UK

Forgotten Second World War 2 Tunnels Ordered By Winston Churchill Opened To The Public

20/07/2015 15:31 BST | Updated 20/07/2015 15:59 BST

A labyrinth of forgotten World War II tunnels inside the White Cliffs of Dover are opening to the public for the first time.

Rediscovered in 2013, the underground system was built in just 100 days under Winston Churchill's order. Their purpose was to foil the German shipping movements in the Channel and to connect Dover's gun batteries.

Incredible artifacts have been discovered in the dormant "time capsule" including a needle and thread, a football pools coupon and copious amounts of rude graffiti.

churchill tunnels

The tunnels are opening to the public in July 2015

The wartime shelters were closed in the 1950s and then filled in with rubble and soil during the 1970s. They are an estimated 75ft (23m) deep and cover an area of 3,500 sq ft (325 sq m).

Building began in 1940 after Churchill visited the area and was furious to see enemy shipping moving freely in the Channel.

In a memo to the Joint Chief of Staff he said: “We must insist upon maintaining superior artillery positions on the Dover promontory, no matter what form of attack they are exposed to. We have to fight for command of the straits by artillery, to destroy the enemy batteries and fortify our own.”

The battery and still incomplete shelter were occupied by four officers and 118 men from the 203rd Coast Battery of the Royal Artillery relocated from Falmouth.

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Now, more than 40 years after being sealed the tunnels are opening to the public, on Monday 20th July.

Jon Barker, visitor experience manager at the White Cliffs, said: "This rediscovered piece of the country's Second World War heritage is a truly remarkable find.

"There has been no public access to the tunnels for over 40 years and so they remain much as they were when they were abandoned.

"We've carried out extensive conservation work to preserve both the natural decay and authentic atmosphere of the space."

The National Trust, who are overseeing the project, have warned that visitors must be over the age of 12 and are expected to walk 1.5 miles from the Visitor Centre and then 125 steps down inside the cliff.