Report - - HMS Forward - May 2019 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - HMS Forward - May 2019


Hilariously under-equipped since 1999.
28DL Full Member
Hello lads, this one's a special one.

Rainey's squad returns!

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And we are proud to bring you:

So, this explore honestly wasn't even planned, the simplest explanation is that we were in nearby Brighton at the time and we were pretty bored. So after doing a little browsing, along came the spur-of-the-moment idea to jump back in my mate's car and try and find this famous tunnel system. Now that I've got my hands on all the photos from the day, done my research and so on, it's time to bash this report out and show this place in all of it's glory. Hope you enjoy.

THE HISTORY: HMS Forward started as an above-ground establishment in June 1940, requisitioning the Guinness Trust holiday home in South Heighton. HMS Forward was responsible for multiple Naval bases and facilities (HMS Marlborough, Aggressive, Newt, Vernon & Lizard) which would've reported their status to Forward regularly. However, in March 1941, the Admiralty ordered ports on the channel to maintain strategic Naval plots and work in conjunction with their local Chain Home RADAR stations, allowing the Navy to know the whereabouts of any ship or aircraft in or around the channel.
To satisfy this order and provide adequate protection to the equipment needed for the task, the decision was made to dig a complex set of tunnels under South Heighton itself. Construction of the tunnels started in May 1941, just two months after the Admiralty order, following a design by a Commander of the Royal Engineers (Col. FH Foster). The tunnels were dug by the 1st Tunnelling Engineers Group and No. 172 Tunnelling Company, with No. 577 Army Field Coy Royal Engineers handling the fitting of the tunnel system's utilities and equipment. The tunnels were fully completed in November 1941.
The bunker was heavily protected and incorporated the best technology available for the time, utilising a back-up generator and back-up batteries for if the mains power failed, airlocks and filtered air-conditioning to protect against gas attacks, newly invented fluorescent lighting, chemical toilets and even internal MG posts for the unlikely event that the Germans invaded and found the complex. The bunker also contained a multitude of COMMS equipment: Telephone exchanges, multiple wireless radios, teleprinters and some hefty GPO systems. The bunker had multiple entrances, one being in a room inside the holiday home, one at the side of the hill and one being a mock hen house. The bunker also had access to multiple pillboxes protecting the area.
When fully operational, HMS Forward handled surveillance within the area of the channel from Dungeness to Selsey Bill, receiving reports from 10 Chain Home stations along that stretch of the coast. It was involved in tracking various German Naval ships (Notably Prinz Eugen), the Dieppe Raid in 1942, various Commando raids on the French coast, D-Day planning and also search and rescue operations.
The bunker saw no use past the end of WW2, being decommissioned in August 1945. The Guinness Trust holiday home where HMS Forward began was demolished at some point in the 1980s.
In 1999, a group called 'Friends of HMS Forward' was established with the intention of opening the tunnels to the public, however the residents refused to accept the proposals and the group was disbanded in 2007. English Heritage now recognises these tunnels as a site of historical importance. Perhaps we may see another attempt to open them to the public in the future?

THE LOCATION: For the most part, these tunnels are still in brilliant condition. The lining is still looking rather good and many fittings are still where they're supposed to be. The ventilation in places appears to have been pulled down and then put back up at some point. The brickwork is majorly intact, with it being knocked out in a few places. The floors are pristine, you can still see places where partitions would have been and there's very few holes in the floor. Even the woodwork in places still remains. A few issues the tunnels do have is the heavy condensation and also a fair amount of crap that's piled up along the sleeping quarters. The ways up to the pillbox entrances are also literal ramps at this point, I wouldn't recommend going up them. Graffiti is everywhere as standard and various signs from when 'Friends of HMS Forward' did their business are still hanging up. Entry was almost too easy, provided you have a keen eye.

THE EXPLORE: Honestly it couldn't have gone any better. We went to the bunker twice, the first time being to actually find it. We nearly gave up, having searched quite a wide area, until I spotted a suspicious set of stairs in the overgrowth. Originally we were just going to note the entrance's location and come back another day, fully kitted. But instead me and the crew went in, with nothing but my pocket torch, to simply get to know the complex. It wasn't anywhere near as daunting as we'd expected. The second time we went was actually quite interesting, we parked nearby and began our walk to the entrance. Much to our surprise we found 3 girls just past the door, who looked absolutely terrified. We had a conversation with them as we got out our cameras, torches and prepared to make the walk down that long access tunnel. We goofed around in the tunnels and also got some cracking photos, we also kept missing the GPO room for some reason. Considering it was the first time we'd gone somewhere out of our local area, we were chuffed to say the least. Not to mention the pub afterwards.


The tunnel plan of HMS Forward. I will be referencing various rooms from this plan.


