Kent Defences => Command Centres => Topic started by: kyn on May 13, 2008, 23:36:47

Title: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on May 13, 2008, 23:36:47
HMS Wildfire is a complex of tunnels 100 feet below ground in Gillingham Kent, the tunnels were dug in 1937 by Welsh miners, they served as the communication headquarters for the Commander in Chief, The Nore.  The Nore Command stretched from the Sussex coast to Yorkshire.

Medway's Local Command Headquarters (LCHQ) used the tunnels after the Nore Command, and in the early 1960's the Royal Naval Reservists took over the use of the tunnels.

During the war very few civilians would have known of the existence of the tunnels or their use.  During this time the operations room was used to plot enemy and friendly ships and aircraft, it also played a large part in the role of the North Sea Convoys.  The tunnels had facilities for over 100 members of staff including a kitchen area, showers and a sick bay.

The site was used as a training facility for the navy after the Second World War.  A skeleton crew was kept on to keep the complex functional and some communication equipment was left on site for training purposes, some items still remain.  Retired Naval Lieutenant Harry Barnes headed the skeleton crew.

The site closed in 1982, unfortunately a fire was started in the tunnels not long after it closed and fire damage can be found in the operations room.  The site has been left undisturbed since then with only English Heritage gaining access, they were not in the tunnels long before they had to leave due to not enough oxygen in the air.

pics to follow...
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on May 14, 2008, 10:11:36
Here are some pics of inside, again not very good and i'm sure some other members will be able to add some more  :)

Emergency exit tunnel

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6214Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6216Small.jpg)

Air filters

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6228Small.jpg)

Original toilet before proper ones were plumbed in

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6232Small.jpg)

Corridor

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6241Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6249Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6243Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6250Small.jpg)

Operations room

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6262Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6271Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6272Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6360Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6330Small.jpg)

Pipes for sending messages around the bunker

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6392Small.jpg)

Telecummunications ro
om

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_64101Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6412Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6419Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6445Small.jpg)

Then and now pics

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/OpsFacingLandingSmall.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/opsroomSmall.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/telecommunicationsSmall.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on May 14, 2008, 10:23:24
Plan of the tunnels and some pics from when it was in use...

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/WILDFIRESmall.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/tunnelvisSmall.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/Opsfromlandinglookingontotacticalma.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/OpsLandingviewSmall.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/OpsFacingLandingSmall-1.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/Ops5Small.jpg)


(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/Ops3Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/LCHQswitch.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/LCHQplot2.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/LCHQplot.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/LCHQcomcen2.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/LCHQcomcen.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/LCHQcolours.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/64comcen.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: rossco on May 15, 2008, 19:56:34
Heres some links to a newspaper cutting about the closure of it in the 80's... http://cityark.medway.gov.uk/query/results/?Mode=ShowImg&Img=/cityark/Scans/Unofficial_or_Privately_Originated_Collections_1357_1980/DE0402_Couchman_ephemera_and_MSS_/DE0402_19.html/DE402_19_52.jpg (http://cityark.medway.gov.uk/query/results/?Mode=ShowImg&Img=/cityark/Scans/Unofficial_or_Privately_Originated_Collections_1357_1980/DE0402_Couchman_ephemera_and_MSS_/DE0402_19.html/DE402_19_52.jpg)

and

http://cityark.medway.gov.uk/query/results/?Mode=ShowImg&Img=/cityark/Scans/Unofficial_or_Privately_Originated_Collections_1357_1980/DE0402_Couchman_ephemera_and_MSS_/DE0402_19.html/DE402_19_53.jpg (http://cityark.medway.gov.uk/query/results/?Mode=ShowImg&Img=/cityark/Scans/Unofficial_or_Privately_Originated_Collections_1357_198
0/DE0402_Couchman_ephemera_and_MSS_/DE0402_19.html/DE402_19_53.jpg)


Theres some really interesting stuff on the Cityark site.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: rossco on May 17, 2008, 19:09:05
Heres a couple of plans I got a while back...

(http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk27/rossinnit/100_2078.jpg)

(http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk27/rossinnit/100_2080.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: merc on May 18, 2008, 13:41:14
The Germans actually knew the existance of the C in C's Bunker in 1940, they had taken detailed reconnaisance photo's of the Medway towns, Dockyard and munitions bunkers near Upnor (as well as loads of other places).

Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: archer on May 20, 2008, 09:39:03
From Archer newee.
                 I was in the RAF 1954/57 and was a wireless op working down the tunnels with matelots and civvies. Has been magic to finally find out what has happened to the old place - very found memories for me of the dockyard. Thanks to the guys that went down there to take the pics although the state of it is quite sad. Anyone else work down there at that time?? :o
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on May 20, 2008, 10:01:06
Welcome to the forum Archer  :)

I'm glad we have reminded you of something good and shown what it's like now!  Wildfire has been a source of fascination for many explorers and locals for a long time, it was pretty amazing to go in and see it for ourselves.  It is a shame some parts are fire damaged but not too badly.  Most of the complex was preetty messy but all in all i thought was in pretty good condition.  I would love to see this place opened up and reused its an important part of history, especially with the dockyard and naval barracks close by.

Which area's of the dockyard did you spend time in the most?  There are so many interesting area's down there, and many more tunnels i would like to see!
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on June 21, 2008, 14:35:04
Newspaper clipping help at Medway Archives

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/tunnels.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on August 12, 2008, 18:35:15
I overheard some people talking at the Chatham World Heritage meeting the other day and one guy was asking a EH guy about RAF Gillingham.  He said he believed it to be HMS Wildfire  but the EH guy had never heard of it.  As it turns out the guy was kind of right.  RAF Gillingham was a camp next to the tunnel complex and they shared the tunnels!  Here is a quote from Peoples War by the BBC

"It seems strange after Cranwell to be back in civvy billets. We are accommodated in homes, but just for sleeping. All meals are at the RAF camp. Our signals section W/T (Wireless Telegraph) and teleprinters and radar is part of a huge underground complex shared with both the Army and Navy. We work on a shift system which involves a long night duty of 10 hours. We are kept very busy but as operations are all highly secret, messages are mostly in code except for the long reports which are sent out after operation."
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: ali23 on November 30, 2008, 21:59:05
(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2225/2062378684_1752d11d0b_o.jpg)

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2125/2062378864_051b2e482d_o.jpg)

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2270/2061591561_c8569f6f2b_o.jpg)

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2399/2062379364_c605a89211_o.jpg)

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2101/2062379468_4fd7927ea1_o.jpg)

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2181/2061592037_25d2ad0bf0_o.jpg)

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2331/2061592257_5ebe6cc7ed_o.jpg)

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2065/2062380064_c1223e3704_o.jpg)

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2166/2061592673_4f57fc47bd_o.jpg)

(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2096/2062380394_13b0491abd_o.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on December 08, 2009, 21:39:42
Some memories...

"While I was there in 2003 I toured the dockyard and spoke to the Navy Historical Society and they knew nothing about any tunnels, much to my surprise seeing there is such a historical connection with the navy and WW2. I was in the RAF 1954/57 for my national service and worked down the tunnel as as wireless op in conjunction with with civilian Admiralty teleprinter op,s and Navy wireless op,s. We had AN HQ known as RAF Element Maritime HQ Chatham located just by the main entrance to the tunnels which WAS just by the "back gate" on Medway Road. The second entrance to the tunnels was in the Admiralty House grounds alongside the historical lines- ( the house I understand has sice been demolished along with a lot of other stuff) Looking at he maps on yours and other sites I see that there are some blank spots and the old RAF areas are not specified which I can understand as I am sure it was all changed when the RNVR came in to use it. Most of the other info was from a Navy point of view which I understand - we RAF guys were a curiosity in my day from 5000 Navy bods! one site that gave me a fair bit of info was HMS Pembroke page 2 on "ganges to terror" run by a guy called Les Burrill.and some from the Medway Archives these sites have photos and aricles which are quite interesting. From my point of view I,m sure there must be people in Gillingham who worked daon the tunnel who would have a story to tell , If they are still alive that is! What surprises me as has already been said, that with such a big historical connection, dockyard,NAAFI up the road (now A Hotel) WW2 battle of Britain connection and the lines themselves, nobody thought to open the tunnels to the public instead of vandals! As for any stories I,m not too sure if I can remember it all now and they could offend some people!"
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Merv on March 08, 2010, 14:37:15
Not being into the Napoleonic Dream of Amherst and the Lower Lines, and more in favouring the recent History and the parts played I have a request.
Does anyone have any photographs to the Lower Lines in Medway Road showing it with the two Towers which supported the Long wire Antenna?
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: merc on March 08, 2010, 22:37:10
I've found some pics on the Sub Brit website: http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/w/wildfire/index9d.shtml
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Merv on March 08, 2010, 22:38:47
 "but i certainly remember them. I remember the one nearest Medway Road lying horizontally, before the construction work on the new MidKent College campus began."

