Hidden WWII Tunnels in White Cliffs of Dover Open to the Public

By James O Malley on at

Secret tunnels built in the White Cliffs of Dover after a 1940 visit from Winston Churchill are today open to the public for the first time.

The Guardian reports that the Fan Bay Deep Shelter was carved out of the chalk cliffs in just 100 days during the war, and go as deep as 23m deep.

It appears that the National Trust didn't know what it was getting its hand on. In 2012 the charity bought the land above the cliffs after raising the money from members of the public, with the hidden tunnels being something of an unexpected bonus.

Apparently in fixing up the tunnels ready for visitors, a team of "dozens" of brave volunteers had to clear 100 tonnes of spoil by hand - and then carried down 80 railway sleepers by hand, in order to repair tunnel supports. Even with all of the work, visiting still sounds like a challenge: The complex is a 45 minute walk from the visitors centre, and a trip isn't recommended to those who are claustrophobic or unsteady.

Perhaps most amusingly was that the Trust found in the tunnels what is politely termed "latrinalia" - or what we would call scribbles on toilet walls, which is apparently a rich tradition dating back to Roman times. The Graun quotes the following rhyme being found on one wall:

“If you come into this hall, use the paper not this wall. If no paper can be found then run your arse along the ground.”

The Shelter opens to the public today, and is open every day until 6th September, and then weekdays only until the end of September. [The Guardian]