Get strapped in again lads. It's time to hit that photo limit with pride.


The western access tunnel. And also our first attempt at light painting.

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An emergency washroom and toilet situated along the access corridor.


This partially backfilled stairway led up to some of the pillboxes. The stairs themselves were wooden and have rotted away, leaving only the ramp.

The western sector:

The western sector of the complex contains most of the vital facilities for the bunker. It contains the kitchen, toilets, stand-by generator, air filtration system and the main electrical switchboard. All of this would've been protected by an airlock just after the pillbox access stairways.

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Looking back down to where we came in. The brick doorway is where the airlock door would've been. The pillbox entrance stairways are just outside said door.

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The toilets, opposite the kitchen where we took our totally epic group photo.

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The air filtration system, largely intact. This would've contained the gas filters. The green steel chassis on the right is where the electrical boxes would've been.

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This room contained the stand-by generator, with any fumes being piped into the room behind it, where they went up to the surface.

The western main corridor:

This corridor contained a large sleeping quarters for split shifts, two plotting rooms next to eachother for before and after D-Day, as well as the WT Office (Essentially wireless radios). This corridor is slightly longer than the eastern main corridor opposite. A majority of the partitioning walls still remain.

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The view down the corridor from the western sector, where we entered. On the other side of this wall would've been the sleeping quarters.

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A closer look into what remains of the sleeping quarters. This was likely for bunk beds.

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Standing in the D-Day plot room, looking towards the pre D-Day plot room. The wall that divided the two rooms is still intact, with some totally appropriate graffiti on it.


The end of the western main corridor, this is where the WT office would have been.

The interconnecting rooms:

As shown on the tunnel plan, this bunker had 5 different rooms connecting the two main corridors, each with their own individual purpose. I will show them in order from north to south. I'm a bit over-the-top on keeping my reports organised, aren't I?

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The TURCO office. TURCO standing for TUrn aRound Control Organisation. This would coordinate the fast turning of ships out of ports. The ventilation has actually been put back up by some wires, but it's good to see it intact anyway.

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The WRNS mess room. Also with ventilation tied back up.

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The GPO room, containing two pits, one bigger than the other. These pits are roughly 2 feet deep, allowing enough space for the giant GPO boards and modems of the time. The larger pit is flooded, the smaller pit is somehow bone dry.


The teleprinter room. This room is completely empty, with bits of ventilation left on the floor. Note the laminated sign on the wall from when 'Friends of HMS Forward' were around.

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The Signals/Typists room. This would allow for the typing out of any received communications. The walls also had small ports for speaking through. This room isn't in good condition, with ventilation and various junk dumped in it.

The eastern main corridor:

This corridor contained more sleeping accommodation, along with communications switchboards and equipment for coders to send out more sensitive messages. An airlock can be found at the southern end. This corridor has no partitioning walls at all, but you can see in the floor where they would have gone.


Looking north down the eastern main corridor.


Looking at the airlock from the Signals/Typists room. The graffiti is really annoying me.

The eastern stairs:

The eastern stairs led up to the mock hen house and the bunker's main entrance inside the holiday home. The main entrance stairs were protected by a grenade pit and an MG post. The mock hen house stairs were also protected by another firing slit. At the top of the first staircase, there's a small room where emergency batteries would've been if the generator ran out of fuel or failed.


The first staircase leading up from the airlock. A lot of the piping and trunking is intact.


The emergency battery room.

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The grenade pit and the business end of the MG post.


Looking down towards the MG post from up the stairs.

More photos:


'Look at the size of that!' - Rainey 2019


Introducing my main cameraman. He doesn't want his real name mentioned, so for now we shall call him Richard Head.

And there you go lads. A report that I am very proud to have written. It's been a walk in the park compared to other places we've been, we just walked in, had all our kit ready and practically went for a stroll around this place. We had a laugh and to this day we're still rather chuffed, since we genuinely didn't expect it to go this easily and it's our first explore that took us out of the local area. I know how significant this place is and hopefully I've done it justice. Maybe one day I'll return, or this place might even be open to the public, you never know. Hope you enjoyed this report, and thank you for reading.

- Rainey


Hilariously under-equipped since 1999.
28DL Full Member
That's a good well written report.. it certainly wasn't a walk in the park years back though ;)
Thank you mate. It took me ages to put this together.
Was entry that difficult? I know of the other way in, don't tell me people have actually used it.


Regular User
Thank you mate. It took me ages to put this together.
Was entry that difficult? I know of the other way in, don't tell me people have actually used it.
The original entry was done in such away that unless you new it was their you'd probably never notice it, unfortunately lazy explorers who should have known better runined it, hence all the graff and videos plastered everywhere.

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