Dramatic exhibition exploring Dunkirk to open inside Dover Castle War Tunnels in June 2011

By Richard Moss | 26 April 2011
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an artist's impresion of the new gallery at Dovcer Castle with a 3-d prjection of a Spitfire flying above a projected image of the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940
Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk at Dover Castle (artist's impression)© English Heritage Photo Library
Permanent Exhibition: Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk, Dover Castle, Dover, from June 10 2011

Winston Churchill called it a “miracle of deliverance”, but despite being ingrained into the national consciousness, the 1940 evacuation of British and Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk still has no permanent museum or substantial exhibition to commemorate it in Britain.

English Heritage is about to change this with Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk, a permanent exhibition in the same wartime tunnels beneath Dover Castle where the famous seaborne evacuation – codenamed Operation Dynamo – was masterminded.

Opening in June 2011, the display has been two years in the making. Curators researched and collected testimonies from veterans of both the beaches and the tunnels.

The result is an experience which fuses state-of-the-art special effects with personal stories to create a dynamic account of the dramatic withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of France and the remarkable rescue of over 330,000 Allied troops.

Simon Thurley, the Chief Executive of English Heritage, is promising an exhibition which allows visitors to step into the tunnels and onto the beaches, boats and command centre during one of our darkest yet greatest hours.

Sights and sounds will fill the tunnels as visitors experience the tense atmosphere of the operations room at Dover Castle and then be immersed in the action on the Dunkirk beaches as a German plane flies overhead, pursued by British anti-aircraft fire.

a photo of a Winston Chruchill in a suit and bowler hat emerging from the double doors of wartime tunnel accompaneid by dignitaries and officials
Sir Winston Churchill exiting the Secret Wartime Tunnels at Dover Castle, 28th August 1940 © Imperial War Museum
“Helping people to understand the history of this nation through our historic buildings lies at the heart of English Heritage,” said Thurley. “There is no better place in England to learn about the Dunkirk evacuation than Dover Castle.”

As well as taking advantage of one of the most atmospheric World War Two locations outside of the Imperial War Museum’s Churchill War Rooms, the exhibition will also explore the myths of Dunkirk and highlight the pivotal role of the man who masterminded Operation Dynamo, Vice-Admiral Bertram Home Ramsay.

From deep underneath Dover Castle, Ramsey’s organisational and delegation skills proved crucial in saving the core of the British Army from capture by the Germans.

Due to a combination of his modest nature and his death in an air-crash in 1945, his vital role is often forgotten amidst the dramatic tales of rescue and the armada of boats which bravely sailed across the channel to pluck the soldiers from the beaches.

After discovering the scale of both the challenges faced by the Vice-Admiral during Operation Dynamo and his achievements, visitors will be able to see the Vice-Admiral’s cabin as well the Gun Operations Room, the Telephone Exchange, and the Coast Artillery Operations Room.

  • Open 10am-6pm. Admission £9.60-£16 (family ticket £41.60).
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