Hidden far below the Kingsway
It has taken me many years of searching to find what little information I have, Government secrecy has kept me away from finding out full details of something I came across in 1982, in fact to be perfectly honest I have found out almost nothing!
What I have discovered in my search for what lies beneath the Kingsway and the Thames may not even be related, they are all underground, they have a few similarities, and they were in the same area. Logic tries to tell me that due to the location of the other things I have discovered that they should be connected and that it is most probably the same place.
Yet since when does 'logic' make sense when it comes to Government Secrets?
What I saw that night was extremely large, not anything like what I have seen in the photographs available. It is like having the last piece left to finish a jigsaw puzzle, yet the last piece has been swapped for that from another puzzle. It is almost the same, it almost fits, BUT IT DOESN'T !
If these places were the same as what I saw there, then why were we told to keep so silent about it ?
I shall recall my experience, tell you what I saw, then show you the information I found available,
then you can decide if they are one and the same !
I trained to be a Qualified Ambulance Person (QAP) at Waterloo in the early months of 1982. After training I worked between two emergency ambulance stations in the West-end of London, Bloomsbury and Smithfield.
Bloomsbury station is located in Herbrand Street, mid-way between Russel Square and Euston Railway Station, and it was from here that I was called one night to attend a 999 call, but a 999 call with a difference.
Whilst working for the London Ambulance Service and stationed at Bloomsbury we received a 999 call to attend a possible collapse. Specific detailed instructions were given for the approach, (days way before Sat-Navs - all we had was just the A-Z map book) which meant we had to first drive past in one direction towards the Aldwych and the Strand, turn around and then drive back up Kingsway towards Holborn on the other side of the road.
As we approached a man waved us down and told us to reverse the Ambulance back up to the iron gates and to reverse slowly inside when he unlocked them. As I reversed through the gates the rear of the Ambulance started to lower and I found myself on a steep incline and had to stop while this man re-locked the iron gates in front of us. He again approached us and told us he would open the big doors behind us, and as soon as he had done so I was to reverse quickly but carefully inside and stop yet again. It was totally dark behind, the only thing I had to use as a guide for reversing was the distance from my drivers window and mirror to the wall.
As soon as the front of the Ambulance was inside this 'garage?' the man quickly shut the doors placing us in complete darkness, he then moved to one side and operated a control box, and suddenly a string of small dim lights appeared either side of our vehicle. I was told to slowly reverse back until told to stop. The blackout windows of an ambulance make visibility from inside impossible, for those of you who have ever tried reversing a van at night, you can imagine how very difficult when visibility is so low, and made much harder still as we were heading downwards on a extremely steep slope. I suggested to my partner that he open the rear doors and use our 'Francis searchlight' to guide us back, but the man who was walking down beside my window firmly told us not to do that, we were to remain in the cab of the vehicle and face forward and at no time look towards the rear. It wasn't him who would have to fill out the many accident forms if I hit anything, and I felt like stopping the vehicle righ there and telling them to bring the casualty to us.
We seemed to reverse (or roll) down this slope for ages, so long in fact that I was worried about our brakes overheating. It is very hard to judge distance accurately in complete darkness, even harder to ascertain depth, we had descended way below road level, further down even than some of the tube stations we covered, but it felt to us like we had travelled that far backwards that we would actually be right under the Thames itself.
The slope suddenly eased off and we felt ourselves levelling out yet still within the confines of the large tunnel, we were instructed yet again to stop and wait for doors to be opened, then told to reverse through slowly then stop and to remain in the cab of our vehicle, again he firmly insisted on us looking straight ahead and not to look to the rear. The blackened windows of the Ambulance made it impossible to see out, the only view we had to the rear was from our large wing mirrors. There was activity behind us, and we could hear the whine of electric vehicles passing across our rear, a noise I easily recognised from my years of working in a Hospital where electric 'Tugs' were used to move dinner trolleys and laundry bins.
We were told to face the front and wait, and heard the rear doors of our Ambulance open, the thud as the steps were unfolded and the noise of the wheels as the trolley bed was removed, the doors shut again with a loud bang. From the internal rear view mirror when the doors were open, and from the side wing mirrors I glimpsed a very large area behind us, resembling something like a scene from a James Bond movie. It was difficult to get a good look with Mr Stroppy stood right beside us. Thick Iron girders, scaffolding and bright football style floodlighting, crates or pallets were stacked up on one side and people were busily walking past, some with clipboards. The size resembled that of a football pitch, it was too dark and my glimpses too quick to see exactly what they were wearing but it resembled the outline of overalls and from what little I could see all appeared to be wearing hard hats.
The rear doors suddenly opened again, and our trolley bed this time with a man laying on it was loaded back into the vehicle, a man and a woman climbed in with him and the doors were quickly closed yet again. Whatever this place was they were certainly doing all they could to stop us from seeing it, we were told to both remain in the front and that we were not required to offer assistance only to transport to the Hospital. The voice from the rear asked us to proceed to the University College Hospital without any delays, and from the whispered discussions we overheard we were under the impression we had a Doctor and a Nurse on-board.
The big metal doors in front re-opened and I was signalled to drive forward, the doors were closed and the dim tunnel lighting turned on again, we were instructed to drive up the steep slope to the next door and stop, crawling at a snails pace we climbed, the automatic gearbox making it quite a jerky ride. Once out of all the gates, I switched on the blue lights and two-tone sirens, pulled out into the traffic flow and we headed for the UCH. I was very aware of two dark coloured vehicles with darkened windows following us through the heavy traffic, one never being more than a car length from the rear of the ambulance and the other hard on its tail. As I swung under the arch leading towards the Casualty entrance and reversed back towards the casualty department doors I saw the car that was immediately behind us tuck itself into the corner of the small square.
