Secret WWII Cave

Come and visit the Gibraltar’s Top Secret WWII Cave, created under Operation Tracer  during WWII,  locally known as Stay Behind Cave. Only 40 individuals are allowed to visit per year!

Secret WWII Cave

Stay Behind Cave – Operation Tracer

Operation Tracer was a secret Second World War military operation in Gibraltar. The driving force for the idea was the 1940 plot by Germany to capture Gibraltar, code-named Operation Felix. Operation Tracer was the brainchild of Rear Admiral John Henry Godfrey, the Director of the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty.

In 1941, Godfrey created the covert observation post that would remain operational, even if Gibraltar fell to the German. Movements and capability of enemy vessels would be reported to the United Kingdom for Intelligence purposes. Godfrey requested the assistance of several distinguished consultants to bring the plan to fruition. The plan was so secret that Godfrey held meetings with his consultants at his private residence rather than at Whitehall.

After considering various locations, the decision was made to construct the post using the tunnel system for Lord Airey’s Shelter, the underground military headquarters just north of Lord Airey’s Battery. The artillery battery was located at the upper ridge of the Rock of Gibraltar, near the southern end of what is now the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.

Six men were selected for the operation, an executive officer as leader, two physicians and three wireless operators. The men had volunteered to be sealed inside the cave should Gibraltar fall to the Nazis.

The men understood that they would remain sealed in the cave for about a year, although it could be much longer and provisions for a seven-year stay were stored. 

Fortunately there was never the need for the Allies to use this post and as a result of the Nazis Empire collapsing,  the Director of Naval Intelligence ordered the plan to be aborted and that the provisions in the complex be distributed and the cave sealed.

Rumours of a secret complex, eventually dubbed Stay Behind Cave, circulated for decades in Gibraltar, until discovery of the chambers in 1997 by the Gibraltar Caving Group. The authenticity of the site was confirmed by one of the builders in 1998 and a decade later by one of the physicians, the last surviving member of the Tracer team, who died in 2010.

The Discovery of the WWII Secret Cave

Since World War II, rumours circulated of a secret room in the Rock of Gibraltar. For years, people explored the Rock’s cliffs, tunnels, and caves, but to no avail. However, in late 1997, after searching for more than two years as a team, the Gibraltar Caving Group unearthed a secret complex in close proximity to Lord Airey’s Battery at the Upper Ridge of the southern end of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. The group had evaluated potential locations of the complex, and come to the conclusion that it had to be located high up on the Rock in order to command good views of both the Mediterranean and the Bay of Gibraltar.

Their suspicions were raised when members of the group felt a rush of wind in a tunnel they had been exploring. After further exploration, the group broke through a wall into a series of chambers. It was quickly recognised that the secret complex was likely the long-sought-after site of Operation Tracer. The hidden chamber had been dubbed “Stay Behind Cave” by locals years ago, before official details were known.

GIBRALTAR TOURS 13526169883_a85fd18257_b Secret WWII Cave

After feeling the draught of wind in the tunnel on a levanter day in December 1997, the Gibraltar Caving Group had pushed aside some corrugated metal sheets, and found a bricked-in area of the wall. 

Carefully removing some bricks, they soon revealed a doorway behind the bricked-in area of the tunnel. In addition to the observations posts, including a concrete slab for that on the west, the men found the remains of a bicycle. They also located the tubing which sheathed the aerial rod along the stairs. Cork tiles on the floor provided insulation for purposes of both warmth and sound. They were in two patterns and shapes: square tiles arranged around the periphery of the room, presumably to indicate storage areas, and narrow tiles in a herringbone pattern in the main area of the room centrally.