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!
Well here goes a first report on here since i joined in 2013, completely forgetting i had created an account so please accept my delayed apologies for being inactive...
I visited this place in 2014, so a while ago now... hence why the pictures are how they are . After an epic road trip up north, we returned to our hometown and had an opportunity for something we had been working on for a while. Exhausted from lack of sleep and driving many miles, we were not going to miss this window of opportunity and visited the place before it was no longer doable.
Really not sure on the history of the place, possibly built as wine vaults? Unable to find any records of it to be honest, it was really a right place at the right time thing. I believe it was at some point used as a youth club, then left vacant for a number of years and last i heard it was a gym. Unsure of the current situation, would like a revisit with the new camera and glass but beggars cant be choosers eh!!
Visited with non members JDY and xcon2icon. Access at the time was a walk in the park, and ive not seen it posted before so hoping its something that isn't the monotonous same old stuff for people to look at either, despite the lack of decent pictures!!
Really not the most exciting evening, no security, no nosy neighbors, no drama!
Thanks for looking!!
The construction of Caversham Tunnel, now a disused railway tunnel that was cut through a solid sandstone embankment, began in September 1871 in the Kaikorai Valley. Cutting work began on the Caversham side around the same time, but construction of that side of the tunnel did not begin until March 1872. Both sides were joined in almost perfect alignment on 26th September 1872. The 865-metre-long tunnel was fully completed by late February 1873, and a celebratory dinner was held to commemorate the occasion. The tunnel was officially opened for service by Sir Julius Vogel, the eighth premier of New Zealand (prime minister), in December 1873. A party made the first excursion of the line from Dunedin to the Green Island terminus which was located near the coal pits of Messrs Sampson and Brown. A celebratory luncheon was held in a nearby field on the same day.
The first passenger service was run on the line in July 1874, from Dunedin to Green Island terminus. A one-way ticket cost fourpence, while a return-journey cost sixpence. Additional links, such as one to Balclutha via the Chain Hills, were later opened at the end of the 1870s. For the time it was operational, however, the tunnel is said to have claimed a total of three lives. In 1876, a Green Island police constable named Henry Vernon was hit by a train while walking through the tunnel. Later, in 1897, a farmer named Kenneth Kennedy fell from a train while it was passing through. And finally, in 1900 an assistant guard named Robert Burns slipped from the train while moving between carriages in complete darkness inside the tunnel. In spite of the seemingly high mortality rate, the service was used up until 1910, when a larger replacement dual line took over all rail traffic. The replacement line sits a few hundred metres away from the original Caversham Tunnel.
Over the next few years the tunnel remained closed to the public and was almost forgotten, until there was a flood in 1923. Unfortunately, the deep cutting and tunnel provided a drainage conduit for the Kaikorai Stream which had burst its banks. As a result, the water was guided straight into the large flat areas of South Dunedin. Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes, and many lost valuable possessions. It is reported that drainage issues with the tunnel were addressed at the outset of World War Two, when the tunnel was fitted out as an air raid shelter that could be used by the public in the event of an attack.
After the war, ownership of the tunnel passed to the council. It was used during the sixties to lay electrical cables and sewage lines; however, the structure itself has since been left to slowly deteriorate. Lacking any means of proper drainage has resulted in the tunnel filling with thick mud and water, and it is now deemed a dangerous structure. To keep people out, the council erected a barbed wire fence around the Kaikorai Valley side, and a large gate on the Caversham portal. Although there have been talks to convert the tunnel into a pedestrian walk/cycleway, with locals offering to pay for the lighting, all formal proposal have been rejected due to ‘theoretical cost estimates’ and ‘drainage problems’.
Our Version of Events
After a long night of drinking ale and whisky, we were hungover as fuck as we made our way over to Caversham to seek out the legendary ‘secret tunnel of Dunedin’. According to local legend, the tunnel was said to be nestled among trees and concealed by the motorway. It took a fair bit of faffing around to find the exact location of the tunnel, and a little bit of running along the motorway (thankfully the motorways here are a lot different to European ones). With no footpath and a sharp drop to our right, we had to carefully choose a quiet moment and hit legs. With our vision slightly blurred, and everything swaying ever so slightly, we tried to keep our focus on the white painted line on the road as we jogged. With the taste of ale steadily returning to our mouths, jogging is all we could manage.
