Introduction to the Ho19 Tunnel Project
On a cold rainy morning in 2015, we were given access to a tunnel complex in the harbour area of St Helier Jersey. As we passed the entrance gate, we were soon greeted by a collection of stencils for road signs and a fair amount of astroturf. The tunnel had signs of significant damp issues, and a constant sound of dripping could be heard echoing through the site. As we approached the first junction, a wall had been put in place, probably to reduce the amount of water leaking into the first 30 meters of the tunnel. At this point, we realised the complex was much more substantial than we had imagined. We were hooked and needed to secure more permanent access to document the tunnel and produce this book. With the help of the Department of Infrastructure and Jersey Property Holdings, we agreed on a research licence to make this Publication.
In May 2016 we received the long-term licence to study and share the Tunnels History. From our research, the Germans had listed Ho19 as a Power Station and Ho20 as Mount Bingham Connecting Tunnel. At this point, the original German plans have not been found, either having been destroyed or are in the hands of a private collector. We base a lot of the dates and facts from local diaries, maps and German papers from the Washington, French, Russian and Jersey archives.
Work on the tunnel started in July 1943 by the Organisation Todt (OT) firm of “Riechert” and later in 1943 by OT firm “Hellenbart” under the command of the Naval Harbour Construction HQ, which was at number four Commercial buildings. The Todt Organisation was a Third Reich civil and military engineering group named after its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior Nazi figure. The organisation was responsible for a huge range of engineering projects both in pre-World War II Germany, in Germany itself and occupied territories from Jersey to the Soviet Union during the war. It was notorious for using slave and forced labour.
The German Navy perhaps thought that as the main source of power was from a civilian power station and a secure tunnel housing a power plant would keep the harbours crane operational no matter what. The CIOS book “Jersey’s German Tunnels” by Michael Ginns, MBE (ISBN 978-0-9550086-1-0) states that between August and November 1942 there was correspondence about the installation of an electric motor in the Tunnel. This document included how much power was needed to run it 14 hours per day. We are not too sure if this was to power for the mining operation or if it was for the harbour power. It also records that in 1943, two French MAN generators arrive on the island for the eventual placement in Ho19, but they had both been sabotaged at the Renault Factory. The book, however, suggests that after the lining was done in 1943, the tunnel is abandoned and left in the same condition that it is found today. We have had the opportunity to work in the tunnel for well over two years and can evidence this tunnel was still being worked on in May 1944 and was used right up to Liberation in May 1945.
Local historian and researcher John Bull provided us with a rare document mentioning Ho19. On the 18th November 1943, the Organisation Todt requested the closing of the road on Mount Bingham for work to be carried out. Photo below, courtesy of Jersey Heritage, Photo By J. Bull.
The road closure request was due to the chance of a potential collapse due to how close the first 20 meters of the tunnel had been mined to the road above. The OT Firm Theodore Elche was employed to line the tunnel. Wooden shuttering was installed in the tunnel and concrete was poured directly from the road above.
Like many bunkers the shuttering is still very evident
One thing that is not very clear, is when the work for the connecting tunnel Ho20 was done. There are date stones in the tunnel indicating work is still going on in May 1944 and from interviews with islanders, who were there, the tunnel had two steel doors with two armed guards in place, right up to liberation day. Ho20 seemed to have started off life as a planned connecting tunnel that went all the way through Mount Bingham, but it looks like they stopped mining in May 1944 and it was converted to a storage tunnel, potentially munitions due to the protection provided by guards. Below is a little anecdote by Bob Le Sueur who remembers the entrance of the tunnel very well.
Ho19 & Ho 20 Maintenance
When we started this in May 2016, it is important to note that all but the first 25 meters of the tunnel was severely flooded and had not been used since the war. The first section is actively used by The Department for Infrastructure, who have been very supportive of our work and huge thanks go out to them for this. The rest of the 200 meters of the tunnel is now our responsibility, and for every hour of research we get done, there is an equal hour of maintenance required. The majority of our sections of the tunnel are actualy mined cave passages and water is always moving through the rock. Below is an album of photos of our efforts to get the flooding under control and we then built a more robust system for drainage. Our original plan, though rewarding, was to move the water in buckets manually. We then set up a suction system that slowly brought down the levels and finally moved to motorised pumps.
Below are some photos of the work to get it dry!
Below are photos from the first dry walkthrough in maybe 70+ years
Our first stage of research was to document all the remaining original features of the tunnels as well as recording graffiti left by the Germans and forced labours. The second stage was to produce a 3d map and video of the entire site. For each documented area we will use a simple dot on the map to record its location. This may jump around as we find more and more. To assist our work in the tunnel, we have installed a straightforward and temporary lighting system which was funded by members of the public coming on our tours.
