Friday, February 24, 2012

A moving visit to Dover Castle

I received a scathing memo from myself today regarding the fact that I have yet to post about our Dover Castle Trip.  It's making me crazy that my blog is now out of chronological order.  But, I think I'll get over it. 

A few weeks ago, on a very cold but sunny Saturday, we made the quick trip from Folkestone to Dover to visit the the royal castle of Dover.
Dover Castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1066.  And since then it has been rebuilt and expanded by successive kings.  The fortress also played an important role in World War II and even the Cold War. 

The castle sits dramatically above the White Cliffs of Dover overlooking the English Channel and the Kent Countryside.  It guards the nearest point to mainland Europe.

During WWII, Dover and the surrounding area suffered over 2,000 bomb attacks, however, the castle was never hit.  It is said that Hitler demanded that it not be damaged because he had plans to take over the gateway to Great Britain as he expanded his territory.   Apparently, his ambitions protected many of the great, historical buildings in England. 

It is believed that there was an Iron Age fort here before the castle was built.  

 The oldest structure is the Roman lighthouse which stands at the highest point and dates from the 2nd Century AD.  

 The Church of St. Mary-in-Castro was originally built around 1000 AD.  It had fallen into ruins and was being used as a coal store.  In the 1800's, it was restored and is still used today as the garrison church.  Many soldiers choose to have their weddings here. 

It was a beautiful day to time-travel.  The self-guided tour is divided into two time periods.  (Sadly, there was no audio-tour but it's very interactive.)  We first visited the castle area which focuses on the Medieval period and later we explored the outer fortifications and the battlement which focuses on World War II. 

We visited at the beginning of half-term break, so they had a special Knight's Training School set up for the visiting children.  There were many guides about in medieval costumes interacting with the guests.

The exhibits are fun and interactive and there is a lot for the kids to enjoy. 

 The Great Tower was amazing.  It's open so you can just run around and explore  to your hearts content.  The kids were loving the Knight's Training School and we got to see them pledge loyalty to the King and be knighted by the touch of a sword to each shoulder.  I can't wait to go back with grandchildren some day!

There is a small chapel.  I love the reflections of the colors on the stones. 

The Queen greeted us in her chambers.  She congratulated all of the new knights. 

 The rooms are beautifully decorated and notice no ropes to keep you away. 

So many nooks and crannies to explore.  (And, yes, the swords were bolted down.)

We then turned our attention to the Wartime Tunnels.  Soldiers were garrisoned at Dover Castle from 1066 until 1958.  A network of tunnels lie beneath the castle.  They were dug out over 200 years ago to provide barracks for the troops responding to threat of French invasion.  They were expanded and returned to service during WWII. 

The tunnels housed the command center for the channel  operations and in 1940, the monumental evacuation of troops from Dunkirk was coordinated from these tunnels.  There is a guided tour that leads you through the story of the death-defying rescue of over 338,000 men.  If you have never read the story of Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo, I would encourage you to do so.  It is a truly amazing story. 

One thing the tour did not focus on was the 40,000 soldiers who were left behind.  They were captured by the Nazis and marched to Poland.  They spent the next 5 years as prisoners of war and suffered unspeakable horrors.  Matthew's grandfather, Fred Jones, was one of these men.  Matthew's dad was just a baby when his father was captured at Dunkirk.  He didn't see him again until he was a young boy of 5.  

It was a wonderful and also a very moving day.  

 A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.  
~Marcus Garvey 

 Here is the photo album.  And I fixed the link to the Windsor album if you still want to see it. 


  1. Gorgeous pictures, the sky was so blue! and how lucky that there was snow on the ground too! How do you get the lovely black torn effect edge around your pics? it's great!

    1. Thanks so much. I having fun with my hubby's camera! The outline is from Shutterfly. I like borders on my pics. I've been looking for some software that will give me more interesting options, but I haven't found anything yet. I need to take some blogging & photography classes.

    2. Well you look like you're doing a pretty good job to me so far without them! Does he have an SLR? If he does there are some pretty good tutorials over on this blog, and some awesome picture taking (and what I like is she always tells you the settings she has used on her camera for each picture on her blog so it helps you to try and recreate the techniques!) - I'll have to check out Shutterfly for that outline! Thanks

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