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Walmer's Past
Walmer and Deal in the Front Line

Recalling the days of World War II

On Sunday, 4 September 2005, Walmer remembered the grim days of World War II.

Bright sunshine, music by the Railway Swing Band and displays of World War II memorabilia tempted hundreds of people to gather on Walmer Green for an event organised by Walmer Parish Council to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of the 1939-1945 conflict. Then had been a time when the parish and its neighbouring town of Deal had found themselves "in the front line".

Following the declaration of war between Britain and Germany on Sunday, 3 September 1939, nothing much happened - apart from a false alarm - until May 1940 when France fell and Kent's east coast was only 22 miles from the enemy. There was mass evacuation of civilians and an influx of troops to defend the area. Huge defences were constructed along the beaches and gun batteries installed at Sandown, Deal Castle and Kingsdown.

An article in Illustrated magazine for 7 September 1940, suggested that the Channel was a more formidable barrier to invasion than many appreciated. The author believed that a combination of unpredictable weather, fierce currents and tidal streams and ever-changing depths would prove a nightmare for German military planners. Very possibly propaganda to reassure a nervous British population! And certainly unlikely to have influenced Hitler... although, of course, he did drop his plans for "Operation Sea Lion" and invasion of England on 17 September 1940.

Many of Deal and Walmer's early evacuees returned, despite the threat of shelling from huge German guns on the Pas de Calais coast and frequent air raids by the Luftwaffe. On 22 October 1942, Deal suffered one of its worst raids when 16 people were killed and many properties - including St George's Church - badly damaged.

During Walmer and Deal's wartime role in what became known as "Hell Fire Corner", it is estimated 65 local people were killed by bombs or shells, 59 seriously injured and close on 200 slightly injured. Some 200 bombs and 100 shells fell on the town, resulting in destruction or damage to nearly 5,000 properties.

Locals played a significant part in the war effort, volunteering to serve as fire watchers and air raid wardens, joining the Home Guard and, in just one example, helping at a welfare centre in the Astor Theatre in Deal. It was only after D-Day that the shelling and bombing stopped, then to be replaced with the threat of flying bombs in the last days of the war. Fortunately none fell on Walmer or Deal, although locals had a grandstand view as Hitler's "vengeance weapons" flew towards London or were destroyed over the Channel.

Declaration of peace on 9 May 1945, prompted ringing of local church bells and swiftly contrived displays of flags and bunting. On VE Day, the Royal Marines and WRNS, complete with band, marched through the town and many residents celebrated with street parties.

CLICK on the photos
for larger versions

Gas attack precaution poster

Anticipating gas warfare
Park Street bomb damage (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury)
Bombed out in Park Street, 1944
ARP members (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury)
ARP members outside Nelson Hall
Captured German seaplane at Walmer (photo: Norman Cavell)
Captured German seaplane at Walmer
Saving precious cargo (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury) Government advice
Unloading vital supplies from
a ship in distress off Deal
The public is told what to expect
Gladstone Road - bombed (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury) The Strand - bombed (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury) Bombing damage in Middle Street, Deal (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury) Rationing restrictions in 1941
Destruction in Gladstone Road The Strand suffers, too Bombing at Middle Street Explaining rationing
Removing beach defences (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury) Middle Deal Home Guard Rifle Club (photo: Franklin Studio, Deal) Home Guard stands down Beached mine (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury)
Clearing invasion defences
Middle Deal Home Guard 5th Wingham Home Guard This seat is mine!
Freedom of Deal for the Royal Marines (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury) Princes Street celebration (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury) Celebration at the Saracen's Head pub (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury) Celebration in College Road (photo: courtesy of East Kent Mercury)
Freedom of Deal for Marines
Street party in Princes Street Saracen's Head celebrations And in College Road
Acknowledgements: Photographs and the text on this page are based on materials and information kindly provided by
Walmer Parish Council, Deal Library, Mr David Collyer and the East Kent Mercury newspaper (Kent Messenger Group).
For more on the German threat of invasion in World War II, go to the BBC History website.
 
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      This page was updated on December 10, 2014
 
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