Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 29 November 2001


DID YOU know the Royal Flying Corps, fore-runners of the Royal Air Force, once flew from Range Road, Hythe? I certainly didn't, but then my roots are in the Dover district - not Shepway.

Local writer and author Roy Humphreys, of Hawkinge, who has penned many articles about flying in Kent, told me he was re-visiting one of his childhood haunts recently and came across the little-known Royal Flying Corps site at Range Road.

As Roy comments, Hythe has military connections going back for centuries and it came as no real surprise, he said, to learn that both an aerial gunnery school and a kite balloon section were established at Range Road.

It was in 1914, he writes, that the War Office selected Hythe's Hotel Imperial as the headquarters of the air gunners' school and went on to experiment with kite balloons as well.

And Roy has found a photograph of a 'blimp' flying above a range of canvas hangars at Range Road, which was taken in 1917.

‘Flying elephants’

A keen eye, aided it has to be said by a strong eye-glass, identified Range Road as the site by spotting the outline of St Leonard's Church, Hythe, among the indistinct background buildings.

"But I had more luck spotting where the family used to sit on the beach in front of the lifeboat station in the 1930s, than finding remains of the balloon section," says Roy.
"Father was a strong swimmer and used to swim out of sight of the family while we youngsters gorged on ham sandwiches, bags of sher-bert and sticks of liquorice, swilled down with lemonade.

"The fascination of the mirror-like surface of the sea, which lent itself to mother's quiet reflection was soon lost on us. We looked for more exciting activity," recalls Roy.

They were fascinated, he said, by "The fishing smacks, lobster pots, voluminous nets and the nearby gas works where, for sixpence (2.5p) one could purchase a bag of coke."

Roy says they eventually found the huge concrete blocks, which had iron rings embedded in them, once used to tether the RFC balloons.

"Those baloons, he said, "used to dot the skyline in the First World War like flying elephants!"

... And sausages

And some blocks are still there today, he says.

'Sausages' locals used to call the earlier gas-filled 'blobs' which had wicker baskets suspended beneath them.

Stabilisers were attached one end to overcome the spinning motion experienced with the ordinary spherical balloon.

"The kite balloon sections of the RFC were used solely for observation purposes," says Roy.

"These units were a trifle less showy than aeroplane units, even so, their work was important on the Western Front, in the war, when observers, spotting German artillery sites from the balloons, could convey this valuable intelligence to the RFC.
But the whole process, he says, was fraught with danger as the observers were often attacked by German pilots.

At Hythe, however, the most hazardous problem was probably a severed cable.

"On those few occasions the run-away balloon drifted on the sea breeze like a galleon in full sail, while the observer frantically operated the gas release valve, to bring it down," he said.
have a couple of pink gins at their favourite watering hole - the Hope Inn, Stade Street, named after Sir Alexander Hope, Marquess of Linlithgow, later Viceroy of India.

"Incidentally, the Hope Inn, first licensed in 1827, was once an army officers' mess — when the then Prime Minister, William Pitt visited the area to install the Martello Towers."
ROY Humphreys' photograph of a Royal Flying Corps balloon at the Hythe airfield at Range Road. A basket appears to be suspended from underneath the craft. In the original picture Hythe church can be seen between the second and third hangars.

To restore confidence the observers would
LOOKING ahead to December 5, Folkestone & District Local History Society, which meets in the Holy Trinity Church hall, in Sandgate Road, on Wednesday evenings, is presenting a talk by Sonny Griggs on the subject of "Hythe's Fishing Fleet." The talk is open to non-members on payment of 2 a head.

Society secretary is Peter Bamford, of Shorn-cliffe Crescent, Folkestone (01303 223337.)

Town and port mourning fishermen lost in storms

QAii MEMORIAL services were held at the Fishermen's Bethel to honour the late William Pegden. lost in a gale off the port and Capt James Harrison of Folkestone's 250ton brig Chambois lost in :i storm off Whitburn, near Sunderland. A tug tow rope broke as the ship, with a crow of eight, neared Seaham harbour and four crew died. She had sailed from Folkestone with chalk ballast for South Shields. Harrison, who left a bedridden widow, was a native of Folkestone and had 50 years servicc behind him. It was particularly sad ending for a much respected seaman. His funeral was attended by many seamen including the skippers of almost all tho colliers which sailed from the port. Herald writer Felix noted that the Pegden tragedy was one of the first occasions that newly introduced telephones proved their worth to emergency services. Two of the crew who brought the Shamrock home were related to William Pegden by marriage. It was estimated the same stormy spell cost the lives of 200 sea men around the UK's rocky coastline.

32,000 scheme to help prevent flooding of town

<j QC| FOR MANY years Folkestone has JL79J- suffered flood disasters in bad storms. Several times floodwater has been so deep you could row a boat in lower parts of the town to go to the aid of flood victims. Fifty years ago flooding was the subject of considerable debate again, with a call for yet another improvement in the drainage system. There was even a petition from Cheriton and a scheme costing 32,400, a considerable sum then, was approved for a new sewer. This was from Canterbury Road at its junction with Hill Road, through Park Farm valley to the west of Downs Road and discharging into tho Pent Valley sewer in Radnor Park Road. This was necessary to drain Creteway Down housing estate, while a branch would deal with flooding in Downs Road. It would help prevent flooding in Canterbury Road near Wood Avenue. Later extended eastwards this could relieve sewers in Dover Road and be capable of dealing with drainage of areas near the eastern boundary and Capel. Other extensions could drain areas lying at the foot of the Downs between Canterbury Road and Caesar's Camp, Crete Road and Hawkinge.
High lares fear as East Kent takes over E.V. Wills’ buses
<f qaa CONCERNS were raised by town coun-cillors about higher fares that might arise as a result of a growing monopoly of public road transport by the rapidly expanding East Kent Road Car Company. One councillor observed that the East Kent, which had just taken over the 23 buses and charabancs of Mr E.V. Wills, of Chcriton, charged more for some fares than its old rival. Mr Wills offered penny faros on all his services and. urged the councillor, they should not approve the transfer of licences unless the East Kent reduced its fares. Another councillor claimed there was nowhere in the country where fares were higher than Folkestone's and he feared it was a result of one firm having a monopoly. The same week the Herald noted that a double decker bus had made an appearance in the town and was inspected at The Bayle, by town councillors who went on a test run to Sandgatc. It had six wheels and could carry 60 passengers. The managing director of Cambrian Motors said he wanted to run the bus on the Folkestone Cheriton route. One councillor pressed for a passenger shelter the Skew Arches on Dover Road.
‘Squandermania’ claim- as council soundproofs homes

a Q7SHEPWAY Council was double glazing .L9 I O many homes in Folkestone expected to suffer noise from road construction work on the Hill Road bypass, Churchill Avenue and the M20 motorway, the bill being put at 110,000. And yet at least seven householders declined to have the work done. One woman said the work was unnecessary, she was used to noise and didn't want to feel hemmed in. And another householder described the scheme as "squandermania." A row erupted over a council order to remove a sign from a local churchyard. The protest was over a notice board, 10ft by 6ft at All Saints Church, Cheriton which was considered too big - and also controversial because of the message it carried, which read: "For the Best Results, Follow the Maker's Instructions." The Vicar refused to remove the sign and had the backing of many local people who appreciated the message. But at least one local resident observed that it was distracting to motorists! An Army spokesman stressed parents had a responsibility to prevent their children trespassing on ranges where the odd live round might be found. He said the Army would co-operate in any campaign of education to try and eliminate this danger, about which parents complained.

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