Inside Fan Bay Deep Shelter

PUBLISHED: 19:09 01 August 2015 | UPDATED: 19:09 01 August 2015

Fan Deep Bay Shelter

Fan Deep Bay Shelter

Archant

A labyrinth of tunnels reaching deep under the White Cliffs of Dover, forgotten since the Second World War, is now open to visitors, thanks to a public appeal and a two-year conservation project by the National Trust

The complex network of tunnels that is Fan Bay Deep Shelter, along with a now-lost gun battery above ground, was built on the orders of Sir Winston Churchill, who personally came and inspected them in 1941.

They formed part of Dover’s connected offensive and defensive gun batteries, designed to prevent German shipping moving freely in the English Channel. Carved out of the chalk underneath this iconic landmark, the shelter would have accommodated four officers and up to 185 men of other ranks, providing bomb-proof accommodation, a hospital and secure store.

After the war, the site was decommissioned, eventually abandoned and filled in during the 1970s. Fan Bay Deep Shelter lay forgotten until 2012 when the land was purchased by the Trust and a hole in it was then discovered.

Jon Barker, Experience Manager at the White Cliffs of Dover, takes up the story: “We learned of the existence of Fan Bay Deep Shelter after discovering and exploring a hole in the ground in this newly purchased stretch of the White Cliffs.

“The excavation project took us nearly two years to complete, involving an enormous team of more than 50 volunteers, plus archaeologists, mine consultants, engineers and geologists.

“We shifted more than 100 tonnes of soil and rubble by hand to literally uncover their secrets. Once we got inside the tunnels, we had to carry out a fair bit of conservation work, since no one had been there in 40 years.

“We unearthed all kinds of poignant reminders of the men who lived and worked here during the war, plus two huge historic sound mirrors, the precursors to radar technology. Now that the tunnels have been re-opened, we hope the public will be as intrigued as we were to explore this hidden part of Dover’s wartime history.”

The tunnels have opened to the public in the same year that the National Trust celebrates 50 years of Project Neptune, a fundraising campaign designed to save the Great British coastline. In 2012, it was this fundraising campaign that helped raise £1.2million in just 133 days to acquire the land that Fan Bay Deep Shelter is on.

Inside history

Fan Bay Deep Shelter is the largest of its kind in Dover and one of the deepest recovered from the Second World War, sitting 23m below the surface. Once inside, visitors will descend the original 125 steps and be guided through more than 3,500 square feet of tunnels, reinforced with heavy duty iron girders and metal sheeting.

The hard hat and torch-lit tours will reveal the story of the tunnels’ creation, use and final abandonment. Vast amounts of wartime graffiti, comprising thousands of carvings, inscriptions and ditties in pencil and chalk, line the walls, acting as a roll-call of the men who excavated the shelter or were stationed at this front line.

The enormous First World War concrete sound mirrors, perched on the edge of the cliffs, are a feat of engineering that helped give advanced warning of approaching enemy aircraft.

As Jon says: “The whole area is a reminder of the human story behind Dover’s crucial role during the First and Second World Wars. The White Cliffs are forever linked to our country’s defences and the tunnels, with their graffiti-covered walls, are an emotive time capsule.”

Find out more

Tours of the tunnels must be pre-booked via www.nationaltrust.org.uk/white-cliffs-dover. Participants must be over 12 years old and in good health. There is no vehicular access to Fan Bay Deep Shelter, and the experience starts off with a 45-minute walk to the entrance.

Tickets cost £10 per adult and £5 for 12 to 18 year olds, or are free to National Trust members.

The National Trust is asking for help identifying the men who built or were stationed at Fan Bay Deep Shelter from the 172nd Tunnelling Company, 203rd Coast Battery or 540th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery.

If you have any information, please contact the White Cliffs via whitecliffs@nationaltrust.org.uk or 01304 202756.

w

More from Out & About

Kent Life looks at the environmental impact of the clothes we wear and why we need to be checking our shopping habits and wardrobes

Read more
Mon, 18:38

We’ve teamed up with Island Cottage Holidays and Isle of Wight Distillery to offer one lucky winner the chance to win £500 of holiday vouchers and a gin set

Read more
Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Animals are always a source of joy so we have gathered some zoos and wildlife parks across the country (and beyond) that are livestreaming animal enclosures

Read more
ThereWithYou

Towered over by its iconic cathedral, the streets of this city have so many stories to tell

Read more

With Ash dieback on the increase, we look at how a Kent project is celebrating this much-loved tree’s special place in local culture

Read more
Monday, March 23, 2020

Thanks to the Guardians of the Deep project, Kent now has 11 Marine Conservation Zones

Read more
Friday, March 20, 2020

Kent has many castles and stately homes, but we have hand selected the ten best castles in Kent for you to visit

Read more

Admired by ancient royalty, set on a peaceful creek and packed with all kinds of attractions for modern visitors, we explore the historic streets of Faversham

Read more

With exciting news about the future of Betteshanger Park, a vibrant, artistic community - and great fishing, Deal stays true to its roots while appealing to modern visitors

Read more
Thursday, March 5, 2020

2020 marks 125 years since the founding of the National Trust - and Kent has always played a huge part in its story

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life