Saturday, April 29, 2006

Fort Southwick 1942 - 1945

Hi I'm Bob Hunt and I'm currently taking a PGCE teaching qualification with Plymouth University. As part of the course I need to create a Blog. Since I'm the author of the PORTSDOWN TUNNELS website I'd thought I'd do a short piece on Fort Southwick.

During WWII an Underground Headquarters - UGHQ (for operation Overlord) was built beneath Fort Southwick. This provided a bombproof, comprehensive Naval, Army and Air Force Operation Control and Communication Centre - call sign 'MIN'. The headquarters’ main role on D-Day was gathering information and coordinating the Allied naval forces. Reports from radar stations were crossed-referenced with messages from shipping to provide an accurate picture of what was happening in the English Channel. This information was then plotted on a large table map at the Fort, and was passed to the Allied commanders nearby at Southwick House. On the 6 June 1944 there were 700 staff working underground.

The underground workings at Fort Southwick were excavated by 172 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers. Work was started on 16 February 1942, probably as a direct result of the Washington Conference mentioned above, and the complex completed during December 1942. The operation tunnels were about 100 feet beneath the surface. Additional galley facilities were provided in the Central Caponier of Fort Southwick proper. Air conditioning and gas filtration was installed as well as fresh water storage. Access was via 3 notorious staircases from within Fort Southwick - there was no lift. Because of its D-Day connection, its existence was a very closely guarded secret, which still seems to persist even today. Southwick House located in the village of Southwick a mile north from the Fort, was used as the headquarters for SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) although the actual HQ, on and for some time after D-Day, was a tent in nearby woods.

For further information you can access my website here.

Download a PowerPoint of Fort Southwick here.

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