I have a photo of that, and just to show what History actually means to these people, the one you saw is still there, bulldozed into the Wooded area and laying in a tangled mess like firewood.
The transmissions that went through that are unthinkable.
Infact the debri that lay in the wooded area pre the Park and Midkent College, is still there, they never actually touched the debris at all.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Mutley26 on March 16, 2010, 01:12:55
It's great to see the various pics throughout this forum of HMS Wildfire.  As a local schoolboy back in the 80's, the site was know to my friends and I as "Seven Floors", as local legend had it that there were indeed some as of yet further undiscovered levels to the workings.

My first trip inside took place early '88 when the site was relatively unscathed by vandalism, to the extent that the glass was still in place on the viewing platform to the map room and indeed there were still maps present on the large position table.

Unfortunately each subsequent visit revealed a greater level of vandalism, with my last being sometime during 1990, at which time I witnessed the damage caused by fire.

Wildfire and Fort Bridgewoods were the venues of my childhood that initiated a lifelong interest in Subterranea.  Shame neither of these sites still exist, yet the memories of hours spent in excited glee and some nervousness exploring shall be with me forever.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on April 04, 2010, 15:13:25
A photo taken by Keith Gulvin in the 1980's before the smoke and fire damage.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on April 16, 2010, 13:47:01
And another of Keith Gulvin's photo's.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on May 10, 2010, 11:31:13
A remaining base of one of the wooden towers on site
(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/KHF/IMG_0137Small.jpg)

Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on May 10, 2010, 11:44:03
The two towers before redevelopment of the site.
(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/KHF/IMG_1098Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/KHF/IMG_1083Small.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: swiftone on July 02, 2010, 20:16:24
(http://i864.photobucket.com/albums/ab206/swiftone_album/59-61BW8bit1200dpi0069.jpg)

(http://i864.photobucket.com/albums/ab206/swiftone_album/59-61BW8bit1200dpi0069cr.jpg)

(http://i864.photobucket.com/albums/ab206/swiftone_album/wyleswall.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: MedwayDweller on July 25, 2010, 22:06:11
'Scuse my ignorance but whereabouts are the tunnels actually situated, i.e. where would I be standing if I was positioned directly over the tunnels? Also, what used to occupy the site where the recently built university campus now is in Medway Road. I see what appears to be an old small brick sentry building has survived and can be seen close to the road.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Bilgerat on July 25, 2010, 23:20:42
Looking at the car park adjacent to the new college buildings from Medway Road, you'd be directly over the tunnels if you stood on the right hand side of the car park.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: tel074 on May 24, 2011, 13:28:25
The tunnels were under what is now a wooded area opposite the houses that are between Wyles Street and Mill Road.  That gateway was also the rear entrance to the barracks which was, I think, called Admiralty Gate and used by the Wrens and us RAF bods.  Just inside this gate was the RAF huts which were surrounded to window height by an earth banking.  The huts are now gone and the banking is covered by trees.
The RAF personnel (all 18 of us) were billeted with the RN in the barracks in Grenville Block. It was handy using the rear gateway as this meant that we on ly had a short walk to the NAAFI Club which was at the top of Medway Road on the left where it meets the main road.
I really enjoyed my 16 months at Chatham/Gillingham and was very disappointd to see how it had all changed when I last visited  about 14 years ago, and at the state of the underground Operations Rooms etc as these were in pristine condition when I was there in 1957.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Sylvaticus on May 24, 2011, 18:21:05
It's always tricky keeping track of RN ship names, both floating and shore, as they're constantly changing. When this Gillingham story started, HMS Wildfire was at Sheerness until it closed in 1957. That's presumably when the name was passed on to Gillingham. What was the Gillingham establishment called during WW2, was it Pembroke or something else? The name has now moved on again and refers to an establishment in Northwood, London.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: seafordpete on May 24, 2011, 19:03:21
There was HMS Wildfire 1, 2, 3 etc all sub units of the main one originally.
 The Navy Discipline act also required each shore base to have a nominal ship (often no more than a trawler) as there was some loophole in the act that stated courts martial had to be held on a ship as there were no land bases when the Act was enabled. As an example HMS Forward at Newhave was originally (sept 1939)  the RNVR Drill Hall, but had HMS Spitfire as nominal ship which was often recorded as HMS Forward, 1942 saw the tunnels built as a Sub Command and they became Forward, the drill hall  then became Forward2 as did the sites in the town handling accounts and the coastal craft which then became HMS Aggressive. Simple (not)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Merv on August 11, 2011, 01:46:20
Its History has HMS Wildfire was very brief, searched on Nore Command will produce far more History, it was a vital cog during WW2.
Nore Command transfered from Queenborough around 1885 to the site.
Admiral Sir John Tovey finished his career there and lived in the Big House located in the area above known has The Admirals Gardens.
John Toveys role in sinking of The Bismark is well worth researching