By the time we reached the entrance to the tunnel, sweat was dripping from us. The post-alcohol effect was in full swing, but we were keen to get the tunnel under our belts. I stood in front of the wire fence and gazed up at the barbed wire fixed across the top for a while. I was waiting for it to stop moving so I could perhaps think about climbing over. The fence was spinning a little bit too, and no matter how hard we held it, it just wouldn’t stop moving. Eventually, though, we managed to get onto the other side. We headed down a set of old decayed wooden steps. They were covered in foliage and, consequently, we stumbled our way down them as some of them had completely disappeared altogether.
At the bottom we reached a large number of pipes poking up from the floor, and a small hut just to the left of us. These, as we quickly discovered seemed to be part of Dunedin’s sewage system. Unfortunately, it was at that precise moment we became sober enough to notice the bubble-guts syndrome had begun. We were going to have to make this a quick explore, before nine pints of arse soup demanded to be set free from the trap doors. Stumbling over sewage pipes seemed to bring the sensation on ever more, so it was time to squeeze the cheeks together, tightly. One slight stagger over a pipe or tree root and that would be it. Disaster.
Entering the tunnel itself wasn’t difficult from here. But, the reports about the mud certainly don’t exaggerate. The sludge was incredibly sticky and we very nearly lost our boots to it. The floor in the first sections resembled a swamp, and in parts was almost at welly breaching point. It’s was almost as if the sewage pipes were leaking… Things got a little easier further on though, for some of us. With the help of a very handy handrail on the right hand wall, The Mexican Bandit was able to climb onto a ledge of raised mud that seemed to have solidified. Using the slightly rubbery feeling ‘handrail’, which was caked in years of slimy grime, he made quicker progress. He continued like this for quite a few metres, leaving us swamp dwellers far behind, until something caught his eye. Squinting, to properly focus his vision in the dark conditions, he could make out a sign plastered onto the ‘handrail’. It read either ‘DANGER 600 VOLTS’, or ‘6000’. In the heat of the moment, his vision was playing tricks on him, adding zeros to the situation, but he swiftly let go in any case. Apparently wellies are excellent at preventing electrocution, but I guess he didn’t want to test that theory out.
For the most part, Caversham Tunnel is a bit samey throughout. It’s a very different style to the railway tunnels we have in England though, so it felt quite unique being all natural rock rather than Victorian brick. There was a small brick section around 400 metres into the tunnel though, and for a very brief moment excitement made the hangover subside. Upon discovering that the brick section was more like an underground bridge, however, disappointment set in and the battle to hold the ale inside ensued once more. There were other interesting features of course, such as the millions of seashells which littered the floor (the swamp ends halfway through, and the remainder of the tunnel is relatively dry). They were all different shapes and sizes, but I have no idea why they were there. The final interesting feature to add to the growing list would be the sewer we found that runs beneath the main passageway. We’d managed to stumble across a semi-broken lid, so decided to have a peek inside to see if there was anything interesting. And behold, there was: Dunedin’s shit floating about right beneath our feet. And to be perfectly honest, whatever you’ve been eating Dunedin, you need to stop…
Explored with Nillskill and The Mexican Bandit.
South Dunedin Flood (1923)
The railway tunnel, opened in 1848 by George Stephenson and the York & North Midland railway company, ran 400 yards directly below Langcliffe Avenue from the A61 Leeds roundabout to the opposite side of Tewit Well Road. Initially, the locals opposed the railway being built, so the tunnel was built around the railway to keep it out of sight. The branch from Brunswick tunnel and the station was then abandoned after 14 years in operation.
