The Secret Tunnels of South Heighton

The Sinking of HMS FORWARD (according to Lord Haw-Haw)


During WW2, William Joyce, English language propaganda broadcaster from Nazi Germany, otherwise known as "Lord Haw-Haw", gave out daily broadcasts at set times that included names of prisoners-of-war, casualties and fatalities, none of which was necessarily reliable information. Nevertheless the broadcasts made compulsive listening and attracted a large audience on account of their content. Much of it was 'black propaganda' such as the day in 1944 when he announced that "HMS Forward had been sunk by the German Navy, with the loss of all hands..."

That sounds very amusing to us today. But during the war, only a few dozen British service personnel and even fewer members of the public would have heard of HMS Forward, let alone its circumstances (being a land-locked 'stone frigate' in Naval-speak). However, the news that one of our naval vessels 'had been sunk with all its crew' would have struck horror into the hearts and minds of all naval personnel and civilians with serving relatives who for security reasons were generally unaware of their loved-ones' whereabouts.

The nation-wide fear and despondency caused by an announcement like this would have served its purpose by creating an illusion that the Royal Navy was being outwitted by the Nazi Navy and Nazi Intelligence. Bad news is more sensational than good news. - Who, whether service or civilian, could have failed to be alarmed at such a pronouncement?

As far as our Intelligence Service was concerned, there was 'intelligence' to be gathered from these broadcasts. They had the means to determine the likely validity of the information; but only for their own purposes. In this case it was clear that the Nazis had knowledge of an 'HMS Forward' by some manner or means, but it was also obvious that they were not necessarily aware of its physical form (e.g. marine craft - destroyer, cruiser, battleship or whatever). Perhaps they had intercepted the 'header' of a radio message? We shall never know.

The 'alleged sinking' of HMS Forward provided a good reason in 2000 for The Friends of HMS Forward to claim to be 're-floating HMS Forward'. If restored with the aid of a Lottery Grant, this totally unmodified WW2 Royal Naval Headquarters could have provided the nation and Newhaven with a unique tourist attraction and educational centre for generations to come. There is no other Royal Naval Plot between Dover and Fort Southwick at Portsmouth; and both of these latter were later considerably modified as cold war communications centres.

Alas it was not to be. Our attempt was scuppered by 'Friendly Fire' from a less than compassionate property owner who could not be persuaded to accept an offer of regular tunnel inspections and maintenance together with immunity from liability for tunnel perils that would restore the equity value of his property in return for a nil-rent 999-year lease on part of his property that was of no use to him. He told us he had written to the Prime Minister about 'getting these tunnels filled-in', but he was not so forthcoming regarding the reply he received!

(Footnote. William Joyce was arrested in May 1945. As he possessed a British Passport, he was tried for treason. He was found guilty, and was executed on 3rd January 1946).

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