it closed in August 1991 and deactivated in May 1993. The site then passed to US Navy Activities United Kingdom (After the Battle 1995, 43). It is not known if they continued to use the bunker, or if they only occupied the surface facilities.

The compound in which the bunker is housed is accessed from the east along a wide tarmac drive, which follows the line of one of the original woodland rides. This track is fenced to either side with an outer wooden fence and inner wire mesh fence. Entry into the main compound is controlled by a lifting barrier and two pairs of gates an either end of vehicle pull-in and inspection area. On its northern side is a small, brown brick guard post with a hipped tile roof. It is entered from the west through a single door and has armoured glass windows on its other elevations. Just inside the gate, and to the north is a glass fibre cabinet with double doors that may have housed electrical equipment. Adjacent to it is a steel lattice column that probably supported a surveillance camera. Beyond this the track splits, an upper track follows the line of the contour leading to a gate at the western side of the compound, where it rejoins the original line of the woodland ride. Beyond the main gate another track turns northwards, widening out to form a parking area before heading towards a gate in the northern boundary.

The compound is enclosed on its eastern and southern sides by a solid wooden fence that screens the compound from the rest of the camp. The whole area is then surrounded by a wire mesh fence supported on outwardly cranked concrete posts topped with barbed wire. Attached to the exterior of the fence are movement sensors and internally outward facing lights.

Standby generator

The complex was provided with its own emergency power plant [1707]. This was housed in partly buried reinforced concrete structure to the north of the main entrance. It was entered from the north through two pairs of double steel doors, which were wide enough for the installation of the plant’s diesel generators, now removed. To the east are separate rooms which house the plant’s switchgear, which remain intact. Above are two vents that may represent an air inlet and exhaust outlet. The lack of decontamination facilities in the generator building suggests that during lock down conditions it would be unmanned and run remotely. Opposite to the upper bunker entrance is a fuel pipe and gauge for replenishing the facility’s underground fuel tanks and in the northwest corner of the compound is an electrical sub-station. Immediately to the south of the generator plant is a brick wall capped by a sloping corrugated sheeting roof, which covers the emergency water supply [709].

The bunker

On the surface the bunker’s position is betrayed by four large vents, three in a line marking its south side, two lie to either side of building [1705] and one is sited close to the western perimeter fence and the fourth in the northwest corner of the compound. The vents are massive square features about 4m tall and clad in steel plate about 2.5 cm thick. To make the optimal use of the topography the bunker was dug into the western side of the dry valley. The bunker is accessed from a track leading down to building [1704] and down a flight of stairs to the Guardroom [1700]. This is a small breeze block building with a single entrance to the north and a single armoured glass window on its east elevation. Internally are various intercoms and electrical switch boxes and the remains of a Henderson access control system. During normal operations the bunker was entered through a caged entrance to the south of Guard Post [1700] and then through thick steel blast doors. A flight of stairs leads down to the bottom level of the bunker. Immediately to the north of the Guard Post is another caged entrance that leads to the heavy blast doors of the decontamination cell that was constructed during the 1980s refurbishment of the bunker. This would be used if there was any contamination threat and typical of such centres there are a series of interlocking rooms. These were controlled by a central console and personnel were led through the doors to discard potentially contaminated clothing and equipment, before showering, and changing into fresh clothing prior to entering the bunker. These rooms appear to be intact with their original signage in place.

The bunker is rectangular in plan and was designed to absorb the shock of a nearby explosion. It is effectively a bunker within a bunker with an outer shell with 6ft (1.83m) thick external walls, internal to these is a 10ft (3m) void and beyond the main bunker walls that are 5ft (1.52m) thick. It has three levels providing 23,000 sq ft (2136.7 sq m) of floor space and it was also originally protected by gas tight doors and air conditioning (After the Battle 1995, 38). No original wartime drawings of the bunker are known to survive and post-war refurbishments have removed any trace of wartime fittings.

From the main entrance a flight of straight stairs leads to the bottom level of the bunker and a single steel door. At this point doors to either side gives access into the void [1/1] between the outer and inner walls of the bunker, or one may proceed directly into the bunker. The void is the full height of the bunker and additional equipment is fixed above level 1. Working clockwise around the void, it is filled with sewage pumps, effluent tanks, non-potable water tanks, fans and compressors. The western side is taken up with filters and above the northern side are the ventilation shafts. The eastern section of the void is almost empty except for a transformer at its southern end.

As described above the bunker is rectangular in plan and divided into three levels 1, 2 and 3, level one being the lowest. All three levels are organised around the same basic plan of three long rectangular compartments defined by longitudinal concrete walls. The openings within these vary from level to level, and internal partitions within them relate to the bunker’s latest use. The bottom level is divided into 23 rooms of varying sizes and most appear to have housed computer equipment. Typically the rooms have concrete floors and around the walls are electrical power and computer terminal sockets, most rooms have suspended ceilings concealing cabling and air conditioning trunking, although in some rooms the air conditioning conduits are exposed. Most of the doors are secured by combination locks and signs indicate the level of security clearance that was needed to enter, on some doors original numbers and acronyms for their function remain. A number of rooms are protected by halon gas fire suppressant systems, which are used to protect electrical systems, and if activated would be fatal for any personnel within the rooms.

