Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 20 February 2003


QUICKLY on the phone after publication in Memories of an aerial photo of Folkestone's seaside attractions of the past enjoyed by senior citizen Margaret Hogben, was a reader who thought I had wrongly identified The Marina as the Royal Pavilion Hotel. Perhaps my flowery caption inferred the hotel was shown in the picture, but that was not what I intended. I have no personal knowledge of The Marina but I know, from studying hundreds of old pictures of Folkestone, what it looked like and where it was.
MONTHS ago Memories reader Oscar Hopkins, living in Hythe, told of an American B24 Liberator bomber, trailing smoke, that crashed near Beachborough Hill, Hawkinge in 1944 and I asked whether any reader could provide details.

Oscar, who was born in South Street, Folkestone, was 14 and on his way to Newington to pick up an accumulator for an old radio set when the plane crashed in woodland some distance away.

Some time after that, he told me, his home was blasted by a parachute mine.

Aviation enthusiast and author Roy Humphreys, who lives in Hawkinge, read the piece and decided to investigate, but his inquiries took a long time.

Roy sent me a long account of the last mission of the four-engined plane nicknamed “Flying Cock II” and its crew of 10.

) Six of them died in the crash.

The B24 of the 328th Bomber Squadron, was part of a Bomber Group force based at Hardwick, in Norfolk, which attacked industrial sites in Germany and newly-found VI flying bomb launch sites in the Pas de Calais area.

More than 90 of these sites were built, mainly in the Calais area, by over 40,000 conscripted workers, and by November 1943, 63 had been discovered by Allied air reconnaissance.

There were doubts whether all of them were real. Some sites were no doubt decoys to draw bombers away from important
industrial targets in the heart of Germany.

Roy’s research shows that by February 1944 about 70 sites had been so badly mauled many of the German forces whose job it was to operate them gave up doing repairs, but the toll on American airman was heavy.

“Flying Cock II,” described by Roy as a big, lumbering aircraft requiring almost superhuman strength to fly, was piloted by Lieut Hirschel L Gutman.

It would never trim correctly and the pilot had to steer with his left hand while his right hovered over throttles and switches. A Liberator took its time to respond to any command and was a sullen cow to control if it lost one of its engines.

Lumbering giant

Even more alarming, if a wing was hit by flak it had a “distressing tendency to fold up and break off,” says Roy.

Flying the Liberator was never going to bring fame to the pilot Lieut Gutman.

The crew of 10, including four officers, were so cramped in the Liberator no one had room to wear parachutes and, when in the air a bitter cold slipstream blew in through open waist windows at the gunners’ positions.

All wore additional clothing to protect them from cold.

When “Flying Cock II” arrived over the target area they found it almost obliterated by smoke from an earlier bomber force and there was the acrid smell of cordite.

Unable to fix his Norden bombsight elec-
tronically Lieut PC Stoker was about to revert to manual operation when an antiaircraft shell hit the starboard inner engine and indicator lights went out. The pilot shut down the damaged engine and then the outer engine began to run erratically as ruptured wing tanks leaked.

He struggled to keep the nose up, juggled with throttle and trim levers and released the bomb load to reduce weight and drag.

Both port engines were now on full boost.

Drama over town
It took superhuman strength to turn “Fighting Cock II” towards the English Channel after that. But they reached the sea, heading for the nearest of three emergency airfields on the English coast.

A blood-spattered altimeter read under a thousand feet. Half-way across the water all heavy equipment was jettisoned.

Young John Cross, of White Hall Farm,
SIX AIRMEN died when a Liberator bomber, "Fighting Cock II," crashed at Shearings Corner, near Paddlesworth, on April 10, 1944, after being damaged during a raid on VI sites in France. Similar to the plane illustrated, she was a "sullen cow" to control when under powered, such as when carrying a heavy load or losing one of her engines.
overlooking RAF Hawkinge, heard the familiar sound of aero-engines and went to his kitchen window. Almost at roof-top height the B24, trailing black smoke, missed the small grass airfield.

The Liberator thundered over the farm house at under 100 feet and, writes, Roy, the inevitable happened.

John Cross ran out to see a huge pall of smoke rise into the air where the bomber hit the ground near Shearings Corner, Teddar’s Leas, breaking its back and bursting into flames.

2nd Lieut M Szafranski, navigator, 2nd Lieut P Stoker, bombardier, and tail gunner Sgt F Devers were admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Folkestone with a variety of injuries. One of the waist gunners, Sgt C Asher, went to sick quarters at RAF Hawkinge with a dislocated shoulder.

