Sunday, 29 June 2008

French Railway Steelwork?

So I spoke to a gent who was a member of a team in the 1960s who were tasked with doing their best to locate all the hidden tunnels in the Island in order to make them safe.

The reason for this was that after the war, much of the German equipment (helmets, guns, gas masks etc) had merely been thrown in the tunnels and bunkers by the Islanders and then sealed up. Naturally when wind of this got out in later years, groups of local boys eagerly set about exploring for Nazi bounty. One long tunnel complex was a particular favourite, and the story goes that in the early 1960s a group of boys who were exploring it lit a fire in it on their way out. This in turn burnt all the oxygen, so that when the next group went in, it was a death-trap. Two poor boys lost their lives, and the government set about opening up the sealed bunkers, recovering the german equipment and thus attempting to make these tunnels less of a temptation for bounty-hunters. (By the way, did you know that a genuine Nazi helmet goes for £500 nowadays!)

So, that was the job of the guy I spoke to. When I asked him if he remembered coming down to my neck of the woods, he said that although there had been some constructions checked, he could not remember mine. Furthermore, he also said that had they found it, they would have removed the "tempting" guns. So it just goes to show that even the team tasked with finding all the bunkers in the 1960s seems to have missed some! Makes you wonder what else there might be out there.

When I described the tunnel construction to him, he said that from his experience, it sounded that there was a distinct possibility that the steel roof in mine was made from metal that had been destined for French railway tunnels. He said that the Germans were adept at re-cycling all sorts of material for their fortifications built as they spread out through Europe. I guess that makes sense now....

I also asked him about the presence of British Lee Enfield rifles? Interestingly, he said that by the time the Germans reached the atlantic, they were running low on weaponry, so thought nothing of seizing guns from surrendering territories and issuing them to their own troops. He said that it would therefore not be far fetched to conclude that some German soldiers in the Island had been issued with seized Lee Enfield guns and british ammo!

Friday, 27 June 2008

1940's Recollections

More research for you today folks.

I heard back from the gentleman whose father purchased the property (both mine and my neighbours together) immediately after the war. He was about to go on holiday and said he'd try to look out any photos he had on his return. In the interim though he confirmed that as far as he knew (presumably what he had seen or been told by his father) the tunnel that I have found was used as a workshop for repairing heavy equipment - he specifically recalled that it had been large enough for the Germans to drive their loaded trucks into.

He also said that in the area of the garage , there was another stucture - a workshop / armoury which appeared to be used for weaponry. In addition to the tunnel on the neighbours property, he recalled a water generator in the stream in front of the neighbours house. He also said that there was a wind mill on top of the hill above the quarry.

He said that the neighbour's house seemed to have been used by Officers and men as accommodation, while my house was used as a mess hall. Finally, he recalled that when his parents bought the site, the upstairs of my house was "stuffed with rifles" that had to subsequently be removed by the British army.
I really hope that he'll be able to find some pictures in due course.

In the meantime I've managed to unearth some more WW2 aerial photographs taken by the RAF. I've already posted on from February 1945, which I marked up earlier:

There must have been something of interest in the vicinity though, because the RAF only risks flights over the Island in daylight to take photos of strategic or defensive positions (the latter usually the gun emplacements scattered around the coast and town). In late 1944 it seems that the RAF flew two further sortees over the area.

This one is from September 1944:

And this one is from November 1944:

What is clear is that the large warehouse in the southern part of the quarry was only built between November 1944 and February 1945. It is also clear that it was only on the third sortee, in 1945, that they managed to fly over at around midday, when the sun was shining directly into the quarry and there was no shadow cast over the tunnel entrance. However, I'm really not sure if I can see a windmill anywhere just yet!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

BBC Feature

The tunnel featured on the BBC news today. Watch the news item at the following link:

I've also spoken to another previous owner of the property since the last update, together with an ex bomb disposal officer who worked in the Island. They had some interesting things to say, but as it's late and I'm pretty tired, I'll do an update on what they said next time.

Thanks too to all those who offered explanations about the ammo crate. Obviously that can be safely ruled out of the WW2 investigations!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

A little bit more history...

I've been doing some research since the weekend, and today I managed to track down and speak on the phone to a relative of the family who originally purchased the property immediately after the war (at a time when both my house and my next door neighbour's house occupied the same larger plot). During our conversation he told me some interesting things.

