For some time now, there has been considerable debate over whether of not Heathrow Airport should build a third runway.
What many people involved in these discussions don’t realise is that there may already be an extra runway in London ready for use… and it’s right in the city centre!
This is of course all based on hearsay and secrecy, but if the rumours are to be believed, this covert runway lies on the western edge of Kensington Gardens…. a wide, tarmacked path more commonly known as the ‘Broad Walk'; a popular thoroughfare through the park.
The belief that Broad Walk may be a secret runway dates back to the mid-1950s when a large number of trees were uprooted and re-planted 25 yards back, thus making the Broad Walk wider and clearer, without obstruction.
Some say that this overhaul was carried for a specific reason- to enable the Broad Walk to act as an emergency base where, in the event of a national crisis (specifically a Soviet nuclear attack), a small aircraft could land and take off- thus enabling the Queen to be evacuated from the capital.
Although this rumour remains strictly unconfirmed, it certainly fits in with the history of the period. By the 1950s, the world was firmly in the icy grip of the Cold War and governments were quickly having to think up contingency plans to deal with the consequences of the terrifying new atomic weapons.
The era is well portrayed in the following short clip from 1958, which shows how RAF crews were required to get their Vulcan nuclear bombers into the skies within a nail-biting four minutes:
If the Broad Walk had been utilised as a platform to flee London, it would have been just one component of a wider evacuation plan. In the early days of the Cold War, the Royals would have been taken to a bunker in the West Country or possibly transferred to Canada.
A new course of action drawn up in the late 1960s and known as the ‘Python Plan’ would have seen the Queen taken to Scotland where, on the Royal yacht, Britannia she would have been kept on the move; transferred to a different Scottish loch each night, the Highland mountains providing sound cover from Soviet detection.
The Python Plan continued to be updated right up until the early 1990s…
If you’d like to know more about London’s Cold War connections, I have written two previous articles on the subject which can be found under the following links: