Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 9 May 2002


ELLEN Quinn, of Testimony Films which makes social history documentaries for television, such as "Green and Pleasant Land, Veterans," and "A Labour of Love," is appealing for the help of Memories readers in connection with the worst air raid of the First World War in Folkestone.

German aircraft bombing the town killed at least 80 people and injured nearly 200 more.

Ellen writes: "I am researching a Channel 4 documentary about the Home Front during the First World War. On May 25, 1917 Folkestone was hit by a terrible air raid. There was no air raid warning. Twenty-three Gotha aircraft dropped bombs killing 95 people and injuring a further 195. (The figures vary according to the source.)

"A 50kg bomb fell amid the queue waiting outside a shop on Tontine Street, killing many women and children.

"If you are in your nineties or hundreds and have any personal memories of the raids on Folkestone in the First World War then please contact me." The address is:

Ellen Quinn, Testimony Films, 12 Great George Street, Bristol BS1 5RS Phone 0117 9258589 or contact her by e-mail as follows: The same week that I heard from Ellen Quinn, Mrs Susan Morgan, of Epsom, sent the Folkestone Herald some memories of the First World War in Folkestone which her mother Peggy Maxwell (nee Johnson) wrote before her death, early in April, aged 93.

Peggy Maxwell lived in the town as a child and these are some of her memories:

"I thought I should make an effort to put down some of the memories I have of things that hap-
pened when I was young. Some are quite clear and some are quite surprising....

"A few recollections of Folkestone prior to 1914 are a picture of a popular seaside resort, much frequented by visitors who liked to go over to France. The hotels were grand and catered for a rich clientele. King Edward VII used to stay at the Pavilion, and the Metropole and Grand Hotels were well filled in the summer. — A prosperous place then.

"Things changed quite a lot in August 1914. Folkestone was still busy, but all the time troops were going over to France and there was an air of frantic haste.

"Our summer visitors had gone over to Boulogne and couldn't get back, as all the cross-Channel boats were on war trips.

Tontine Street carnage

"Soon after the refugees started to come -some in little rowing boats. They were exhausted. The authorities gave them a welcome and many stayed with families locally.

"We were all used to bangs and mines going off in the Channel and the heavy Naval guns they used in that war were heard sometimes for weeks on end. So, on a fine afternoon in 1917 (May 25,) we took little notice of the bangs until they got louder.

"At the time a friend and myself were at East Cliff - we had what we called a 'measle holiday'

- they used to close the schools during the epidemics.

"When we looked out over the town we saw the explosions. A wounded soldier from St Andrew's Convalescent Home made us get into the nearest house, where the occupants were all crying and very upset and frightened. It was all
ENSA artistes entertain Allied troops in Mandalay. One was said to be Roberta Robertson, from Folkestone, but was that her real name I wonder?
AIRMEN on an RAF base at Mandalay, in

Burma, during the Second World War are entertained by ENSA artistes.

so unexpected - no shelters or sirens then!

"When we could get home, we found everyone out in the road. The windows were all smashed and lots of the ceilings were down. One little man was going round saying 'What I want to know is who's going to pay for all this?'

"That evening my mother's friend was keen to go and see what had happened in the town, so she took us down Tontine Street. We were not able to go further than the end of the road, but it was all confusion. Lorries came by covered up with sheets of cloth from Gosnolds and several confused people were out hunting for relatives who hadn't returned home.

"We heard that over 70 people had been killed by that bomb. Some girls from our school had perished and some people around that evening had shrapnel in their arms and legs. Everyone seemed dazed.

"We heard that some troops at Shorncliffe Camp had been killed and for many years afterwards we used to take flowers over there in their memory. Lots of them were Canadians. We never forgot," wrote Peggy.
BRIAN Morrish, of Calgary Crescent, son of a friend of mine, has been showing me a fascinating set of books, Hammerton's 10-volume "The War Illustrated” full of interesting stories by servicemen and women with many photographs taken during the Second World War. The epic series was published by Amalgamated Press soon after the war and commands a good price Brian told me. Among the pictures is one of ENSA artistes giving a concert. One tap dancer, Roberta Robertson, came from Folkestone, and Brian is wondering if anyone knew her and whether or not she is still about. Below is a picture of the two girls.


