Today we went to Dover Castle. I have wanted to go for ages. In WWI my grandfather was given the task of wiring it (he was in the Royal Engineers and there was a garrison stationed there) and he thought it would be a doddle until he realised that the walls were 20 feet thick!!! Also, a few months ago I saw a Time Team Special on TV, about the amazing restoration work they've done in the Great Tower, to bring it back to how it would have been at the time of the Court of Henry II, and I was very keen to see that.
We saw the interior of the castle before lunch (which we had in the Naafi Restaurant, where the food was fortunately not wartime rations, but unfortunately it was not at wartime prices!). Here are some of the pics I took:
I was able to get around in the Rolls Royce on the lower level, but had to climb up the spiral staircase to the upper floors and use my crutches up there - my hubby got a bit up tight because I was so slow and he was worried about my energy levels but I told him not to fuss because even if I had to pay for it afterwards, it was Worth It to see what I'd come to see!!
I was able to sit on some stone steps when I got there. Here is the bed in the Guest Chamber on the 1st floor:
This is the Guest Hall where the King would have wined and dined his guests:
This is the King's Chamber - his bedroom, which was apparently not very private as he'd have audiences in there - something Winston Churchill revived during the war - he used to have meetings while still in bed!
This is the King's bed (I want one of those!)
and a painted chair in his bedchamber:
Interestingly, the embroideries on the various cushion covers and elsewhere were done by prisoners (a lot better than sewing mailbags, I should think!). We were told that one woman prisoner got so keen about it that on her release, she has set herself up in business, doing special embroideries for reconstructions like this. Good on her!
This is the King's Hall, with the thrones, where he would have had more formal audiences:
This is part of the frieze running around the top of the walls - I particularly liked this picture because it was reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry, and I love all the horses on the boats!
After lunch, we went on a guided tour through the WWII tunnels. I knew they had underground rooms but had no idea the extent of the tunnels, or how old some of them were - the first ones were dug during the Napoleonic Wars. It was from here that the Dunkirk operation was masterminded, and we saw the plotting rooms, and telecommunications - no computers, of course, but it was state of the art technology of the day. The telephonists (WRENs) took 12 hour shifts and never saw the sun - they had to sit on what looked like really uncomfortable chairs, and they couldn't talk to anyone about what they were doing - even people in different tunnels. We also saw the hospital, including the operating theatre, and a recording was played throughout, following one particular soldier who had been brought in with a shrapnel wound to his leg, and hearing all the voices of the staff and doctors etc., and the lights blinking off during the operation! The conditions they had to work under... I was able to go down there in the Rolls Royce but there were some very steep slopes and my hubby and another chap helped push me. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any pictures down there, but I took one of the entrance:
It isn't everyone's cup of tea to go underground - some might find it frightening or claustrophobic, but we found it immensely exciting. The whole thing was very well presented, and there were a couple of short films for us to see, the second one being a Movietone Newsreel film from the time, about the rescue from Dunkirk. It really brought home the very real danger this country was in at the time. On a clear day you can actually see France from Dover, and all that stood between us and a Nazi invasion was that tiny strip of Channel...
It was a highly adventurous day, not least because I had a couple of disasters - the first a very minor one - I dropped one of my gloves in the loo!!! I fished it out and washed it, and tried to dry it under the hand drier without success, so I had to use another pair I had with me. The second disaster was a lot more serious, and could have been very nasty. We got in the land train, and as he started it up, he jerked forward a bit, and I tipped over backwards and bashed the back of my head on the upended metal ramp! I was squashed and couldn't get up - we were the only 2 in the last compartment of the train, so my hubby pressed the red button to attract the attention of the driver, who immediately stopped, and he and my hubby managed to extricate me! I was OK, and I sat on the floor for the rest of the trip and they hauled me off afterwards. I have now got a bump the size of an egg on the back of my head, but the skin was not broken and no harm was done. I felt a bit shaky at lunch time but was fine to enjoy the rest of the day. I was more worried about any potential damage to the Rolls Royce!
Apart from that, it was a great day, and it didn't rain - the rain started yesterday afternoon just as we were getting in the car to come home, and it was lovely again today, but a very cold, strong wind which made me wish I'd taken my anorak.
Tomorrow we'll probably go to Ightham Moat.