DOVER KENT ARCHIVES

Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 1 November 2001

 

MY MEMORIES story about the mysterious 'freak tide', water spout or tidal wave and under-sea 'eruption' - call them what you will - certainly created a great deal of interest. I had a series of phone calls and letters about it.

First to contact me was retired Folkestone boatman Fred Featherbe, of Hythe. He tells me he remembers the freak incident very well. "I was at the fishmarket at the time," he recalls.

"A child then, I recall that the sky went black all of a sudden. And the wind got up terribly.

"I can remember nothing else like it. Someone said the tide had suddenly gone out. Then it came back in and went out again. And it did this several times. The water looked black - the sky was black and the mud at low tide looked black. "I believe someone was drowned.

"I didn't see the waterspout, as reported by Miss Martin, but I've seen one since near the Warren."

Since I wrote about the mystery of the "eruption" and freak tides. Miss Eileen Martin, of Court Approach, Folkestone, who told me about it in the first place, has been discussing the event with one of her neighbours, Mrs Taylor, who believed it was a Saturday when it happened, at about 5 o'clock. She said a young boy was drowned.

Miss Martin also heard from Les Harris, 80, of Shorncliffe Road, who had read the piece in Memories about the 'underwater eruption' and told her his sister and brother were on the sands at the time and she remembered the incident when the tide rushed in and out again.

When I spoke to Les, he told me his sister Winnie, of Maidstone, took her brother John in his pushchair to the sands. Winnie, about 9 at the time, recalled the sky came over very black and said she decided they should get off the sands before they got caught up in the storm.
They had barely left the beach when the tide rushed in. But she couldn't give a date.

However, Memories reader, Mrs E Rees, of Cinque Ports Avenue, Hythe, has a very good reason for knowing when it happened. She was born within days of the tidal wave, she tells me.

"My late mother told me about it many times. It happened as I was being born - on August 2, 1929. Mother said the air turned yellow and she was worried because her family were having a picnic on the sands. Her sister jumped into the sea to save a little boy."

The Herald newspaper account of the tidal wave tells how a boy scout, aged 16 was drowned. He had been fishing and was swept off the rocks near the old 'railway pier.’ln its issue of Saturday, July 27, the paper told how a tidal wave and whirlwind had hit resorts round the coast, on July 20.

Scouts’ tribute
The young scout drowned was Arthur Balkham, of Thanet Gardens. Some 70 fellow scouts attended the funeral that followed, to pay their last respects. This took place on Arthur's 17th birthday, at Grace Hill Wesleyan Methodist Church.

Desperate efforts were made to rescue Arthur. Charles Allebone, assistant to the harbourmaster, had seen the 10ft high wave hit him and hailed Mr J Hunter, second officer of the railway cargo ship "Whitstable." A boat was immediately launched to go to the rescue. But it couldn't reach him in time.

And there could so easily have been more casualties, as Mrs Rees told me. The Herald told how Mrs Ruth Kirby, of Staple Cross, Petham was paddling on the East Cliff sands with daughters Sylvia (6) and Eileen (5) when they were overwhelmed by the freak wave and dashed against rocks.

All three were cut, bruised and so badly shaken up they had to have several days complete rest.

At Sandgate, there was a narrow scrape for Rita
Tragic loss
Keeley (5) daughter of Lionel Keeley, of Sandgate. He was a leader of a dance orchestra. She was paddling when the tidal wave swept in but she was saved from drowning by the quick thinking of another girl, Norma Tremaine (8), who rushed to the little girl and held on to her until danger had passed. Norma was the daughter of Mr E.H. Tremaine, manager of Sandgate Picture House.

There was a lucky escape too, for Thomas Moore, of The Crescent, Sandgate, who had been beaching his boat after taking out a party of visitors, when he was hit by a wave he estimated at 20ft high. Luckily he saw it in time and hung on to
the boat. He came to, beneath the boat at high water mark. A foot was crushed and he feared he might be off work the remainder of the season.

Herald writer Felix wrote of a similar incident decades before, reported in the Kentish Gazette, on August28. 1812: "On the 19th a most remarkable circumstance took place at Folkestone, after the tide had ebbed in the usual way for three hours, and left the Hope sloop aground in the harbour (the crew of which were preparing to unload her.) It (the tide) suddenly rose three feet perpendicularly, and as suddenly ebbed, which was repeated three times in less than a quarter of an hour." - Amazing isn't it!
SEVENTY-five years ago Folkestone fishermen carried out a dramatic rescue in the Channel, rescuing all the passengers, the pilot and his mechanic, after one of the latest airliners in the Imperial Airways' fleet was forced to ditch in the sea while flying from Croydon to Paris. The twin engine bi-plane, piloted by Capt F Dismore. carried 10 passengers, seven of whom were Americans. They were saved and taken to Folkestone, thanks to fine weather and the timely arrival of the fishing smacks Invicta, skippered by Thomas Marshall, and Jessica, the skipper of which was James Fagg. Seconds after the last person's rescue the aircraft sank below the waves.
A DOMESTIC science class at Mundella Girls' School, Folkestone, 70 odd years ago. The picture was shown to me by old Folkestonian Mrs Eva K Baker, of Blackthorn Road, Reigate. She says the photo was taken soon after the school was re-organised with Sidney Street. Those in the 1929 picture include Hilda Cullum (nee Horton), extreme left, who was the daughter of Bill Horton, a well known wheelwright and joiner, of Ethelbert Road, Folkestone. Sadly, Hilda died recently in Falmouth, aged 86. Eva says she can't remember any of the other girls' names, but headteacher in the picture was Miss Jane Haworth and the domestic science teacher Mrs Ellis Hilda Horton, Eva's sister. "We were a well known family due to father's business," writes Eva, who wonders if there are any classmates about who can recognise themselves. Eva says she is the only one left of a family of seven.
 