But Lieut Gutman, Lieut E Crouthamel, Tech Sgt A Smilnyek, Sgt V Wolfe, Sgt R Carrier and Sgt I Wright, were all killed.
Final epitaph

Drinks campaign threatens future of local’ in Hythe

1 Oft*2 FOLKESTONE Council was consider-ing what it could do to exploit the natural Warren nature reserve to boost tourism in the district. It was observed that the Lord of the Manor had done his part by trying to put in road access, but his efforts were frustrated by cro sion which destroyed the highway. One idea was to extend a sea defence wall to creato a lake for leisure boating activities, another was to try and get the Warren railway halt re-opened. Hythe magistrates met to hear campaigners trying to tactile drunkeness in the district by cutting the number of public houses - ono to every 250 people in a population of 5,000. Meeting the church. Salvation Army and local temperance supporters, the mayor, presiding, conceded that magistrates accepted there were too many public houses in the town. A woman pointed out that in the space of half a mile, from the Duke's Head to the Cinque Ports Inn, there were 11 public houses. But, on the whole, it was suggested Hythe was a very sober place - only five cases of drunkcncss had to be dealt with in the court since September 1901. which was a decrease of 14 in a vear.

Local girls ‘Pale, pimply and americanised,’ claim

«| QCQHERALD readers rose to the defence XilwOof local girls who had been described by critics as "pale, pimply and Americanised" in clothos and habit. It was only a tiny majority, it was observed, who dressed in jeans and 'sloppy joes" and were generally 'Americanised.' Other readers condemned the 'spiv' type clothes with sack-like coats with padded shoulders and stovepipe trousers worn by some of the young lads. The paper also featured the steady growth of a local airline started by Wing Commander Hugh Kennard DFC and his wife who. having formed tho company Air Kruise, at Lympne airport back in August 1946, were involved in launching two new air links with the Continent, duo to start in May. Tho local success story featured an unusual aerial photograph of a Miles Messenger sin-gle-engined aircraft owned by Commander Kennard. flying over Folkestone harbour. His company operated flights from Lympne and Ramsgate and was soon progressing to bigger, more powerful aircraft such as twin engined do Havilland Rapides - and was due to upgrade to four-ongined de Havilland Herons. Moves to open an East Kent bus station in Bouveric Square neared completion, the annual rental to be £450.
RAF pilots’ acrobatics end in death and loss of two planes

a QOQONE ROYAL Air Force pilot was killed JL«/4EaOwhile a second baled out safely when two single seatcr Glostcr Grebe fighter aircraft performing acrobatics over hills to the east of Folkestone. The second pilot had a narrow escape when the cords of his parachute got caught up in tclograph wires on the edge of a cliff over 200ft high, but he got down safely. The two airmen, with 25 Squadron RAF at Hawkinge, were practising aerial combat when they narrowly touched and spun out of control. Both attempted to bale out but Pilot Officer Watson, who was fatally injured, got out of his plane too close to the ground and he died on arrival at Shorncliffe Hospital. He was assisted at the scene by Mr Donald Henley, works manager of F.J. Parsons Ltd, owners of the Folkestone Herald. He was one of the first helpers on the scene. The Town Council debated at length what salary to pay a new town clerk being appoint ed, eventually agreeing on £800, with annual increments of £50, but only on the casting vote of the mayor. It was pointed out he would benefit for throe years from help provided by the out going clerk who started on £600, 30 years before.
Violence flares as strikers picket power station road

^ ft^QVIOLENCE flared as striking power Jmtj I ©station workers on a picket fine halt ed motorists at Dungeness. to explain to them their grievances as they sought support. There was a three-mile tail-back and one driver, it was allcued, was punched in the face after a man on the line was said to have banged on his bonnet with his fist. There was a scare at the port, hit by heavy seas, when a 5,000 ton ferry smashed into a berth and dragged a tractor unit from the quayside. No one was hurt but the port closed nearly five hours as a diver helped salvage the tractor and emergency repairs were done. More trouble came in the shape of allegedly poisoned oranges. This was part of an international scarc about Jaffa fruit from Israel, said to be 'spiked' with mercury during trouble in the Middle East. A bag of suspect Jaffas was taken to the police station and a deluge of fruit tested the council's health department as news of the scarc spread. All tests proved negative. Land branded as unstable in Golden Valley, Sandgate was being put up for sale for housing. The KEC halted build ing of a new school after spending £50.000 because the site was unsafe but it was said homes could be safely built there - at a price.

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