Firstly, he said that it was his understanding that the tunnels (note the plural - I'll come back to that) at the property were sealed up shortly after the war - he thought it was around 1947. Unfortunately, if true, that would mean that there would have been plenty time for any good stuff to have been removed

Indeed, he also said that he thought that part of the property back then had been used by the Germans as an armoury of sorts, and he said that he recalled that the authorities (the British Forces) came onto the site after the war and took a lot of munitions away. Perhaps this explains the presence of British rifles?

When I asked about why the tunnels had been sealed he said that he thought his relative had been concerned about safety in general, although when I then explained the location of the tunnel that I have found, he said that that wasn't the one that one that caused the main concern He then recounted that the British army had been called in to investigate another tunnel which purportedly ran back unerground into the hillside. He said that there was talk that this was a long tunnel, which might link up elsewhere, and that after the soldiers had done their inspection, they collapsed the rockface and sealed up the entrances.

Could this, i wondered, explain the large spread of spoil in between the excavated tunnel entrance and the garage, which also extends behind the garage (the pyramid shaped part of the slope on which the pine trees are growing)?

Now the sort of tunnelling that the Germans built into solid rock was a very different affair to what I have found so far. And anyone who's visited the German Underground hospital here will know what these can sometimes look like:

Who knows what is hidden under those rocks then? Whatever is there, even if its nothing, is certainly well buried.

He also mentioned that there was an underground room which had been used by the Germans somewhere behind the house, which had later been used as a water tank.

That prompted me to lift some man hole covers, specifically this one....

which revealed...

A brick vaulted chamber, filled almost to the top with what appeared to be builders rubble, rubbish and dirty water. Nice! I've no idea how deep it is at the moment, but can only assume that it was filled by lazy builders when the property was extended in the 80s.

The last thing he told me was that another relative might be able tell me more, and promptly gave me his email abroad, so I've dropped him a line too

Finally, I also made another (unrelated - I think) military find. Although I've lived at this house for a few years now, it is still yielding some interesting discoveries. When poking around in an old shed yesterday, I found this:

Some of you may wonder how I could be so patently unobservant to have missed it before. Well the truth is, it was under a pile of old wood, junk and spiderwebs, and I hate spiders. But I thought it now needed to be checked.

So I opened it, genuinely not sure what I would find, only to see it was empty. What was interesting though was the fact it still looked new inside, and that the packing label was still clearly legible.

Any armourers care to explain?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Getting Impatient

Well I'm still waiting for Diggerman to come back with a quote for doing the main excavation of the entrance road (not something I can just tell him to get on with unfortunately, as it will possibly involve some shoring up). Until that's done I can't really start easily clearing the stuff out, and I really want to get on with that, and start treating the steelwork.

Also waiting for the historians to come back with anything! The possibility that the tunnel might be in any way noteworthy from a historical perspective has also contributed to my reticence in pushing forward!

Several times over the last few days, I've climbed down the ladder, squeezed through the slim gap in the rusty steel doors and paced the cool dark tunnel. Each time I still feel surprised that this thing has been hidden underneath the garden all that time! Whilst endless possibilities as to use spring to mind, just plain old easy access storage would be nice at the moment.

(I've also realised that you can only take so many photographs of a tunnel before they all become a little samey! - Another reason to crack on soon)

Thursday, 19 June 2008

More Video

This time non-night vision footage, showing rusted weapons discovered, and floor before clearing begins...

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Video inside Tunnel

Well, I spoke to the BBC today who were interested in doing a live interview on News 24 this evening. However, for one reason or another (probably because they discovered I wasn't "the" Dave with his stick from the photo) that didn't end up going ahead. Not to worry though. In other news the blog is approaching a quarter of a million hits in six days.

I also had a look inside the neighbour's tunnel. It is roughly the same construction but the ceiling is quite a bit lower. Whilst it's drier, it's also quite badly corroded, all the way through the steel, in some places (see second picture).

The neighbour said that a "bunker hunter" had once pitched up and told him of rumours that the tunnels in this area all interlinked! The back of his has collasped under rockfall, so who knows! Man, people love a good underground tunnel rumour!

It also has the same wiring setup along the side of the sheeting, which the neighbour had always thought was some kind of comms wiring. In my mind this suggests that the wiring in both is original, and not a later post-war addition.

Finally, a night vision video that Dave edited from inside the tunnel (sorry gamers, no Wolfenstein to be seen) ! We still haven't started clearing yet, as I promised that I'd try not to start moving stuff around until certain people have had a look.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Next door Tunnel?

