Dover, England and the Secret Wartime Tunnels

Dover castle ramparts

Trip Taken: 2008

The white chalk cliffs of Dover are said to be one of the first things soldiers saw when they returned home from war during the Great War and the second world war. It is the symbol of home for many British soldiers. At least, that was what I have been told. I went to Dover on the premise that I would see some interesting sites. It is one of the closest points from England to France, it has a wartime history, and it has those famous white cliffs.

Dover Castle

The first stop in my Dover trip was the castle. It is easily the most conscious choice to make when visiting Dover. It is on top of a hill that you can see from almost any where in Dover. I thought I was just going to go see any other castle I have been to. But, as I got closer to the castle, they kept mentioning the secret wartime tunnels. A tour of the tunnels is actually included in the ticket to the castle. I had no idea that Dover castle was used as a communications and medical base for the war effort during the second World War. The tunnels are all pretty dark except for the few bulbs they have functioning that hang above the tour path. The wartime tunnels was one of the main decryption centers during the war. In retrospect, I suspect Alan Turing, the famed mathematician and code breaker, must have walked these halls. I asked the tour guide if they used why the castle was spared in the bombardment and if she thought the Germans used it as a reference point to bomb other locations in England. She got really uppity when I asked this and gave me a succinct answer that basically amounted to she didn’t know the mindset of the Nazi Luftwaffe and how they chose their targets.

There were some rooms that dealt with the medieval history of the castle but that was completely overshadowed by the secret tunnels exhibit. The grounds itself is nice but after the tunnels tour I just kept thinking how much of an important strategic point this was.

Cliffs of Dover

I wanted to go see the cliffs of Dover. I really did. But asking the tourist office in Dover, there were no cheap options. The large staircase known as the Grand Shaft, which cut into the cliff face, was closed at this time of the year. The only way I was going to get a really good look was if I took an expensive day cruise out into the English Channel. Travel in England was already expensive as is, so I didn’t think twice about skipping it. I did get to see a side profile of those cliffs at the castle but not a head on shot like I would have by going to the staircase.

I took tired myself back to the train station and headed back to Winchester by way of London.

An interesting note about Dover is that it is on the Eurostar line. It is one of the stops on the high speed train between London and Paris. The workers at the tourist office were actually French, not British.

Parting Words

Overall, Dover was a downer in terms of attractions. It is a tiny port town in the eastern part of England that doesn’t see that much. I’m glad I got to see the castle and its history as a wartime bunker and the white chalk cliffs of Dover.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.