The Secret Tunnels of South Heighton

The T.U.R.C.O. Room.  Before & After 2000.

These pictures show the TURCO room as found in 1993, and after clean-up by the Friends of HMS Forward.

(Note the faint paint line on the flagstones revealing the position of a previous wall and entrance into this office).

The discovery of this hardboard nameplate amongst the detritus on the floor produced a clue to the purpose assigned to this office. TURCO was clearly an acronym, but for what? The answer was eventually revealed after months of detective work by The Friends of HMS Forward. The TURCO office acquired its name from the discovered purpose it served post mid-1944.

T.U.R.C.O. is an acronym for TUrn Round Control Organisation. referred to in paragraph 103 of the USA Naval 'Neptune Operations Plans' thus...  

"T.U.R.C.O. To assist naval shore authorities in the quick turn round of ships and craft, inter-service bodies styled T.U.R.C.O's (Turn Round Control Organization) were set up at the Nore, London, Portsmouth, Newhaven, Portland, Cardiff and Dartsmouth. T.U.R.C.O.'s duties were to collect all ships coming in to find out their state, to supply them with their main requirements, to load and to sail the ships and craft, in convoys or groups, to fulfill the Military Plan."

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No clue regarding the use of this room prior to 1944 has been revealed in our research to date.

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The detritus scattered over the floor shown in the first picture is typical of what littered the whole Operational Area floor area after looters ransacked the tunnel lining to liberate the wooden battens that supported it. For fifty years this mish-mash of mineral felt and plywood lay perpetually sodden by condensation dripping from the roof and walls. Removal of the rubbish and ventilating the tunnel with a gate at the western entrance has reduced the internal humidity such that condensation no longer constantly occurs, leaving the floor absolutely dry as shown in the second picture. This has consequently reduced the rate of corrosion of the tunnel infrastructure.


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All illustrations and text on this site are 1941-2021 Geoffrey Ellis, or The Friends of HMS Forward, or Nick Catford.