Trooper tells of tough life fighting in the Boer War

Q/\k| DESCENDED from a Folkestone smuggling family. Statioiirnastor Crouchcr's son was writing from Mafeking, in British Bechuanaland, about the Boer War, in South Africa. when: he was serving with the 97th Regiment, the Royal West Kent Highlanders. Sgt Croucher, whose Christian name was not stated, told of the troops wearing 'modified' sacks for trousers and hopes of replacements for these and other improvised clothing, after capturing an enemy position. He wrote with some amusement about how a British Colonel, captured hy the Boers, had been released by his captois only after they had stripped him of all he was wearing, but for his eyeglass and a pair of puttees (gaiters.) The troops had escorted an armoured train, escorted Lord Kitchener through the Orange Free State and helped with the repair of the railway line after the Boers' attempt to blow up the British army's commander in chief. This account was printed on the eve of Lord Roberts' visit to Dover and Folkestone on his triumphal return to the UK.

 
Car air ferry service sets record of 10,500 vehicles

ft QE>| SILVER Ciry Airway's car ferry ser-_L^/3^vice between Lympne and Le Touquet carried 10,500 vehicles across the Channel between April 1 and the end of September, which was .1 record. There was a storm of protests when it was suggested the site of Folkestone Golf Course should be used as a housing site. The idea came from the Chamber of Trade which said there were too few sites for new homes in the district. The Herald commented that the same idea had been broached before but the editor hoped it would never be taken seriously. The course was a great amenity to the area and, apart from that, a beautiful open space, he said. Its ease of access to all was a strong argument against building development, he argued. Where could they find another, suitable and affordable site? Herald writer "The Roarncr" was enthusing about a black locomotive of somewhat "racy" appearance, the William Shakespeare, a Britannia class BR engine, which had taken over Golden Airow trains passing through Folkestone. It was seen by many thousands of local schoolboys visiting the Festival of Britain Exhibition at Olympia.
 
Nottingham city raises cash to fund Folkestone lifeboat

"I QOC ALTHOUGH Nottingham has no physi _LęS^O cal link with the sea the lace city's resi dents responded generously to a bid to iai.se the money to build a new lifeboat for Folkestone. Herald wnter Felix, visiting Nottingham For a few days holiday, wtote to the editor after lie heard of "Nottingham Lifeboat Day" being held in the year of the nation's General Strike. The appeal raised £5,831 to build a 35hp lifeboat, a new type capable of carrying 50 people, which, when completed, was to be named "Nottingham" and presented to Folkestone. The annual cost of upkeep, including crew and expenses, was expected to be £400 and it was the aim of the Nottingham branch of the National Lifeboat Institution to raise this also with the Nottingham Lifeboat Day, wrote Felix. An inquiry was being held into an appeal by the Co operative Transport Society Ltd against the refusal of Folkestone Town Council to grant licences for 16 of its charabancs to operate in the town, as they had done before the General Strike. The company had a staff of 51 in Folkestone. By providing buses for the Trade Union Congress dur-the strike they upset the Folkestone council.
 
Busmen pass no confidence vote in local bus company

a Ck'7CA SCATHING attack on the East Kent .L*/ I D Road Car Co was made by Harry Rodd, secretary of the local branch of the Transport & General Workers' Union repiesenting busmen, as Traffic Commissioners considered the latest plans for fare increases. And the busmen passed a vote of '110 confidence' in their management. Busmen blamed the men at the top for waste and inefficiency. Mr Rodd said cuts were needed to save money, but stressed they should "come from the top downward not the reverse," and spoke of the ailment of nationalised industries, "over adminis tration." Local busmen's union chairman Mick Batchelor said the vote of 110 confidence was taken at a meeting of representatives of all the East Kent's bus depots. Management countered that cutting admin costs was considered by the firm 011 a continuous basis and pointed to an enormously increased workload caused by social arid transport legislation and inflation. No blame was attached to "road staff" and it was regrettable they should try and make scapegoats of their col-leagues. An Army spokesman tiied to allay fears 111 Lydd, New Romney and Romncy Marsh that children could get hold of 'souvenir' rubber bullets left on local ranges by troops from Northern Ireland.

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