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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dockyard WW2 HQ, Chatham

This vaulted tunnel was original designed by Marc Brunel and built at the beginning of the 19th Century. Its purpose was to allow timber to be brought from a nearby canal to the Brunel Sawmill, within Chatham Dockyard. After the closure of the timber yard, the tunnel was re-used as a Civil Defence HQ. Halfway along the remaining section of the tunnel a second floor has been added, giving this area two levels, the lower level forming the rooms for the HQ. A few interesting items, such as wall fixings, tables and a chalk board still remain in situ from this time. Blast walls have also been added in the other parts of the tunnel, and three emergency exits created.

Unfortunately, these tunnels are not open to the public, this was a one-off specially arranged trip with Kent History Forum.

Looking in from the entrance

One of the vaulted rooms

Light switches from WW2

Most of the vaulted rooms look like this:

Ladder to one of the escape hatches

Another entrance, sealed at the top

Inside the control room

Another view inside

Board still remaining on wall

Small annex room

Original doors remaining in good condition

This ladder leads up to the upper level

Looking back down

Looking along the upper level of the vault, which is only a few feet high

This was probably part of the ventilation system


Anonymous said...

Interesting tunnel.

It's the Brunnel Sawmill tunnel.

Anonymous said...

I have it from a very reliable source that there is a military bunker under the Medway towns with an entrance in the dockyard. He claimed that the bunker was so vast that a jeep was needed to get around down there, also that there was halls the size of several football field. He told me it was built to house 4000 military personnel, and that the part he saw extended under the River Medway and at least as far east as Rainham, where he said there was another exit. The officer who showed him around told him it was larger than that. As I can find no mention of this facility anywhere, I can only assume it is a shaggy dog story, or that the bunker is still operational.

Anonymous said...

There is an underground bunker complex within the former HMS Pembroke and Naval base.

There was an entrance from the Dockyard and one in HMS Pembroke which was located in one of the three casement like stores which had WWII air raid shelters built onto the outer, these were on the rear terrace road.The tunnels were very long and well illuminated.

They were refurbished in the 1960s and 70s.

During my time at RNPHQ Chatham we had to go in and conduct rounds, to a certain point which was in the dockyard.

It was also rumoured amongst those that knew, that there was a connecting tunnel to HMS Wildfire (

I cannot confirm this, I do however know from first hand experience that as stated there is a bunker complex as I have mentioned.

Anonymous said...

I think I found this bunker 20odd years ago when I was working as a painter in the dockyard, is the entrance through a pill box above ?

Anonymous said...

I can conform that their is military bunker under the Medway towns with an entrance in the dockyard.

As i have been down their when i was posted Brompton Barracks i can also conform that some of it is still used for training.

Danny1962 said...

I have my doubts about whether there is a very large and secret complex of underground tunnels underneath the Medway Towns. If it does exist, the intended use would surely have been for a Local Command Centre, a bomb-proof barracks, and a storage centre for essential items. It would certainly have been brought into use in the event of a nuclear attack on the UK. The logical places for entrances would include Brompton, Kitchener and Chattenden Barracks -- placed there, they are easy to secure, and away from prying eyes. The geology would also be favourable there.

But an underground complex several miles square with tunnels large enough to drive a vehicle through would surely not have been built just with hand tools, and would have generated vast quantities of spoil. Surely, both the tunnelling machinery and the waste would have been noticed by locals at the time of construction. But we hear nothing about this.

Also, what about ventilation? Tunnels several miles long would need many ventilation shafts. Why do we not see any at all? If they existed they would need to be inspected periodically at ground level, usually in places where civilians can access freely. Why have we never seen this happen?

So whilst we can be sure a bunker is down there somewhere, I'm sure it is nowhere near as big as the urban legends suggest.

Tj said...

Behind th billboard on chatham hill is the entrance

Jb said...

Is it the billboard under the railway bridge??

Unknown said...

You're going to have to elaborate more on what you know. Are you available on social media sites like Facebook or WhatsApp? Ideally I would like to pick your brains and get more information if that's no problem.

Danny1962 said...

(replying to Tj and Jb) I'm told there is an entrance at the bottom of Chatham Hill. You can see it very easily if you look from Luton Road -- it's almost straight ahead of you. It's the metal doors, near the billboard.

onlinestoreforu said...

I’m not sure if I agree with all of this. However, your article is very informative, and lots of people will walk away from this post feeling more educated than when they arrived. Overall, you have done a great job.

C/MX 540--- said...

In 1944 i was drafted to HMS Pembroke. THE barracks so over crowded no where to "Sling your Hammock"only alternative down The Tunnel. Wooden bunks 4 tier high. Dark and smelly. Have walked well into tunnel checking air and temperature condition. Entrance somewhere inside barracks.

Unknown said...

My father worked in chatham dockyard in the 60's an early 70's if yo go through the main gated entrance you pass the Dock masters house on the right of you but if you walk around the back of that building you will see two giant blst doors each big enough to take a double decker bus but that's as far as my experience goes but my father was on a routeen clean up inside and they were driven around in electric powered vehicles and there were roadways and even a hospital that must be accessed from medway hospital as it goes for miles its like a small city underground. My father worked in the bunker for several weeks and didn't even cover half there are rooms filled with bunks hundreds of them dentists hairdresser's stores vast dining areas he even said there was a pub its basically a giant underground nuclear fallout city!.. And as a boy myself me and my friends have walked all the tunnels from what used to be Fort Horsted to Fort Luton an from there to Fort amerherst but there all gone now collapsed and filled in for safety the tunnel at the bottom of Chatham hill originally went to the mosaliam on the lines and frort amerherst but was never able to get t the mosaliam as was already collapse its all blocked off now now behind the metal doors is a big concrete block and past that wall of man layers that had been tunneled through many times since construction into a small arched brick tunnel running in a slight incline towards mosaliam there was a junction that went left to amerherst signposted in white with a black background on the wall of the tunnel with the remains of old cables and lights! I remember walking in the dark until we herd talking ahead of us in the darkness as we walked with our torches we made it to amerherst we were obviously where we shouldn't be with barriers saying stay out dangerous from direction we had come from. The following summer the tunnel was collapsed and the one at Fort Luton had bricks falling out the ceiling an walls and years later you couldn't pass the collapse they were all linked! And definitely is a giant bunker under Brompton and medway hospital there are air ventilation in medway hospital grounds that are well over 100ft deep the hospital only has two floors under ground apparently? So what do they ventilate?

Unknown said...

There is nothing in there I went there todayIt's all caved in inside

Unknown said...

I was in the Royal Navy Auxiliary Service at Gravesend Kent,Chatham HMS Pembroke was our base There was a underground oprations room there,at that time the equipment was still oprational.Google HMS Wildfire some great photos and information. Bob.

Anonymous said...

The Garrison for the Royal school of military engineering is there so wouldn't be surprised that has tunnels underneath too connecting Fort Amherst as well as others!

Anonymous said...

I know during the late 80s we used to go down into a bunker complex whose entrance was just down from the Brompton military museum towards the old dockyard. It was huge with a massive room with a map on the wall. The entrance ramp went down quite steeply. I think the emergency exits came out in what is now Brompton barracks moats.