Wymering Deep Tunnel Shelter

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

General Information

London Road Shelter

 

Wymering Shelter

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General history

The Wymering tunnel shelter was built during WWII to serve as an air raid shelter for the people of Portsmouth. It was located in the Wymering chalk pit (sometimes referred to on maps as the "old chalk pit"), against a sheer chalk face. 

It could  accommodate 2565 people and had 3 tier bunk beds, first aid and canteen facilities. 

For a period of time during WWII the shelter was used as a Hospital. This lead to the creation of a local legend which still persists today; that there was a purpose built Underground Hospital within Portsdown, but it was just the re-use of this shelter.

The tunnelling work was started in July 1941 by McAlpines Construction Company, and it was opened on the 2nd January 1942. It finally closed on 19th February 1945. Another shelter of the same design was located in London Road

 

The shelters fate

This tunnel is still quite well remembered among the locals, and I receive a good deal of e-mail from people who used to explore them when they were kids, but the portals no longer exist, they really have been sealed for good.

I remember in the 1960s seeing the main entrance which was bricked-up then.  Some time after, the portal was completely covered in tons of chalk, forming a slope about 15 feet high against the chalk face. The site more or less returned to nature, and was difficult to find, unless  identified from old photographs. (see below)

In the 1995 the tunnel was reopened, as it was proposed to build houses within the chalk pit, and the stability of the area needed to be assessed. The account states that the tunnels were in very good condition but that the air inside was completely foul. After the inspection the portal was concreted up, and once again covered in chalk.

 

Aerial photo site location     Panoramic photo site location

Google Earth Aerial View

Grid Ref SU649064


 

 

Plan of the Wymering deep tunnel shelter

An original plan of the Wymering deep tunnel shelter showing two important reference landmarks; the Southwick Hill Road, and the still existing Pylon.

Key

A Western escape route protected by a chicane blast trap
B Main entrance. This extended some 15 feet from the cliff face in the form of a concrete lined sandbagged protected tunnel
C Eastern escape route protected by a chicane blast trap
D Blast wall built of brick
E Shelter wardens office
F Toilets. A 6 inch diameter ventilation pipe went up to the surface from all the toilets of which no trace remains
G Electricity Pylon still extant
H Emergency generator room
J Ventilation / rescue shafts. No trace remains except the odd brick
K The B2177 Southwick Hill Road
L Footpath now blocked by undergrowth
 
 

 

On each admittance ticket was a note of your allocated place in the shelter. To help you find this the above plan was attached to the ticket. The adits (running bottom to top) are labelled from 'A' to 'L', and the cross tunnels 'U' to 'Z'. Hence any location coud be given a 2 letter reference such as: 'EW'.

 
 

 

Overlay of plan on aerial photo

NEW - 02-11-2006

I have superimposed the plan of the shelter on an aerial photo of the site. This reveals for the first time the location of the eastern ventilation / rescue shaft which has eluded me for many years. (The white square just below the double lined trackway). This graphic also gives a good idea of the extent of the tunnel system.

 
 

 

1947 aerial photo wymering chalk pit

An RAF aerial photo of Wymering Chalk Pit taken in 1947 two years after the shelters closure. Although the reproduction is poor, it's good enough to show up the main features. The pylon above the pit still exists, the trackway behind it is lost. (See plans above)

Key

A Ladies and Gentlemen's ablution blocks. Roofless 
B The main shelter entrance. Oddly there appears to be 2 of them. The right one could have been part of the proposed but un-built forced ventilation system
C Western escape route
D Eastern escape route
E The water storage tunnel is to the left of the 'E' the access ladder beneath it.
 
 

 

group outside the Wymering shelter

An civic group pose outside the main entrance of the newly opened  Wymering shelter.  This was the 5th tunnel bore from the left made by the contractors, hence the number 5 painted on the chalk. There were 8 bores made, the escape routes would have been numbers 1 and 8. All other bores would have been blocked-up.

 

UPDATE 19-04-2008

One of the people in this photograph is possibly Mr Adrien Sharp the Portsmouth City Architect who my have assisted in the shelter design. If you have any knowledge of this then please contact me.

 
 
 
King George VI visits the shelter

King George VI (on the right with the peaked cap) meets dignitaries at the shelter entrance 1942.

 
 
 
First aid post

Wartime view of the first aid post, with the 2 duty nurses.


UPDATED 08--2-2017

I have only recently come across your research on the Tunnels and thought I might add a small detail to your archive. I live in Crofton Road North End for many years including the duration of the war and was very familiar with the Tunnels. Your photograph of the First Aid Post shows my mother Mrs Eileen McCarthy . She is the Red Cross Nurse in foreground. She was also involved with Civil Defence so in addition to being bombed nightly life was never dull.

Richard McCarthy - February 2017

 
 
 
Wymering tunnel shelter bunks

Admission to the shelter was by ticket. 3-tier bunks were

provided sleeping. It was said to be totally quite inside the

shelter while an air-raid was on.

 
 
 
Christmas party inside the shelter 1942

On the 19 December 1942, a Christmas party for 700 children was held inside the shelter.

 
 
 
Wymering shelter January 1942

An inspection of the Wymering deep tunnel shelter January 1942, shortly before it was opened.

 
 

General Information

London Road Shelter

 

Wymering Shelter

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