Operation Tracer: When Spies Were Sealed In a Bunker

Of all the secret operations of World War II, none was less appealing that Operation Tracer in Gibraltar, which involved spies being buried alive. The 1942 British mission aimed to bury a special team in a cave bunker, sealing them in from the outside. This meant they were unable to leave. The operatives were intended to stay below ground for an entire year. The complex included living quarters for six men, two observation areas, a large water tank, toilets, and a radio room equipped with bicycle-powered radios. The floor of the main chamber was covered in cork tile to reduce noise, and observation slits were concealed from the outside. The design even provided for the death of a team member, as the entrance passage was left with loose soil so a burial could take place. Along with two doctors, the team consisted of three junior seamen who would operate the radios, and one executive officer who would oversee the mission. Although the bunker was stocked with supplies that would last for seven years, the men were only in the bunker for 2½ years. When the war ended, the team was disbanded and sworn to secrecy. The cave wasn’t discovered by civilians until 1997.