By Nathan Barcio
Local children were thrilled this week to discover the scale of the WWII tunnels under the Rock – and stunned to learn they were all built within four years to accommodate 17,000 Allied soldiers.
The local children were given the opportunity to tour the World War II tunnels in Willis’s Road up the Rock, where they learned how the intricate tunnels were excavated and what life was like for the soldiers inside.
The tour was led by Phil Smith and Paulette Anes of the museum, part of the GSLA Summer Sports and Leisure Programme which includes many other history-based activities which are also part of the programme.
The children and some parents met Mr Smith and Ms Anes at Hay’s Level where they were given an introduction into what lay in store.
They learnt about the bigger tunnels used to transport supplies through the complex and the smaller tunnels which were used as a pathways for the 17,000 soldiers who lived their during the Second World War.
They were pleased to see that the tunnels are well looked after as well as being very shocked to find out that the whole 50km complex of tunnels took less than four years to construct and the fact that Gibraltar played a crucial role as a port in the Allied victory of WWII.
As part of the walk, they learnt about the role of the Royal Engineers and the Canadian Engineers in creating the tunnel network.
The tour included what was once the hospital wing [Flat Bastion Hospital], the kitchen, the washroom, and the bedrooms, including one for the Women’s RAF.
The children found the advanced lifestyle in the tunnels very interesting, especially the fact that they used electricity for their ovens, the “elaborate ventilation system” and their “intelligent strategies” to defend themselves from attacks, as described by Mr Smith.
The lifestyle in the tunnels could be visualised by the kids as there were several props and models that helped them do this, as well as photographs of the soldiers in the tunnels.