London Road Tunnel Shelter

 Created 25-08-2001    Last update 08-02-2017

General Information

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London Road Shelter

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 Wymering Shelter


 
 
main enterance

Behind the wire is a partially back filled opening. Behind this you can

see a wall of concrete blocks sealing the East Escape Route tunnel. There is another concrete wall behind this one. The tunnel was sealed around 1996 and again in 2008. Photo taken in 2008.

 
 
 
western escape portal in dense undergrowth

The late Peter Cobb surveys the dense undergrowth barring the way to the chalk cliff face, where we discovered the Main Entrance.

 
 
 
top of the western escape portal

This is where the steep backfill meets the chalk cliff face. The dark opening one third of the way up the photo marks the top of the Main Entrance. 

 
 
 
bricked up western portal

A close up photo reveals the the top of the tunnel opening, still bearing pick marks. Inside can be seen the old brickwork, sealing up the Main Entrance. This site has not been disturbed for a long time.

 
 
 
London Road WWII

NEW

London Road looking north. Some historians have interpreted this photograph as people travelling to Portsdown fair. This could be an error. It is definitely a war photo because gas masks are being carried, but it seems that the fair was suspended during WWII. The people are possibly making their way to the London Road deep tunnel shelter which is 700 yards further up the hill. 

 
 

 

Tunnel Pass

NEW - 08-02-2017

An admission card was required to reserve a place in the shelter. This example is from Maureen Arnott (nee Fryer). The number at the top right shows the location of the bunk allocated to her. (see photo below). There are also 2 mistakes on the document: the address should be Cranleigh Avenue, and Maureen has been referred to by her second name Patricia.

 
 
 
Tunnel Plan

NEW - 08-02-2017

A map of the shelter was also provided along with the pass. Arrowed is the tunnel location of Maureen's bunk. Note the date: 11 March, 1944.

 

 


Here are some extracts from emails received about the London Road Deep Tunnel Shelter. Any italicised comments in [] brackets are mine.

 
NEW - 29-05-2012
 

My sister, 80 this year, used to shelter in the tunnels during some of the worst air raids of the war. She was about 7 and a half when the war began and remembers going to the tunnels to get a good night's sleep, even though there was an air raid shelter in the back garden. Our family lived in Lower Farlington Road, Farlington, which was quite rural then. A good sleep was often thwarted by the snoring and calling out of fellow sleepers in other bunks.

There were two sisters born during the war, so life became even more complicated. My sister has told me the bunks and blankets were fumigated once a month. She also remembers tripping on the uneven surface one night (it was badly lit) and falling on her face. It wasn't until decades later, when a dentist asked her if she had ever broken her jaw, that she put two and two together ! Her jaw must have healed by itself as she only remembers having a very swollen face and no doctor was consulted.

Our father was in a protected occupation, working for the GPO and was involved in essential communications work. Part of his job was installing the communications in Southwick House in readiness for the D Day invasion. He was also in the Home Guard, but that's another story.

Lesley Aylward - May 2012

 
 

 

NEW - 29-04-2012

 

I was very interested to read your article in The News about the tunnel shelters. I lived in Milton during the war, (Locksway Road) and every night my mother and I made the long trek to what is now Cliffdale Gardens. We managed to get a bus to the Red Lion in Cosham and then walked up Portsdown Hill to the shelters. We slept in bunks. In the morning we made the return journey home. I can't remember that I found this much of an ordeal but with hindsight I think my poor mother was probably exhausted! I am always surprised that very little seems to be known about the shelters but of course to me it seems like yesterday.
 

Mrs Joan Irwin - April 2012

 
 

 

NEW - 07-12-2008

 

I certainly have memories of being taken to the London Road Tunnels by my mother and accompanied by my younger brother, I was about 5 years old at the time so memory tends to play tricks.
We lived at the time with my mothers parents in Epworth Road, my father being in the RN, and travelled to Cosham by bus, walking from there to the tunnels. I recall bunks on either side of the tunnel and two or three tiers high. We always seemed to be billeted next to the same families, one in particular whom my mother became friendly with being a woman named Dixon with six or seven children, from Jervis Road in Buckland, one of whom I subsequently attended Binstead Road school with. I certainly do not remember anybody getting much sleep in those tunnels as the older kids were having a whale of a time.

 

Pete Baxter - December 2008

 
 

 

NEW - 12-11-2008

 
 

A friend sent me the article in the paper on the Tunnels. [Portsmouth NEWS] I spent many nights in the tunnel shelters with my family and have told anyone who would listen about their existence, but few seem to know about them.

Your piece brought back so many memories some happyish; I was five at the time but remember great camaraderie. Ours was a large family and Mum always tried to keep us all together, Dad worked in the Dockyard.

