The Secret Tunnels of South Heighton

Finds & Artefacts.

Discarded pneumatic pick (puncher) discovered near west airlock. Body of pick is stamped REAVELL & CO LTD. HP2R 1937    No. 486 WD No. B205. It was discarded because the bit-retaining collet was broken. Somehow it had been knocked and fell behind the air trunking seen in the first picture where it had lain un-noticed for more than fifty years. It has  now been sand-blasted and is on display in the Newhaven Local & Maritime Museum. IWM pictures H.14506 & H.14507, taken by Lt. Tanner on 2nd. October 1941, show RE Sappers at work using one of these picks on an identified northern hillside pillbox access adit. The pictures cannot be shown here for copyright reasons but may be viewed at Newhaven Local & Maritime Museum.

The HMS FORWARD Visitor's Book, Ship's Bell, & Dedication plaque, on long-term loan from the Guinness Trust, are on display in the Newhaven Local & Maritime Museum. HMS FORWARD adopted the Ship's Bell from HMS STEADY after this vessel was mined and lost off Newhaven on 17 July 1940.

An ink-well found in the Signals Distribution Office during the big clean-up. (No ubiquitous biro's in those days!); and a tube of Anti-Gas No. 2 Ointment for application to the affected skin as directed. Note the instruction to 'tear off folded end of tube to obtain contents'.

Back in 1946 there were many items laying around - packs of pink, and white Naval Message Pads, rolls of manifold teleprinter paper, and lots of wooden battery boxes for telephones. The reason for these last was that Newhaven Manual Telephone Exchange was then a CBS2 (Common Battery Signalling) system that did not supply current to operate the subscribers' instrument's transmitter (carbon microphone).  As a result, each and every telephone subscriber's instrument (and telephone extension) required a battery box with three 'dry' cells to power the transmitter.

The discovery of a few scraps of distorted wet hardboard with apparently hand-painted grid squares was regarded as a significant find. For at least 56 years these fragments had lain on the flagstone flooring and been unknowingly walked over by successive tunnel visitors (official or otherwise) without the slightest idea of what they were. Indeed, there may have been more to be found, had we been aware before these pieces were recognised as possibly important. As it was, these pieces could not have been more important as they defined the most southerly and western limits of the painted grid. Knowing this, the scale of the 10Km squares, and the size that hardboard is made in, the geographical limits of a map of that scale on a standard sheet of hardboard was easy to calculate. In fact  a 5ft (1.24 M) length of 4 ft (1.22 M) wide hardboard was all that was required to cover the area in full colour shown above. This tallies perfectly with (a) wallboard support evidence in the plot flagstones and (b) evidence contained in IWM picture H.14502, taken by Lt. Tanner on 2nd. October 1941, allegedly showing plotters at work (although the staged scene was in fact somewhat premature). The picture cannot be shown here for copyright reasons but may be viewed at Newhaven Local & Maritime Museum.

One must not underestimate the incalculable value of the site excavation data provided by Lt. Col. Dennis Day RE (ret'd), who as Lt. Dennis Day RE oversaw the 130 or so RE Sappers who were engaged on the excavation. A professional Mining Consultant, Dennis retained all his detailed paperwork and statistics as it was his first assignment in the RE. He gladly donated all this to me upon learning of my research into 'his' tunnel - about which he was particularly grateful when he learned that no information about, or drawings of, 'his' tunnel had been archived by any of the official archives.

 

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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.