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History of the wartime bunker on Nare Head at Carne and Pendower

The open hatch to the ROC Veryan bunker on Nare Head in Cornwall
Veryan ROC Bunker, Nare Head | © National Trust/George Taylor

Head out to the windswept Nare Head headland, to discover an old military bunker. A Royal Observer Corps (ROC) post was built here at the start of the Second World War to track aircraft before it became an underground bunker observing nuclear activity during the Cold War. Today it’s an historical landmark open to visit certain days throughout the year.

Spotting aircraft in the Second World War

In January 1940, just months after the Second World War began, the first reporting post was built above ground on the quiet Cornish headland near the village of Veryan. As a ROC post, it was used as a point to spot, identify and track aircraft flying overhead.

Teams in place 24 hours a day

Nare Head was, and is, special to many locals and some protested the ROC post when it was first built. Despite this, a small team manned their post 24 hours a day and did important work during the Second World War.

The Starfish bunker

Very close to the unobtrusive hatch of the ROC bunker is the unusually-named Starfish bunker, built as a decoy to lure second world war bombers away from nearby Falmouth docks.

View of the Starfish decoy bunker with the ROC Veryan bunker in the distance, Nare Head, near Veryan in Cornwall.
Starfish decoy bunker and Veryan ROC bunker, Nare Head | © National Trust/George Taylor

Monitoring the nuclear threat

The corps was stood down briefly when the war ended, but just two years later it was reformed to monitor the shores for any possible low-level intruders from Russia. Then, with the Cold War at its peak, the operations were moved underground as the post was given a new job of detecting and reporting nuclear attacks.

One metre below ground

The post was opened to observe nuclear bursts and monitor radioactive fallout in 1964. It’s one metre below ground, just five metres by three metres in size and could protect its occupants from radiation by a factor of 1,000. The post operated into the 1980s and ran regular exercises and training meetings.

The control room in the nuclear bunker below ground on Nare Head near Veryan in Cornwall
Veryan ROC Bunker control room, Nare Head | © National Trust/George Taylor

Visiting the bunker today

The bunker is no longer in use, but there are opportunities to look around it a few times a year, when local expert Lawrence Holmes and the team open it up. Lawrence even gives talks on his experience in the ROC and what it would have been like to work in the bunker.

The sandy shoreline of Carne Beach, Cornwall, backed by grassy cliffs.

Discover more at Carne and Pendower

Find out how to get to Carne and Pendower, where to park, the things to see and do and more.