Tag Archives: Channel Tunnel Association Archive. Tunnel Express

50 objects 3: Military aspects of the Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel: military aspect of the question. Important address by Rt. Hon Lord Sydenham of Combe.

The idea for the Channel Tunnel was first mooted in 1802, and a brief history of it is set out here and here. Feelings ran high on both sides of the debate, and the Channel Tunnel Association Archive gives an insight into not just the scientific, political, and financial processes involved, but also the personalities and emotions.

The Channel Tunnel: Military Aspect of the Question

The Channel Tunnel: Military Aspect of the Question

“Military aspect of the question” is a case in point. Lord Sydenham of Combe – the first and last bearer of that title – was a military strategist. He served with the Royal Engineers and later became Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and published widely. This is the transcript of his address and the discussion afterwards by Members of Parliament, in the summer of 1914. While facts and theories involving national defence are discussed, the transcript also shows the pride those present took in the Royal Navy, and their belief that the Navy could rise to any occasion; and there are poignant mentions of England’s friendship with France, and their anticipated future of peace.

Objections to the tunnel on security and defence grounds had been made a number of times. The chairman of the meeting reported here, in introducing the speaker and the Channel Tunnel background, noted “it is the military question alone which has for upwards of thirty years prevented the carrying out of this great scheme.”

Pamphlets addressing military aspects of Channel Tunnel

Pamphlets addressing military aspects of Channel Tunnel

Lord Sydenham dismisses the tunnel as a cause for anxiety as a breach of security, showing various ways in which the tunnel could be rendered unusable if taken over by an enemy force, mentioning the advantages it could provide for troop movement during warfare, and ending triumphantly “I hope I have been able to show that there are no valid military objections”.

Tunnel turns twenty

A blog post by Joanne Mcphie, Graduate Trainee, Library.

It could come as a surprise to know that our modern miracle of engineering, the Channel Tunnel, actually started out as a twinkle in an engineer’s eye over two hundred and twelve years ago. The speedy journey from London to Paris that we enjoy today might cause you to forget the painstakingly slow build up to the official beginning of transit on the 6th May 1994. This process can be seen in the huge collection of documents in our Channel Tunnel Association Archive, which contains everything from the details of engineer’s reports to the splendour of the Opening Day memorabilia and the overview of monographs on the history.

© Copyright Groupe Eurotunnel

© Copyright Groupe Eurotunnel

The history of the Tunnel is one of frustrated schemes and historical disruptions. Frenchman Albert Mathieu first suggested a passageway between France and England in 1802. While he had the vision, he hadn’t really considered the practicalities of such a plan and thought a tunnel could be dug through the soft chalk under the sea bed with horse-drawn stagecoaches passing through. Subsequently, though Napoleon Bonaparte was receptive to the idea initially, war between the two nations disrupted any permanent connections.

Progress continued in this stop and start vein for almost the next two hundred years. A second plan was envisioned in 1830 by another Frenchman,Thome de Gamond, who spent the next thirty years sketching maps for it, but it wasn’t until 1868 that a proper committee between the two nations was formed.

Thome de Garond's 1856 plan to cross the Channel

Following quickly (by Tunnel standards) in 1872 The Channel Tunnel Company was registered, but it was to remain largely ineffectual as it had no funding to complete research. Ground was broken in 1878-9 on both sides of the Channel, but the attempt was abandoned due to fears of French soldiers marching through the tunnel to conquer England. Although there were a few more efforts at generating interest, serious plans were not resuscitated until after the First World War. Strangely, while fears of invasion had quashed earlier endeavours, it was a belief that the Tunnel would have shortened WW1 and given the Allies an advantage that gave rise to another Parliament vote in 1930. The thought was that it would have been an excellent supply corridor, impervious to naval barrage. 1921 Booklet recommending the Tunnel

However, it was not until 1953 that military protestations were relaxed enough to seriously consider the scheme. In 1964 both the French and British government agreed that the Tunnel would be a good idea and to look into the costing and technical issues. Work began in 1970 to a mixed report in the press, but it became apparent that the cost of the Tunnel would be too high and it stopped in 1975. In 1984 the decision was taken that private investors had to be found. This opened the way for commercial companies like Eurotunnel to bid and the Tunnel became the profitable venture we know today, finally opening officially in May 1994.

The Channel Tunnel Association collection offers a comprehensive look at the history of the Tunnel, with particular information on the 1930 Parliament vote and including the papers of the Channel Tunnel Company and the Channel Tunnel Association. It includes correspondence, press cuttings articles, statistics and plans, as well as photographs and objects. 3D Tunnel PerspectiveFor more detail visit our webpage and learn more about the roots of one of Britain’s great engineering feats.

 

Marcus the mole

Recently we received a donation of four issues of Tunnel Express to add to our Channel Tunnel Association ArchiveTunnel Express is aimed at children, featuring Marcus the mole as a guide to the world of tunnels. All four issues were published in 1988, the year that construction finally began on the Channel Tunnel. The magazines feature quizzes, games and information about tunnelling animals, and the tunnel itself. It obviously got a great response from teachers, as the second issue features letters and drawings sent in by schools who had read the first issue.

DSC00361

© Copyright Groupe Eurotunnel

Tunnel Express isn’t the only item in Special Collections aimed at children. Marcus the mole also features in a book in the Channel Tunnel Association Archive called The Tunnel. In it Marcus wants to meet up with his cousin Pierre, who lives in France. Between them they come up with the idea of digging a tunnel and, combating the monsters under the sea bed, as well as le Rat-Bureaucrate and Techno-Rat, along the way, their tunnels finally meet. Published in 1993, the year before the Tunnel was officially opened, the book is a fun way to get children reading both English and French.

DSC00362Other children’s book in this collection aren’t fictional! The story of tunnels is aimed at children, but features information and illustrations from tunnelling organisations, and is quite serious, including an index and detailed diagrams.

TunnelsThese aren’t the only children’s books in our collections. You can find out more by searching the library catalogue.