Sunday, 29 June 2008

French Railway Steelwork?

So I spoke to a gent who was a member of a team in the 1960s who were tasked with doing their best to locate all the hidden tunnels in the Island in order to make them safe.

The reason for this was that after the war, much of the German equipment (helmets, guns, gas masks etc) had merely been thrown in the tunnels and bunkers by the Islanders and then sealed up. Naturally when wind of this got out in later years, groups of local boys eagerly set about exploring for Nazi bounty. One long tunnel complex was a particular favourite, and the story goes that in the early 1960s a group of boys who were exploring it lit a fire in it on their way out. This in turn burnt all the oxygen, so that when the next group went in, it was a death-trap. Two poor boys lost their lives, and the government set about opening up the sealed bunkers, recovering the german equipment and thus attempting to make these tunnels less of a temptation for bounty-hunters. (By the way, did you know that a genuine Nazi helmet goes for £500 nowadays!)

So, that was the job of the guy I spoke to. When I asked him if he remembered coming down to my neck of the woods, he said that although there had been some constructions checked, he could not remember mine. Furthermore, he also said that had they found it, they would have removed the "tempting" guns. So it just goes to show that even the team tasked with finding all the bunkers in the 1960s seems to have missed some! Makes you wonder what else there might be out there.

When I described the tunnel construction to him, he said that from his experience, it sounded that there was a distinct possibility that the steel roof in mine was made from metal that had been destined for French railway tunnels. He said that the Germans were adept at re-cycling all sorts of material for their fortifications built as they spread out through Europe. I guess that makes sense now....

I also asked him about the presence of British Lee Enfield rifles? Interestingly, he said that by the time the Germans reached the atlantic, they were running low on weaponry, so thought nothing of seizing guns from surrendering territories and issuing them to their own troops. He said that it would therefore not be far fetched to conclude that some German soldiers in the Island had been issued with seized Lee Enfield guns and british ammo!


DetroitRob said...

A true sign of hardcore warfare... using an opposing armies weaponry. My grandfather was shot by a German soldier with a M1 30Cal. he carried the slug till his death. It's really nothing new, nor will it ever change.

Scott said...

I started reading this blog this afternoon and I have read up until today's posting. Very, very interesting.

Now, if you had started excavation two weeks earlier I could still be reading something.

Nick said...

Have you thought of enlisting the help of an university earth science department to run Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) over areas where you suspect the tunnels to be? If you haven't consider it. It's a guaranteed way to locate and remotely map the near-surface tunnels you're encountering on your property.

I'm willing to bet that a French / South UK geoscience department would run the GPR for free, just to give students experience at running the equipment. An enterprising student might even be able to make it a Masters thesis.

Nick said...

Just as a follow up:

CY88 said...

Thanks Nick. Definitely something to bear in mind!

trying4two99 said...

I wish I could find something interesting in my backyard. I have listed your blog in my favorites. Will come back from time to time to read. Very interesting stuff!

Dan said...

Two lads did sadly lose their lives about 40 odd years ago.

This happened in the large tunnels which are located on "German road", which is the hill up the side of Vic in The Valley pub.

My understanding is that the tunnels were completely sealed up. The main entrance was sealed with a block wall, and so near enough air-tight.

The tunnels had not been emptied, prior to being sealed up. Some chemicals were left inside.

So, when the two boys broke through the wall, and ventured inside, they were overcome by noxious fumes which had built-up overtime.

I've looked round those tunnels myself, some years ago. After they had been cleaned up a bit.

They're pretty big, some thing along the lines of the German Underground Hospital. A bit smaller, and quite incomplete. The rock face ceilings were caving in.

Having had a quick look recently, I think the entrance has now been deliberately collapsed to prevent access. Would be pretty dodgy in there now. I wouldn't recommend venturing inside any more.