The Tunnels were built by Cornish Tin Miners
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Bilgerat on August 11, 2011, 21:23:28
In answer to the post about Wildfire's name before it became Wildfire - don't think it had a name. I think it was simply called Nore ACHQ (Area Command Headquarters).
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on November 19, 2011, 15:07:45
I joined the RNR in Feb 1982 at HMS WILDFIRE (down the hole) and served there until 1985 when we moved to Collingwood Block Khyber Road until the closure of Wildfire in 1994 under "options for change". It was a large size Reserve Unit reporting to Flag Officer Medway.
I had the honour of carrying the RN Colour at the closure of WILDFIRE (Collingwood) in 1994 a very sad day, i have a dvd of the ceremony, which is very moving. I am still serving now as the RNRs first ever Warrant Officer, strangely enough I have just taken over as 2 I/C at HMS PRESIDENT Medway Division in the Old Collingwood Block, full circle I guess.
HMS WILDFIRE still exists as the RNR Unit a Northwood in Middlesex.

I have many happy memories of drill nights down the tunnel, we used to train how quickly we could run up to the top of the tunnel slope to secure the main doors in an emergency. There was even a Nutty store and cinema down there. I did a few exercises down there and have some good photos which i will put up on here.

Our mess was in a nissan hut by the car park at the top, we also had some lovely large blue gates with an RN crest whcih were sadly stolen soon after we closed.

Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on November 19, 2011, 17:35:25
Hi WO1RNR, thank you for your post.  I would be very interested in any storys or memories you have from your time there!
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on November 23, 2011, 23:55:39
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/shipco65.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/comms89.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/ShipCo_80.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/ShipCo_84.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/ShipCo_88.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/scroll.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/ne89.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/med89.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/late60insp.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on November 24, 2011, 00:00:11
I dont know if it means i am ancient but i am the only one still serving from all these pictures and the only Wildfire (Chatham) Rating left.
I was a very young sailor here.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on November 24, 2011, 08:00:33
One other of our members worked here also, he doesn't use the forum very often though.  Thank you for adding these pictures, they are really interesting!
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:27:30
Here are some more photos from my collection, hope they arent too dull
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/WildfireAdoptionCeremony2.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:30:08
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/WildfireAdoptionCeremony.jpg)

I think this building is now a care home. you can see the adoption scroll in one of my earlier postings
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:31:19
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/WildfireAdoptionCeremony3.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:33:53
Some photos from Collingwood Block HMS Wildfire 1985 to 1994
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/Collingwoodmainblock1985.jpg)

On the square behind the two cars stood a mast which formerly stood outside the Wardroom HMS Pembroke (pic to follow)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:36:58
Remembrance Sunday Guard 1989, the two blue lanterns on the outbuilding behind the guard used to be atop the old blue gates at the Wildfire Nore Command HQ in medway Road
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/GreatLinesGuard1989.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:38:08
I am the sailor on the ensign
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/HMSWildfireleaflet.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/HMSWildfireleaflet_0001.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:39:17
Guard Training with SLRs
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/CollingwoodBlockDrillDeck.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:40:46
Commanding Officer Commander Derek Stoyles, 1st Lt, Surgeon Lt Cdr John Maitland, who became CO
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/HMSWildfireGuard1990.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:44:35
I love this picture, it used to be really cold up there in November especially holding SLRs, the expression on the female PO says it all, her hat had blown off in the wind and is laying at the feet of the rating behind, i wont name her to save embarrasment, i was the PO at the other end still with hat.
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/GreatLinesGuard1988.jpg)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on December 06, 2011, 14:50:59
In 1989 we were offered the opportunity to be extras in an episode of Poirot "The kidnapped Prime Minister" which was being filmed at Dover Docks, I managed to get a couple of snaps, one has "Hastings" facing and Poirot with his back to us.

