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Archive for November 10th, 2016

On Sunday 6th November we were treated to a private tour of the famous WW2 Ramsgate Tunnels in Ramsgate!

the ramsgate tunnels

The Ramsgate Tunnels

The tour was conducted by ‘Mr Ramsgate’ the father of my daughter’s boyfriend…..he is apparently the most knowledgeable about the history of the town and has the ‘Freedom of the Town’. Quite cool. It was also ‘meet the parents’ day…she had met them, and he had met me…now it was time to put the two parties together and see how we get on. In all it was a great way to meet, and we all got along really well.

the ramsgate tunnels

from left to right…Simon, Jean, me and Ralph

The tour was fantastic and before you read further I can say up front that it is a brilliant tour and highly recommended.

IMAG4936 - walk to ramsgate The entrance and the initial part of the tour is located in what was once the original and now defunct Victorian Railway station.

After saying our hellos and introductions done we, so as not to upset the elves who manage safety, put on our helmets and off we went.

the ramsgate tunnels

the three of us at the entrance to the tunnels and me in my hard-hat

Prior to the clouds of war that descended over Britain and Europe this tunnel was abandoned and unused. The then Mayor of Ramsgate; one Mr A.B.C. Kempe, as a far seeing citizen who foresaw that things were going to get a tad tricky, thought it would be a good idea to build tunnels to protect the residents of his town. The plan was rejected as insane, he went ahead and after 3 years of planning the tunnels were started in March 1939. The first section was completed by 1st June 1939. Miles of tunnels in the chalk cliffs. Many people thought the tunnels were an expensive luxury and would probably never be needed.

the ramsgate tunnels

The Ramsgate Tunnels

When war was declared, Ramsgate was in the front line as the Battle of Britain began and in 1940 the town became the first casualty of the Blitz; on 24 August 1940 the sirens sounded and the citizens of Ramsgate took cover in the deep cover shelters. The town was bombarded with 500 bombs in the space of 5 minutes.

“Then, as the Battle of Britain raged in the skies above, the town gained another claim to fame on August 24, 1940. It was a relatively quiet Saturday lunchtime when the air raid sirens suddenly wheezed in to life. Moments later, Ramsgate became the first place in Britain to experience the full force of the Luftwaffe’s ‘Blitzkrieg’.

In the space of five minutes, a formation of Junkers Ju88 bombers dropped more than 500 bombs in what elderly locals still call ‘the murder raid’.

Even after the bombs were dropped, fighters returned to machine gun any survivors they could find, including the firemen struggling to douse the flaming gasworks.

Fireman Edward Moore would later receive the George Medal from the King for his heroics. More than 1,200 homes were destroyed. American correspondent Hubert Knickerbocker called it ‘the worst raid in history’.

No one is entirely sure why Ramsgate was singled out. One theory is that the Germans were en route to bomb nearby RAF Manston when an armed trawler in the harbour shot down the leading aircraft and the enemy turned on Ramsgate instead.

Yet the civilian death toll amounted to just 29. The tunnels had very quickly proved their worth.”

Then his plan was lauded as heroic.

the ramsgate tunnels

World War 2 – Ramsgate was in the front line during the Blitz of 1940

During the war, the tunnels became home from home for some residents whose homes had been obliterated by bombs and they made themselves comfortable in a space where they could shelter in complete safety. Many took up permanent residence and lived in relative comfort.

the ramsgate tunnels

Home from Home

Today you can go on a guided tour through some of the tunnels. The makeshift accommodation set up as it had been during the war. Some people really made themselves at home. The beds that were used for the children are still in-situ.

the ramsgate tunnels

beds line the tunnels…pretty much as it would have been during WW2

with a wonderful array of artefacts from that era and beyond. It was quite something to learn that most of the artefacts used in the displays belonged to Simon’s grandmother…..(Simon is the daughter’s boyfriend).  My daughter found it quite extraordinary that they have such an amazing and tangible link to their family history.

the ramsgate tunnels

this trunk belonged to a family member

After exploring the tunnels as far we were allowed to go, we went back to the main entrance and viewed an air-raid shelter; these flimsy metal flat-pack shelters that had to be built and installed by the residents in their own back-yards.

the ramsgate tunnels

Imagine how chilling it must have been to hear the air-raid sirens and know that an air-attack was imminent

Besides that there are some amazing props and rusting bits of this and that that have been used as props through out the tunnels.

the ramsgate tunnels

some wonderful props make the area most interesting

Not sure what era this fellow is from but he sure looks good 😉

the ramsgate tunnels

….a horse and carriage for a marriage perhaps? 😉

The bomb-proof deep shelter tunnels were dug in less than 9 months. More than 1,000 people erected makeshift homes in the vast 150 year-old railway tunnel.

the ramsgate tunnels

2 miles of tunnels could accommodate 60,000 people.

 

I can highly recommend a visit to the Ramsgate Tunnels; a unique opportunity to take a glimpse into Ramsgate’s heritage and ability to survive through the darkest period of World War II….. Ramsgate is a Royal Harbour and located on the east coast of Kent, on what was once the Isle of Thanet.

20150521_080936 - walk to ramsgate

Ramsgate Harbour for the Dunkirk little ships anniversary event in 2015

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