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Whitstable at War - Whitstable in World WarII

Downed Aircraft

    

With so much activity in the skies of Kent, it was inevitable that some aircraft would come to grief over Whitstable. Mercifully, some air crew bailed out and survived. Sadly for others, there was no such escape.

Whether German or allies, it is now time to reflect on the fact that, on both sides, so many young people of many different nationalities died during the conflict. Most were just ordinary lads and lasses doing a job that they had been asked to do and with no real malice towards the many folk who had been designated as their enemy. It is one of the many great tragedies of warped people like Adolf Hitler and his immediate followers. 

Below, we detail some of the aircraft that came down within the  boundaries of Whitstable. None hit the town itself possibly because pilots were able to head for the sea or open countryside.  

   

The Dornier at West Beach....

   

The most talked about aircraft was perhaps the German plane that crashed onto the mudflats at West Beach....

  

I remember a rusted pile of debris in the 1960s off the beach near the Red Spider/tennis courts which was only visible at low tide. My father said that it was a crashed German aircraft and, at the first opportunity after it had crashed, swarms of small boys made it through the beach defences to scavenge souvenirs. 

There was one boy who grabbed what the others considered to be a serious trophy at the time, a zipper. 

Vanessa Trampleasure

   

It was in fact a Dornier as John Harman explains...

 

At the height of the raids, Mom, my sister, and I took shelter in the pantry under the stairs in Island Wall. That was before we got a steel table shelter. 

During a fierce dog fight and interception on a wave of German bombers, dad who was observing it in the back garden, came in screaming for us to get down. A Dornier that was completely in flames, just cleared our house and crashed, half way to the low water mark off The Neptune. It was full of bombs and blew up on impact! 

Dad was one of the first to go out to it and was one of the stretcher party to carry the remains of the crew to the mortuary on Island Wall, which was then next to the Council Yard. Part of this plane (the under carriage I think) could be seen for many years after the war. 

John Harman
Sidney
British Columbia
Canada

   

I have a feeling that the young crew were buried with dignity in a Whitstable cemetery. 

As John has related, the wreck of the Dornier remained on the mudflats for some years and it became a well known landmark for Whitstable folk. Eventually it was removed as Mark Foreman recalls....

 

Reading the references to the Dornier reminded me of that once well known landmark. As I grew up along Sea Wall and Island Wall, I could see it from my bedroom. It was always there it seems and, for one reason or another, I was always visiting it when I walked along the flats at low tide. 

I never imagined it would ever leave that resting place. I was on leave from the Army during the mid 70's and staying with my Dad at Shipyard Cottage on Island Wall when I happened to look out toward the wreck. It was early morning I remember. Anyway, a JCB digger and a couple of guys were heading out toward the Dornier. They worked undisturbed for an hour or so until I couldn't hold back my curiosity any longer and I headed out there to find out what they were doing. 

They had dug a trench around the remains to expose as much of the fuselage and engines as they could and they were waiting for a crane and flatbed. They duly arrived and I watched as they pulled the remains up from the mud that had been holding it since it had gone down. 

I couldn't believe it when those radial engines came out of the mud, and the hidden, lower side of them came out absolutely gleaming bright. They shone in the early morning sun looking like new. I guess they had been protected from the salt by some process or other. 

I watched the work crew leave after a few hours - their departure hurried on by the advancing tide. I never did get an explanation from them about where it was going except that they were working on behalf of some museum or other! I wonder where she is now. I have a feeling we will never find out! 

My Grandmother (Gladys Foreman) was given a silk parachute from the wreckage. I can recall how she told me that someone reported her to the Authorities and a policeman called and took away the contraband.... but not before she had "liberated" enough of it to make a slip or two though! 

Mark Foreman
Brooks
Alberta
Canada
 

    

Messerschmitt at Seasalter

 

The Messerchmitt is name that, like the British Spitfires and Hurricanes, has become synonymous with World War II. It seems that one may have found a final resting place west of the town....

 

I seem to think there was a Messerschmitt fighter that came down way up on the mud flats at Seasalter. 

John Harman
Sidney
British Columbia
Canada

    

At The Blue Anchor

    

Seasalter was also the location of another wreck as Brian Smith relates....

  

There was another aircraft wreck offshore exposed at low tide. Roughly 100 yards West of Blue Anchor corner and about 300 yards out lay a, reputedly German, twin engine plane, wings under the mud, radial engine nacelle’s part exposed but fin and rudder missing. Not a fighter nor do I recall it being known as a bomber. It was more a light transport type possibly on reconnaissance. I probably last saw that ‘plane around 1950.

