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about the secret wartime tunnels in Dover

  • places to visit
February 12, 2019

Dover Castle is steeped in history and has played a key part in historical events throughout the centuries. Our own Canterbury Reach Lodge Retreat is a short 30 minute drive to Dover Castle, where you can enjoy the breathtaking views and learn more about the history of the castle and the Secret Wartime Tunnels, which played a pivotal role during World War II.

the castle’s history

The construction of Dover Castle was ordered by King Henry II, and building completion was in the 1180’s. During Medieval times various Monarchs continuously added to the defences of the castle with building work carrying on throughout the era, in the 1740’s the Medieval banks were reshaped as the castle was adapted for a more modern artillery warfare.

During the 18th Century, England was under threat of invasion from Napoleonic France, it was then that the network of tunnels were dug in the cliff face in order to be used as barracks for the large number of troops needed to defend the shores.

the tunnels

The network of tunnels were left empty and unused until 1905, when technological advances allowed the coastal artillery in the harbour to be controlled by a Central Fire Command Post on the cliff edge.

During World War II the tunnels were brought back into service and this was when they made their most notable contribution to British history. The tunnels were used as the control centre for all naval operations in the channel, as well as being extended to house a hospital for troops. Acting as a nerve centre and combined headquarters for the Navy, Air Force and Army leaders, the tunnels helped the Nation’s forces prepare for the 1944 invasion of Europe.

Later, when the world was gripped by fear of the Cold War, the tunnels became the secret location of Britain’s Regional Seats of Government, who would organise events in the aftermath of a nuclear attack.

However, it was during May 1940, that the tunnels were made famous as the site where Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay organised and conducted Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk.

operation dynamo

In late May 1940, the Allied forces of French, Belgian and British troops were trapped by the invading German army on the coast of Dunkirk. Allied leaders soon realised that rescue by sea was the only option, Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay and his staff were tasked with the difficult evacuation, codenamed Operation Dynamo.

Ramsay planned and arranged for ships to be sent and evacuate the stranded troops, putting the plans into action on May 26th. It was a very difficult and slow evacuation, taking several days to rescue 338,226 troops in vulnerable situations.

Without Operation Dynamo and the rescue of the Allied Troops, the war would have likely been lost. Take the part guided tour around the tunnels, which contains special effects, original film footage and visit sets to bring this dramatic and legendary operation to life.

opening times & prices

Dover Castle and the Secret Tunnels are closed on Monday and Tuesday’s.
Wednesday to Sunday they are open between 10am and 4pm.

Ticket Type Cost
Adult £20
Child (5 – 17 y/o) £12
Family of 5 £50


Enjoy a day out at Dover Castle and learn all about the history of this important castle, relax in the Secret Wartime Tunnels Café, which serves homemade sandwiches, hot stews and delicious afternoon teas.

Only a 30 minute drive away, our beautiful Canterbury Reach Lodge Retreat offers a relaxing place to base yourself while exploring the local area. Our lodge style accommodation will have everything you could need for a self-catering break in Kent, including a fully fitted kitchen with fridge/freezers, ovens and microwaves, as well as a large open plan living space with sumptuous sofas, dining areas and floor to ceiling windows, bathing the rooms in natural light.

Book your holiday at Canterbury Reach Lodge Retreat and explore the local area at your own pace, while enjoying the luxury lodge style accommodation available.

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