The rating on the end in the first pic facing the camera was our PSI (Permanent Staff Instructor) CRS (Chief Radio Supervisor) Sam Macfarlane RN who was the CRS on HMS Coventry when she was sunk in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War, shared some interesting but very serious stories with us of that historial event.
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/PoirotWildfire1.jpg)
(http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o234/mrtonymatthewsqvrm/HMS%20Wildfire%20Chatham/PoirotWildfire2.jpg)

You had to watch carefully not to miss us in the actual episode, oh we got paid 60 for the day each, great fun.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Liamd1 on March 23, 2012, 22:10:44
My dad who served with wildfire Steve Donovan, is having great fun looking at these memories! He also said hello maggot......
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: AndyK on April 29, 2012, 19:59:43
Regarding the photograph of "Admiral's Inspection 1985". The date and the personnel identified are not correct. The CO (right of saluting base) is Cdr (later Capt) Derek Richards - Derek Stoyles didn't have that many medals! John Maitland is correctly identified to the left of the saluting base but he is clearly a Surgeon Commander at that stage (later Surgeon Captain) - brass hat visible. On that basis it puts the picture at some time between 1990 and 1993. see http://www.hmswildfire.org.uk/89-94/5_cos.htm (http://www.hmswildfire.org.uk/89-94/5_cos.htm). Many of the pictures in this trail and more can be found on http://www.hmswildfire.org.uk/index.htm (http://www.hmswildfire.org.uk/index.htm). Unfortunately the site is now rather out of date and in particular does not reflect the later years of HMS Wildfire. It is my intention, time allowing, to bring it up to date. Greetings to all ex Wildfires. Andy Kirby
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Leofwine on April 30, 2012, 12:22:38
And another of Keith Gulvin's photo's.

In the post above, I was wondering where this building was actually located - I vaguely remember seeing it, but can't for the life of me remember where. Was it in the area that is now the Admiral's Gardens?
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: AndyK on April 30, 2012, 18:14:36
If you click on the grid reference on the following site it will give you the approximate position. In reality it was very slightly further SW than the head of the arrow. http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/w/wildfire/index.shtml (http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/w/wildfire/index.shtml)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Leofwine on April 30, 2012, 21:34:26
Thanks AndyK that is about the general area I remembered, but my memory of it was hazy enough to doubt it. The creation of the Admiral's gardens has changed it so much it's hard to remember how it was before (although it is now a very nice park!)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Merv on June 28, 2013, 23:50:07

This Photograph shows the area today, Former Wildfire. Lower Lines, Admirals Gardens as us locals call it.
Photo taken by Micro light Pilot Paul Wenham at my request.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: smiler on June 29, 2013, 07:29:34
   Just come across this topic and would like to add that my father was stationed at HMS Wildfire twice during the war "awaiting ship". He was on a number of ships during his time, a lot of them being trawlers converted to minesweepers. Great photos WO1RNR and deserve a "thank you ".
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on October 19, 2013, 21:55:15
Some lovely photos of the tunnels before fire damage can be found here: http://collection.subbrit.org.uk/sbc/main.php?g2_itemId=17
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: John38 on January 24, 2014, 20:12:20
Is HMS Wildfire a general term, because there was one in Sheerness Dockyard?
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: bromptonboy on January 25, 2014, 08:30:26
I believe the HMS Wildfire title was originally assigned to the Royal Naval Gunnery School at Sheerness. The Gunnery School moved to Chatham in the early C20th but the name Wildfire was retained at Sheerness by the Naval Barracks inside the Dockyard. When Sheerness Dockyard was closed, the Nore Command Combined HQ at Chatham was also closed, and so the name HMS Wildfire was transferred to a new Royal Naval Reserve unit based in the former Combined HQ. The name Wildfire is now assigned to the Fleet HQ at Northwood.

