Subterranea Britannica

St. Margaret's Bay Esplanade Defence Tunnels

St. Margaret's Bay, Kent
OS Grid Ref: TR367443
Date of visit: January 2012

[Source: Chris Rayner]

The most obvious sign of the tunnel complex is the concrete faced observation and machine gun post about 10m above the beach (the height varies as the shingle is moved around during the year). This leads to a pair of parallel tunnels running behind the cliff face. To the north, these lead down to the original entrance point at the end of the beach esplanade, now bricked up and close to a type 24 pillbox, another part of the beach defensive network. Meanwhile running south they end in a series of steps up to another opening overlooking the Channel. A brick column is in the middle of the latter but it was originally a small chamber which has partly fallen into the sea.

Part of the tunnel complex is believed to go back to the mid-19th century at least, but the current structure dates from the early part of the Second World War, having been built to protect the beach, a likely invasion point.

Sections of the tunnel are unlined, particularly the first length up from the original entrance, while other sections have either a brick wall facing or irregularly spaced brick piers and vaulted corrugated steel roofs above. Nearer the cliff face erosion has taken its toll and most of the machine gun postís original 0.6m thick reinforced concrete front wall and brick facing have now fallen away

The post was initially manned by the 70th Battalion The Buffs until November 1940 when the 5th Battalion Royal Marines Commandos took over from them. Their local headquarters was in the nearby village at Curfew House on Kingsdown Road (now the Royal British Legion local headquarters and a private house) and to keep themselves amused they made practice attacks on local regiments.

Access can be very dangerous due to the height and not least the tide and is not advisable without suitable equipment

[Source: Chris Rayner]

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