With its close proximity to France, White Cliffs Country was on the frontline during both World Wars - visit key sites to learn more about this challenging period of history and the impact it had on this area.
During the First World War, Dover was one of the most important military centres in Britain. Vast numbers of men crossed to France and the town became known as ‘Fortress Dover’ as it was regularly shelled from warships and bombed from aeroplanes and zeppelins, forcing residents to shelter in caves and dugouts. At the start of the Second World War in 1939, the Admiralty took control of the port of Dover transforming the harbour into a naval base. Again the town suffered heavily because of enemy shelling and bombing raids, causing huge amounts of damage.
There are many reminders of these terrible times along the iconic White Cliffs - follow our two-day itinerary for a tour of some of the most important sites.
The National Memorial to the Few on the clifftop between Folkestone and Dover, is a fitting memorial to the aircrew who won the Battle of Britain in 1940. The stone figure of a pilot sitting in contemplative mood is a permanent tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of those who served their country. The Wall lists the names of all those aircrew known to have flown at least one sortie with an accredited squadron or unit of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain.
A modern, interactive visitor centre is home to The Scramble Experience, a first floor ‘cockpit’ area with an open balcony with superb views across the Channel to France, and the Cockpit Cafe and shop.
Allow around two hours.
Built on the site of the former Hawkinge RAF Station, the nearest station to enemy-occupied France and just 10 minutes' flying time from Luftwaffe fighter airfields in Pas-de-Calais in 1940, the museum holds the most important collection of Battle of Britain artefacts on show in the country. Within the original buildings and hangers are aircraft, vehicles, weapons, flying equipment and relics recovered from over 600 Battle of Britain aircraft.
Allow one hour.
This small museum at Little Farthingloe Farm just outside Dover provides a fascinating insight into the life for women serving their country during the Second World War with an exhibition of personal letters from ex-WLA girls, authentic uniforms and factual information.
There is a cafe on site (open Tuesdays to Sundays) where you could stop for lunch or head into Dover where you'll find a wide variety of cafes and restaurants.
Head to Dover town centre to visit the museum located in the Market Square. This is the area's largest and most varied museum displaying a range of fascinating objects, models and original pictures showing the history and archaeology of Dover within its four gallery spaces.
Head to the History Gallery to find out more about Dover’s epic wartime, where a WW2 display includes a 1000-kg German bomb, replica VI, posters, images and a video presentation on the evacuation of Dunkirk.
The iconic White Cliffs – ever famous in Vera Lynn’s wartime song – provide opportunities for amazing walks, stirring the imagination and giving some insight into how this world-famous landmark became so symbolic. Start at the National Trust Visitor Centre perched on the cliffs overlooking the docks; the car park closes at 7pm.
From the mock invasion of Operation Fortitude, launched from Dover at midnight on 5 June 1944 when motor launches carried balloons and reflectors across the Channel to create the impression of a huge convoy, through to Operation Overlord, which delivered 185,000 troops to the D-Day landings on the 5 June; this special and iconic landmark has seen much action.
There are gun emplacements and other fascinating structures, including sound mirrors and Fan Bay Deep Shelter (see below).
Allow a few hours.
At 18:57 hours on 26 May 1940, the signal was received to start Operation Dynamo – the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force and French Troops from Dunkirk’s beaches on the northern coast of France. The network of underground tunnels beneath Dover Castle were the nerve centre of the whole operation. Despite estimates that only 45,000 troops could be brought back, Winston Churchill announced to the House of Commons on 4 June that 338,000 troops had been saved. Today you can experience life as it was lived by the 700 personnel based here in the worst days of the Second World War.
The castle opens its doors to visitors at 10am and you could easily spend a day here exploring this incredible historic site. For more information on visiting the castle, please click the link below.
Allow several hours.
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