The Secret Tunnels of South Heighton

East Adit.  Before & After 2000.

The following pictures show the Eastern Adit as found in 1993, and after clean-up by the Friends of HMS Forward.

The first picture shows the first of three flights of concrete steps emerging in the Girls' Dormitory (later to become room 16) of the then Guinness Trust Holiday Home (later renamed Denton House). This was the principal operational entrance/exit for all personnel who served in the tunnel, and for this reason the 'risers' of the steps were regularly painted with whitewash. The whitewash is today (2000) flaking away from the risers in 1/8th inch (3mm) thick slices. The 'sooty' appearance of the walls and step risers is just that - the result of an arson attack, probably pre-1970 before the former Observation Post was demolished. The trunking to the left of the stair treads carried foul air to be exhausted via the Observation Post. The 27 steps in this flight lead to a junction with the Battery Room ahead, access to the 'Hen house' Observation Post to the left, and the Eastern Exit to the right, passing the Machine-gun Post and the Man/Grenade trap (covered elsewhere) en route.

Immediately beyond the Man/Grenade trap is an unbroken flight of 51 steps. Measures to improve the security of the establishment in 1943 prior to the invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord) resulted in the installation of a second security gate half-way up this flight of stairs. The gate had to be specially designed in two parts so that the bottom part swung away from the steps, and the top part swung in the opposite direction to avoid confliction with the roof. At the top of this flight of stairs was a 40 ft (13 M) landing with the original 1941 gateway half-way along its length (seen here minus its gate which exists elsewhere on site). At the end of the landing another flight of stairs is visible. This is the third and final flight of 44 stairs within the Girls' Dormitory (later to become Room 16) of the Guinness Trust Holiday Home (later renamed Denton House).

The wall seen in this picture was built by the Ministry of Works was built on 21st November 1945 according to the thoughtful mason who engraved the date in wet cement. There are 30 steps up to the wall and another 14 within the Girls' Dormitory (room 16) of the GTHH. This part of the adit was lined with mineral felt nailed to wood noggins between the RSJs as it was very close to the surface. Over some five decades the battens rotted and the mineral felt fell onto the Lamson message tube and handrails looking like so much dirty washing. The scene here is after much of it had been cleared for safety reasons.

Our initial access to the tunnel was through this hole in the wall, courtesy of the Guinness Trust Estates on condition that we did not publicise our research for fear of increased vandalism to the then vacated property.


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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.