Civil Defence School - Eastwood Park, Falfield, Glos.


In 1957 we moved to Falfield, a village a few miles to the south of Breadstone.  From 1953 my father, George Frederick Barrell, was the Ministry of Works (MOW) engineer at the Home Office Civil Defence School at Eastwood Park in Falfield, Gloucestershire and they needed him on site as a Resident Enginner.  This was the height of the Cold War, when the most you would expect in Britain was a 4 minute warning and when people were being trained to deal with the aftermath of a nuclear attack.

Eastwood Park was an 18th century mansion set in 100 acres of manicured parkland.  It was the home of the Jenkinson family and was taken over by thr Home Office in 1935.  In 1936 the Civilian Anti Gas School was opened where people were trained to deal with mustard gas and the like. During WW2 it was renamed “The Ministry of Home Security Air Raid Precautions School”. Afterward the war it became a police training school and then in 1949 it reverted to a Civil Defence School.


Bombed Village training range 1949

Hidden from view at the back of the site was something called “The Range”.  It was a village built as if it had been on the outskirts of a nuclear explosion where exercises were held to train people in search and rescue and first aid.  The photograph below was from when the site was opened in 194?. In the 1950s when we came to live there much more debris had been added.  For example a steam train was lying near the end of the road and on the hill above a “crashed” Gloster Meteor Jet with an ejection seat nearby was displayed. You can just see this aeroplane at the top of the post card below.  The “Range” is at the top left hand corner.

Later on more modern houses were added in front to the trees at the back of the photograph above.  These were built to test radiation through walls etc and to see if you were safer hiding under the bed or the kitchen table!  I remember that at the time one of the red top newspapers got hold of the story and made a fuss about the houses being built.  I can’t remember but there must have been a housing shortage and these were not built to live in?


Once or twice a week there were training exercises.  Groups of people from industry etc would come on a short residential course.  Execises were commenced with an explosion made up from "thunder flashes”.  My father had constructed a mushroom cloud generator out of old oil drums and oil.  When the “bomb” went off a nuclear mushroom cloud rose realistically above Eastwood Park.  What people driving along the adjacent A38 between Bristol and Gloucester thought I don’t know!  Next door to where we lived in the old farm “Bothy” was a large green painted corrugated iron vehicle shed full of "Green Goddess" army fire engines. When the bomb went off and the sirens started these green goddesses would pour out and drive to the range where people buried under the rubble were wailing. Rescued survivors and “homeless and wandering” were taken to an old army hutted camp on site and treated and given refreshments! 

On larger exercises when the army was involved real amputees were realistically made up with missing limbs and bits hanging off them.  You got used to this.  If you went down to the bar at night and passed a man with his arm hanging off, you just said "evening”.  Walking back at night a soldier with a rifle would step out of the shadows and inform you that you had just walked through a “minefield”.

Snapshot 2013-12-27 20-19-30

In addition to the Civil Defence Training there was an extensive Bomb Museum.  I am not sure what this was exactly used for but there was training in  incendery bombs. This building housed every type of bomb used in WW2 with some in section.  Outside were the bombs too large to fit inside.  A German V1 flying bomb (in photo), a German V2 rocket, a Tallboy 12,000lb bomb (in photo) and a blockbuster.  When the school opened these look like they were situated at the front of the mansion house in this picture showing a typical rural scene! It was my fathers job to raise the flag on this flagpole every morning and lower it at night.

In 1968 Civil Defence was wound down and the site mothballed.  My father stayed on to look after the site on a care and maintenance basis.  Living in splendid isolation in a 100 acre site with a large mansion he used to be referred to as the “Baron of Falfield”.  

In 1969 the site was acquired by the Department of Health and Social Security to provide a National Training Centre for Hospital Engineering and courses commenced on the 16th February 1970.  My father stayed on in the same role until he retired. On the 27th February 1979 he was awarded the Imperial Service Medal.


© Barclay Barrell 2014