A project by…
RAMSGATE HERITAGE REGENERATION TRUST
With the Second World War looming, and having suffered as the most raided place in Britain during the Great War, Ramsgate was acutely aware of the dangers of aerial attack and coastal shelling. The local authority embarked on ambitious plans to provide underground shelter from attack within five minutes walk of every house. Initially central government would not sanction these plans but thanks to a determined effort by the Mayor and local authority permission was finally granted to construct nearly 2½ miles of tunnels 60 feet below the town with access from all major areas of population. These were the largest and only civilian air raid protection tunnels to be sanctioned by government and their unique design was made possible due to the special geology of the town.
The tunnel design incorporated a former Victorian railway tunnel of almost one mile in length which meant the complex was capable of sheltering up to 60,000 people.
During the first Blitz of any town in Britain, Ramsgate suffered over 500 bombs in less than five minutes, completely devastating whole areas of the town. Remarkably, thanks to the safety of the tunnels, only 28 civilians lost their lives in this raid but almost 1,000 people were rendered homeless. Many of the homeless moved the remains of their possessions into the former railway tunnel and took up permanent residence, some remaining below ground until war ended. Despite its location close to occupied France, Ramsgate was one of the safest towns in Britain.
From the arrival of the railway and through the devastation of World War II, Ramsgate’s tunnels were one of the town’s most important assets.
The Ramsgate Tunnel Deep Shelter System was first opened by H.R.H. The Duke of Kent on the 1st June 1939. A target date has now been set for the tunnels to reopen for Explorer tours on the 1st June 2014, exactly 75 years after their first opening.
TUNNELS TO REOPEN IN JUNE 2014