A piece of British WW2 History hidden under a hillside. HMS Forward, a maritime intelligence centre, was key to monitoring the English channel and and was heavily involved in D-Day. Although it's fallen into dereliction, attempts to restore and maintain it have been carried out by 'Friends of HMS Forward'.
HMS Forward was the Royal Naval HQ, setup up on the 20th of June 1940 in the Guinness Trust Holiday Home.
It had responsibility for units along the south cost, including:
HMS Marlborough - Eastbourne HMS Aggressive - Newhaven HMS New - Newaven HMS Vernon - Roedean HMS Lizard - Hove
The tunnels of HMS Forward began life in March 1941 after an Admiralty direction that ordered channel ports to setup facilities to maintain naval plots and created the need to securely house equipment for plotting and communications. It was decided to built a network of tunnels into the a hillside of South Heighton for operations to take place from.
HMS Forward was designed by Lt. Col. F.H.Foster, Commander of the Royal Engineers, and built by the 1st Tunneling Engineers Group and No 172 Tunneling Company. They were completed on the 14th of November 1941.
At the time they were a state of the art facility and were kitted out for every eventuality. This including backup power generator and full air conditioning systems with gas filters. They had chemical toilets, sleeping cabins and a gallery. Although the toilet were for emergencies only and it was noted that he veterans who worked here didn't even have knowledge of these toilets.
The labyrinth of tunnels had an East and West entrance. The West entrance by the main road was the main entrance. The East entrance was under the West wing of the Guinness Trust Holiday Home (now demolished).
There were two Pill boxes at the top of the hill that were accessible from inside the tunnels, but were demolished long ago.
During its operational period between November 1941 and August 1945, the tunnels of HMS Forward carried out many key maritime operations. It monitored the English channel from Dungeness to Selsy Bill using ten radar stations from Fairlight to Bogner Regis.
It was heavily involved with D-Day as well as nightly raids on the occupied french coast.
A very nice explore in a very nice set of tunnels. They are quite extensive and is quite the maze, however once you get your head round the layout its impossible to get lost.
Its quite a shame that such an important piece of history has been left to rot. This is somewhere that really needs to be preserved for future generation. I'd heard that there was intention to turn it into a museum some time ago, but plans for this got scuppered by the local residents up top.
It was clear that there was once some kind of open day as there were still laminated signs and notices left up by the 'Friends of HMS Forward'.
The West entrance with signs and notices from a previous open day / tour. Looks like it was a good few years ago though. You can see here what looks like a machine gun nest in the brick wall as you turn the very first corner.
The large security gate of the West entrance.
The long 100m West adit tunnel looking towards the east end.
Looking from the East end of the West Adit. The two tunnels going left and right just before are the stairs up to the South and North Pill boxes.
Looking up what remains of the stairs to the Northern Pillboxes. It is possible go up to the top of these, but its been sealed up at the top with rubble.
The West Airlock.
The Air conditioning plant room and standby generator room. The standby generator was a large diesel JP Lister engine. This provided 400V/230V power at 22Kw. Exhaust was piped through to the annex at the back of the engine room where it was exhausted through the ceiling too the surface through a 4" pipe.
The start of the operational rooms of the tunnel. The room on the left side is the TURCO Office, and looking right down the long tunnel is down the length of the main tunnel with sleeping cabins.
T.U.R.C.O stands for Turn Round Control Organisation, used to 'Assist naval shore authorities in the quick turn around of ships and craft'.
The East gallery was used for sleep accommodation, switchboards and coders.
The GPO Voice frequency equipment room. The pits in the floor are to fit the equipment in, as the modems were over 8ft tall.
Looking down the East Galley and into the Teleprinters room.
Looking down the the far end of the plotting rooms.
The sleeping cabins. There were 4 of these for personnel on the night duty and split watches.
Looking up towards the mock hen house, sealed at the top of course.
The stairs up to the eastern entrance with pit at the bottom to slow down would-be invaders.
The gate on the way to the East entrance.
