Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 18 October 2001



of the popular little railway.

Laurel and Hardy happened to be in England at the time, appearing at the London Palladium, and evidently were only too pleased to be involved, because they declined any payment -providing two hire cars were made available to ensure that they got back in time for the next curtain-up!

However, it turned out that the cars were not needed in the end because the comedians were taken in hand by a party of Southern Railway officers and steamed back to Charing Cross in the General Manager's Saloon - and, it is recorded, in the Snell book, that was in an aura of whisky fumes!

Armoured train
STEPHEN Nash, of Hook Close, Folkestone, is a writer who is currently researching the history of the highly popular Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, particularly its role during the Second World War and in the immediate postwar period.

Possibly a Memories reader may be able to help him track down a photo of the railway's famous armoured train, he is particularly interested in. It ran during the Second World War.

Two examples of this appear in Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith's recent Middleton Press book about the famous light railway, in their Narrow Gauge Branch Lines series, called "RomneyRail -A journey through time on the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway." The photographs came
Railway at war!
from my old friend David Collyer, of Deal.

Two different views, by courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, were published in the 1993 revised edition of “One Man's Railway -J.E.P. Howey and the Romney, Hythe St Dymchurch Railway," by J.B. Snell, first published in 1983, by David & Charles. The new hardback edition was published by David St John Thomas, publisher, at 13.95.

This book also features a great picture of that legendary Hollywood film duo Laurel and Hardy, at the re-opening of the Dungeness line of the railway on March 21, 1947, when they 'took over' the footplate of the locomotive "Black Prince," both wearing a driver's hat - and those unforgettable chubby smiles.

I mention that because Stephen is hoping to get hold of a copy of a photograph recording the event, which also marked the 21st Anniversary
Snell also notes that the welcome publicity that resulted ensured that the crowds visiting the railway in 1947 were bigger than ever!

Sadly, I don't believe the Folkestone Herald negative files go back that far.

Fifty years ago the Herald published a feature about the Railway's wartime role, after it was requisitioned in June 1940, the eve of the Battle of Britain, by an infantry battalion.

Work began immediately on creating a mobile ack-ack, or anti-aircraft unit, the line's steam locomotive Hercules being armoured in steel and concrete and coupled between two trucks armoured in the same way.

Mounted on this unlikely chassis were two Lewis guns and two antitank rifles.
ALL SMILES, Laurel and Hardy fooling about on the footplate of Black Prince. Bottom left, troops man a hastily armoured train on the little railway. Both photos are from J.B. Snell's book "One Man's Railway."

The armoured gun unit was manned by a crew of five.

An anonymous writer, signing himself "G.R." commented that it wasn't a very impressive weapon of defence by later standards, but it patrolled the line unceasingly and did excellent work as many troops used the line in the war.

And it really came into its own when operation "PLUTO," or "Pipeline under the Ocean" was launched to create a pipeline under the Channel, from a point between Littlestone and Dungeness, to pump petrol to the Allied Armies which invaded Normandy on D-Day.

The convoys of rail wagons across the Marshes were a remarkable sight. Often there were trains of some 24 individual flat cars piled high with a pyramid of 60 lengths of 300ft long welded pipe, weighing about 70 tons. And the line was often subjected to attacks from the air, but it was a proud boast that it never closed down!

New harbour pier highly praised by Herald writer

>• Qf\>1 "SHEER bosh" declared Herald writer Felix, about statements in a London newspaper the Government intended the new National Harbour being built at Dover was to become a naval base on the lines of Plymouth. At the same time, it said, the Dover harbour authority was looking to Folkestone harbour and its new pier to assist in the commerce of the port. Not content with this "foolish" statement he said, the writer had added that it was planned German Atlantic liners would call at Folkestone. But Felix: was enthusiastic about Folkestone's new pier, with five landing stages for passengers, a fine lighthouse and a grand upper promenade; altogether a fine piece of marine engineering, he commented. Ex-Folkestone Grammar School boy Lieut W.J. English, 21, of the 2nd Scottish Horse was awarded the VC after service in the Boer War, one of the youngest officers to earn the award. He crossed 15yds of open ground under heavy enemy fire to get more ammunition. His parents were active social welfare workers among troops at the camp.
Futile Channel search for supposed air crash victims

m n fZ*t TWO LIFEBOATS, one from Dun-J.*/OJLgeness and one from Dover, had a frustrating trip in the Channel searching for survivors after a plane from Lympne, supposedly crashed into the sea. The alarm had been raised after a plane, flying low for photographic purposes, appeared to disappear. Mrs Eleanor Fiedler, of the Adelphi Hotel, Augusta Gardens, Folkestone, who was 100 years old on September 19 and travelled to Epsom to celebrate, said she expected to be voting in person at the forthcoming local election. A strong protest was made by Elham Rural District Council against proposals by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to close Otterpool Lane, Lympne in order to extend a runway at the village airport. Former Hythe stationmas-ter and for 75 years a bellringer, William Fright died in Saltwood aged 89. His father was stationmaster at the old Hythe rail station for 50 years before him. In 1950 he lost his wife of 88 and sister Emma Fright who was 101. Hythe Chamber of Commerce leader LT. Andrews called for a better passenger service at Sandling junction when Hythe railway

Liner crash on the Marshes costs lives of four people

*1 QOC^ French pilot and two of his pas--LUdtOsengers, an American and an Italian died when a French Air Union air liner carrying 13 people crashed at College Farm, Hurst, near Aldington on Romney Marsh. Nine others were taken to hospital. Weeks lator one of these, the aircraft's mechanic, also died. East Kent bus driver Horace Carey and Miss Mona Maclelian (real name Dr Dorothea Logan), described as being both from Hythe, made what was described as a splendid effort to swim the Channel from Cap Gris Nez, Horace gave up after nine and half hours and Mona after another two hours. It was one of two unsuccessful attempts made by the two swimmers. On the second attempt Mona, a medical officer at King's College Hospital, London, was in the water over 25 hours, then an endurance record for women. Thick fog hampered their effort in which they were escorted by the Ocean King pleasure craft. The swimmers set off together at 5.10am. Herald man Felix was waxing lyrical about wonderful panoramic views from the cliffs near the 540ft nigh Highcliffe Tea Gardens adjoining the Valiant Sailor public house at the top of Dover Hill.
Young visitors pose rabies threat, smuggling in pets

| Q^rjA DISTRICT community physician was X^s/Oblaming young visitors from the Continent on camping holidays, for smuggling in pets or stray cats or dogs in their rucksacks, saying they posed a rabies risk. He said the young people were to blame for a high proportion of smuggling through Channel ports. And, in a precautionary move against the risk of rabies, a ban was placed on dogs at the harbour. The district council decided to launch a tourism campaign and to invite the views of the public in drawing up a local plan. An improved A259 coast road was seen as one of the most urgent needs to increase tourism. Two farms in the Elham area were sold for a figure believed to be close to 200,000. The buyers were the Vincent brothers; Peter and Alan, local farmers who already owned adjoining farms at Ottinge and Elham. At the same time they sold one of their family farms at Newington. Thoir new farms, Mill Down Farm, Acrise and Water Farm, Elham had been owned by George Boucher. Gipsies were accused of intimidating residents in Lydd and West Hythe who objected to a camp site on their doorsteps. But Shepway District Council favoured temporary camp sites at Jury's Gap Road, Lydd and Botolph's Bridge, West Hythe.

If anyone should have any a better picture than any on this page, or think I should add one they have, please email me at the following address:-