I’m always aware of how close this part of the South East was to the action in both World Wars. I bought a 1917 postcard recently on e-bay, not so much for the picture but for the written description on the back. The writer (a lady from London staying at Sycamore Gardens) described Royal Flying Corps planes from Hawkinge Airfield passing low overhead at regular intervals, it was hair raising stuff in those days.
In this blog however I want to write about a phenomena from World War 2.
To me the V1 and V2 “Flying bombs” of WW2 have always held a sort of evil mystique. As a child I read comics that often featured these dark, malevolent, pilotless (and therefore “cowardly”) weapons of destruction. I’m not going to go into the technical details of the bombs (partly because I can’t understand most of it) but if you are a weapons geek (bomborak perhaps) have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-1_flying_bomb
The first bomb was launched on 13th June 1944 and was apparently spotted locally to quote Wikipedia:
“The first V1 (“a fighter on fire”) was spotted from Observer Post Mike 3, high on the Kent Downs at Lyminge. A message was passed to the Royal Observer Corps and the Observer Post Mike 2 in a Martello Tower at Dymchurch took up the track of a noise like “a model-T-Ford going up a hill”. The code message “Diver, Diver, Diver” was passed rapidly up the command line, finally reaching the Mandarins and Gods in Whitehall and Washington. The missile flew steadily across Kent, eventually diving to earth and exploding on open farmland at Swanscombe.”
I was reading a great little book recently. It’s called “The Real Dad’s Army” it’s a record of the war through the eyes of Hythe resident, Colonel Rodney Foster. The Colonel is thought to be the man on whom Captain Mainwaring was based. In the book, which is a remarkable and moving record of one man’s war, Rodney Foster describes the first V1’s (or “Robots” as he calls them) to pass over the English coast, en route for London.
The south coast must have been some place to be during the height of the bombardment from across the Channel. The only artistic record I can find on this subject (apart from Colonel Rodney’s little drawings) is a watercolour by underrated artist, Leslie Cole titled, (take a deep breath) “Anti-aircraft fire meeting Flying Bombs as they cross the Coast Defences Dymchurch July 1944. The picture shows a V1 under fire over Dymchurch beach. Leslie Cole is one of those lesser known, but absolutely great Official War Artists. Cole was one of the first of the Allies to witness the full horror of Nazi death camps after liberation. His work has a compassionate and humanistic feel and is well worth looking at. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/leslie-cole. have a look at this as well http://www.swindonweb.com/?m=2&s=963&ss=966&c=5086&t=Leslie+Cole
Join the Leslie Cole Appreciation Society!