The abandoned tunnel was later converted into an air-raid shelter during WW2, with steps leading down to it from the Leeds road roundabout area. A concrete floor had been laid with a 6ft high brick wall lining the tunnel, and the remains of makeshift toilet cubicles in the four corners of the shelter were present.
The air-raid shelter finally became abandoned in 1943 due to the bombing of The Majestic Hotel in 1941.
The tunnel is mostly free from vandalism, apart from some minor graffiti which dates as far back as the 1970's. The indents on the ground from the sleepers are still evident, and the portal has 2 fixed metal grills to allow bats to use the tunnel.
I explored this one with @plod, and another time with some non-members. after spending hours on research and putting together a detailed map it actually turned out much easier to find than we had anticipated. Getting to the entrance was pretty tricky though (as well as actually accessing the tunnel) and when we arrived it soon became clear that our £8 wilko torch was not going to cut it, so with this place being pretty local we decided to do a more detailed explore in a return visit Even with the return trip & better torches my camera really struggled with the poor lighting so picture quality isn't its best.
We knew that the tunnel was basically a straight line so we headed right towards the end where we came across a wall with a doorway. Through here was an empty brick room with toilet cubicles in the corners, and past that room through the opposite doorway was a staircase leading to a pile of rubble underneath the Leeds Road roundabout, which had been dug into by the workmen in the 1960's who didn't know it was there, so sadly that's as far as we could go.
This is a neat little place in Harrogate that not many people actually know of.
‘Boxed In’ is likely to be part of the Etherley Dene Colliery. Although the specific history is rather vague, evidence suggests this was the closest mine in the nearby vicinity, and it was one that was spread over a considerable amount of land. Traditionally, coal was mined in the Bishop Auckland area for a long time, and there are numerous references to coal mining in the area in terms of place and street names. Therefore, the likelihood we ended up in a former coal mine is high. The colliery first opened sometime in the mid-1800s, when the industry was said to be booming, by R. Atherton. It was sold to Quarry Drift Colliery Ltd. in the 1920s, and later to the National Coal Board in 1947. The mine was closed in the early 1950s when the main coal seam dried up and it became unfeasible, economically, to continue operations at the site. Most of the mine was filled in in parts, for safety reasons, and its entrances all sealed. Throughout its entire history there were only five fatalities reported at this colliery; although, records are reported to be missing. All of the individuals who were in the register were either crushed to death or fell from a height.
Our Version of Events
After spending one too many nights smoking ‘reefer’ and drinking with the locals of Bishop Auckland, we heard rumours of a cave – ‘Smokies Cave’, as they all referred to it. After spending several minutes listening to them explaining how big the place was, and how you could still access multiple levels, we decided it would be worth seeking out. Unsure whether ‘Smokies Cave’ really existed or not, we set off late the next afternoon to find it. Unfortunately, though, as we had no transport, other than one bicycle, we ended up hiking seven miles to reach it. Much to our disappointment, after a fairly thorough search, we failed to find the elusive cave on this first excursion.
A few days later, we decided to try again. This time we resolved not to dawdle and reached the area much more quickly. After a further thirty minutes walking aimlessly around a patch of woodland, we stumbled across a reasonably sized inflow concealed behind a large concrete wall. It was an old cylindrical structure constructed of large stones. Having deduced that the old mine may be accessible via this old culvert, and agreeing that this looked like a worthwhile explore anyway, we decided to enter the culvert. To begin with, it was an inviting explore, as it had a perfect stone lined floor and minimal stooping was required. What is more, there was very little water flow and no dirty debris, so having not brought waders with us we were happy chappies indeed.
It took a good few minutes to pass through the nice stone culvert, until we reached an opening to our left, which we assumed was ‘Smokies Cave’. Unsure whether to proceed, as it looked incredibly wet and muddy, we fumbled with a ‘cigarette’ for a moment. Having already decided we would probably enter anyway, regardless of the dampness and muck, we took a quick break and smoked it to put off the inevitable for a moment longer – the unavoidable fact that we were going to get very dirty. Unfortunately, sparking up down here turned out to be a big mistake, and we soon found out why the cave is known as ‘Smokies Cave’. Lighting up down there creates a very dense cloud of smoke that stubbornly refuses to move, no matter how much wafting you try to do. Consequently, taking clear photographs becomes very difficult. In the end, we finished up with a set of snaps that looked as though they’d been taken down a steamy sewer.
