Civil Defence today

Secret tunnels under Whitehall - a beginners guide

World War 2 - the building begins

Protected exchanges


With the blitz in 1940 the Government decided to build "deep level shelters", connected to the tube network and built by London transport. These were built below existing stations at 10 different sites. One of these was Chancery Lane tube station with an entrance on Furnival Street (Google map).

For 2 years after the end of the war until 1947, the Public record office used the shelter however it soon became too small for their requirements.

Around this time the Post office, then incharge of telecommunications, had been shown that its networks were vulnerable from attack during war. It was decided that Chancery lane should be used at its western tip to house cables and equipment from the Faraday house exchange. Chancery Lane became known as the Kingsway exchange.

For a history of the site, you should check out the Sub brit pages. By 1980 with technological improvements, the exchange was no longer required. Around this time government personnel moved in and it is believed Kingsway acted as the backup location for the MOD Bunker Pindar, whilst the current one under the MOD building was being built.

The site came on the market for disposal by BT in 2008 and has since been sold.

The Whitehall tunnels - project 2845

Also during WW2 (Source: National archives website)

"A dual-purpose network of tunnels was constructed under Whitehall during World War II, serving several key buildings. It provided a route for communications cables secure against bombing, and a walkable route between buildings that could be used by personnel in the event of a gas attack. The Whitehall tunnel is connected underground to both the tube tunnels and the British Telecom cable tunnel network (built after the war) at Trafalgar Square."

We learn that the scheme was started in 1939 with a 12 ft tunnel and 5 ft tunnels leading to the various war rooms/sites and was completed by 1941. Various war rooms appears to be the Admiralty Citadel, War office and Air Ministry according to the same page.

The route was published after the war in 1946 and runs from Trafalgar Square down to King Charles Street (just south of Downing Street).

Q-Whitehall - according to Wikipedia BT sites containing a lot of equipment are given a code, with this tunnel system referred to as QWHI which is assumed where the name Q-Whitehall comes from when referring to these tunnels. Further schemes extended the network south and to the main Cabinet War rooms.

At the northern end of the tunnels, they connected to Trafalgar Square tube station certainly up until 1972 if not now with the new layout. (By 1979 the Strand and Trafalgar Square tube stations had merged into Charing Cross). At the Northern end of the WW2 tunnels there is a connection to the newer cold war BT deep underground tunnels which runs through to Holburn and then through existing tunnels to the Kingsway exchange (however it appears these are not "walkable" as according to War Plan UK they are "filled to capacity").

It appears there are many other cable tunnels but under Whitehall their purpose has been extended.

Rotundas - World War 2 military operations base & tunnels extended

Prior to the War a Gas Works existed south of Whitehall cornered by Great Peter Street, Marsham Street, Monck Street and Horseferry Road. This was destroyed and the 2 circular areas left were converted into a hardened Rotunda - a protected unit for various war related organisations. This included being used as a Regional War Room (and later used after the war as well).

Project/Scheme 2845A, Scheme 2845B was the extension of the main tunnel network south to this site, but the site has since been demolished and now occupied by the Home Office. Whether the tunnel is still in use is not known.

Cold war & embarrassment

During the building of Kingsway, it came to light about other Post office tunnelling projects in the area. Project 3245 was discovered by surveyors at the Pru having sued the Post office for damage to their building. During the building of which, the trooping of the colour had to be moved and was given the go ahead by the King.

According to Duncan Campbell, 2 further shafts were dug in Horse Guards parade and on the Mall, however according to Wikipedia "this is the only numbered tunnel scheme that has never been officially revealed or located".

As the Admiralty Citadel was connected to the system originally during World War 2 and according to Andrew Duncan any tunnels to Buckingham Palace were constructed before or after the war, quite what this project was is unclear.

Current situation

The tunnel network under Whitehall will most likely have been connected to the new bunker built under the MOD building named Pindar. It has emergency exits and most likely the escape route is via the Admiralty Citadel as this is a well built solid standing structure, unlikely to cave in a nuclear attack. It is also on the site of the former Air ministry which had a connection to Q-Whitehall.

It has previously been asked if it is connected to any transport system which we're told it isn't. If you believe that response then it suggests Q-Whitehall is not connected to the new Charing Cross station, nor to Westminster where there is a tunnel running up from the station to the Palace.

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