Monday, 4 July 2011

Cardiff Castle's Wartime Tunnels

Juliet (age 8) was asking me what it was like living during World War II. I convinced her that I did not have first-hand experience of it, although her nanny did.

In Cardiff, probably the best place to go to get a sense of what it was like in the city during the bombing is in wartime tunnels within the walls of Cardiff Castle.

The earliest walls on this site date from Roman times. Within the modern walls, the tunnels were used as air-raid shelters by up to 1,800 people. The tunnels were considered to be the safest air raid shelters in town, being shielded by thick walls and a massive earthen bank.

There is a recreation of a wartime canteen in the tunnels, complete with sink, cooker, water boiler, menu board, plates and mugs.

Research has recently revealed that, in addition to kitchens, there were also dormitories with bunks, toilets and first aid posts concealed within the walls. Wooden benches and a few bunk beds have been left in place.

Coming into the dank tunnels from the bright sunshine outside, you can easily imagine what it would have been like filled with thousands of anxious people. It was apparently cold, draughty, and smelly.

Earlier this year, the tunnels were used as a location for the recent series of Doctor Who (‘The Almost People’ two-parter, first shown in late May 2011) .

Someone (Simonwgb) took a video of their walk around the tunnels and posted it on YouTube. It’s not Doctor Who quality, but gives a good impression of the space.

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