The Secret Tunnels of South Heighton

Canadian Coastal Corps & ATS at Denton Manor.

National Archives document WO 199/1172 dated 22.9.41. states "Army Commander Fixed Defences, Newhaven appointed. HQ must be in Denton next to Naval HQ".

During the war the Canadian Corps Coastal Artillery requisitioned Denton Manor as a Headquarters. A wooden commemorative plaque inside the front door records the fact but no mention has yet been discovered in any Canadian archives. British National Archives contains references to the establishment of an Army Headquarters at Denton Manor, the primary requirement being that it must be close to the Royal Navy Plot (i.e. HMS FORWARD). The Army needed to share the intelligence gathered by the coastal radar stations after it had been filtered by the Royal Navy to identify known friendly vessels from unidentified and potentially hostile targets. In practice, Wrens in the Naval plot passed filtered intelligence information to the adjacent ATS personnel who maintained a separate plot in the same room in the tunnel, and they in turn passed details on to the cliff-top gunnery positions for action as required.

This contemporary picture shows some of the Canadian Corps Coast Artillery Officers posing round Denton Manor fish pond that remains to this day. To date nobody has been able to identify any of those present.

The women's branch of the army was called the Auxiliary Territorial Service, or ATS. It was formed in 1938 and after one year 17,000 women volunteers had joined up. This number grew to over 200,000 by the end of 1943. The women wore khaki uniforms with black shoes. Even their underwear was uniform issue and khaki in colour. Women were not allowed to go into action with the men or to use firearms, but apart from that they did the same work as the men and were paid the same wages. Jobs in the army varied from cooks, clerks, telephonists and translators to lorry drivers, motorbike messengers and engineers. Here the ATS served in the Manor and the tunnel as telephone switchboard operators, telephonists, teleprinter operators, plotters and clerks.


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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.