Sometimes, as I know from experience, the world of officialdom goes to great and extreme lengths to ensure that something of a secret nature remains a secret. On other occasions, however, the situation can be very different. A secret can be hidden in plain sight, with very few people having any awareness of it at all. Even though they might see it on a regular basis. All of which brings me to the photograph directly below. No, it’s not the entrance point to the legendary Hangar 18 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Nor is it the the doorway to some underground section of Area 51, Nevada. It’s something very different, but still intriguing in its own right.
The photo shows my father, Frank Redfern, pointing at one of a number of large, thick, tall doors at the Chase Leisure Center in the town of Cannock, Staffordshire, England (which has since been dramatically refurbished – this photo was taken back in the summer of 2000). You may well wonder, why on earth would the below-ground level of the center – which is dedicated to providing the people of Cannock access to exercise machines, a swimming pool, etc. – need such vast and powerful doors made of solid, thick wood and metal? They look like they might be able to withstand an earth-shattering explosion, right? Yes, that is exactly what they look like! And there is a very good reason for that.
Before his retirement at the age of 65, my father worked for his entire life as a carpenter. Aside, that is, from a three year period spent in the British Royal Air Force, which he served when National Service was still in place, in the 1950s. And, being based in Cannock, the company he worked for got the contract, years ago, to build and install those same doors. But, why? Well, I’ll tell you.
Unknown to the vast majority of the good folk of Cannock and of its surrounding towns and villages, back in the 1980s something secret was going down. In the event of a national emergency (such as a confrontation with the Soviet Union that might have escalated into a full-blown nuclear exchange between the super-powers), the lower-level of the leisure center was secretly singled out by local officialdom, and for one particular reason. The idea, back then, was to use the lower-level of the leisure center as a refuge area that could allow for some continuation of local/regional government. Meanwhile, the rest of us poor souls would be left to fry in the above-surface radioactive nightmare. Hence the construction and insertion of those out of place-looking, super-tough, blast-doors.
Of course, in reality, and in an all-out nuclear war between the super-powers, such a place would have offered very little – if, indeed, any – real protection from the mighty power of the atom. Far more likely, the doors, the center, and all of Cannock, would likely have been vaporized in an instant. But, what I find interesting is that this was a Cold War secret that for years, and for all intents and purposes, was sitting right under the noses of the people of Cannock. Very few of those same people, however, ever realized the center’s big secret and the reason behind the construction of those huge doors. Well, now you do!
And, given the fraught state the world is in right now, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone in government has decided to take another, renewed look at that underground section of the leisure center. You know, just in case it’s ever needed for something other than leisure…