Ramsgate Tunnels Tour – escaping bombs in WWII

Ramsgate Tunnels Tour

Hidden within the white chalk cliffs towering over Ramsgate Sands is a network of tunnels extending approximately 3 and 1/4 miles under the town. There are 11 entrances at strategic points around the town providing easy access to safety within a 5 minute walk of most areas. If the siren was to go off, you and your family could be safe within a five minute’s walk.

Ramsgate Tunnels town entrance

Martin, our guide for the 1 and 1/2 hour tour is born and bred in Ramsgate and his grandparents used the tunnels during the war. He has many fascinating anecdotes to share.

Ramsgate Tunnels Tour

Ramsgate Tunnels entrance

I would advise you book your tickets online as the tours fill quickly and arriving at the door, hoping to squeeze on a tour may leave you disappointed.

The Ramsgate Tunnels Tour starts in the large entrance tunnel with a short film which takes you back to the days of World War II. Martin then introduces himself and runs you through the history, starting at the beginning when the tunnel was made to join Ramsgate Sands to the existing train line that then ended at Broadstairs. It proved to be a great success and Ramsgate enjoyed a booming tourist industry.

Ramsgate Tunnels vintage sign

As the Second World War approached, the tunnels had fallen into disuse and it was the brains of Mr Brimmell and Mr ABC Kemp, the mayor of Ramsgate, that came up with the ambitious plan to extend the tunnels into a network of deep shelter areas that would provide refuge for 60,000 people.

The Duke of Kent opened the completed tunnels in 1939 and on August 28th 1940 they proved their worth when Ramsgate received more than 500 bombs from a squadron of German pilots who dumped their load rather than carry it home. No lives were lost but the town was left badly damaged.

Ramsgate Tunnels toilets

The toilets of the time

The tunnels were equipped with chemical toilets, bunk beds, seating, lighting and a public addressing system. As homes were damaged above ground, life carried on underneath. Some people even took up residence down there.

Construction of the Ramsgate Tunnels

Ramsgate Tunnels tour

The tunnels were made 6 feet wide and 7 feet high. They were constructed at a depth of 50-75 feet to provide protection from bombs. If the tunnels rose closer to the surface and were deemed unsafe, they were coated with reinforced concrete.

Life in the Ramsgate Tunnels

Ramsgate Tunnels Tour

Two babies are said to have been born in the tunnels. Dances were held, Christmas dinners enjoyed, a barber, whose shop had been bombed, started to work down there. Life carried on and the children of the time, unaware of the enormity of the situation, had a great time living their underground adventure.

Fortunately, nobody died in the tunnels. The closet Ramsgate came was a man nicknamed ‘Shell’ which is a very sweet story but I’ll let Martin tell you that one, he tells it so much better than I could.

Tickets

Can be bought online

Adults – £6.50
Seniors – £5.00
Child – £4.00

Top Tips

Wear warm clothes. You will need a jacket as the tunnels are cold.

Wear trainers or flat closed shoes, it’s a dusty uneven surface down there.

Young children aren’t going to enjoy this. We had a 2 year old in our group, he screamed and cried all the way round which echoed in the small space. Poor child, he was cold, bored and would much rather be on the beach. It was a shame he was so noisy as he interrupted Martin’s fascinating stories and made it difficult for the group to hear.

Ramsgate Tunnels memoirs

13 Comments

  1. June 8, 2017 / 7:04 AM

    Oh wow I had no idea these existed! I grew up in Gravesend which has some similar tunnels (though nothing any where near as big) and exploring them is a really strange though really interesting experiance.

    • June 14, 2017 / 7:16 PM

      Oh wow, we live close to Gravesend – we might have to go exploring our local tunnels too!

  2. June 8, 2017 / 9:11 AM

    Wow, so much preserved history down there! What a fascinating place! It’s amazing how resilient human beings can be isn’t it? I wouldn’t fancy Christmas Dinner down there much! :D

    • June 14, 2017 / 7:17 PM

      Yes, I’m not sure I’d fancy my Christmas dinner down there either but the tour is fascinating and well worth a visit.

  3. June 8, 2017 / 5:26 PM

    My husband would absolutely love this! Thanks for sharing x x

    • June 14, 2017 / 7:18 PM

      You’re welcome! It’s nice to pass on great finds isn’t it?

  4. June 8, 2017 / 5:41 PM

    This is so interesting. I have one child studying WW@ and he would LOVE something like this. HGistory is just amazing

    • June 14, 2017 / 7:19 PM

      I also think a visit or tour like this brings history home to children, they can relate better and seem to absorb the information better too.

  5. June 13, 2017 / 6:18 AM

    What an amazing place to visit. We love exploring history and there is a great interactive exhibition on WWII at a local museum. The kids loved being in the trenches

    • June 14, 2017 / 7:22 PM

      If it’s interactive even better! This was a great hit with my two.

  6. June 14, 2017 / 6:02 PM

    Wow, they look really interesting. I think my son would love a tour there.

    • June 14, 2017 / 7:24 PM

      My girls loved it and that surprised me as it’s not really their thing.

  7. June 23, 2017 / 6:59 PM

    Wow this looks like such a great tour. the next time I am in Ramsgate I will certainly be visiting it.

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