Secret World War II bunker discovered in Selkirk

The inside of the bunker. Picture: David Blair/Staybehinds.com

The inside of the bunker. Picture: David Blair/Staybehinds.com

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A SECRET underground bunker built for anti-Nazi resistance fighters has been unearthed in the Scottish Borders, 70 years after World War Two.

The base, which was discovered by a British Resistance Archive team near Selkirk, would have been used by civilian spies and saboteurs trained in guerrilla warfare.

Inside the entrance to the bunker. Picture: David Blair/Staybehinds.com

Inside the entrance to the bunker. Picture: David Blair/Staybehinds.com

It is made up of a main chamber and a series of escape tunnels that would have been guarded by resistance soldiers.

The bunker’s precise location is not being revealed, but it is known to be near Lindean Loch in an area that was once thick with trees on “a high plateau with commanding views to open countryside”.

The researchers who found it said: “Looking west, the town of Selkirk can just be glimpsed, but this is no guarantee it was visible during the operational base’s use and occupation.”

Wartime records suggest the subterranean base was built around 1941, though it is unlikely even residents of the nearby town would have known of its existence during the conflict.

Access is daunting as you are going into inky blackness

British Resistance Archive team

It is described as being “in a very good state of preservation”, despite damage to the main ventilation shaft – possibly from invading tree roots and other disturbances – and evidence of a small fire in the entrance tunnel.

Bunk bed frames, a water tank and debris from various former structures can still be seen inside, while an assortment of graffiti scrawled in the central chamber serves as a lasting reminder of its one-time occupants. However, venturing below ground to explore the long-forgotten hideout was unnerving, the research team said.

“The entrance tunnel is very narrow and makes access daunting as you are going into inky blackness, but once past the initial thought of shimmying down the shaft it’s actually okay,” they said.

Their report describes construction and use of materials as “impressive”, using “a few thousand bricks” as well as corrugated sheeting and other materials.

The Selkirk bunker would have been part of a large network of up to 500 hidden underground bases around the UK, though many similar sites have yet to be uncovered.

Volunteers recruited to staff the bunkers were often the most able-bodied members of the Home Guard, the civilian force made famous in hit 1970s TV comedy series Dad’s Army.

They would have been selected for their in-depth local knowledge, resourcefulness and ability to survive off the land, and would have mobilised to sabotage strategic infrastructure in the event of a Nazi invasion.

They were supplied with weapons including silenced .38-calibre pistols or Sten guns, commando knives and plastic explosives, as well as enough food stocks to last at least a fortnight. Some may also have been armed with a Thompson submachinegun, or Tommy gun.

Operators were expected to live self-sufficiently and autonomously in the event of a Nazi invasion, but their life expectancy behind enemy lines was estimated to be only about 15 days. If discovered by enemy forces, they were expected to kill themselves rather than be taken captive.

The formation of auxiliary units was carried out in utmost secrecy, with most members being unknown to each other.

They would have been supplied with intelligence about German activities through top-secret local spy networks known as the Special Duties Branch.

A key target would have been the railway, with the Selkirk branch line serving other Borders stations.

• Find out more about the discovery at coleshillhouse.com

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