Civil Emergency Centre

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Jersey's Civil Emergency Centre was located in a former German telephone repeater station in Trinity Road, St. Helier. It was closed early in the 21st century. A survey and conservation report produced in 2013 recommended that the centre be preserved and opened as a tourist attraction.

This article is based on that report and an online report of a visit to the centre by enthusiasts in 2002, when the centre was still fully equipped, although not operational. The conservation report, which includes sections of the 2002 article, does not put a definite date on when it ceased to function, but suggests that it was as early as 1996.

Submarine cable

In the Spring of 1940 the British military authorities laid a new submarine telephone cable linking Jersey with France, in order to improve communications between the British expeditionary force and London. The cable ran from Pirou in Normandy to Fliquet Bay in Jersey.

Shortly after the cable had been laid it was cut as the German army began its advance on Western France. When the Germans landed in Jersey the cable was soon reconnected to improve communications with Berlin. The signal was weak and a repeater station was built in Trinity Road, at the rear of Springfield Crescent. Building commenced in late 1943 and was completed by May 1944. The life of the repeater station was brief; because in two months the adjacent French coast was in American hands and the underwater cable was severed once again.

For some years after the war the bunker was used by the Leonis Boxing Club before being taken over by the States as their emergency control centre in October 1959. The States had to buy it back from Mrs Beatrice Jocelyn, to whom they sold it for £50 in 1948. She was paid £1,000. Plus another £600 for part of an adjacent garden.

The BBC studio

Description

The original German room layout remained largely intact, although some new partition walls were added and the original entrance was been blocked and a new secure entrance constructed through the original German generator room.

The first room entered was a reception area with a counter and a long table with telephones. From this room there was access to the operations rooms down a short flight of stairs and to the domestic area which consisted of a kitchen, canteen, dormitory and ladies wash room. The canteen had five tables and stools. The kitchen was in the original entrance corridor and air lock. The two steel air lock doors were still in place and fixed open.

An l-shaped unisex dormitory had four wooden triple bunks. At the far end of the dormitory was another German gas door and beyond that a small room with a blocked loophole in the wall which was a defensive firing position covering the bunker entrance.

From the reception room steps lead down into the former German equipment room which is now used as the operations room for the Emergency Centre. It is also regularly used as a training room. The back of the room has been partitioned off with wooden screens forming a small signals area with a long table with acoustic booths and telephones. There are various situation boards fixed to the walls together with local and regional maps depicting the most recent INTEX exercise. Jersey always takes part in the international exercises. There are also details of red and black warnings. At the back of the room is the siren control equipment. Unlike Guernsey, the siren network was dismantled 1995 in line with the mainland and half of the sirens have been physically removed. Current thinking supports a reintroduction of the siren network but there is no money available to pay for this.

A large German equipment room was subdivided into four rooms. The steps at the back of the room led into the meteorological room.

A second set of steps from the Operations Room led through a small lobby into the BBC studio and control room from where the Bailiff would have broadcast to the island. On a small shelf were the nuclear warning cassettes provided by the Home Office. The studio was linked to the BBC's radio transmitter at Les Platons. The BBC did not take part in any exercises after the mid-1990s and the line to the BBC was cut.

Historical significance

The 2013 report says that the building is of historical significance to Jersey and internationally:

  • As a good example, and rare survival, of a German telephone repeater station with an intact interior room layout and fittings
  • As a rare survival of virtually undisturbed interior contents of a Cold War Civil Emergency Centre
  • As a place designated as a Grade 2 listed building
  • As an educational resource to inform people of how Jersey planned to respond to nuclear war or radiation leak in the 20th century
  • For its potential economic value as a visitor attraction of the island
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