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Battle HQ

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Benbecula Battle HQ, 2008, bootneck
Benbecula Battle HQ
Entrance in foreground

The Battle HQ was designed to provide a command centre for airfield defence in the event of an airborne invasion, when airfields were considered to be vulnerable to attack by enemy paratroopers or bombing. This was seen in the summer of 1941, when Germans forces carried out an airborne invasion of Crete, notable for being the first time such an attack was ever carried. However, it would have functioned just as well in the case of a coastal airfield, had troops been landed from the sea.

Battle HQs were built to one of three standard patterns. The first dates from 1940, and was designated MS 2279. This was confined to London, and built to protect the capital's fighter stations. This design was replaced by the 3329/41, intended for use at all fighter stations. The third design was the 11008/41, originally intended for bomber stations, but after 1942, came to be used for all station, other than non-permanent fighter stations, and is the design used at Inverallochy.

The defence contained an underground network of five room, generally located in a position which afforded good viewing of the airfield. The entrance lay at the opposite end from the observation post - the only part visible above ground. This had a narrow slit around its perimeter, at ground level, and supported a heavily reinforced concrete roof, to prevent it being put out of operation by bombing. However, other than this roof, the HQ had no other defences. From the raised observation post, a small landing with steps led down to an office. The landing also has a ladder set into one wall, leading up to an escape hatch at ground level. The office led to a corridor which had a small room where a chemical toilet (known as an Elsan the maker's name) was kept, while the other end ended at the normal entrance to the HQ, and a set of steps leading up to ground level. At this end, a short corridor led off to one side, where there was a small waiting area for messengers and runners. At the end of this corridor was a PBX (private branch exchange) room. This would have housed the communications - field telephones - for the HQ. The runners would have carried messages to points with no communications, and would have had to take over if the lines had been cut. The building would normally have been covered by earth, but the effects of weather and erosion means they are becoming increasingly visible.

Had there been an invasion, the Battle HQ was intended to provide the station commander with a secure location from where he could direct his defences via landlines and runners.

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