I've spoken to my neighbour and he's going to let me have a look in the tunnel on his property this week. Our two properties used to form part of one larger property during the war. His is partially above ground and he uses it as a garden store, but by all accounts it's a fairly similar construction to mine - perhaps smaller. Hopefully it might yield some more clues as to the possible purpose of their original construction.

Interestingly, it is located roughly on the other side of the rockface behind my garage.

I've also taken a moment to collate all of the 'shopped images posted on the original thread about Dave and his "Light stick". Perhaps not to everyone's interest, but we thought they were amusing all the same! I've put them all in the previous posting on Dave:

Link back:

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Time to slow down a bit!

After last weekend's adventure, I actually decided to spend father's day with the family. When I started the dig last week it wasn't, believe it or not, my intention to actually uncover nazi riches, or end up providing a modicum of world-wide entertainment (some 140,000 blog hits in the last 3 days!).

As a proud member of the website, the original thread was really just to show some heavy machinery, some impetuous digging, and a large hole / potential garage under the garden.

Over this weekend, I've linked to and read discussions on various other threads around the world discussing my bunker. The majority of them are positive. Many are critical about the length of the Pistonheads thread , some can't see what all the fuss is about at all.

The truth is that no thought on my part really went into the events of last week. I happened to have a good bunch of friends who were able to provide help, or gain access to the equipment needed. It was undoubtedly the spontaneous nature of the discovery and its reporting which made it fun for both us, and for the readers and contributors everywhere.

I've had half a dozen approaches from TV people, and several for news items. Dave is on a T-shirt and has fans! I don't think he's forgiven me.

However, the time has come to start going about things a little more methodically, and some thought does now need to be put in. I'm not about to start smashing up my garage, or risk doing any exploring or work that is unsafe.

It's certainly not over yet. In fact its only really just started.

I'm going to be making good the tunnel, and that doesn't really lend itself to daily news updates! Some things may indeed take a while to accomplish. Of course, if I find out anything else interesting while the further work is being carried out (and I hope we do), then I'll let you all know. I'll also give an update if the historians or my researches come back with any interesting wartime information. If the tunnel ends up as a swish bat-cave style garage, then I'll be sure to let you all know how it was done.

Thanks for reading and do check back!


(Picture credit: Bunkermonkey @ Unseen Jersey)

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Photo behind garage

Well, not an entirely productive lunchtime today, I'm afraid to say....And certainly no gold!

Dave and I went into the tunnel and shot quite a lot of video of all the bits and pieces in there. We'll edit that and put up later. Whilst that was happening, a bloke turned up to have a look at the steelwork for me. He's going to come back and sandblast a patch of it so we can assess how long / much it will take to sort out what appears to be heavy surface rust (afterall - my intention for digging this thing up was always so that I could use it again). He said that he could ultimately only do that once we'd opened the door up some more though.

By the time we'd spoken about that, we were keen to have a peep down behind the garage. Dave thought about rigging up a "suspended" camera.

We managed to climb onto the roof and clamber across.

Then, as Dave was having a look and I was trying to take another picture...

...I slipped and sliced my fingers on a bit of the galvanised roof panel :( All the heavy machinery last weekend and no mishaps, and then this happens! Bugger!

Dave managed to get a picture. It just shows a rock wall and a concrete ceiling. It doesn't look very big from that angle at least!

and by the time I'd cleaned my fingers up, my kids had finished their lunchtime nap and Dave had had a bleep to go into work :(

So, as you see, it doesn't always happen with the smooth precision and breathtaking speed of last weekend! I'll upload the tunnel video shortly.

Friday, 13 June 2008

What's behind the garage?

Here's a little something else of interest from my research into some of the unexplained items mentioned on the thread. I meant to post this last night. I was looking at the 1945 aerial recon photo (taken by the British Air Force), and decided to try and shade off some of the features for identification. That's what you see below.

The red rectangle is the house, which still exists. The green circle to the north is a large tree (the stump still exists). The light green shading shows approximately where the quarry face is. The interesting bit is the sand coloured shading, which is where I have guessed the driveway / roadways would have been at the time.

You can see better now I hope the track going down into the tunnel we've found. What is interesting is what appears to be the continuation of that track in the other direction, behind the house (where the garage now is) and, unless its my mind tricking me, into a structure that abuts the quarry face. What do you think?

Local Historians puzzled

Just a quick update. The experts that visited last night were actually a bit baffled! They said it wasn't what they were expecting to find. They said they hadn't really seen inside one like it before, but thought that the roof was definitely fabricated from German steel (as opposed to British steel seized in France, or French steel).

