RAF Uxbridge was an RAF station in the London Borough of Hilingdon, and was active from 1917 to 2010 when it was closed as part of the MOD plans to reduce defence sites in London in favour of a core site at Northolt. Located within the site is the No.11 Group (Fighter Command) Operations Room which was used throughout the war to coordinate fighter operations. Arguably the most famous Command Bunker of the Second World War due to its pivotal role during the Battle of Britain. Construction of the bunker started in February 1939 and was complete on the 25th of August 1939 – just in time for the declaration of war on the 5th of September. The contractor was Alfred McAlpine. Uxbridge was the first Ops Room built and was the prototype for others built around the country.
No.11 Group (Fighter Command) Operations Room was responsible for seven sector stations and the fighters based at them. These were RAF’s Kenley, North Weald, Debden, Biggin Hill, Tangmere, Hornchurch and Northolt. The Operations Controller in the Ops Room was responsible for making decisions about which aircraft to scramble, where from, where to, when and what type of aircraft to meet any incoming threat. The bunker formed a vital part of the Dowding Reporting System – this was a system that linked Fighter Command with Anti-Air Command, Barrage Balloon Command, the Observer Corps, and the network of Chain Home Radar stations. This was the first time all these systems had been brought together with a common goal of defending the airspace of the UK.
Between the 10th July and 31st October 1940 the Ops Room was the busiest Ops Room in the country due to its location in the south east of the UK and the intensity of Luftwaffe air attacks as a precursor to a German invasion. The Ops Room played a major part during these air battles – two thirds of the 1700 Luftwaffe aircraft shot down were destroyed by No11 group. The bunker was visited twice by Churchill (16th August and 15th September) and it was on the 16th of August that Churchill spoke the words ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many, to so few’ – he later uttered these famous words in Parliament. Churchill was present on the 15th of September – Battle of Britain day – and wrote in his memoirs ‘all of the bulbs glowed red’ which refers to the tote board, the red bulbs indicating that every squadron No.11 group possessed was engaged in combat with the enemy at the same time. During 1940 the Bunker was also informally visited by the King and Queen, who visited again formally in 1941.
After the Battle of Britain the bunker continued to be used, but was overhauled with new plotting boards and totes. It continued to oversee aircraft operations in both British airspace and enemy airspace in occupied France, particularly it coordinated and controlled fighter operations for the Dieppe series of raids and Operation Overlord (D-Day). Post war the bunker continued in various roles, its final role being one of communication. In 1974 the decision was made to restore the bunker to as it was on 15th September 1940 and since 1985 the bunker, due to the efforts of Warrant Officer Chris Wren who amassed over 6000 artifacts and created the museum, has been operated as a historical asset by the RAF. Recently the Government has granted £1million and Hillingdon Council £4.5million to build a surface visitor centre and carry out other works. Although RAF Uxbridge has closed as a site, and is being developed, the Battle of Britain Bunker area retains the name RAF Uxbridge, remains in RAF hands and is administered by RAF Northolt as an exclave. The Bunker is Grade One listed.
The bunker can be visited and it is highly recommended. See the RAF website for details