Marking a decade of Ramsgate Tunnels visitor attraction with an open day, talks and a D Day supper

Ramsgate Tunnels

Ramsgate Tunnels is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a visitor attraction this year and will hold a free open day on June 1 to mark the occasion.

In January 2014, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £84,500 to the tunnels and they were reopened to the public six months later in June 2014, just 75 years after they were first opened as a wartime shelter in 1939.

Since then, volunteers have transformed the heritage attraction into one of the leading visitor destinations in the south east of England.

Free open day

The open day on June 1 will run from 10am to 4:30pm and will feature free activities throughout the day.

Enjoy taster tours, displays, and the opportunity to ask the Tunnel Rats questions. Explore artefacts from the archives and much more. There will also be living history displays, an appearance by Miss Ramsgate and the Ramsgate Police Cadets, vintage and jam stalls, and a visit from a respected local historian.

Entry is free.

Utility Jude

As part of the anniversary celebrations, Ramsgate Tunnels  will host popular speaker, Judith Knight, who will give a fascinating talk on 1940’s fashion in the evening on June 1.

Using live models, Jude will talk about fashion during the Second War World, how it was created during a period of make do and mend, how accessories could change an outfit and how women coped with the restrictions they were under. In addition to original items from the period shown on live models, there will be clothing available to view, and a chance to chat to the collectors.

Jude is an expert on 1940’s home front life based on over 15 years of research and re-enacting experience, and as Utility Jude, she tells the story of life in Britain during World War Two.

Tickets are priced at £15 per person and include strawberries and cream, accompanied by a glass of prosecco, or elderflower pressé.

Talk is on June 1, 7pm, tickets £15. Booking Link: https://ramsgatetunnels.merlintickets.co.uk/product/E00036

Marking D Day

On June 6, the Tunnels will join communities all over the country to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the D-day Landings with a talk and fish and chip supper.

The event begins at 6pm with resident historian Isaac Naylor looking at local involvement and the impact of the immense military operation with his talk ‘Wetbobs, Soldiers, and Coastal Forces – Ramsgate, Richborough and D-Day.’

The D-Day landings still rank as the largest amphibious landing in history, and as historian Peter Caddick-Adams summarised so succinctly, ‘Tuesday 6th June 1944, was a day like no other.’

D-Day is an international story, a national story, an epic saga writ large in the annals of history; it is also a local one, with almost every corner of Britain having some connection to the event.

This talk, 80 years to the day, examines the local impact and contribution of Ramsgate and Richborough in the preparations for and successful execution of D-Day.

The talk will cover those forces who were trained and billeted locally, implementation of the large-scale deception operation, and the construction of invaluable components of the famous Mulberry Harbours.

The Fish and Chip supper will be served after the talk.

Lighting of the lamps and the international tribute will commence at 9.15pm proceeded by a bagpipe medley to signify the bravery and spirit of those on the beaches.

Date: 6th June, 6pm, tickets £15. Booking Link: https://ramsgatetunnels.merlintickets.co.uk/product/E00035

Essential Information:

  • Please remember to dress for the climate in Ramsgate Tunnels, we are a constant 11 degrees all year round despite how warm it may be outside.
  • This talk is suitable for 14yrs and over.
  • Under 16’s must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Proof of Age will be required to be served alcohol.

Tunnel construction

Originally constructed as a railway to connect the harbour of the town with the main train line, Ramsgate Tunnels are two and a half miles long and in some places are as much as 27 metres below the surface. The largest of the tunnels, dates back to October 1863, when it was opened as a railway tunnel serving Ramsgate Harbour Station. The line closed in 1926, when the current Ramsgate station opened. However, the tunnel was brought back into use in 1936, when a narrow gauge railway ran between Hereson Road and the seafront.

The second phase of construction for the Tunnels was during the Second World War, when the Mayor of Ramsgate commissioned the construction of a series of tunnels to serve as underground shelters to protect the inhabitants of Ramsgate. Due to Ramsgate’s close proximity to Europe, the town suffered from heavy bombing during the Second World War.

Residents Ken Gower and his mum sheltering in Ramsgate Tunnels during World War Two

The tunnels provided sanctuary for many thousands of the town’s residents. The tunnel system utilised both the disused 1863 mainline railway tunnel, and a newly created horseshoe shaped tunnel running from the East Cliff to the West Cliff with entrances dotted throughout the town, so nobody need be more than four minutes ‘brisk walk’ to seek shelter when the sirens sounded.

News of ‘Ramsgate Tunnels’ spread far and wide and soon magazines and national newspapers sent photographers and reporters to report on this remarkable feat of engineering, which had been spearheaded by Ramsgate’s Borough Engineer, R.D. Brimmel, and the Town Mayor A.B.C. Kempe.

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