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Dover Castle: Operation Dynamo

 

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One of the most best parts of Dover Castle are the underground tunnels! I recently visited Dover Castle, and went through the Operation Dynamo tunnels, and was absolutely surprised on how efficient and successful the rescue mission was.

Operation Dynamo was named for the evacuation of more than 300,000 Allied soldiers from Dunkirk, France between 26th May and 4th June 1940 (World War II). The German army had taken over the area surrounding Dunkirk, forcing the British, French, Canadian and Belgian troops, who were fighting overwhelming against all odds, to retreat to the harbour and beaches of Dunkirk, where they were trapped as targets for the Germans.

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Prime Minister, Winston Churchill ordered the start of Operation Dynamo, solely named after the dynamo room of the naval headquarters below Dover Castle, where the Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay had planned the operation, in an effort to rescue some of the troops.

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The evacuation had difficulties throughout, as the harbour became partially blocked by ships sunk during the constant attacks from German aircraft. It became necessary to take the troops off the nearby beaches, as the shallow water prevented large ships from coming in close to shore. Small ships were needed to ferry the troops from the beaches to the larger ships.

Winston Churchill called it ‘a miracle of deliverance’

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My Visit To The Tunnels

When I visited Dover Castle earlier this week, my first stop was to visit Operation Dynamo tunnels, and I was not disappointed! Sadly, no photos were allowed to be taken in the tunnels.

When you first go in, the tour guide reminds everyone that the objects on display are either on loan from other museums, or original items found within the tunnels that had been sprayed with a protective substance.

As I first walked down the tunnel, I was taken back by how dim the lights were and how difficult it must have been working under those conditions for long periods of time. I was in a group of about 20 people, and we were arranged into a small waiting room, where we listened to a short clip of a radio, which highlighted key facts about the tunnel (how deep down, safety instructions – when lights above the door goes green, you can go through).

After the radio safety talk, the group was then led down further tunnels, where we came to a room to watch a short film about Hitler, and his army advancing around the world.

The group was then led to another room, where we sat on benches around the outside of the room. On either side of the walls, clips were shown of Hitler’s army advancing through Europe, as well as French civilians leaving for safety. In the middle of the room, there was a large rectangle that showed animations of the leaders of each army (Winston, Hitler etc.) with their strengths and weaknesses, the types of ammunition their armies used, and for how long it had been tested. This part of the tour was actually really interesting, as it showed how fast and unusual that Hitler moved up in power, as well as how many countries he took over in a short space of time.

When this part was finished, we were led to a room where we saw map of the tunnels, where the tour guide showed us the rooms we had been in, as well as the rooms, that were able to explore. Around this room, there are photos of people who worked within the tunnels, with a little bit of information about them underneath.

The next area, was separated by partitions, throughout the long room. In each section, there was videos and animation showing the progression throughout the planning of the Operation Dynamo. At the end of the section, showed a video from the soldiers point of  view that were rescued. It was interesting, as the feedback from the soliders came across as being defeated, and unworthy. This shocked me, as what they felt was a defeat, was actually one of the most impressive rescues of all time.

The rest of the tour was self-guided, where you got to go through rooms such as the plotting of incoming planes, and where the phones are connected to other rooms within the tunnel.

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  • To know more about Dover Castle’s Operation Dynamo Tunnels, and to find out how to visit, please see their website .
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