Brian Smith
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
Australia 
 

  

At Long Beach....

   

Some aircraft landed with less damage.....

 

A more interesting German aircraft apparently ran out of fuel and landed on the flats off Long Beach. Some did say the pilot lost his way and put down to find his bearings! 

That ‘plane was hauled ashore and parked in an open area near Jacques Arcade and the road, about where the Whitstable Wasps cycle speedway was established just a few years later. 

It was a single engine floatplane strangely left unguarded for a short while, long enough for me to clamber aboard ‘for a flight’ – well almost. 

Unfortunately ‘authority’ in the form of Mr Fullagher stepped in to spoil my plans. More correctly that was Constable Fullagher but, being our next door neighbour at Long Reach until late 1940, I knew him as ‘Mr’. 

I wonder if anyone else remembers that plane? It would be interesting to check my memory of colour and markings against theirs.

Brian Smith
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
Australia 
 

  

Spitfires at Willow Woods...

 

With so much activity over the skies of Kent, not all aircraft tragedies were recorded or discovered immediately and this led to some very sad finds many years later. Brian Smith continues the story.....

 

About 1989, part of Willow Woods was being ‘prepared’ for housing. During draining of a small swamp, which I knew of as a pond, a Spitfire was exposed. It had nosed in vertically, becoming totally submerged. Apparently it had remained completely unknown except by the pilot whose remains were reportedly still in the cockpit. The Spitfire was recovered, transported to a location not far from Canterbury - I believe to be restored.

Another wartime relic known to very few was and, perhaps still is, buried just a few hundred yards from Willow Woods.  Many readers have probably read the story of Fanny Wood (more properly Jordan) who lived in the original ‘Glen Cottage’ part way up Clapham Hill in the late 1800s. The girl who feigned illness rendering her supposedly bedridden for 20 years eliciting much local sympathy and gifts. 

One of my maternal Uncles lived in the cottage owned by Spencer King, and later his son ‘Sonny’ King - both local farmers who my Uncle worked for. 

During a 1996 U.K. visit, my uncle told me there was a Merlin engine, assumed to be from a Spitfire, buried about 6 feet from the back door of Glen Cottage. I didn’t rush to Whitstable to knock on the cottage door and hopefully start digging. However, a paternal uncle working on a complete rebuild of Glen Cottage in the late 1940s didn’t discover the Merlin - so it was probably still there. New owners had, by 1996,  totally surrounded the cottage with acres of concrete.

Brian Smith
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
Australia 
 

   

Spitfire at Rayham Road....

  

We have mentioned the problems of an island nation keeping itself armed when supply lines to North America were long and difficult to protect. However, an even greater problem was the problem of recruiting and training pilots to a standard that would enable them to cope in the hectic and lethal theatre of the World's first major air war.

The life expectancy for such inexperienced personnel was cruelly very short and so many young men were lost. The RAF recruited youngsters of many nationalities with many coming from Commonwealth countries and America. 

There were also those recruited from those who had escaped from occupied Europe and were eager to continue their battle for freedom. This presented some problems.... as Bill Dancer explains.....   

   

Stories surrounding the Rayham Road Spitfire crash are twofold - one which I know to be correct and the other which may or may not be a rural legend.

The true story involves Richard and Tony Spencer - Rayham Road kids who were playing in the copse at the time of the crash. The Spit, pilotless, went in near vertical and full throttle. The noise was frightening as it passed close to our home which was about 500 meters from the site. The effect on Richard and Tony who were probably less than 100 meters from impact was that it literally scared the s---t out of them for days.

The maybe true story is that the pilot was a Polish airman who bailed out and landed in fields belonging to Brooklands farm. Buck Foreman, a South Street resident, was on scene complete with 12 bore and apprehended the pilot who, speaking accented English, was mistaken for a German pilot and duly marched off to the local constabulary.  

Bill Dancer
Victoria
British Columbia
Canada

   

JU 88 at Bogs Hole Lane

  

It is worth mentioning that World War II was perhaps the first major conflict to involve civilian populations on a massive scale. Thus, it wasn't just war correspondents that collected evidence of wartime....

  

"My collection included a belt buckle retrieved from a JU 88 crash site at the end of Bogshole"

Bill Dancer

   


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