Brian Smith (Australia) has researched this area to produce
some key articles.
Civilian Casualties & Damage...
Casualties and Damage
Of the 42 Kent towns
suffering civilian fatalities, Whitstable was 30th on the list with 10
Nine people were killed by bombing (including air dropped mines)
and one by V2. 35 people were seriously injured and 118 slightly.
The major incidents involving casualties were as follows...
13 Aug 1940
|20 Oct 1940
(caused by mine)
|15 January 1945
(caused by V2)
84 properties were wrecked, 735 seriously damaged and a staggering
4,545 slightly damaged.
Casualties were mercifully light in number. There was also some pattern.
Notice that incidents involving casualties were more
frequent in the dark hours of 1940 than at any other time. They coincided
with the Battle of Britain which lasted from 10th July and 31st October 1940. As
Brian's account shows, 7 residents died, 5 were seriously injured and 23 suffered
minor injuries during the course of that year.
After October 1940, incidents involving fatalities were rare and involved
just two strikes spread over a period of more than 3 years. Both attacks were
probably mistakes. On 11 October 1941, a mine landed in Victoria Street. This
was probably intended for the shipping lanes of the Thames estuary. On 15
January 1945, a V2 fell short of its London target and landed in London's Fields
(now All Saints Close).
Notice, however, that these two later strikes had a wider impact with 81
minor injuries compared to just 23 resulting from all the major strikes of 1940.
This may suggest that collateral damage was far greater due to the more powerful
weapons used towards the end of war. We know that the V2 of 1945 caused damage
across a substantial part of the town.
Despite the light casualty figures for the war as a whole, the number of
properties suffering "some damage" is quite remarkable as Brian has
pointed out. We don't yet have figures for the size of the population or the
total number of buildings in Whitstable at that time. However, we can toy with some guesstimates.
Imagine that the population was around 16,000 and that the average family size
was 2. This would suggest that Whitstable might have comprised 8,000 residences.
If this was so, more than 50% suffered some damage. Thus the fear factor would have
been widespread despite the limited number of explosives dropped on the town.
In the County Context....
In some ways, it is difficult to refer to Whitstable
casualties as "light". After all, for those who died and for their loved ones, it
was a 100% tragedy. However, the town's casualties do need to be seen in the
wider context of a county that was one of the hot spots of wartime activity. Brian's second article explains this in detail.....
So much has been written
and so many films shown of the devastation of London, Birmingham,
Coventry etc that as the unknowing learn of each raid, the devastation
and people killed, it is easy to perceive Kent as being a minor
recipient of Hitler’s attention.
The wartime Kent border
was a false one purely devised for wartime administration purposes but
coincides with what was generally known as East Kent and now, since I
think about 1969, present day Kent.
Greater London, ie that which is outside the CBD, was made up of
parts of 7 or 8 counties including Kent.
If wartime records were for all of the original Kent then the
picture would be dramatically different.
For example, the worst ‘Kent’ fatalities for one raid being
recorded as 55 would have to be many times greater and thus so would the
war’s total for Kent. For
example on one day over 300 children were killed at a school near
Catford which although designated S.E.6. was in Kent.
The bombs were officially considered to have been aimed at
railway marshalling yards about a mile away.
What isn’t generally
known is that Kent endured one seventh of great Britain’s total
civilian casualties. The
casualty rates of Lancashire (containing Manchester and Liverpool,) and
Warwickshire (containing Birmingham and Coventry,) were only a little
higher than Kent’ despite containing large centres of industry
and being heavily populated.
rates of Yorkshire (Sheffield) and Hampshire (Portsmouth and
Southampton) were both less than Kent’s.
Those 6 cities alone accounted for the bulk of their host
county’s ‘score’ - the indication being that the raids on Kent were
more widespread and numerous. It earned Kent the nickname of ‘Hell’s
Thus, whilst Whitstable may have come through the war with a low casualty
total, it was a witness to the massive activity around and above it.
Brian Smith has now introduced another aspect of war for investigation.... the impact on the
One form of wartime casualty rarely mentioned is
local business. Population
figures in some towns were so reduced that essential services like the
local grocer could not be retained.
Not just through the lack of custom alone.
Grocers were required to have a minimum of 26 customers to be
able to participate in the National Ration scheme.
Some received special dispensation to continue. That does not
mean they were all small village grocers.
Folkestone was almost a ghost town due to the cross channel
shelling with one grocer having just 8 customers.
I have not found any reports on Whitstable but the
combined effects of much reduced holiday patronage, evacuations,
military service or those working in factories ‘up the line’
necessitated government stepping in with financial assistance to Herne
Bay’s essential local business.
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