Posted: 3 May 2009 18:12
I was on a Sunday school outing about 25 years ago and ended up exploring an underground chamber up on the Downs. I looked for it again about 10-15 years ago and presume it was demolished, but can anyone else remember it?
If we conveniently forget that business involving me spending too much time in the bunker, getting left behind, getting lost and waiting for the search party to find me, it was an interesting experience.
I only have my memory to rely on, but the bunker was of brick and sunk so that the roof was just above ground level. The roof was turfed over, and had a series of standard stoneware drainpipes set vertically through it for ventilation.
At one end of the bunker was a vertical shaft that terminated above floor level. A set of wide steps lead down into the near darkness; I don't think I actually went very far in due to a wet floor covered with rubble and debris. The smell probably wasn't too pleasant either.
The images below have been based solely on my memories; what I'd like to know is if anyone else remembers this structure (or others) up on the Downs?
I have no documentary evidence for the bunker, but it is within a known defended locality described in a 1941 document. I presume it dates from 1942 at the earliest, but what it's purpose was, I don't know.
There's no mention of an underground battle HQ in the area, but it might have been connected with the South Downs Training Area and used as accomodation, a depot or some sort of communications centre.
Then there's the shaft at one end - what was this for? I can't see it being for ventilation or an emergency exit and so I'm thinking it might have been a convenient way to run field telephone cables into the bunker or perhaps run a radio aerial up. I don't think it was for a generator, as these were usually housed in separate buildings and the noise and fumes would've been too much in a confined space. The only other possible use is that it was simply a sunken window with light well.
Were there other similar structures elsewhere? I'm sure I saw at least two different ones on the Downs, but I may be wrong. I remember having easy access to it, but also seeing one with a set of wooden gates and barbed wire at the bottom of the steps. It's so long ago that it might be the same structure seen on different occasions.
I also have one other theory as to what it was, but I'm keeping this (and the location) to myself for now as I want to see if anyone else comes up with the same purpose at the same place.
If you do know the structure(s) in question and have any information/photographs, please do send me an email!
Below: the basic structure without the roof.
An interior view showing entrance and shaft:
An area defended by a force (e.g. a platoon) occupying a series of defence works, normally within a barbed wire perimeter. Localities were designed for all-round defence and usually fitted in with a coordinated scheme of neighbouring localities.
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Hibbs, Peter Downs underground bunker - can you help? (2020) Available at: http://www.pillbox.org.uk/blog/216625/ Accessed: 22 February 2020
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