June 14, 2014 Dover, England
This morning the majority of the guests who were on the ship for the last week were headed home and a new ship full of passengers were arriving. We took a double decker shuttle bus to the Dover Castle that sits atop the hill overlooking the port. The Castle has a 2,000-year history of protecting the English coast at its closest point to France across the channel.
The castle grounds consist of the great tower, medieval tunnels, churches, halls, an underground hospital, secret wartime (WWII) tunnels and more. Henry II built the present castle in the 1180’s, and over the next 800 years it was adapted to meet the changing demands of weapons and warfare.
Inside the Great Tower you find a museum, interactive exhibition and recreated interior of the castle from the time of Henry II. Costumed actors portray the King and his court roaming the rooms of the castle reenacting what may have gone on at the time the castle was built.
We took a tour of the Underground Hospital built within a maze of underground tunnels. The tour of the hospital takes you through the hospital wards, operating room and nurses dormitories.
The “Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk” tunnel tour takes you through some of the 3.8 miles of underground tunnels where the 1940 operation to evacuate hundreds of thousands of soldiers from Dunkirk, France was planned. With the use of actual film footage from the time along with recreated war rooms, they bring to life this difficult time in the spring of 1940 when the allied forces came close to total destruction by the advancing Germans. Luckily they were able to evacuate most of the allied forces (some 385,000) from the beach at Dunkirk before the Germans who had them surrounded arrived.
The tunnels were built using technology available at the time to build mining tunnels. The chalk like material of the hillside was excavated and the tunnels were lined with steel arched supports. The tunnels are maybe ten feet high at the center of the ceiling and about fifteen feet wide at the base. It is damp and musty and would have been filled with cigarette and pipe smoke at the time. Not a very pleasant environment to work in or to be recuperating from surgery. All aboard time today was 3:00pm so we did not have a lot of time to explore ashore but we enjoyed our time at the Dover Castle.
We were required to attend another lifeboat drill for this next two-week segment of our trip. There was the usual sail away party on deck as we departed Dover; an opportunity to check out the new passengers who boarded the ship today. There was an LGBT cocktail event in the bar where we met a new passenger, Eldon, from Saskatchewan, Canada but now living in Florida. He is a very nice gentleman in the accounting business. We had dinner this evening in the dining room with a new friend, Eddy, who was on the ship last week as well. He is a derivatives trader from Melbourne but has been traveling the world for several months. He is headed to Hungary to purchase property to refurbish and rent to students. His father lives in Budapest. Eddy has lots of interesting stories to tell from his 45 years of life!