The middle floor, Level 2, is divided into 14 rooms, although a large proportion of this floor is given over to the air-conditioning plant [2/5], which includes equipment manufactured in the United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden. In the southwest corner of the bunker are male and female lavatories. The general character of the rooms on this floor is similar to Level 1. In room [2/2] two of the wartime support columns are visible. Above its suspended ceiling steel plate is visible that may have been used to create a Faraday cage to prevent the escape of electronic emissions, or to protect the equipment from the effects of electro magnetic pulse (EMP) - one of the effects of a nuclear explosion. From a handful of surviving images it appears that during the 1950s the wartime map room and ‘tote’ board was retained (After the Battle 1995, 40, 42). This steel plating may represent the infilling of the map well. The main corridor of this level and some of the rooms have been covered by unusual graffiti, some of which may be derived from Greek lettering. It is suggested that this may have been applied when the bunker was used for film work (Catford 2005, 29).

The rooms on the top floor, Level 3, are far larger and it is divided into just 8 rooms. The central room [3/1] was divided into two and its western door reveals something of its functions. The door has grilled serving hatch and a message for couriers, and internally a sign notes ‘You are leaving a SCIF’ (Special Communications Intelligence Facility). Inside, in the northwest corner are two pipes that formerly connected to halon gas bottles. To its west is room [3/2] that was also protected by a halon fire suppressant system, heavy duty cabling is suspended from its ceiling. The power intake, from the Generator House [1707], into the bunker was through rooms [3/5 and 3/6], which also contain filter equipment.

In the southeast corner of this level is the emergency exit from the bunker. From the surface this is accessed through a caged entrance, to either side of the staircase are the rails of a winch system that was used for installing heavy equipment in the bunker. The trolley and winch were operated from a control box to the south of the lift entrance. At the bottom level an overhead crane was used to move it into the bunker and a hydraulically operated steel floor panel allowed equipment to be let down to the lower levels.

Store 1704

Beyond the bunker entrance and at the northern end of the site is a large building [1704], measuring about 42m by 15m, that was probably also constructed during the 1980s. It is a steel-framed structure and is clad in pressed steel sheeting, with a low-pitched steel sheet roof. It is entered from the south either through a roller shutter door or a pair of double doors to the south; at the northern end of the building is another set of double doors that served as a fire exit. Approximately three–quarters of the western side of the building is portioned to create a number of self-contained rooms, these are entered from the main room and the north. A distinguishing feature of this building is its elaborate roof-mounted air-conditioning system, alongside a fire suppressant system and channels for cable feeds. On the eastern wall of the building are also two large electrical switch boxes. This suggests the building was either used to store computer equipment, or acted as an additional computer processing area.

Offices

During its normal operation a skeleton crew of 24 people maintained the bunker complex. Accommodation for this section was provided by two parallel, single-storey, prefabricated buildings [1701 and 1705] terraced into the western side of the valley. To the west is building [1701], at the southern end of this building was probably the commanding officer’s room with wooden wainscoting and above a fabric wall covering. In common with other rooms in the building it has suspended ceilings. Other offices in this building although finished with wainscoting have painted upper walls. At its northern end are female and male toilets and a kitchen area. A covered porch joins it to building [1705] to the east. Its rooms were finished in plain painted plaster; it also has suspended ceilings, although in this instance fitted with reflective down-lighters. All offices within the building are equipped with standard 3-pin electrical plugs and computer sockets. (8)

additional reference (9)

The National Grid Reference for the site is: SU8697391997 (10)

The bunker at RAF Daws Hill are listed. For the Designation record of this site please see The National Heritage List for England. (11-12)

The standby generator building at RAF Daws Hill is listed. For the designation record of this site please see The National Heritage List for England. (13-14)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Wycombe Abbey School. 2012. History of the School, [Accessed 24-JAN-2012]
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Source Number : 2
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Wikipedia. 2012. RAF Daws Hill, [Accessed 24-JAN-2012]
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Source Number : 11
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : District of Wycombe, 11-OCT-2013
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Source Number : 12
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : English Heritage. 2013. 'English Heritage: The National Heritage List for England', [Accessed 24-OCT-2013]
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Source Number : 14
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : English Heritage. 2013. 'English Heritage: The National Heritage List for England', [Accessed 24-OCT-2013]
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Source Number : 3
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Airfield Information Exchange. 2012. Daws Hill, [Accessed 24-JAN-2012]
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Source Number : 4
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Defence Estates. 2008. Daws Hill, [Accessed 24-JAN-2012]
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Source Number : 5
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Royals Air Force Family Federation. 2011. Disposal of SFA at RAF Daws Hill, [Accessed 24-JAN-2012]
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Source Number : 6
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Wikimapia. 2007. RAF Daws Hill, [Accessed 24-JAN-2012]
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Source Number : 7
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Strategic Air Command dot com. 2012. 7th Air Division, [Accessed 24-JAN-2012]
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Source Number : 8
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Peter Allan (DIO), Wayne Cocroft, Chris Welch , Eliza Alqassar ,Richard White. 6-MAR-2012. EH: Defence Disposals Project
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Source Number : 9
Source : Subterranea: The Magazine of Subterranea Britannica
Source details :
Page(s) : 24-29
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Vol(s) : 9
Source Number : 10
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 1:1250, 2008
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Monument Types:
Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1411070
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1411420
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SU 89 SE 79
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1108035
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FORMER RAF DAWS HILL
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2012-01-01
End Date : 2012-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FORMER RAF DAWS HILL
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2014-01-01
End Date : 2014-12-31