Did you know about the Ramsgate Tunnels?

You didn’t. That doesn’t surprise me, as I didn’t either.

On our recent sojourn to the Isle of Thanet, basing ourseleves in Ramsgate, we took in many of the local tourist sites. One being a visit to the Ramsgate Tunnels, which were only a short walk from our hotel. What did surprise us was that the main entrance was almost on the beach.

Here’s a description of the history of the tunnels,

As the second World War approached, Ramsgate Borough Council embarked upon an ambitious, but controversial, plans to create a network of deep shelter tunnles linking to the former mail line railway tunnel which would provide shelter for 60,000 people. Despite initial resistance from government the paln was finally given the go-ahead and the network was foramlly opened by HRH The Duke of Kent on 1st June 1939. In the dark days of war part of the system evolved into an underground city with over 1,000 permanent residents.

The story of the wartime tunnels is told in splendid and fascinating detail by the guides in a tour of the tunnels. They served their purpose in saving lives, when on 24th August 1940 Ramsgate received more than 500 bombs dropped by Nazi aircraft in an air raid on Manston airfield. The tunnels have only been opened as a tourist attraction in recent years.

Here are photos of our visit.

Seeing what’s been hidden for over 40 years

At the beginning of July I wrote about our taking a mini-adventure to the Isle of Thanet and hopefully to see some sound mirrors up close.

How lucky we were, the weather was fine, and we saw much that was new to us. We based ourselves in Ramsgate, which has a busy little harbour, plenty of eateries, and has attractive regency and Victorian buildings that have so often been demollished elsewhere in the country.

One of the main items on our agenda was to visit the recently uncovered first World War sound mirrors on the White Cliffs near Dover.

Built as aircraft and airship early warning devices for coastal towns between 1915 and 1930, parabolic sound mirrors concentrate sound waves enabling detection of incoming enemy aircraft. They were developed from sound ranging experiments during WW1 to fix the postion of enemy gun batteries by plotting the sound of gunfire.  Many of the 20 or so sound mirrors survive being located in quiet and out-of-the-way places. They became redundant as the speed of aircraft increased such that the amount of early warning time became so small as to be of little benefit, and the arrival of the more efficient radar.

Two sound mirrors at Fan Bay near Dover were covered up by Kent County Council in 1970’s along with all evidence of adjacent three coastal gun batteries to rid the coast of unsightly redundant wartime buildings and tunnels. In 2012 the National Trust acquired a stretch of the White Cliffs coast and knowing that gun emplacement, searchights and tunnels existed at Fan Bay decided to open them as a tourist attraction. These are the photos of our visit to the Fan Bay Deep Shelter and Sound Mirrors. [More info about sound mirrors can be found HERE, and HERE and HERE].

 

Back to blogging after our mini break

We returned lateish on last Friday having stayed in Ramsgate for three nights, and seeing parts of coastal Kent that we’ve not previously visited. The weather was pleasingly kind to us, being sunny and hot. and the locals were friendly and happy to chat to a couple of curious visitors.

We stayed in the delightful Albion House hotel that was once, some time ago, the local council chamber. Here are few photos of the hotel and Ramsgate. Articles on our mini adventures will follow.