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Carp Diefenbunker gate and entrance
Teletype terminals at the CEGHQ facility

Emergency Government Headquarters are nuclear fallout bunkers built by the Government of Canada at the height of the Cold War during the infancy of the ICBM threat. Scattered across the country, the shelters are popularly known as "Diefenbunkers", a nickname coined by federal opposition politicians of the early 1960s, and was derived from the name of the Prime Minister of the day, John Diefenbaker, who authorized their construction.

These facilities were built, often in great secrecy, at rural locations outside major cities across Canada. Most were two-story underground bunkers (the largest one—just outside of Ottawa—had four floors) capable of withstanding a near-miss from a nuclear explosion. Each underground building had massive blast doors at the surface, as well as extensive air filters to prevent radiation infiltration. Underground storage was built for food, fuel, fresh water, and other supplies for the facility which was capable of supporting several dozen people for weeks.





Different levels of command centres included:

  • CEGHQ, Central Emergency Government Headquarters, located in Carp, Ontario, in the National Capital Region. Designed for use by senior federal politicians and civil servants.
  • REGHQ, Regional Emergency Government Headquarters, of which there were seven, spread out across the country.
    • IREGHQ, Interim Regional Emergency Government Headquarters
  • MEGHQ, Municipal Emergency Government Headquarters
  • ZEGHQ, Zone Emergency Government Headquarters, built within the basements of existing buildings, generally designed to hold around 70 staff.
  • RU, Relocation Unit, or CRU, Central Relocation Unit. Often bunkers built as redundant backups to REGHQs and MEGHQs were given the RU designation.


The largest "Diefenbunker" was located at CFS Carp in the village of Carp west of Ottawa, within the National Capital Region. In the event of a nuclear event, it was expected to shelter many of the most important federal civil servants and politicians and senior military officials. This location was the second chosen. The original location was approximately six miles west of Almonte. That site was abandoned when ground water proved impossible to remove.

The six smaller bunkers were designated as Regional Emergency Government Headquarters (REGHQs):

Communication Bunkers:

Other bunkers in Ontario included Central Relocation Units (CRUs) to supplement the CEGHQ. These were not "true" bunkers for the fact that they were simply reinforced underground rooms located in basement of post offices and other Federal Government installation. They were connected by phone and teletypewriter lines to the main bunker at CFS Carp. They were located in:

Similar sites were chosen to accompany the REGHQs elsewhere in Canada. These would be located in close proximity to the REGHQs. These Regional Relocation Units (RRUs) would be used as a backup to the larger equivalent (for redundancy).

There were also MEGHQs and ZEGHQs in Canada, not supervised by the federal government to help with rescue and reconstruction efforts over time of crisis.

Decommissioning and legacy

Following the end of the Cold War, most of the Diefenbunkers were decommissioned. Several of the facilities on active Canadian Forces Bases, such as CFB Borden and CFB Valcartier, remain in government control. Diefenbunkers located on smaller Canadian Forces Stations were mostly sold off, or demolished.

The only Diefenbunker which members of the public may visit is the one at former CFS Carp, now converted into a year-round Cold War museum. Unfortunately the Canadian military cleared out the bunker as it was decommissioned, so the museum has had to try to reacquire the original furnishings that were disposed of.

The one at CFS Debert was opened for tours for several years. As of 2005 it was home to the cadet regional gliding school in the summer, and was available to other groups throughout the year, and was also occasionally used as a barracks by military units in transit across Nova Scotia. In 2009, it was sold to a data firm.

One interesting footnote surrounds the Diefenbunker that was located at CFB Penhold in Alberta. This facility was decommissioned and at one point a movie studio expressed interest but it was ultimately purchased by a member of the public. When subsequent owners of the Penhold Diefenbunker advertised the facility for resale, there was rumour that a chapter of an outlaw biker gang, possibly the Hells Angels, was expressing interest. This prompted the federal government to repurchase the facility and have it systematically demolished and hauled away at considerable expense.

In popular culture

The film Sum of All Fears has a scene that was shot on location at CFS Carp's Diefenbunker. The scene consisted of The President of the USA, James Cromwell, and his political advisors performing a war game scenario.

See also


External links


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