The remains of a second gate.
Thanks for reading!
History- The building is from the 'railway era'. The hotel was a hub of the community, it had a fantastic ballroom and restaurant. Many people came by rail to stay at Sutton Bridge.
The hotel from around 2000 was used by an employment agency called StaffSmart to house workers they had lured over to the UK from South Africa to work in the local canning factory. People came from SA on the promise of hotel accommodation and didn't know until they got here that it meant inside the shell of the Bridge Hotel on damp mattresses lined up in each room, including the Ballroom. After StaffSmart vacated the hotel, it stood empty with broken windows until it was bought and restored to a high standard with plush furnishings and chandeliers. However, the hotel rooms were pricey and without the rail trade of people heading to the village, people would be passing through and tended to stay in cheaper accommodation in the area. The hotel wasn't open for long before closing down and ownership passed through several hands whilst falling further into disrepair.
In 2015, workmen were spotted on the site removing roof tiles and floorboards to salvage as many building materials before it was demolished but its still standing now, so I don't know what stopped the demolition. Since then the building has unfortunately been vandalised and several fires have been set destroying about 70% of it.
The Bridge Hotel in the 50's
Explore- The hotel is close to me, so even though I knew the damage of the place it was still worth checking out. Access to the building was easy, a window round back was broken and a board to climb up to it was balanced kind of safely. The cellar floor, ground floor and a few rooms on the first floor were safe enough to walk around but past that there is a lot of fire damage.
This one required an early start, but the morning adventure to The Kings Hall was worth the effort. Visited with Zombizza.
"Located in Southall, Middlesex, in the west of Greater London. The King’s Hall was built in 1916 and was designed by architect Sir Alfred Gelder of Hull. The King’s Hall building has a 3-storey red brick and stone facade. It was operated by the Uxbridge and Southall Wesleyan Mission and it was soon screening religious films.
By 1926, it was operating as a regular cinema, still managed by the Methodist church.
The King’s Hall Cinema was closed in 1937. It then reverted back to a Methodist Church use as the King’s Hall Methodist Church. They vacated the building in January 2013"
Started nice and early, and managed our entrance fairly incident free...if we don't count the massive tear in my trousers..
It's a pretty spectacular place with a wonderful blend of natural decay and marvelous original features/architecture. With little to no daylight, we decided to wonder round the back rooms while the sun came up before the spending too much time on the main attraction, the large auditorium.
The rooms around the back are a weird mix of new and old, some of them being more disgusting than others. One room was so pungent that I took 2 steps in before bailing out.
There was also one room that was filled with beds, old food packets and needles. Looked a few years old, but squatters for sure.
The larger rooms consisted of meeting rooms, prayer rooms and teaching rooms. All of them had funky wavy flooring where the wooden floor tiles had expanded with moisture.
Eventually the sun came up and the auditorium started to flood with the golden morning light.
After a few hours we left, although the exit was hilariously unsubtle.
Not the most inspiring of places, but it's quite remarkable because of how quickly it got trashed. It closed in june that year, and by ocotber it was royally trashed. It's now been flattened and the land is still for sale.
The weird thing about this place was remembering it from when I was a kid, was sad seeing it so trashed.
Well it was a pretty foolish decision to try this one really, but it was just too tempting since the rumors of it being wide open and security not giving a damn just made it too tempting to try, and we desperately wanted to see inside this place before it gets stripped by pikies or burnt to the ground, which is probably what will end up happening unless something drastic is done to keep people out the building.
It was about 9:30 in the evening when Fluff, Ryda and Impact arrived at my house. From there we took the supercav to Buckmore, which was surprisingly deserted - there wasn't a soul around. So we grab our stuff, and walk through a gaping great big hole in the fence up one of the main tracks towards the deserted leisure complex.
