Thursday, 21 August 2008

Gibraltar's World War II tunnels - the secret city in The Rock

During the Second World War, Gibraltar was thought to be a key military target. The British Government assumed that Germany would want to get hold of its small territory in order to get control of the Mediterranean.
It was a major strategic base for the Allies too – both in terms of being the headquarters for the North Africa campaign and refuelling ships.
As part of all this activity, over 50km of tunnels were drilled into the Rock, with stores, command and communications centres, electricity generators and sleeping quarters all included. It took just three years to dig out this secret city, and somehow the Germans never found out about it.
A small section of this mindblowing underground network is open to visitors on guided tours.
An ex-army guide leads visitors through the accessible parts - the rest is still used by the military to train Afghanistan-bound troops in tunnel warfare – and the adventure is packed with tales of conditions, mischief and mind-blowing logistics.
Allied leaders were frequent visitors during the war, and it is possible to see the rooms in which they made key plans. The dank underground barracks where soldiers would be cooped up for six days a week are also on display.
Intriguing graffiti, carefully fortified lookouts and the equipment used to sustain life in the Rock are also part of the tour. For anyone with even a passing interest in history, engineering or tales of derring-do and plotting, it’s a brilliant experience.

Getting to the World War II tunnels in Gibraltar
Nearest international airport: Gibraltar has its own international airport, although in practice
By public transport: It’s possible to trudge up the Rock to get to the innocuous entrance where the tour starts, but a cheap cab ride is a much better bet.

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