To further complicate matters, in wartime when the navy was drastically expanded and more sub-establishments were created, the names of existing bases were used for administrative purposes and so we saw a Wildfire 2, Wildfire 3 and so on, and in similar vein Pembroke 2, 3 and so on.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: John38 on January 25, 2014, 09:46:21
Thanks for that, bromptonboy. It was still operating as 'HMS Wildfire' when I was an apprentice in Sheerness  Dockyard(1954 - 59)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: WO1RNR on January 27, 2014, 19:30:13
Bromptonboy
Just one correction to your post below.
The current HMS Wildfire is still a Royal Naval Reserve unit based inside the PJHQ permanent joint headquarters at Northwood.
Fleet HQ Is actually in leach building on whale island Portsmouth.


I believe the HMS Wildfire title was originally assigned to the Royal Naval Gunnery School at Sheerness. The Gunnery School moved to Chatham in the early C20th but the name Wildfire was retained at Sheerness by the Naval Barracks inside the Dockyard. When Sheerness Dockyard was closed, the Nore Command Combined HQ at Chatham was also closed, and so the name HMS Wildfire was transferred to a new Royal Naval Reserve unit based in the former Combined HQ. The name Wildfire is now assigned to the Fleet HQ at Northwood.

To further complicate matters, in wartime when the navy was drastically expanded and more sub-establishments were created, the names of existing bases were used for administrative purposes and so we saw a Wildfire 2, Wildfire 3 and so on, and in similar vein Pembroke 2, 3 and so on.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: bromptonboy on January 28, 2014, 09:15:39
Hi WO1RNR, You are correct. I had forgotten that C in C Fleet moved out of Northwood more than ten years ago! How time flies.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on October 26, 2017, 20:32:30
Wooden masts above the bunker before development of the land
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: conan on April 04, 2018, 23:20:07
 A link to some fine new photographs of the underground,

https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/underground-sites/36028-hms-wildfire-kent-april-2018-a.html
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on April 27, 2018, 22:23:29
Some new photos of the underground ;-)

First two are the operations room, doesn't seem to have changed too much in the last 10 years since my last visit.
Next is looking up the emergency escape ladder.
The next are storage tanks, apparently behind these used to be another emergency escape??
Newspaper from 14th February 1997 and what is left of the racking - some of these have been pushed over and damaged.
Equipment status board and air filtration and the main entrance.
Last two images show the food disposal, I shocked to see the plunger was still there!!!
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on April 27, 2018, 22:25:26
Various items laying around
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on April 27, 2018, 22:26:56
Last ones :)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Bilgerat on April 28, 2018, 10:47:21
Are these recent photos or were they taken before the steel doors in the ditches were sealed up? If they're recent, how does one arrange a visit? I'm asking because since my grand-daughter and I watched a video on youtube exploring the hospital under Dock Road in Chatham, she's been fascinated with underground places like this.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on April 28, 2018, 11:02:44
Easter weekend someone removed the pins from the hinges and had a rave down there, word got around the exploring community.  Unfortunately it was sealed a few days later.  Kurg once arranged an official visit with the university but I don't think this was to be repeated and was a one off.  Unless the University find a realistic use for them (and improved air circulation) I don't think these will be open for the public anytime soon.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Bilgerat on April 28, 2018, 11:24:38
Thanks for that. I'm sure that with the right will, the place could be re-opened as an attraction along the lines of Kelvedon Hatch in Essex. Issues with ventilation wouldn't be hard to overcome and the remaining entrance is suitable for disabled access anyway.

See here for Kelvedon Hatch's website.
http://www.secretnuclearbunker.com/ (http://www.secretnuclearbunker.com/)
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on April 28, 2018, 11:59:05
Kelvedon Hatch is an interesting place to visit!

For Wildfire if they reopened the original entrance they could easily have the air flow to keep the place circulated, and better disabled access as there are no steps at all from that side.

Time will tell, I guess the biggest concern (and very expensive) is the removal of asbestos.  The walls inside could potentially have the fibres and these would need to be replaced.

Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: Bilgerat on April 28, 2018, 15:03:12
Asbestos would obviously be a concern, but small patches could just be painted over with a thick coat of paint. That's what they've done on HMS Cavalier. As long as it's not disturbed, it shouldn't be a problem.

As long as the bunker is structurally sound, it shouldn't cost a huge amount of money to open it up to the public as most of the restoration work would be cosmetic. It might turn out to be a money-spinner for the college. I think the original entrance is now covered by the electricity substation serving the college, so moving that would be out of the question.
Title: Re: HMS Wildfire, Gillingham
Post by: kyn on April 28, 2018, 18:15:06
Not quite on the same site luckily - so doable!