Did a secret bunker in Worthing help turn the tide of the Second World War?
A growing number of people now believe it did, and that the town played a significant role in the fight against the Nazis.
Miles Godfrey explains.
History tells us that a major turning point of the Second World War was the Battle of Britain.
There is no doubting that the bravery of RAF pilots during the summer of 1940 helped prevent an invasion of Britain.
But there is growing evidence to suggest there was equally important work going on in subterranean Worthing which also helped turn the tide of the war.
Experts believe that some of our greatest wartime technological and intelligence breakthroughs were made from a secret bunker deep beneath Field Place, a nine-acre estate on the outskirts of the town.
There is also a suggestion that classified work, possibly by MI5, MI6 or another intelligence agency, was carried out from at least one secret bunker.
It looks unlikely that any such confirmation will be forthcoming – at least in the near future.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) refuses to confirm or deny the bunker’s existence, adding that any files on the matter may still be covered by secrecy rules.
However, The Argus has gained access to rarely seen files from the council which, while not confirming the existence of a secret complex, certainly suggests there was far more to Field Place than meets the eye.
From the files, we have established there were wartime tunnels running from the site to the area around the Lloyds Registrars building.
Since the war ended there has also been much anecdotal evidence suggesting the bunker did exist, not least from people who claim to have been near it.
Much of it is described by people who either served at Field Place or lived near it and claimed to have been in the tunnels, which they say are blocked off at one end by huge steel doors.
An intriguing letter in the council’s files reveals that the Home Office was involved in the site – raising the possibility of the involvement of MI5, or more likely MI6.
In 1991, MoD security secretary Mr P Welpy wrote to former Worthing mayor Reg Braden to say: “I can confirm the HQ beneath Field Place is not MoD sponsored.
However, it would seem the Home Office does have an interest.”
Crucially, the MoD has never denied the command bunker’s existence.
PJ Palmer, working for the MoD on behalf of the Defence Lands Service, said in 1994: “No doubt this was a wartime requisition and any record we may have had has now disappeared.”
If you go to Field Place today, look around the bowling green and putting lawn. There is clear subsidence visible.
Is the mysterious war time bunker trying to give up its secrets? Only time will tell.
Author Graham Lelliott has written a book on the possibility that a secret intelligence or military installation existed beneath Field Place.
He is convinced the site conceals a top-secret bunker.
Mr Lelliott, of Busticle Lane, Sompting, Lancing, said: “Many people say they have been down these tunnels so it is unlikely to be a big hoax.
“However, then you ask yourself, if it does exist, why would it still be covered by a Government secrecy rule, when all other Second World War structures and bunkers have been declassified?
“Some say it may still be in use today, but then if it was still in use, it would most certainly be required to have ventilation shafts and emergency exits.
“If it does exist then the Ministry of Defence should confirm it. I think enough time has now passed.
“It would be fantastic for Worthing to realise it had such history and played such an important role.”
- The Field Place Mystery is available from bookshops, including Methvens in South Street, Worthing, by calling 07793 4356428, or by visiting the website at www.grahamlelliott.co.uk.