aquila | dumb procurement

Taken October 2004 from the "mountain" formed from all the bricks and concrete of the buildings ground down and some seen in the foreground. Picture taken from the far end of the site looking towards the main entrance in Golf Road. © Roger

Taken July 2004, Block 2 Wing E being demolished. © Roger

Two months after our visit, Dr. Bob took this photo. The dining room, cinema and bar have gone. And it looks like Block 3 is being destroyed. Aquila was deemed surplus to requirements; as the MOD were now going to use “Smart Procurement” - which is their phrase. They would actually believe what the manufacturers said about their products.

"... I spent a year working at Aquila in 1973. You are right in saying that its purpose was to test equipment for the military. I spent a happy 12 months working on a testset for the Clansman army communication system, only to discover at the end that my boss hadn't forwarded to me a list of errata in the design specification which meant that my testset operated 1,000 times more quickly than required (they meant milliseconds but had originally specified microseconds). There were large areas that I was not permitted to enter but I know that an important part of the work going on then was the testing of sonarbuoys which were dropped from aircraft and used to detect enemy submarines." - John

"I never thought I would get to see inside the place again and you have done that in the nick of time before it was gone for ever."

"As you saw it was a vast place, yet quite well hidden as the main entrance was at the end of an ordinary residential road. At its peak it took on nearly 100 apprentices a year, drawn from all over the country and often just 16. Accommodation was provided in its own hostel up the hill in Chislehurst, opposite Farringtons private girls school, now that was asking for trouble!"

"One area I didn't see in the pictures that I remember was the central stores, it was designed to keep the site virtually self-sufficient and armed with a signed off chitty you could get anything you could possibly need."

"I recall the cinema well, as it was the cold war era we were shown official films in newsreel style of what would happen if nuclear war kicked off and how to resist the attentions of Russian spy ladies trying to get secrets out of us (be so lucky!)."

"The pub was wonderful and in great demand, despite the heavily subsidised restaurant. For years my stable lunch diet was a delicious pint of bitter and a ploughmans which were always superb. No worries about underage drinking at Aquila, this was crown property and beyond the reach of the normal police, only MOD police in here."

"The lab I worked in was right up at the top of the site and looked out over pasture, I sat at my bench making circuits and watching the local girls practicing their horse riding skills in the field out the window."

"There was one section few ever went in that was related to the cold war, it had an armed guard at all times with a machine gun, (and probably a Geiger counter)."

"It's a pity the apprentice school was bare, it once housed an extensive mechanical workshop, huge Cincinnati milling machines, grinders, big stand drills, welding shop. It may have been a cold stark place when you went around but my experience of Aquila was a warm and friendly place that gave me a wonderful start to my career. Aquila apprentices always found good jobs as it was known that their training had spared no expense." - Rob

"I just ran across your Aquila website. I was there from 1979 -1985. Seeing those familiar buildings and spaces again (albeit sadly decayed) brought back so many happy memories. I think anyone who spent any time there during that period would tell you the same thing. Thanks for recording it and sharing those images online. It really means a lot to me, and I'm guessing all those like me who spent their formative years there." - Adrian