We had a few heart stopping moments on the way up the track which turned out to people racing up and down the road outside, so we pushed on towards to complex, all of us a little bit on edge and uncertain of what we would find at the other end. Slowly the building loomed out of the darkness. Still nothing, no security, no lights just an eerie stillness. We quickly start walking round the building looking for an entrance point, we didn't have to look long at there are loads of them, smashed windows, forced doors, open fire exits - the place has more holes in it than swiss cheese.
In we go, we ended up in the climbing wall area. No sooner had we got into the building when we heard noises, then saw torches. Shit, we can't be busted already surely? Luckily (or un-luckily as it will pan out) it turned out to be some people from Essex, infact it turned out to be quite a few people from essex, about 20 of them in total just wondering around being far to noisey for my liking. This did two things 1. it made us a little more relaxed as if there's 20 of them in the building and they've not been busted, if there are any security they can't be doing a very good job. But it also made us a tad nervous since these people wern't your typical urban explorer type, I think Essex boys and girls sums it up nicely, and they were doing a nice job of smashing every beer bottle they came across, and breaking the remainder of the windows
The main hall where the rave was
At this point we contemplated leaving after only taking a few photos, as the essex boys and girls were becoming a liability, but we hadn't come all this way to just give up, oh no! So we lay low for a bit in one of the smaller rooms, took a few photos of corridors and had a cup of coffee (cheers ryda ) The noise had subsided, it was safe to come out, so we did, and started doing what we do best.
Remember this place was absolutely mint just a week ago.
At this point we managed to get split up, and try though we might we just couldn't find fluff and impact anywhere, so me and ryda just carried on looking round the building trying to find the swimming pool area, which we managed to do just in time to see headlights coming up the main road leading to the centre. Fuck, security - duck down, so we hid behind the small pool while security shone lights though the windows round the pool area. Boy are there a lot of windows in that pool area. After what felt like hours, they had got far enough away for us to make a dash back into the changing rooms, where we hastily packed away our camera gear in preparation for possibly making a run for it.
We still had no idea where fluff and impact were at this point, although we had seen them through a window earlier being lit up by security so we knew people were onto us. We sat in the changing rooms for a bit before hearing a shout 'come on out, we know you're there' from outside in the corridor. This corridor was the only exit, so we decided to just give ourselves up in the hope that they'd just give us a ticking off and let us walk off site.
Little did we know at that point that half of medways finest were already on site looking for us, they had dogs, vans the lot. The other half of medways finest were still on their way, in total at it's height there were about 20 police personnel on site. We just went quietly, not a lot else we could do, although I did protest a little at being arrested for buglary, afterall we wern't stealing anything. We still didn't know where fluff and impact were at this point. We were later re-united at the police station.
I have to say the police were very professional at the way they handled the situation, and once we were back at the police station (They took us all the way to Tonbridge because the nik at Medway had a powecut ) they were actually quite friendly and seemed to show an interest in what we were doing. We were held in the cells for the rest of the night, and were all interviewed this morning, then the entire thing was dropped as we were expecting. We were then left with a problem, how the hek to we get back to the car? The police arn't that well known for providing a taxi service. Lady luck must have been smiling down upon us today however, because the officer who interviewed us managed to get the go ahead to drive us back to where the car was. Thank you very much officer, you saved us a fortune in taxi fayres.
All in all a very eventful night that none of us will be forgetting in a long while. All's well that ends well, no harm was done and we even got to keep our pictures. The irritating thing about the whole thing is if it hadn't been for the other group of people on site, we wouldn't have been in so much trouble. Apparently the police were called because of a large number of vehicles being seen around the area. Fearing another rave or simelar kicking off they scrambled all available cars to the area, just to arrest the 4 of us as the people they really wanted were long gone.
One last word. Stay away from buckmore, you will end up in a shite load of trouble if you're caught. They are going to be locking the building up tight, we all said at interview how easy it was to get in, and it needs to be sealed up. The officer in charge is going to see that this happens. I know it's a shame that we won't be able to explore it, but that's Â£15 million of building there just getting slowly more and more trashed. It's not beyond saving quite yet, but given a few more weeks of abuse it very soon could be.
Many thanks for reading