A long-forgotten labyrinth of wartime tunnels has opened to the public today in the depths of the White Cliffs of Dover.
Fan Bay Deep Shelter – constructed during WWII under the orders of Winston Churchill – runs 75ft below the coastline’s famous chalk cliffs. It took the military’s Royal Engineers 100 days to carve 3,500 sq ft of tunnels in the 1940s, but they were just as quickly forgotten once decommissioned a decade later.
The National Trust stumbled upon the shelter by accident after acquiring a port in Dover three years ago. Working with a team of archaeologists and 50 volunteers, the preservation group recovered the network of tunnels, which had been completely filled in during the 1970s.
‘With no public access for over 40 years, the tunnels remain much as they were when they were abandoned,’ says Jon Barker, visitor experience manager at the White Cliffs. ‘We’ve preserved both the natural decay and authentic atmosphere of the space.’
The tunnels, part of the war effort to defend the English Channel, sheltered four officers and up to 185 men – some of whom left little etchings and graffiti on the chalk walls. Also on site are two sound mirrors, which were used during the First World War as an enemy aircraft warning device.
The National Trust warns that the hard-hat tour is only for those above the age of 12 and in good health. Claustrophobics should steer clear…