A new exhibition, Operation Dynamo: Rescue from Dunkirk, has opened at Kent’s iconic Dover Castle, displaying some of the costumes and props used in Christopher Nolan’s new film, ‘Dunkirk’, due to be released today, 21 July, reports Alex Bowers.
The display, situated within the secret wartime tunnels beneath the medieval castle, will feature the uniforms worn by the film’s starring actors, including Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Harry Styles, and Fionn Whitehead. Also on display are many of the props used during scenes filmed on location in France, the Netherlands, England and Los Angeles. English Heritage’s senior curator, Rowena Willard Wright, said: “We are delighted to host this exclusive pop-up exhibition in conjunction with the new film. Dover Castle’s Secret Wartime Tunnels are an ideal location, as they were where Admiral Ramsay masterminded the ‘miracle of Dunkirk.’”
During May 1940, as the British Army was in full retreat towards the English Channel, Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay was pulled out of retirement to help orchestrate the most iconic and courageous rescue in British history. In just ten short days, Ramsay’s incredible organisational skills became the genius and sheer backbone of Operation Dynamo, as French and British warships, along with merchant ships, freighters, tugs, paddle steamers, fishing trawlers and pleasure boats hurried towards the French coastline in aid of stranded Allied forces. “He and the men and women of the Royal Navy worked around the clock to muster all available shipping in order to support his Senior Naval Officer in Dunkirk, Captain Tennant, and to provide the lifeline that saved more than 338,000 troops,” said Rowena.
From his Naval HQ deep inside the tunnels, Ramsay captured the spirit of a nation and many of the rooms used during Operation Dynamo are now open for public display. Along with the exhibition, the tunnels are home to a fascinating permanent display using original news-reel and recordings, testimonies from veterans and dramatic special effects to recreate the terror and tension seen during the Dunkirk evacuation. Meanwhile, on the surface above the tunnels, a statue of Vice Admiral Ramsay has long since overlooked the cliffs looking out towards France’s coastline, which can be viewed from the castle grounds on a clear day.
For more 200 years, the large expanse of tunnels underneath Dover Castle have provided shelter, safety and secrecy for those defending Britain’s shores. From the Napoleonic era, right up until the Cold War, Dover Castle has played an integral role in safeguarding the gateway to Europe – and so, quite poignantly, this latest exhibition will not only recount the makings of Warner Bros Pictures latest blockbuster, but also allow an insight into the lives of those who served on both sides of the narrow 22 mile stretch of water between France and Britain during those momentous few days in 1940.
The display opened during Dover Castle’s popular ‘WWII Weekend’ and will run until the end of August 2017. Entry to the exhibition is included within the general admission ticket to Dover Castle and will form part of the Operation Dynamo guided tour experience. For more information, please visit www.english-heritage.org.uk.