Ugly spectre of drought looms over the district

<f Q/\Q MANY local people were worried by the spectre of drought as the district entered its eighth year with low rainfall again expected. Felix was telling how the little stream that flowed through the Elham Valley and Bridge, had disappeared altogether and the ground was cracking, which was bad news for hundreds of homes in East Kent which depended on wells for drinking water. Some people, he said, already had to go great distances to obtain any water. One villager told him "I have never seen anything like it. in my tolerably long life." His comments were echoed by figures from the Astronomer Royal who observed that in the seven years ending in December 1901, the shortfall in rain was little less than 24 inches (61 cm.) Felix said people should be thankful that they had such a splendid source of water underground which was tapped by the Folkestone Water Company, water of the highest purity, which, thankfully, showed no sign of dwindling. And the chairman of that company a century ago was the legendary Alderman Spurgen. who jealously watched over the interests of both his company and its consumers, the local people.

Romney paid Shakespeare to play in Shepway area

>| did Shakespeare ever play before the 'vil-

I lagers' of Folkestone was a question being posed 75 years ago, on the occasion of the Easter School of Drama in the town. Felix told of having a cutting from a newspaper of July 11. 1855 which announced “An interesting discovery lias been made that Shakespeare and his company of players, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, performed in Folkestone. Dover, Hythe and New Romney, doubtless in the course of a professional tour.” The writer went on to say that this had been brought to light by Mr Halliwell Phillips, who had written a book called “Outlines of Shakespeare," giving sketches of the poet and his times. Phillips told of visiting New Romney to study the Chamberlain's books of the old Corporation and finding that Shakespeare was paid the princely sum of 20 shillings for one performance at the Town Hall. The New Romney accounts were said to include payments to strolling players going back centuries. But where in Folkestone did the immortal bard perform, wondered Felix. Folkestone Natural History Society's newly printed publication "Folkestone" told of the remarkable 174 historic church brasses to be found within 15 miles radius of the town.
Explosions cause alarni at sea and in the rival dstrict

* Apw FRONT page picture of the Herald 50 years ago depicted what could be mistaken for mighty Atomic bomb explosion. Well, it looked pretty fearsome for the early 1950s! It was in fact a tank of creosote exploding at Ottinge Court Farm. It was said the creosote was being heated for dipping fence posts in. to stop them rotting, when it overheated and exploded. And another drum of creosote lying alongside it also "went up" with a roar. What puzzles me, however, is how it was that someone just happened to be on the spot with a camera at the time?!!! Folkestone and Lyminge firemen were said to have been quickly on the scene and extinguished the blaze within a quarter of an hour. Another, mystery explosion took place in the Channel off Dungeness and the lifeboat went out to investigate. A Swedish steamer had reported striking a submerged object, fortunately without sustaining any significant damage.: Lifeboat coxswain George Tart concluded there had been an unexplained under-water explosion because dead fish were floating all over an area of about a mile and a half - one a 51b John Dory, the rest chiefly pouting. 650 delegates were to meet in the Leas Cliff Hall, for a five-day conference of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association.
Disastrous start to year for fishermen due to storms

( LOCAL fishermen were making headline

I I news again as it was reported that the local trawlermen had suffered a disastrous start to the year, due to the weather. Southerly gales were blamed for the worst loss of fishing time for several years and most of the larger boats only managed to cover bare expenses. This was reported by Kent's fishery officer, Mr J.W. Stroud, who described trawling off Folkestone as “disastrous,” while line fishermen faired slightly better. Hythe fishermen were also hit. There were fears for both the pilot of a light aircraft and for the Hougham television mast when the engine of the small machine was heard to be mis-firing over Hougham. But the pilot eventually touched down safely at Lydd airport. A bronze plaque was to form part of a memorial to those who served at the RAF fighter base at Hawkinge and it went on display at a meeting at which Roy Humphreys, now living in the village, gave a talk on the history of the airfield and the colourful characters who had been associated with it. One was the Marquess of Douglass and Clydesdale, who bccamc the Duke of Hamilton. It was his role to question the German flier Rudolf Hess when landed in Britain in mysterious circumstances in the Second World War. Roy also told of the fliers who flew resistance leaders into and out of France during that war and of the airfield’s role as an arsenal of weapons for "Operation Overlord."

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:-