Hale Cold War Relic

siren hale

Four Minute Warning

It’s still there! Had another day cycling around my old home turf of Hale and noticed that this once ominous relic of the cold war is still in place. This is the the siren that would have given the residents of Hale village the “four minute warning” so we could all scuttle into our makeshift (useless) home-made “Protect and Survive” shelters as megatons of nuclear firepower burst over the city and the nearby airport!

I vividly remember the chilling sound of this very siren being tested and creating a hellish drone, beating with our local siren on the roof of the Unicorn (pub) hotel in Hale Barns; a mile up the road. The siren was originally hooked up to a nearby telephone pole and was activated by a special signal sent over the telephone network. This secret civil defence system was hidden in plain sight and known as HANDEL. The switching circuit in the box on the pole was constantly listening to the speaking clock until this special signal came along to activate the siren and warn us that the unthinkable was actually underway. The end of our technological civilisation and the lives of millions was suddenly a horrible reality. — The sight of this thing dose bring back a lot of memories of my youthful anxiety about nuclear war.

  • Taken: 29 August, 2019
  • Aperture: ƒ/11
  • Shutter speed: 1/125s
  • ISO: 100
  • Focal length: 50mm

2024 Update

This siren has now been recognised as an item of historic interest and subsequently designated as Grade 2 listed by English heritage. This recognition was thanks to the efforts of a local man who was an evacuee in the village during WW2. My publicity may have also helped to bring it to the attention of others? See more about this story in the Altrincham Today

If you are interested in reading more about this intriguing subject or just want to indulge technical geekery with a dose of miserabalism, then you may find some of the links below interesting: –

My own piece on the “Backbone” tower at Sutton Common
BT Tower, Sutton Common

A detailed explanation of the HANDEL warning network
British Nuclear Warning System

UK cold war plans & exercises
Struggle for Survival

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Oliver Wood