They agreed that it seemed to have been set up for heavy machinery (or something heavy that needed to be attached to the floor at least) and could have been a workshop, but they were not sure what for. They thought it might have been a very early construction at the start of the war, and that it still may have Luftwaffe links, because apparently the Luftwaffe were based in the vicinity. They also thought that the Lee Enfield guns were probably put in there after the war before it was sealed, rather than have leftovers from the war itself.

Whilst inside tonight took a picture of the (horse-drawn) cart arm...

and also we noticed that the green gunk / paint had now turned orange since two days ago? Deterioration due to change in air quality perhaps? I think that I should start a clean-up and maintenance program for the tunnel soon.

The local experts said it would actually probably help to clear the floor now to look for clues, and that they would go away and do some research through the papers and various archives that they hold. I'll post what they come back with. All in all, they were pleased to have seen it, but said that it raised more questions than answers!

They did say that it appeared to be fit for use, which was good to hear.

Dave decided to stay home and catch up on all the reading. This blog had some 33000 hits in its first day yesterday ! Crazy! Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Luftwaffe Connection?

I've just heard back from one of the local historians who's going to be visiting with some colleagues this evening. Apparently, they've checked their records, and he has
written in his email.....

"Enquiries confirm that this was a store for the Luftwaffe anti-aircraft battery located in the vicinity"

So, where's that anti-aircraft battery I wonder? I'm looking foward to seeing what they have to say when we meet up later.

Waiting Game

I tried to have a look last night, from a window in the first floor of the house, at what was behind the garage. It seems that there may well be enough room to stick a small camera or mirror down the gap between the roof and the concrete bit. In fact, I think this might well be Dave's first task on his return (5pm landing, so perhaps a bit optomistic. Otherwise i might climb up myself.)

As you can imagine, since finding the tunnel I've also been trying to speak to people who might know a bit of history about the house. Interestingly, someone who used to work as a gardener for the old owners, told me that they had told him a long time ago (i know, i know!) that there was an underground chamber, but in a different location from the one we now know about.

So..., just in case thats not a tall tale, I also think that I'll start by checking under all the manhole covers (there are a few).

Lastly, WW2 historians are visiting this evening as well. We can hopefully start moving things around once they've been.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Guns! Guns! Guns!

Right, I took up the offer of assistance from two seasoned bunker explorers (JerseySi and BunkerMonkey from "Unseen Jersey"). They came round tonight and I think that they seemed quite impressed with the tunnel. They took lots of photos with a proper camera and said that they would post them up on their own site, so hopefully I can link to that in due course. Anyway, as we were photographing everything, one of them exclaimed "That's a gun", and so I looked hard, and realised that it was, although the metal had badly corroded and all the wooden bits had rotted away....(so don't get angry if they don't look like schmeissers and lugers like you were probably expecting )

This weapon has subsequently been identified as a British Lee Enfield Rifle!!

So, a little after finding the first weapon, they found another one! And to be honest, by this stage I just felt a little stupid for not having found them myself, but I guess I was just a bit excited at the weekend to notice.This one was at the other end of the tunnel, and like the first the stock had rotted away. It was also appeared to be a rifle. The metal on the second was in better condition (perhaps because it had been covered under the corrogated sheet) although still "decommissioned". This has again since been identied as a British Lee Enfield Rifle. What British Rifles were doing in a German Bunker we can only speculate at the moment.

No magazines or ammunion found though, although we haven't started sifting through all the dirt on the floor yet.

We also found a tin of green gunk (which the others thought might once have been green nazi paint)

And the "rings" in this bucket on closer inspection turned out to contain nuts??

See JerseySi and BunkerMonkey's own report and pictures here:-

Monday, 9 June 2008

What Would Dave do?

Interest in the thread has been growing, as have the number of fans for Dave and his "Light-stick"! As a bit of fun, I've reproduced below a number of the many 'shopped pictures submitted by posters in the original thread (many thanks to all the contributors - hope you don't mind me collating the images here).
Credit: Chris Cambo at GTA forums

(Credit: Cheeky Jim)
These T-shirts actually made it into production! Thanks Jim!

(Credit: Unknown - perhaps someone will tell me)

( Credit: The_Sheriff)

(Credit: Dehp)

(Credit: Dehp again)

(Credit: Bodo)

(Credit: Funk)

(Credit: Sound_man)

(Credit: Polus)

(Credit: Funk again)

(Credit: Rhinochopig)

And finally, not a 'shop, but a screengrab of Dave making the frontpage of a leading Swedish financial website: E24