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Author Topic: Cold comfort - The evolution of DUMPY Level  (Read 24931 times)

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Offline cliveh

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Re: Cold comfort - The evolution of DUMPY Level
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2011, 07:49:55 »
An excellent EH tour of DUMPY yesterday evening. I must pay special thanks to the fantastic  team of guides for sharing their vast knowledge of this previously secret labyrinth and it's intended Cold War use with us. Also it was good to meet with you Islesy.

A few pics:



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Re: Cold comfort - The evolution of DUMPY Level
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2010, 08:42:34 »
Nice pictures Islesy
I remember the potato peeler fondly - having to repaired it on a couple of occasions :-) when I was based at DUMPY

Offline unfairytale

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Re: Cold comfort - The evolution of DUMPY Level
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2010, 22:53:24 »
Some of the memories of Ken Flint. Royal Signals. Who arrived at Dumpy in 1943.

"We walked along rough-hewn greeny-grey passsageways cut out of solid chalk. Occasionally the steady drip, drip of water not only permeated the ceilings but also our forage caps. the tunnels rambled gentely downwards until we were at the top of a very steep flight of concrete steps, fortuately well lit and provided with a handrail of sorts. at the bottom was a maze of passages with flourescent lights, festooned with pipes, cables and nozzles blowing out tangy salt air.

 "It was in the small hours of one early morning in late 1943, whilst sitting with headphones on in front of the reciever concentrating on accurately recording the umteenth of a never ending stream of five-letter cipher groups, that the door was suddenly flung open dramatically and three of four face-blackened and tommy-gun-armed commandos burst in. Their officer waved a pistol at us and ordered us to switch off and stop sending any more gen.

 "At that hour in the morning, with one's brain addled with radio atmospherics and interference, we did as we were told and sat back in our chairs obediently. We later learned they had rampaged through the whole of the Combined HQ but seemed unaware the army cipher room was at the end of our radio bay. Had they known about it they could have boasted of its capture. Naturally there was never any mention of this mock attack, made by commandos who had climbed the cliff face and entered the tunnels through a ventilation shaft. Rumour had it that the top brass had never considered the Germans would have gained entry by this difficult route"
When you've got your back to wall, there's only one thing to do and that's to turn around and fight. (John Major)


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Re: Cold comfort - The evolution of DUMPY Level
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2009, 17:21:03 »
Extremely good - I like the long rows of washbasins.

Those precast concrete floors can't have been easy to get down there - I'm wondering whether they were winched down from the lookout area above.

Offline Islesy

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Cold comfort - The evolution of DUMPY Level
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2009, 14:55:41 »
The second half of the 20th century was taken up by a war that never was. Whilst the United States and the USSR postured and pointed nuclear missiles at each other, the British Government decided that a network of bunkers were needed to ensure the continuity of government in the event of war.

By 1942 the War Cabinet was already looking to the invasion of mainland Europe, combined operations were considered to be the key and Forward HQ sites were chosen in Portsmouth, Plymouth as well as at Dover. Casemate and Annexe Levels were already cramped for space, so work started on preparing new tunnels. Geological faults made the first attempt, Bastion Level, untenable and so a new grid of tunnels was constructed beneath the existing levels, designated as DUMPY Level.

The origin of the name DUMPY is a matter of some debate. Generally accepted to be an acronym standing for Deep Underground Military Position Yellow, it could also refer to an older style levelling instrument used by surveyors that required skilled use to set accurately.

Completed by mid 1943, DUMPY was fully functional as a Army/Navy combined operations centre throughout the rest of the war and continued to be used post war until the early 1950s. Finally abandoned in 1958 when the Castle garrison was withdrawn, it was as this point that the tunnel system was turned over to the Home Office.

By the late 1950s the United Kingdom had finally become fully equipped to confront the USSR in atomic warfare. The bombers of the V-Force were in operation carrying Blue Danube, the UK's first atomic bomb, whilst the new Bloodhound missiles were in position protecting airfields.
To complement the UK's offensive capabilities, a very creditable civil defence structure was growing. The government envisaged a network of sites that gathered information and disseminated it to other sites to be acted upon. The Royal Observer Corps were tasked with plotting fallout patterns and triangulating bomb detonation coordinates from their tiny three man posts, which were fed back to Group Control and then on down the line until the information reached the highest level of government for action. Meanwhile the RAF were tasked with operating radar stations to ensure the security of the sky over the UK and to provide warning of incoming bombers.