We opened the rear doors of the Ambulance and lifted out the trolley, walking as we normally would through to the receiving area, we were met by the nurses we had grown to know so well and they looked at us with disbelief when we could not hand-over the patient as we would of normally have done and give them the normal information regarding the patient and his condition. The accompanying Doctor and Nurse not saying anything in our earshot, the patient was led into the examination room and lifted onto the bed, then we were shown the door along with the regular nursing staff, leaving only the most senior of the casualty Doctors remaining in the room.
Unsure of how I was going to record such an event on my 'LA4' the legal document used to record every detail of a call in case it is needed later in a court of law, I used the internal landline phone in casualty to contact our HQ, I explained that we had not actually dealt with the patient and had no details of his name, nor of his injury / illness. I was told to ask the accompanying Doctor for a signature, something commonly done, yet there was nothing 'common' about this job.
I knocked on the examination room door but nobody answered, we then saw the dark car pull forward and a man in a suit got out and walked in. I took my chance and intercepted and asked him if he could ask the Doctor to sign my form, without saying a word he grabbed my clipboard and disappeared inside. A few minutes later the doors opened and he emerged along with the Doctor and Nurse, shoved the clipboard back into my hands and said "Official Secrets Act... Say Nothing!", in a flash they were all inside this darkened car and had driven out of the hospital grounds. My form had a squiggle that looked as though it had been made by a baby, obviously to not enable it to be understood, no name, just printed beside it was written "MOD Kingsway".
Nobody seems to know anything at all about this underground establishment, or if they do then they are certainly not saying anything about it. The wooden doors that covered the thick metal blast type doors hid it so well from public gaze, making it look just like a storage shed, then again if it was a secret base it would hardly have signs telling you.
It has taken me years to uncover any information about this possible 'Secretive Base'
Over the years I have asked many people, I have scoured the Internet and searched for visible signs using Google Earth, yet even now I am still far from sure that any information that I have uncovered actually explains or even relates to what I saw that day.
Below is what I have managed to find out, See if you believe they explain what I saw?
The Two possible options are detailed below:-
1. Kingsway Underground Tramway Tunnel.
2. Chancery Lane Deep Shelter system.
The first possible answer to exactly what that the tunnel that I had to reverse down was, was that it could of been part of the old Underground Tramway which linked the Strand to the Kingsway. There are two known entrances that lead down to tunnels, one is now what forms the road tunnel accessible from Waterloo Bridge and then re-appearing in the Kingsway. The other entrance is now disused and was once where the Trams would descend below ground to the underground stations enroute to the Aldwych.
The photographs and videos above show the entrance to the old tramway underpass, it shows the type of steep slope I reversed down and it 'almost' matches my description above, as in the angle of road seems similar and it resides in a similar approximate location.
Yet it still does not seem right...
These pictures show that the entrance is very much 'open' to public view, not discretely hidden behind gates, and it is not sealed with strong Blast style Doors, nor does it open up to a wide 'Football pitch' size area. The tunnels shown are very high but narrow, the area I saw that day was both very high and very wide.
Compare the photographs, notice the double deck Tram descending at an angle in 1952, now compare the height of the tunnel entrance as it is today, is it just me or does the entrance not look high enough to allow a high Tram to enter?
One thing that I ask myself about it is, "Did the twin deck Trams actually travel as far below the ground as we were taken?",
If so, then did they have power to climb such a steep incline to get back out? The internal tunnel incline I drove down was even steeper than the external ramp, and the modern day Ambulance I was driving struggled to climb it!
Evidently between 1974 and 1984, part of the Holborn Tram Stop was used as the 'London Flood Defense Centre' which was later moved to the new Thames Barrier. This would explain the activity below ground, but if this was the same tunnel that I entered in 1982,
then why did I not see it?, and why was everything so secretive with our patient and hospital run?
If you are interested in the closed and disused stations of the underground railway, or parts of London that are now hidden from public view, then more information and photographs about the Kingsway Tram Underpass and other Deep Shelters can be found at the following website..
So the Kingsway Tram Underpass and its use as the Flood Defence Control could be one possible answer, yet so much seems to differ from what I saw on our night time subterranean escapade in 1982. and the following niggling questions make me doubt it so much.
How does that explain the secrecy we encountered?
Why was there a need of a Doctor & Nurse to be on-site, and why wasn't we allowed to attend the patient?
Why did I not see the Flood Defense Potacabins?
Why was there need for so many people, the floodlighting, the electric tugs?
And where is the 'Football pitch' expanse that I glimpsed in rear view mirrors?
There a far too many inconsistencies. The entrance ramp although similar in angle leading up to the Kingsway, is far too open, not camouflaged and hidden from sight by gates and doorways and nor does it have Blast style protection. The tunnel beyond the entrance is wider and taller than the narrow low almost tube like tunnel I drove in. The rate of descent angle appears far less, surely if a tram had descended that angle its passengers would be falling out of their seats and would have made their journey resemble a Big Dipper ride. From what is shown in the later photographs, the tunnel resembles a construction site, not the almost 'Clinical' clean complex that I saw.
Was this the complex we entered and descended that night, or is there more than one ?
If it was the one, then what 'secret activity' was going down there ?
And if it was not the one, then where on earth is the other one?