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WWII Command Room Opens in Britain

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March 04, 2001|ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON — A secret underground war room used by British commanders to plot the courses of Allied and enemy ships during World War II opened to the public last month.

The Coastal Artillery Operations Room, in an underground labyrinth more than 100 feet below Dover Castle, was part of a huge network of tunnels carved into the southeastern coastal region's white cliffs. The room, kept classified by the British military until 1986, was used by Bertram Ramsay and his staff in 1940 to organize one of Britain's most dramatic operations: the Dunkirk evacuation. About 800 civilian small craft joined navy vessels in the rescue of more than 320,000 British and French soldiers stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, under heavy German fire.

Maggy Taylor, a curator at Dover Castle, said she has been piecing together the room's history since she first saw it more than a decade ago. Using photographs in the archives of the Imperial War Museum and local newspapers in Dover, Taylor and other curators re-created the room, complete with an original plotting table, charts and equipment.

The room is the latest in a series of military attractions open to the public along the three-mile tunnel system, which includes a military hospital, bunkers that housed thousands of soldiers and nuclear bomb shelters created during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

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