This is part two of my trip to Dover castle, you can read the first one here.
One of the biggest draws of Dover Castle for me was visiting the (no longer) secret wartime tunnels which were built underneath the grounds at Dover Castle. The tunnels were built during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800’s and once housed over two thousand men. They are the only underground barracks ever built in England and are impressively still bomb proof even in present-day. When the Second World War began, the tunnels were once again utilized by the British military. They began as an air-raid shelter for the townspeople and were eventually converted into a command center for some of England’s most top ranking military commanders. Apparently there are some tunnels which are still secret, but they will remain classified for around another decade.
You can visit the wartime tunnels as part of your admission to Dover Castle. You are required to join an organized tour, which leave every 15-20 minutes from the tunnel entrance. The tour is called ‘Operation Dynamo’ and takes visitors through what it would have been like in the tunnels during the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. Here is a great video on the experience if you are interested in visiting. I found it very interesting and informative, and learned a lot about World War II from the side of the English.
The videos during the tour covered the war as a whole, as well as the specific parts which involved Dover Castle. There is a large emphasis on the evacuation of Dunkirk obviously, which was the most successful campaign strategized in the tunnels. 338,000 troops were rescued in Operation Dynamo, and the tour explores how this happened with impressive visual effects throughout.
I enjoyed walking through the command rooms to see what it would have looked like in the tunnels during the war. The props used were very detailed, from local dated newspapers to cups of tea long forgotten.
I believe the tour lasted around an hour, and is well-worth the time. You can also take the Underground Hospital tour, which runs at 15-20 minutes. That was very interesting as well and explores the hospital where wounded soldiers were brought to in the war. Unfortunately it is very dark, and pictures aren’t permitted. (They weren’t allowed in the main tour either, but I couldn’t come back to you empty handed…) Definitely make time for this one as well. I especially enjoyed walking through the room where they did the surgeries. They have done a wonderful job decorating the place with authentic tools to give visitors a look at what a WWII hospital would have looked like. There is even a faint smell of ether which adds to the overall (stomach ‘queasing’) experience.
The secret wartime tunnels were by far my favorite part of visiting Dover Castle. Leave yourself enough time to take this historical tour, the kids will enjoy it as well. Although my four year old left with a lot of questions, and I was unprepared to explain Hitler and genocide already… tis is the life I guess.