It's only in recent years I've appreciated how stoic the women of Pompey were, my brother who was 16 had been killed when a bomb dropped on our house so it was a very hard time. I can still remember the distinctive dank smell in the tunnels. Thank you for the memories

 
Debbie Jarvis- November 2008

 

 

NEW - 26-04-2008

 

I was very interested in your recent article [Portsmouth NEWS 12-04-2008] regarding the tunnel shelters. During the war years when I was a small child we were visiting the shelters every night as a family. The memories are very plain for me as my Father who was an accomplished pianist was in charge of the entertainment. He was quite well known in Portsmouth. His name was Charles Oakley. He spent a lot of his time arranging the entertainment, and the concerts he organised in the tunnel shelters used to go down very well. We had a proper little theatre with a stage etc and spent some very enjoyable evenings. I remember there was also a chap who played the accordion by the name of Alfie who was very well known in Portsmouth. Although there was a war on times were much happier than what they are now.


Maureen Collins - April 2008

 
 

 

NEW - 06-05-2006

 

As a small child during the war, I lived with my parents in Brecon Avenue, Drayton. On one occasion my mother took me to the 'Tunnel Shelters' to avoid the bombing. As I remember, the tunnels were about the size of a Nissan hut with bunk beds each side running the length, three high. I particularly remember the noise of screaming kids which went on all night and of course the lights were kept on, so I don't think either of us got much sleep. I think my mother was also concerned about cleanliness, but I doubt if I would have noticed at about four years old. That was the only visit we made, as my mother declared that she would rather die in her own bed than go through that hell again!

Local folklore said that the chalk excavated from these tunnels was used to build the Eastern Road extension where it joined the A27 (as was) at Farlington. The road at this point is certainly on a raised embankment, so it could well be true. I do remember being wheeled in my pushchair to see the roadworks and remember that everything was covered in white dust. These must be about my earliest memories.

When I was at school in the late 1940s a school friend named Fielding lived in a house in the Cliffdale pit and to told me had found a way of getting into the shelters through a ventilation shaft [yes, these shafts still existed then] as all the entrances had been sealed up. We climbed in and it was largely as I remembered, but of course it was pitch dark and I was really worried about losing our way and not being able to get out again, particularly as nobody knew where we were. Frankly, it was a bit too scary and I was glad to get out again.

Alan Lambert - May 2007

 
 

NEW - 12-11-2006

 

We have talked to my mother-in-law and she says she visited Portsmouth with her sister probably about April/May 1945 before VE day. She is sure of this because at the time of their visit she and her sister were still both single women and her sister married a Portsmouth soldier just before the war ended. They were visiting their Grandmother who had remained in Portsmouth throughout the war.

 

My M-in-L says that they went through a wooden door into the tunnel and there were bunks along the wall, but without any bedding at all, the tunnels by then not being used. There was a long table which they were told was used as a canteen table and she says that they were charged 6d to have a look round. Although she has been back to Portsmouth lots of times she only visited the tunnels just the once. She worked at the Twilfitt factory in Portsmouth at the beginning of the war and says both then and as children they regularly pushed their cycles up 'the hill' and freewheeled them down again. They often went to fairs held on the hill before the war so she was very familiar with the area at that time.
 

It would be interesting for us and consolation for my M-in L to know of anyone else recalling a tour of the tunnel around the spring of 1945.

 

Anne Collins - November 2006

 

[If anyone remembers these tours then please email me]

 
 

NEW - 15-01-2005

My interest was prompted by memories of actually playing in the air 
raid tunnels as recently as the early 1980s when I was in my young 
teens. I guess the tunnels we were playing in were what you refer to as 
the "London Road" site. Entrance was relatively easy through a large 
gap between the chalk face and brick wall from, as I remember it, a 
static home / caravan park about half way down the hill on London road. 
I don't recall there being any houses in the immediate vicinity. The 
tunnels had rubble strewn about, some rooms were still clearly 
identified as to their purpose, but the dangers were heightened by a 
great deal of loose pipe work hanging from the ceilings. It was a 
considerable warren of tunnels although I do not clearly remember how 
much we explored as we did find ourselves doubling back on ourselves. 
Again, if my memory is reliable, the tunnels were set out not unlike 
the American street system, in "blocks".
 

It's only now that I realised just how foolish we were in terms of our ignorance - we went as a group of 13/14 year olds for an "Adventure" without even a second thought for issues such as air quality, escape routes etc! Perhaps ironically we used the tunnels as our own "battle ground" with a spot of rock hurling at our opposing team. Breathing seemed perfectly natural - I don't even recall a staleness in the air, although the tunnels were fairly damp. I also wonder whether the rubble we were using as projectiles wasn't an earlier brick wall that had been knocked down earlier - the entrance seemed to be a pretty much open secret at the time.

I do not recall any ventilation shafts or exits - in all honestly if I did see them I probably wouldn't have registered them with any great interest - to us it just seemed natural that we went out the way we went in and that air was provided by the small entrance! Seems absurd now!

Adrian McGachie - December 2002

 

 

As a child of 13 in 1943 I can remember walking every night and then back home again next morning to the London Road tunnels.
I walked with my mother and my sister aged 9 months pushing a pram with the baby in it and a mattress for us to sleep on in the tunnels. We walked from Cardiff Road North End. I can remember the damp and the smell.


Joan Newman - May 2003

 

General Information

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London Road Shelter

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 Wymering Shelter