The Secret Tunnels of South Heighton

Wireless Telegraphy Office (W/T).  Before & After 2000.


The Wireless Telegraphy Office as found 1994, and being cleaned up by The Friends (2001).

Comparing the pictures (above) with the plan (below) the only congruence is the Stationery Cupboard thanks to the Royal Navy affinity for painting a white line round anything that doesn't move. Everything else has to be imagined.

Plan of the Wireless Telegraphy Office  post-1943 as described by Victor Sievey

Leading Telegraphist Victor Sievey RN served with HMS FORWARD from May to October 1944. He recalled, "there were seven Marconi CR100 receivers and transmitting keys on the left side of the room, and two Eddystone 358 and two National HRO receivers on the right of the room with 'a battery of intercom phones' between them. During his service here the W/T office was to all intents and purposes run on a day-to-day basis by one CPO Tel First Class 'Nobby' Clarke BEM, ably assisted by three-badge L/Tel Clasby. Two civilian gents who worked days only (day and day about) were Marconi operators working in a supervisory capacity for the War Office. Affectionately known as Uncle Alf and Uncle Stu, they were extremely good and efficient operators who had served on the cross-Channel boats and were well-experienced in Channel radio working conditions. The 500KHz International Distress Frequency was constantly monitored and also one of the coastguard frequencies (probably Niton Radio). A timed watch was also kept on Rugby W/T on a LF world-wide frequency. HMS FORWARD's callsign was MFF. The regular transmitters were off-site but standby transmitters were said to exist elsewhere in the complex."

During the war the hillside where Brands Close, & Glynde Close are today, was occupied by about twenty small (about 25 ft - 8 M) radio masts that were adequate for purpose without being obvious to enemy reconnaissance aircraft. Many of these masts became washing line supports around the village but one is still standing as a radio mast in 2015.

Newhaven was an MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat) base. Enemy ports and shipping were their primary objectives. Nightly operations usually commenced with the boats going out from HMS AGGRESSIVE at the harbour at about 1800/1900hrs. A night watch was kept constantly on the radio frequency used by the MTBs. Once embarked on a mission their only contact was by radio to HMS FORWARD who plotted their progress and advised any compromising developments. Many commendations were earned by the brave crews of these craft in pursuit of their duties. Sadly, more than a few of them failed to return home following an engagement. 

Vic met his wife Betty Smith (later Sievey) whilst at Newhaven - she was a WRNS Telegraphist in the same office. I interviewed them when they returned to Denton House on the D-Day fiftieth anniversary Sunday, 5 June 1994, with Cyril ‘Cigs’ Taylor, another veteran RN Telegraphist. Vic & Betty recall their HMS FORWARD experiences in the video "The Secret Tunnels of South Heighton". Vic retained his interest in radio communication as a licensed radio amateur. Sadly both Betty and Vic are 'Silent Keys' today.

The last remaining mast evidence was destroyed c.1996 with the demolition of the west end of Denton House shown in this picture. The mast stood on concrete base M very close to room 16 with three guy points G at 120-degree spacing relative to the mast.


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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.