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Sober and detailed account of underground London
on 16 November 2004
This book comes with a pedigree - it's largely drawn from the research of Subterranea Britannica, a group dedicated to exploring and exposing some of the stranger tunnels, basements and bunkers of Britain - particularly those with a military, intelligence or civil defence history.
The story starts with use of Tube tunnels to store art in the First World War, and then moves on to discuss later uses...
Not everything in the book is military - some detail is given on abandoned express-Tube projects, which leads into the construction of the deep-level shelters that exist under some Tube stations - the plan was that when the war ended these might be linked up into an express line. These shelters rapidly found other military (and later civilian) use, and much of the book covers their history, as well as use of unfinished Tube extensions in the East End as both shelters and shadow factories.
Underground headquarters and tunnels used by the Admiralty, BBC, railways, GPO and Cabinet Office are all described in detail, with the highlight being the extensive description of the vast Kingsway complex.
The book also describes the post-War (and post-Cold War) uses to which many of these tunnels and establishments have been put (although rather deliberately skips over post-War civil defence and government control...) and the current status of many of them; it also dispels quite a few myths about underground London.
The prose is concise and informative and occasionally atmospheric, with illustrations well-chosen and reproduced, and all in all this is a useful, accessible and interesting addition to the literature on subsurface London.