The Tuesday evening before dad flew home we had the pleasure of exploring the Great North Road. Now the Great North Road in Gibraltar is underground, it runs from behind the old casino down to the Calpe Barracks. Our lovely neighbour Manolo arranged the tour as these tunnels are still in active use by the MOD and are only accessible with a guide.
We met on Europa Road with our guide Pete at 6.30pm and made our way up the hill that goes behind the old casino. Now the oddest thing about the evening for me was the heat factor. Outside the weather was horrid. Drizzle and at points steady rain and wind with a cold chill to it, inside of the tunnel it felt much the same, until we turned the corner where the heat hit us. It was delightful. It would make the ideal location to dry washing while the skies are grey! The exact reason for the heat, I have forgotten, but I am told that inside of caves stays the same temperature all year round. If it wasn’t so bloody dark I would potentially move in!
At one point our guide told us to stop walking, which we did, he then got us to turn of our torches. It was black, there was zero natural light. It wasn’t so creepy at the ‘Lines Tunnels’. But the sounds of the water pipes running through the tunnel made me jump! In comparison to some of the other tunnels this one is massive, it is big enough to drive down in a truck, and you can see where people do, especially from some of the floor, where the concrete slabs that cover the gully where wiring is housed are all smashed up.
Along the Great North Road in Gibraltar you will find the usual stops, Peterborough, Darlington and Durham. These were all stores, chambers or stairways. Oddly back home this road cuts through my home town (Hatfield in Hertfordshire) so Dad and I both found it slightly amusing to be walking along it here in Gibraltar. The reason for the naming was simply navigation. It seems that most of, if not all of the soldiers stationed there knew their way up and down the Great North Road in the UK, so they just ‘mimicked’ the route so people could learn the tunnels with ease.
The tunnel runs at about a mile long and has kitchens, a hospital, surgery, engine rooms and natural caves (seriously humid) all leading off of it. It also has several sets of stairs that lead down to the next level of tunnels that intersect the Rock. There are over 30 miles (between 32 and 34 miles depending on who you ask) of tunnel in the Rock. Most of these were created between the end of WW1 and the end of WW2. It is possible to travel from end to end and side to side of the Rock without going outside. An underground ‘world’ was created to provide cover for the 16,500 soldiers that were based here during the war. There were provisions in the stores to last for three months! (Although Wikipedia says slightly different, I will go with what our guide told us!) It was just crazy.
The reasons for the tunnels made sense, so much military power on show, available to blow up easily, it needed protecting, the Rock is a brilliant natural fortress and also civilian safety came into it. Especially after ammunition went off once, blowing up a ship and sending debris clear over the top of the Rock.
I took my old camera (I wasn’t sure what kind of caves / tunnels we’d be going into) so I hope the pictures will explain some of the things we saw with more ease than I can!