British World War II Tunnels Opened To Public

A series of British World War II tunnels have been excavated and opened for public viewing for the first time in 40 years.

The World War II tunnels, known as the Fan Bay Shelter, run along the English coastline under the White Cliffs of Dover. The tunnels run 75 feet below the coastline, and consist of 3,500 square feet of interconnected tunnels.

The rustic tunnels were built in over 100 days in the 1940s, and were reinforced with iron girders and sheet metal, according to a report by ABC News. The shelter was used by British soldiers as a gun battery, as they were ordered to thwart the movement and progress of Nazi battleships attempting entry into the English Channel.

“There has been no public access to the tunnels for mover 40 years, and so they remain much as they were when they were abandoned. We’ve carried out extensive conservation work to preserve both the natural decay and the authentic atmosphere of the space,” said Jon Barker, visitor experience manager at the White Cliffs, in an interview with the Daily Mail.

The restoration of the World War II tunnel began when the National Trust purchased the land on which the tunnels reside. A volunteer effort was then initiated to restore the historic World War II tunnels.

Fifty National Trust volunteers, archaeologists, engineers, a geologist, and mine consultants were involved in the restoration of the tunnels. More than 100 tons of dirt and debris were removed by the volunteers.

The World War II tunnels were built in 1940 and 1941, and were personally inspected by Winston Churchill. The tunnels were capable of sheltering 185 soldiers, contained five bomb-proof chambers, as well as a hospital. They were decommissioned in the 1950s and they were eventually abandoned.

During the course of restoration, volunteers found much graffiti scribbled and carved by British soldiers during their stay in the shelter, as well as leftover British and American munitions.

Possibly the most valuable finds, are the sound mirrors, an early British invention used to detect enemy aircraft. The sound mirrors per-date the World War II tunnels, and eventually became obsolete with the invention and implementation of radar.

[Image courtesy of Richard Crowhurst Corvidae/National Trust]