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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mount Wise MHQ, Plymouth

As a main Naval base, a WW2 Headquarters in Plymouth was necessary. It was sited within the grounds of Admiralty House, a 19th Century house within the garrison area of Plymouth docks, and became known as Mount Wise. Construction of the main, two level sunken concrete bunker began in 1939 but the site was extended with a series of underground tunnels in 1942. This was known as the Plymouth Underground Extension, and it is located under the grounds of the house. The main bunker area was fitted and operational with many rooms, and remained in MOD use throughout the Cold War, until it was decommissioned in 2004. It is obvious, however, that the tunnels were abandoned long before this time, although some operational equipment still remains within them. The bunker is currently being refitted as a secure storage data centre, and fortunately, the renovation plans seem to be sympathetic with the site's history.

Many thanks to the owners for allowing a visit to this facility, and Mr John Sar for arranging.

Entrance to the bunker in the C19th Ditch

Corridor in the bunker

One of the rooms

Inside the plant room

Concrete tunnel passage
Long access tunnel to Underground Extension

Inside the main tunnels

Another tunnel
Compression unit

One of the higher ceiling tunnels

Large tunnel with two spurs at standard tunnel height

Another view in the main passage


Anonymous said...

I guess you didn't follow the passage to the right of the entrance, before the blast proof door, as you enter the bunker .. now that would have been an interesting series of pictures because you would have seen the barrack rooms that housed many servicemen as they waited for D-day.

That path would have taken you to beneath the cricket pitch outside the main house.

I spent many happy hours wondering through the tunnels there.

If you follow the passage way past the doors, you also find the main control room which was used to control shipping movements through the channel during the war. If you enter that room and look up you'll also see the viewing gallery where the watch officer could see everything and because it's totally enclosed, with you standing behind a glass screen, you can have conversations without being heard ...

For information, that room was used, in the late 1980's, as the back-up MRCC to Kinloss.

Anonymous said...

Had a draft there in early eighties. Was told about the tunnels but wasn't allowed through the doors as it was flooding.
Spider ,.,.

Unknown said...

After leaving the RAF I joined 3 MHU and arranged for my own detachment to the TARE Commcen at Mount Wise. I worked with the Navy for two weeks in about 2002.

Anonymous said...

I was often sent into the old PUE in the 1970's whilst working for the DOE Property Services Agency as a carpenter. We were sent in to shore up some of the collapsed roofs etc. and used to enter through the large doorway in the wall at the back of Blagdons boatyard, under the footpath between Richmond Walk and Mutton Cove. I remember that it was huge inside and very damp, with water underfoot, but very impressive.

Unknown said...

I know this is nothing to do with plymouth but dose eny one have eny info on the bronze doorway in the navy monument on chatham lines pls help me sombody :) thanks

Popeye said...

As an RN radio op I worked at Mountwise with the RAF from 1977 to 1978. Used to do the 'scran run' to a local Chinese during the first watch

Anonymous said...

Mum volunteered in the Wrens Reserve in the 1960s, and our family used to see her disappear through a mysterious rocky entrance.

Anonymous said...

When smoking was banned in the Commcen, we used to go into the plant room and have a burn or two :)

Anonymous said...

I worked in the Radio Room MHQ & Commcen in 1971 on detachment from Stafford 16Mu & slept at
Mount Batten just round the corner, where they had the Air Sea Rescue Marine craft,
one of them was the HMAFV SPITFIRE. It was a stuffy place to work. Martin aka Kinks.

Anonymous said...

As a Wren I worked in radio room (CRR) in 1960/61.

Unknown said...

A correction to anonymous said re radio room MHQ & Commcen 1971 it was not 1971 but 1972 into 1973 that i was there it was a claustrophobic place down there i worked with some civilians in radio room MQD C/S but in CommCen all seemed to be RAF.
We slept over at RAF Mount Batten & got transport to Mount Wise. Martin AKA Kinks

Anonymous said...

Myself RO1(G) Rory Gallacher and my Oppo Strak RO1 (G) Ian Strachan worked in the Radio Room 'A' Watch (NRR) manning MTI on the morse key back in 1977. A Minibus from Drake would ferry us to the big doors for our watches. In fact we were just this minute having a natter about how things were at MHQ Mountwise back in '77. Great memories, well the memories that my old brain can still remember, great Oppos, great times all round. Rory.

Anonymous said...

In 1970's during exercises I worked in the Met Office rooms which were next door to the double height operations room where the RAF Controller sat next to the RN Controller (with a glass partition between them of course!). I remember giving a message to the RAF Controller and walking back out knocking the sliding entrance door off its runner because it had closed behind me - fortunately I was able to lift it back onto the runner. During exercises the "pretend enemy - orange forces" had an overview from the top layer into the operations room.
Previously we had a set of weather instruments set up in the garden of Admiralty house although I never used them.
Messages and indeed lengths of teleprinter punched tape messages were taken into the tape relay centre / comcen nearby.
Each room door was marked with a series of colour strips and if the colour matched your pass then you could enter if need be. It was sometimes a pleasure to go and see some daylight through the bars of the door onto Admiralty Walk.
There was a canteen/mess on the first floor.

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised that the authorities haven't tried to make this whole underground network into some sort of attraction for Plymouth, could be absolutely fascinating, if portraid correctly!!! Its all part of Plymouth's important history and should be saved for everyone....could also bring in tourism and help the local area ....I'm not really sure why the local authorities don't have any great vision for Plymouth, especially seeing as it has great history....such a shame

Anonymous said...

I was posted to Mount Wise in 1977 until 1979. As part of the Crabfat contingent working alongside Fishheads I had a great time. Best memory is navy rations - far superior to the rations we picked up at RAF Mountbatten.

Anonymous said...

I also worked there in the 70's installing 600x600 suspended ceilings for the PSA Norman Wyneman? The in house lunches were very nice.