DOVER KENT ARCHIVES

Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 4 January 2001

 

 

Silver Queens
MEMORIES of Capel Airship Station in the First World War, with its massive hangars and their four or five kite balloons and airships which were used to hunt enemy submarines in the Channel, were revived by a collection of old pictures shown to me by a Memories reader in Folkestone.
Hundreds of thousands of troops crossed the Dover Strait from Folkestone en route for the Continent to fight in the First World War in France and Belgium. And the role of the airships, or 'blimps' was to spot the enemy's U-boats which would otherwise have sunk those troopships.

So successful were they that it is claimed there were few if any losses due to menacing submarines while patrols were made.

A silver paint finish earned some of them the nickname of 'Silver Queens.'

The photographs belonged to the late Harold
'Cock' Scowen, uncle of Derrick Lawson. Born in Dover, Derrick now lives in Lynwood, Folkestone.

Harold, a member of a large Folkestone family, served in the Royal Naval Air Service which manned the airships at Capel, later moving to Tregantle, in Cornwall, where he afterwards decided to settle. And it was from Cornwall that Barbara Davis (nee Scowen) sent the pictures to her cousin Derrick Lawson.

Derrick says his uncle explained his nickname by saying his mother Beatrice Scowen's maiden name was Cockerton.

Derrick, 73, was the son of Ernest William Lawson, who began work on the railways at 13 and was at one time based in Dover.

Derrick himself used to work at Ashford Railway Works.

He likes to talk of his ghostly experiences and of how his Uncle 'Cock' Scowen once got 'tippley' - which led his fellow airmen at Capel to play a practical joke on him. The year was probably 1915.

And Derrick has a great souvenir of that prank - a picture of an airship, signed by his uncle, in which Harold one day came to his senses only to find himself in the balloon's basket flying high over the Channel!

Remarkable man’s ‘Grand’ scheme

FROM The Grand, on The Leas, I have heard from Michael Stainer, who was particularly interested to see a mention in Memories back in November of Daniel Baker, whose grandfather had been a leading light in the Folkestone Water Company for SO years and also served as mayor of the town.

Michael says Mr Baker's life-size mayoral portrait hangs in The Grand. "This remarkable man had had a busy year.

On March 23, 1899 the Alderman deposited his plans for Tha Grand with the Council. They were approved on March 25 and he started work on March 28. The building was topped out in 1900. It was said to be the first large reinforced concrete building in the World, and among other remarkable features, has a steel frame and insulation filled cavity curtain walls.

"He was not the only pioneer in Folkestone at that time; the town is littered with world firsts.

TV ‘first’

"The first pillar box had been installed in Sandgate Road, and the first telephone kiosk - in rustic style - was installed on The Leas opposite The Grand."

Then, says Michael there was Samuel Plimsoll, a Folkestone resident, who was chief promoter of an Act of Parliament which gave us the safety loading line for cargoes on merchant ships, called the Plimsoll Line.

"John Logie Baird had a shop in Guildhall Street from which the first television pictures were transmitted - to my grandfather John Stainer’s chemists shop in Sandgate Road, where he conducted many of the early x-ray experiments.

"He, too, was mayor a number of times, and Chairman of the Folkestone Water Company.

"As Michael Caine, aka Sir Maurice Micklewaite, would say: 'Not a lot of people know that' "And he, too, made his first stage appearance in Folkestone at - you've guessed - The Grand, as did Robert Morley and David Tomlinson," said Michael.
HAROLD 'Cock' Scowen, a lonely airman peers over the edge of the basket of a kite balloon high over the Channel after his Capel airship station colleagues played a prank on him during his service there - after a 'good night out!'

Once safely back on the ground he evidently saw the joke and signed
1919. The nose appears to have met either with a serious accident or to have been deflated after a puncture perhaps. The question is, could it have been taken in Capel? Derrick Lawson is investigating.

Incidentally it is said the nickname 'blimps' for airships came about after an incident in one of the hangars at Capel. When a bigger airship came along men had to excavate the floor of the hangar to get it inside.

A high platform was constructed to enable the top of the airships to be inspected, And, when someone leaned over and touched an airship the sound was described as a 'blimp' - well that's the story, anyway!
the photographic memento of the event!

Tented camp

Other souvenirs of his uncle's airship days include several snaps of groups of officers and men (some of whom later became RAF fliers,) one or two showing airships or hangars, of which there were several, and personnel, with tents in which they slept at the Capel station, while officers took over Abbotts Cliff House.