We will use this icon to indicate where we are in the tunnels.
Each area of documentation we will assign a number, which will be prefixed with the Tunnel is was found. If you have info, ideas or corrections, please include this in the subject line of an email to email@example.com
This page will be live and will be updated as often as we can.
The original doors for this tunnel are missing from an interview with locals alive at the time they were described as being solid blast doors that got removed in the scrap drive of the 50’s. They were initially placed one meter inside the tunnel which would have provided some shelter to the Guards on duty. Remains of the hinges can still be found in place.
Bob Le Sueur (97) has been helping us with some research and mentioned he had a little anecdote about Ho19. Bob risked death during the Occupation by helping to shelter an escaped Russian slave worker at the insurance offices where he worked. We visited him to record a story he had from Liberation day when he passed Ho19 for the first time. He kindly gave up his time for an interview with us all done from his home in St Clement.
We have yet to find a photo of the Tunnel taken during or just after the war. The below was taken from across the road by the Germans, most likely to avoid the photo showing the installation or before it being built.
There are very few traces left of any light units or cable. The condition of the boards through the tunnel varies from ok to poor. Some bakelite cable holders are still in place, minus the cable retaining part. The stalactites are slowing moving some of the boards. the stalactites are slowing moving the boards. Some bakelite cable holders are still in place, minus the top cable retaining part. the stalactites are slowing moving the boards. Some bakelite cable holders are still in place, minus the top cable retaining part.
To carry the electricity over to the other side of the tunnel, the electrician has used small wood blocks to attach the electrical boards. All but one of these boards have since fallen and rotted away. The black paint the electrician has used to mark the root is still visible on the roof.
Below is a map that looks to have been drawn using the same paint the electrician has been using. The bottom left of the map you can see the word “Reeper" just off centre the words “Cafe” and what we initially believed to be “Heime” (home in German). The map gave us plenty to work on, and we were determined to find out where this was. In the next few pages, we will break down the map in sections and show you our findings.
Let's start with “Reeper" a quick google search of “Reeper German Map” got us back Reeperbahn, Hamburg, Germany.
And it’s a good match, no sign of a cafe from this view but we are on the right track (image care of Apple maps). Next step was to see what it looked like in 1944 and below you can see we found it on the corner of an RAF photo, also notice the vast damage from the recent aerial bombings.
Roughly overlaying the photo with the map, we can see we may indeed have found it.
So let's move on to “Cafe” and “Heime” our progress so far has been watched online via Facebook and one of our followers pointed out it's not “Heime” which we thought was home in English, but “ Cafe Heinze" which is also found in this area.
Cleaning up the photo above, we can match up the location of “Cafe Heinze” and also the domed building we see on the left-hand side of the photograph.
Now we need to look at the building with the two spikes. Directly across the road from where Cafe Heinze would have been, if it had survived the war, we found this building below.
So putting this research back on the map we found, we have positive results from all three sites. We are happy to say this was indeed Reeperbahn, Hamburg, Germany. We can only guess that the German electrician or Guards were having a chat about places to visit and drew this map of Cafe Heinze.
Ho19-005-Pencil Marking 1
Probably linking back to the electricians planning of the cable route, we can see some pencil marks on this section of wall.
Ho19-006-Date Marking 1
The Electrical board throughout the tunnel was held up by metal supports that had been cemented into small drill holes in the tunnel walls. Some of the boards have fallen due to deterioration, and now the cement anchors can be seen. On this one, you can see the worker has left their initials “JC”. The smaller initials seem to be a first attempt they were not happy with. They also left an important date making of the 14th of May 1944. The date is more evidence of the tunnel being worked on well after the majority of forced labour was removed from the islands. This date is also well after the lining of the tunnel had been completed. We think that the original tunnel plans of a walk through and a power station were abandoned and instead lights, electricity and ventilation got added to allow the storage of equipment, most probably munitions.
In the middle of this section of tunnel, there is a buried section of rail. It appears to be attached to something. It could be a turntable. Due to its position, it could have well been a turntable. At this point, we will not be digging this up. The area has been polluted and any extensive archaeology digging will be agreed with the States of Jersey in the third stage of our project.
Ho19-008-The start of a side tunnel
There is evidence of the Germans starting a tunnel in the direction of the railway tunnel that runs next to Ho19 (the orange rectangle on the photo below).
Below is the second appearance of the JC initials marking and as before this is in the cement used to anchor the electricity board.
