Dover Castle, Kent 24th August 2010

Trip Start May 14, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dover castle was the most impressive castle we have seen on this trip, and offers a combination of ancient and modern history, for as well as dating back 2,000 years (the Roman lighthouse is still present beside the church) It's position overlooking and commanding the guns covering the Dover Straights has made it a nerve centre for controlling invasions and retreats through two recent world wars.

As a child and young man I came to Dover castle a couple of times, and always looked in vain for a glimpse of France over the channel (14 miles away?) and this was the first time I was lucky.

Interesting to look over to Normandy where we had explored the French side of WW2 and the Allied invasion, and now here we were looking at the history from the English perspective.

Coupled with seeing Churchill’s home Chartwell, viewing the movie "Battle of Britain" and having been to an air show including WW2 aircraft including a Spitfire (at Dunsfold airfield, home of “Top Gear”) we have spent quite a bit of time this trip on WW2 stuff.

My father was in the Royal Engineers here in Folkestone in the war, and mother was nursing at Folkestone hospital nearby when the battered remnants of the English army arrived back here from Dunkirk, and their memories of the Battle of Britain being fought over their heads while trying to work, and mum trying to help

wounded Dunkirk victims in hospital corridors jammed with stretchers gives the area a special poignancy for me.

Particularly fascinating was the tour of the recently opened to the public secret hospital and WW2 command centre deep below the castle in the famous “White cliffs of Dover” with the war room map tables just as they were during the invasion of France which marked the end of WW2.

For secrecy, the people who worked there were not allowed above ground for months, and we were shown the immensely popular ladies toilet deep within the cliffs which had the only accessible window for a bit of daylight.

The main castle buildings were built by King Henry II (what a troubled family he had!) and the Great Tower has been recreated exactly as it was when the castle was a royal palace in 1180, complete with King and Queens bed chambers, the banqueting hall, the throne room, and straw floored kitchens, all of which be seen in the photos.

As it was a cool day, fires were burning in the huge fireplaces, making us realise how warm and cosy these huge vaulted stone spaces could be and bringing to life what felt like a very authentic experience.

As you can see, we had our picnic lunch on the 18th century outer defences, in line of fire from one of the big cannons mounted there!
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