Diefenbunker Museum – Canada’s Cold War Relic

If you had taken a walk through the quiet rural farming community of Carp, Ottawa between 1962 and 1994, you may have come across a small, unassuming white shed in the middle of a field.

You would have carried on your journey, blissfully unaware that beneath your feet was the national headquarters of the Canadian government in the event of a nuclear attack.

That little white shed was the entrance to a steel-lined blast tunnel that led to a large nuclear bunker.

Built to house over 500 people, with supplies for a month, the “Diefenbunker,” (named after the Prime Minister that commissioned the top-secret build, John Diefenbaker), was the largest of 50 underground shelters built across Canada during the height of the Cold War.

Covering approximately 100,000 sq ft, it was capable of withstanding a nuclear blast of up to 5 megatons (from 1.1 miles away) and featured an extensive air filtration system that would prevent radiation infiltration.

Inside the Diefenbunker (CFS Carp)

Diefenbunker entrance
Entrance to the Diefenbunker. Credit: P199 / CC BY-SA

In the event of an attack, the Prime Minister and key military personnel would have been rushed to safety inside the 4-story bunker. No family members would have joined as there was not enough space to accommodate them.

Still reeling from the death of loved ones and quite possibly most of humanity, the survivors would have stripped and showered in the decontamination chamber, before entering the claustrophobic living quarters of the shelter.

With walls painted in blues and greens to lessen the cabin fever, the future would not have looked good for those selected to run the country underground in the event of armageddon.

However, if it proved too much for a person to bear, the shelter did include a confinement cell.

The shelter also included storage for food, fuel, freshwater, and other supplies. There was also an emergency broadcast studio for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and a vault to hold the gold reserves of the Bank of Canada.

Where is the Diefenbunker?

  • Address: 3911 Carp Road, Carp. (The bunker is located 20 miles west of Ottawa)
  • Entrance Fee: CA$11–18
  • Website
Opening Times
Thursday 10:30AM–4PM
Friday 10:30AM–4PM
Saturday 10AM–4:30PM
Sunday 10AM–4:30PM
Monday 10:30AM–4PM
Tuesday 10:30AM–4PM
Wednesday 10:30AM–4PM

The Diefenbunker Today

inside the bunker today
Credit: Philip Tellis / CC BY SA 2.0

Thankfully CFS Carp was never used for its intended purpose. Decommissioned in 1994, it was initially looked after by a group of local volunteers that opened the facility for tours.

The enterprise became official in 1998 with the creation of the Diefenbunker Development Group. The organization legally purchased the facility and officially opened it as a museum.

In recent years many areas of the facility have been restored to near operational conditions. Visitors can walk through the Prime Minister’s Suite, they can also see what the Emergency Government Situation Centre would have looked like.

Briefing room inside the Diefenbunker

Areas such as the Military Federal Warning Centre, the External Affairs Ministerial Office, and the Public Works Minister’s Office also form part of the tour.

Highlights include the CBC Emergency Broadcasting Studio and the Bank of Canada Vault.

The rest of the bunkers’ many rooms form part of the museum, housing exhibits, and educational items about the Cold War.

Featured Image: SamuelDuval / CC BY-SA

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