The Government's plan in a conventional war was to have Central Government delegating responsibilities for Civil Defence and Rescue through the various regions of the UK, down to the local authority and finally to parish levels. During the Cold War it was realised that in a nuclear exchange this would simply be impossible to do, as communications and infrastructure would be so wholly destroyed that society would become fragmented, especially as some areas would be more heavily damaged than others depending on their strategic importance.
The decision was taken during the 1950's to build Regional War Rooms with a staff of about 45, operating at a local level to coordinate Civil Defence corps managing their area after a nuclear strike. In Kent, the Regional War Room was located at Hawkenbury, near Tunbridge Wells.

It wasn't long before the Government decided that these 'Regional War Rooms' would not be suitable for a long drawn out recovery period after a short atomic war, and so the network was reorganised into Regional Seats of Government. The abandoned tunnels beneath Dover Castle were seen to be ideal for this purpose and in 1960 they were taken over to be developed into RSG12, covering South East England.

The Regional Seat of Government was to be controlled by a cabinet minister, with a staff of service personnel and civilian administrators helping to restore civilisation to a devastated region. The work of converting the tunnels meant fitting new air filtration, power generation and communications equipment and was completed in 1964. DUMPY level housed the offices, whilst Annexe was converted into barracks and mess halls. Casement level, being made of brick and situated vulnerably close to the cliff edge and docks, went unused. Later intelligence reports in November 1967 revealed that the USSR was believed to be targeting Dover with two, 1/2 to 3 megaton nuclear missiles and two, 1 megaton bombs.

Doomsday rehearsals and civil defence training were carried out on a regular basis during the 1960s, but the 1970s saw a shift in building policy by the Government, placing most of the key facilities in purpose built, specially protected and hardened structures. As a result only remedial work was done on the tunnels, the accommodation and facilities remaining in a poor state. Any plans for rebuilding were finally scuppered when it was realised that the porous chalk offered scant protection against contaminated, radioactive rainwater percolating down from ground level.
In 1984 the tunnels were finally declassified and handed over to English Heritage. Casemate and Annexe are open to the public, but DUMPY is still sealed off.
So what does the future hold for DUMPY? English Heritage's Rowena Willard-Wright, Senior Curator for South East England says it is likely to be a long wait. 'All we can say for certain is that one day, it will be open. Financially, there isn't the money available in the immediate future to bring it to a standard where we can open DUMPY to the public. There are a lot of Health & Safety issues to be overcome, as well as the physical state of the tunnels. All we can do at present is to carry on researching and collecting artefacts to add to the huge collection of items, records and oral accounts we already hold. We don't want DUMPY to just be another tunnel tour, ideally we can use the space to educate future generations on the wider history of fear and politics that the Cold War spawned. Just as the First World War has now passed from living history, very soon the Second World War will as well, and at that point the Cold War will become very relevant to us.'

Although many Cold War sites have been destroyed, English Heritage has begun to recognise the need to protect what is left. English Heritage Head of Designation Roger Bowdler sums up. 'Nuclear technology, combined with ideological antagonism, made for a difficult and delicate time. English Heritage has researched the sites where our nuclear deterrent was developed and deployed and we have protected dozens of key installations, such as the Cruise Missile shelters at Greenham Common. These bear witness to the epoch of severe international fear. Some sites deserve to be handed down to the future intact as monuments, others can find new uses, such as security stores. English Heritage is committed both to the sharing of this understanding and to the forging of sustainable solutions to their future use.'

The entrance to the Regional Seat of Government beneath Dover Castle

Here we go then...

Familiar tunnel construction methods

Separate male & female toilet blocks

Partitioning was used to cram as much office space as possible into the tunnel system, as here in the Signals Room

The infamous BBC studio

Very few artefacts remain, most have been moved to storage. 1950s Potato peeler!

It is thought that the next stage of development would have seen mezzanine floors put in - these are concrete floor sections

Ventilation systems salvaged from warships broken at Dover Scrapyards

More pictures can be viewed online here:

Article published in the Autumn 2009 issue of Dover Life Magazine with the full co-operation of English Heritage. Text & pictures Paul Isles.
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