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SEARCH FOR DUNKIRK VETERANS WHO WORKED AT DOVER CASTLE
English Heritage is searching for veterans who were based at Dover Castle during "Operation Dynamo" as part of the launch of an exciting new visitor experience opening in June.
Were you - or do you know - one of the personnel who manned the telephone exchanges, plotted the progress of ships and aircraft, typed urgent messages or carried out other duties in the tunnels deep below Dover Castle during the dramatic ten-day Dunkirk evacuation in 1940?
To celebrate the opening of a major new visitor experience at Dover Castle in the tunnels where the desperate operation was masterminded, English Heritage has begun a search for veterans who played a part in the rescue mission at the castle. Veterans traced will be invited to the castle as guests of honour at the launch event on June 9, the day before it opens to the public.
Opening to visitors on 10 June 2011, "Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk" combines original news-reels and recordings, two years of painstaking research, testimonies from veterans of both the beaches and the tunnels, and state-of-the-art special effects to deliver a vivid account of what Sir Winston Churchill called a "miracle of deliverance".
Visitors to "Operation Dynamo" will walk through the Secret Wartime Tunnels deep beneath the castle and see, hear and feel - as never before - the danger and high stakes of the evacuation. Sights and sounds will fill the tunnels. One moment, the visitor will experience the tense atmosphere of the operations room at Dover Castle while the next, they will be immersed in the action on the Dunkirk beaches as a German plane flies overhead, pursued by British anti-aircraft fire. The myths, the reality and the legacy of Operation Dynamo will be the focus of a new exhibition charting the history of the Dover Castle tunnels from Napoleonic times to the Cold War.
Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: "Helping people to understand the history of this nation through our historic buildings lies at the heart of English Heritage. There is no better place in England to learn about the Dunkirk evacuation than Dover Castle. With "Operation Dynamo", you'll step into the tunnels and onto the beaches, boats and command centre during one of our darkest yet greatest hours."
"Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk" will also pay tribute to a too often forgotten hero and the man who successfully marshalled the evacuation, Vice-Admiral Bertram Home Ramsay. Understandably, much attention has been paid to the private boats - the "little ships" - that sailed to the rescue of the soldiers trapped on the French beaches. Yet the pivotal role of the Vice-Admiral from deep underneath Dover Castle is not widely acknowledged in saving the core of the British Army from capture by the Germans. This is in part due to the quiet, modest nature of Ramsay, and his death in an air-crash in 1945.
A brilliant organiser and delegator, the Vice-Admiral was brought out of retirement before the outbreak of war and charged with protecting the Straits of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel. Ramsay's initial impression of his command centre at Dover Castle was not positive, in a letter to his wife he wrote: "We have no stationary, books, typists or machines, few chairs, very few tables, maddening communications, and nothing but long retired officers or volunteers…" Operation Dynamo would test the man and his team to their limits.
The new visitor experience in the Secret Wartime Tunnels will highlight 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 as tour some of the original rooms of the adjacent Army HQs, dressed as they were throughout the Second World War, including the Gun Operations Room, the Telephone Exchange, and the Coast Artillery Operations Room.
Dover Castle, known as "The Key to England" is sited dramatically above the cliffs overlooking the English Channel and is one of the most famous fortresses in Europe. In its role as guardian of the nearest landing point to mainland Europe, the castle has seen unbroken active service for more than nine centuries.
Veterans based at Dover Castle during the Dunkirk evacuation interested in sharing their experiences with English Heritage should email: firstname.lastname@example.org, call: 01483 252 017 or write to: Memories of Dunkirk, English Heritage, 195-205 High Street, Guildford, GU1 3EH.