One picture shows R-34, Britain's first airship to make a there-and-back crossing of the North Atlantic in
uiki
 

Squabble over 10 cost of welcome to the Earl

•I Q/\t AS THE year 1900 drew to a close the V JJierald editor was calling for a united effort to “mark the departure of the Old Century" suggesting a big collection to boost funds of the Victoria Hospital and for a commemorative plaque to be put up on the building. The birth of a new century was celebrated with a Grand Ball at Shorncliffe Camp, but with our troops still facing the enemy Boers In South Africa there was a degree of modesty over the amount lavished on decorations. There were toasts during the night to comrades on active service but a good evening of dancing followed, although the fair sex somewhat outnumbered their potential partners due to the war. The Town Council did themselves no favours by squabbling over the cost of presenting to Earl Radnor an illuminated ‘address' offering an official welcome to the town after he succeeded to his late father's title, as Lord Radnor. This was on his return to the UK after service in Africa during the Boer War when he risked his life for Ms country and was struck down by an illness that could easily have killed him. The trouble was a storm In a teacup over the legality of the costs -a mere 10 - being met from the rates.
 
Calls for direct main line railway link to Hythe town

f QO/5AN ANONYMOUS Hythe reader was JL*7>Osuggesting Hythe should be served by trains down a new track from Sandling Junction via Brockhill Valley, with a station near Red Lion Square and running along the north bank of the Royal Military Canal to Hastings via Appledore^ Dymchurch and Romney. The new service would open up the district and the Roughs and plateau at the top would become another Leas, like that at Folkestone. The Folkestone Bowling Club, hearing that South Africa was due to send a touring side to the UK In 1926, sent an invitation to the team to come and play in Folkestone. This was because the secretary of the touring side was Edward Snell, of Pretoria, who was a native of Folkestone. Celebrating their Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversary were Mr & Mrs William Holdstock, who were stalwartsof the local Congregational churches some 50 odd years. Remarkably, William was still working for wine merchants JH & J Brooke, in Sandgate Road to whom he had given between 60 and 70 years service! The Herald reported that Dover Harbour Board had decided to seek Parliamentary powers to dose the western entrance of the harbour to create more comfortable conditions inside in stormy weather for Continental and commercial steamer traffic.
 
Duchess to visit camp as troops go overseas

* AM THE DUCHESS of Kent was due to visit JL/9JLShorncliffe Camp, as Colonel-in-chief of the Queen’s Own Royai West Kent Regt, the 1st Bn of which was due to leave on overseas service. The Mayor of Folkestone and the chairman and vice-chairman of the Town Council's highways and building committee were appointed to discuss with the company directors a proposed merger of the Dover and Sandgate Water Companies. There were hopes of an end to the risk of young women being molested with the introduction of a lighting scheme for the East Cliff promenade. Methodist stalwart in the districts William Hatchard, 87, was being mourned. He preached over 1,000 sermons, reaching that landmark at Lyminge in July 1943. Commandant of Sandgate Police Training Centre, Chief Supt R Roberts was made an MBE in the New Year's Honours List. Our old midweek paper, the Folkestone & Hythe Gazette printed a picture of Sandgate Road and Holy Trinity Church, Folkestone, dating from about 1870. which was before the church steeple was built and housing development in the street had hardly begun. Bus fares were set to rise warned the East Kent Road Car Co’s chairman who spoke of heavy extra taxes on fuel. Extensive alterations to Sandgate’s East Kent Arms were approved by magistrates.
 
Crisis in health service as doctors get tough on hours

if q<7%JUNI0R doctors fed up with working up to JL7 f OllO hours a week, sometimes more, at the Royal Victoria Hospital were involved in a dispute with their employers. They and other doctors restricted their hours to 40 a week, but they pledged they would not stand by and allow patients to; suffer. The doctors lived in at the hospital and said there would be at least one off-duty man available at all times to deal with emergencies. Apart from the hours they were complaining that no overtime payments were made until they had exceeded 80 hours. Some of them were dropping on their feet with exhaustion, they complained. The conditions affected both their family and social life. (Just 25 years later this writer's son resigned from his job as a doctor after eight years for

the same reasons, to seek a new career..... Another

doctor lost to the national health service!) Member of a family of circus artistes Mrs Emily Reaney, whose grandmother had the rare distinction of having walked a tightrope over the Niagara Falls, was celebrating her golden wedding with husband Tom, 80. Mr Reaney was an animal trainer. Together the couple could look back on nearly 150 years of circus life, and they ran Reaneys Comedy Circus, travelling all over the country, from 1938-56. The couple, who had seven children, lived at Radnor Park Road.
 

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