Ho19-010-Large Black Marking
Below graffiti on the wall and is either s.144, 5.1.44 (5th of Jan 44) or S.I 44.
Below is a trailer that was abandoned in the tunnel but we are having trouble dating it or working out what it was. It seems to be either a large pump or generator trailer. There are positive and negative connections at the rear. It also has one Canadian tire, and one British War Department issued tire. If you recognise what it may have been, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
In this area of the tunnel are two deep blast holes that have been drilled but not blown. The tunnels were made by the OT drilling a series of holes (see diagram below) with pneumatic drills. The length of the drill bits varied but these two holes are about two meters deep. These drill bits frequently became blunt and had to be replaced or resharpened. The power came from compressors situated at the entrance, operating 24hours a day, seven days a week. When the drilling of the holes was completed, each one was packed with nitroglycerin and exploded. Forced labour was then used to clear the rock. They would have used long steel rods to pull down loose rock and pickaxes used to smoothen the walls.
Written on the wall in this area is the number 256 in red chalk. It is unclear what this was for.
This part of the wall shows a small amount of impact damage from something hitting and lodging into the wall. The rock is clean so this implies it was after the blasting stage of the construction. There is something metal lodged into the hole. Our best guess is this is part of a drill bit for a pilot hole. There is also a chance this is a bullet, but at this time a drill hole is more likely.
The Tunnel seems only to have a ventilation system in Ho2o linked to the outside via the main entrance. During the scrap drive in the 50’s almost all of the ventilation pipes and their supports had been removed. We can find traces of how it ran through the tunnel and above on the map we have highlighted its route. The two cylinders indicate where there was a pump system.
Ho20-006-Initials YH & GH
The wall here has two sets of initials engraved into it. We guess that in various areas of the tunnel, the forced labours were given rest brakes and used their tools to leave a mark. The top is Y H, and the bottom one is G H.
We found the below engraving, which would have been hidden by the ventilation pipes. It reads
We have Investigated the list of known forced workers graves in Jersey and there is no trace of Luis.
There are a series of black numbers, with a dotted circle, painted on the walls in Ho20. The reason for them is unclear. It could be to do with the mining or simply numbers indicating where equipment was kept.
The Electrical board throughout the tunnel was held up by metal supports that had been cemented into small drill holes in the tunnel walls. Some of the boards have fallen due to deterioration, and now the cement anchors can be seen. On this one, you can see the worker has left their initials “RR”.
The Electrical board throughout the tunnel was held up by metal supports that had been cemented into small drill holes in the tunnel walls. Some of the boards have fallen due to deterioration, and now the cement anchors can be seen. On this one, you can see the worker has left their initials “RA”.
The Electrical board throughout the tunnel was held up by metal supports that had been cemented into small drill holes in the tunnel walls. Some of the boards have fallen due to deterioration, and now the cement anchors can be seen. On this one, you can see the worker has left their initials “LE”.
Ho20-012- BY & JM
The wall here has two sets of initials engraved into it. We guess that in various areas of the tunnel, the forced labours were given rest brakes and used their tools to leave a mark. The top is BY, and the bottom one is JM.
On 8th September 2016, we found some suspected unexploded ordnance in the tunnel, a phone call to Stuart (Ordinance Disposal Officer) at police HQ and he popped down to assess. What we had found were plugs or caps that are put into the end of drill holes, the holes would have been filled with nitroglycerin. Our suspicion became increased when we noticed small wires coming out the side. Luckily for us, the holes were dry and not packed. Stuart told us he was responsible for clearing a similar setup in Ho8 (Jersey War Tunnels) and many of the holes there were still packed with nitroglycerin! All plugs were safely removed from Ho19 that night with Kimberley and I learning an awful lot while helping Stuart do his thing.
A massive thanks go out to the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Officer Stuart Elliot of the States of Jersey Police. WWII Sites in Jersey always have the risk of the unexploded ordnance being found, if you find or see anything suspicious, please contact the police on 01534 612612. They have a page on what to do here.
Written on the wall in this area is the number 244 in red chalk. It is unclear what this was for.
In this section of the tunnel, we have some black squares painted on the walls. Our thinking on these is that they were used as a chalkboard to mark what was being kept here. Probably something that changed often making the need of a chalkboard.
In the electric board cement anchoring the electrician has etched in to the cement two heart shapes
Ho20-017-Pit Prop Staples
These are giant staples that would be used to secure pit props during the tunnel digging.
These are marking we believe to have been made by the forced workers used to mine this tunnel. These marines have been etched in to the dirt in the wall and not into the rock.