THE Second World War had barely ended when the shroud of the Cold War blanketed Europe.

Sussex had become “one vast camp, dump and airfield” in preparation for D-Day in 1944, as Allied commander-in-chief General Dwight Eisenhower put it.

But even in the darkest days of the Cold War military installations were kept hidden from the public... at least if the authorities could help it.

RAF Truleigh Hill near Shoreham, built in 1939, was upgraded with an underground bunker and more technology to spot aircraft as global tensions increased.

Its guardhouse was built in the style of a brick-built farmhouse to hide the site’s true purpose.

But the six pylons next to the “farm” somewhat gave the game away.

As the Cold War progressed, bunkers were built in Sussex not just to warn of nuclear attack but also to report its aftermath.

In 1962 the RAF’s volunteer Royal Observer Corps opened a small observation bunker near Cuckfield, ready to watch the unthinkable.

And if the Cold War had indeed turned hot, its unlucky survivors would likely have converged on Portslade.

Hidden behind the town’s police station in St Andrew’s Road was a nuclear decontamination centre, one of just six in the UK.

“In the 1940s it became a decontamination centre so should the Russians use chemical or biological weapons, soldiers or civilians could be treated for the effects,” said historian Kevin Newman, whose Visitors’ Historic Britain books detail Sussex’s remnants of the Cold War.

“As the Russians developed nuclear weapons, this bunker then became a nuclear decontamination centre.

“If they’d survived a nuclear blast, radiation-exposed VIPs would have passed through its shower room.

“Thankfully it was never used except when the local bobbies decided to help the odd drunk cool off.”

New government buildings came with bunkers as a prerequisite, ensuring at least some political leaders would be left to administer what was left of Sussex. Both Lewes County Hall and Hove Town Hall, built in the Sixties and Seventies, had bunkers installed.

In the Eighties, local government officials would make their way to the Aspidistra bunker near Crowborough if the bombs fell, where three months of supplies were waiting for them.

But for the doom and gloom of the arms race, the Space Race provided some hope of international rivalries with peaceful ends.

That was evident in Brighton’s Hilton Metropole. In 1961, the space-themed Starlit Rooms were built on top of the hotel, replacing its Victorian spires and signifying a new age.

“The Starlit became Brighton’s most prestigious restaurant for VIPs and royalty who would dine among its star-themed decorations,” said historian Mr Newman.

But the Cold War’s biggest imprint on Sussex was arguably the visit of a president who was partial to some pomp and circumstance.

Five months before he was assassinated in Dallas, US president John F Kennedy stepped off Air Force One at Gatwick for a one-day visit on June 29, 1963.

His objective was a meeting with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at his country house in Ashdown Forest.

But the president’s tour would not be complete without a chance to show off his classic charm to the locals.

Naturally this required a lot of planning.

Days before, Secret Service agents set up a base in the Crown Inn in Horsted Keynes near Haywards Heath.

Their powerful security transmitters reportedly knocked out villagers’ TV signals for the weekend.

But all the preparation went out the window when President Kennedy visited nearby Forest Row for Sunday service.

Tired of his security, he leapt out of his car and began shaking hands with the locals lined up for him.

Visitors’ History Britain’s East Sussex and West Sussex editions by Kevin Newman are available by emailing