On top of the smoke issue we’d created, we quickly discovered that the cave was much wetter and muddier than we’d first anticipated. Furthermore, the ceiling height becomes very low at this point and it becomes necessary to crawl on all fours – both hands and knees. As we crawled on, passing remnants of condom wrappers and the odd cider can, we became increasingly desperate to find somewhere we could stand up. Fortunately, we reached this point after around ten metres or so, and from this point on we name this section ‘Pussy’s Point’. This is the most spacious part, boasting a head clearance of approximately 12ft, so you can stand up. For a good distance this section, which looks as though it dates back to the early twentieth century, is lined with bricks and it looks a little bit like it was originally a ventilation shaft. A lot of coal fragments are scattered across the floor in here. In many ways, it reminded us of the service tunnels in Standedge canal tunnel, where you disembark from the raft (if you enter via dinghy).
Looking ahead, further down into the cave, a very small crevasse-looking type of thing was visible, and it was filled with rubbish and other pieces of shit. It looked very much like a dead end. This seemed like the sort of place people tend to avoid, unless you want to take a piss into it from the entrance point, especially since it was roughly four-foot-tall and four-foot-wide and involved slithering on your chest through the mud, wrappers and other dubious-looking things. For some unknown reason, however, we decided to risk catching gonorrhoea and other highly contagious things, and we went for it. The sludgy shit made strange sounds as we crawled on, but we tried to avoid looking at it. The smell was bad enough after all. We continued like this, winding left and right, for what felt like an eternity, until eventually the height of the ceiling began to increase.
Five minutes later, down in the depths of the cave things started to feel much different. It began to feel like some sort of game of survival. Although it was much cleaner down here, the walls of the cave were changing in colours and textures, sort of like an LSD trip (we imagine), and it felt as though we were becoming lost in a different sort of world, far away from the surface. What was certain at this point, however, was the fact that we were definitely in a former mine since the ceiling was flat and there were random man-made mounds of debris here and there, which made crawling very difficult. A number of roughly made brick walls started to appear in this deeper section too, which made the whole things feel increasingly like a forgotten labyrinth. The height and width of the mine changes a lot down here; at some points, while lying flat on the floor, the ceiling is about two inches above you, and at others it is much higher. After two hundred metres or so of crawling along the ground, we reached a ramp that led down into a long straight tunnel. This tunnel, unfortunately, is filled up to the ceiling with water. While we were a little disappointed the explore was ending here, we were able to push aside our disappointment as we became captivated by a series of beautiful coal veins which were dotted everywhere around us. At this point, though, we started to notice that our heads were hurting, presumably due to a lack of oxygen, so we decided to make a hasty exit. As you might expect, it took us a lot less time getting out than it did getting inside!
Back in the oxygen filled entrance to ‘Smokies Cave’ (the smoke had finally cleared now), we decided to continue our walk down the culvert. The fantastic stone continued the entire way, right up until the end where we reached a metal grate covering the exit. As you can imagine, this walk was blissful compared to the cave where we’d been forced to crawl. It didn’t take too long to bypass the metal grill, and slightly relieved to be in the fresh tasting air of the woodland we headed up the hill to where we guessed civilisation might be. A few free roaming horses passed us as we scrambled through thick brambles, which we thought was a little strange. Determined to find civilisation, however, we chose not to stop and mediate on the situation. Further up the hill, we edged past some sort of mini-rave tent gathering too, where the sound of Macky Gee tickled our ears, which, again, seemed rather out of the ordinary given where we were. At this point, we decided we’d had enough of Bishop Auckland’s strange occurrences, though, and keen to re-join a bit of normality we continued on without stopping, hoping to find a road or a building of some description.
Explored with Ford Mayhem, Box, Husky and Beth.