Underground World War II caves re-discovered in northern France

October 6th, 2008 - 12:41 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Oct 6 (ANI): Underground caves in which thousands of civilians took shelter from one of the heaviest Allied bombings of World War II have been re-discovered in northern France.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the time capsule labyrinth lies deep below the Normandy city of Caen, which was all but destroyed by British guns around D-Day, June 6th 1944.

Largely undisturbed since, the makeshift bunkers still contain numerous reminders of a terrified population whose only thought at the time was survival.

They include packed suitcases, tins of syrup, decaying maps and official passes, and even lady’’s make-up bags including nail varnish and lipstick.

There are also childrens magazines and toys, shoes, carbon lights, prayer books, and makeshift beds where people would try and rest despite the barrages.

Many spent more than a month deep below the constant shelling from Royal Navy ships and RAF bombing. Some 2000 died, with thousands more injured.

Caen Memorial historian Marc Pottier said that the lost world was a hugely moving testament to what ordinary people went through during the war.

During the summer of 1944 here, in Caen, 15,000 Caen refugees experienced some of the most terrible conditions imaginable. By visiting these galleries we can better understand what they went through, he said.

Despite what was happening up above, Caen University archaeologist Laurent Dujardin said the caves were well organised.

The atmosphere is remarkably healthy. Theres always a temperature of twelve degrees, he said.

Describing a cave accessed from a tiny manhole in a garden in Rue des Roches in the suburb of Mondeville, Dujardin said, On June 6thm the first refugees arrived here. They stayed here until July 12th.

In one cave alone there were between 500 and 600 people. Underneath the whole of Rue des Roches there were 5000 people. Each gallery is organised around a family enclosure. We only re-discovered this tunnel recently, and it is one of the most interesting, he added.

The galleries - carved out of the soil by civilian and military diggers - are around 36 feet high and 300 feet longs, and divided into separate family units.

On D-Day, Caen was the principal objective for the British 3rd Infantry Division and was the scene of intense fighting right up until August.

The old city, including many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, was largely destroyed, with 75 per cent of buildings reduced to rubble.

Reconstruction went on until 1962, with most of the underground shelters largely forgotten. (ANI)

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