Churchill’s tunnels, a 7th-century Qur’an manuscript and a PoW apology: this week’s history news round-up

We take a look at the historical stories that have been making the news this week...

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Churchill’s underground WW2 tunnels open to the public for first time

A labyrinth of tunnels built on the order of Winston Churchill beneath the White Cliffs of Dover has opened to the public for the first time.

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Located 23 metres underground, Fan Bay Deep Shelter was constructed in the 1940s as part of Dover’s connected offensive and defensive gun batteries, designed to prevent German shipping moving freely in the English Channel.
The shelter accommodated and catered for four officers and up to 185 men of other ranks during counter bombardments.

To read more about this story on History Extra, click here.

Qur’an discovered that is among oldest in the world

Fragments of a 1,370-year-old Qur’an manuscript have been discovered by researchers at the University of Birmingham.

Radiocarbon analysis has dated the parchment on which the text is written to the period between AD 568 and 645. This places the Qur’an manuscript among the oldest in the world.

The manuscript dates from the time of the first three Caliphs – close to the period of the Prophet Muhammad, who is generally thought to have lived between AD 570 and 632. David Thomas, professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham, says the manuscript could have been written less than two decades after Muhammad’s death.

To read our five facts about the manuscript, click here.

Mitsubishi Materials apologizes for using US prisoners of war as slave labour

The Japanese Mitsubishi Materials Corporation has apologised to American captives for their treatment on its sites during the Second World War.

A company representative this week apologised on behalf of its predecessor, Mitsubishi Mining, for using captured American soldiers as slave laborers during the conflict. He offered remorse for quote “the tragic events in our past”, the Guardian reports.

Around 12,000 American prisoners of war were put into forced labour by the Japanese government and private companies seeking to fill a wartime labor shortage, it has been reported. More than 1,100 are believed to have died.

Mitsubishi Materials Corporation is the first major Japanese company to apologise for using captured American soldiers as slave laborers during the Second World War.

According to the Telegraph, the company intends to follow the landmark apology to American prisoners of war with a similar apology to prisoners from other nations.

To read the Guardian story in full, click here.

To read the Telegraph’s coverage of the story, click here.
 

Violette Szabo’s WW2 medals sold for £260,000

The medals of Second World War Resistance heroine Violette Szabo were sold at auction this week for £260,000.

The medals were sold within a minute to Lord Ashcroft’s collection. They will now go on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.

The collection of medals included the George Cross – one of only four to be awarded to women during the Second World War. Szabo parachuted into occupied France twice during the conflict to aid the Resistance movement, and the medal was awarded for bravery to civilians and military personnel.

To read the BBC News story in full, click here.

Comedy writer to put on mock trial to mark 800th Magna Carta anniversary

Presenter and comedy writer Clive Anderson will take part in a mock trial of barons and bishops to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.

Along with a number of top legal figures, Anderson will stage the trial at the Palace of Westminster on Friday 31 July.

Lord Neuberger, the president of the UK’s Supreme Court, will attend the event alongside Justice Stephen Breyer of the US supreme court and the chief justice of New Zealand, Dame Sian Elias.

Speaking about the performance, Neuberger said: “We can’t promise a polished theatrical performance, but we do hope to offer a creative and interesting way of retelling the great Magna Carta story that encourages people to think about the battle of wills and principles that lay behind this world famous treaty.”

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To read the Guardian story in full, click here.