Growing up in New Romney during the war
First Published In Issue 4
There were Sentries at the end of most roads in Littlestone and one was situated on the railway bridge, halfway along The Avenue. When mum used to take me shopping into New Romney, we would call in at Archie and Ethel Boulden’s bungalow for a cup of tea on the way home. Ethel would walk with us as far as the railway bridge but
she was not allowed to go any further. People from Littlestone had to show their Identity Card to go into New Romney and back again.
. . . My father and our neighbour built an Air Raid Shelter at the back of our house near the Golf Course. It was underground so that when the sirens went, we used to
scramble into it. I remember there was a safe in there and also some biscuits and I believe a ‘Potty’ as well. One day, some soldiers came in with buckets of a yellowy
coloured liquid and you can guess what Mum thought it was and said so in no uncertain terms. But it was in fact sherry that had been washed up on the beach from a ship that had sunk. The soldiers took dad down to the beach, through the minefields and barbed wire and
they bottled it up. Apparently it was very potent and it lasted for a long time, only coming out for special occasions.
. . . One day a bomb was dropped and it landed at the side of Pope’s
Hotel on the seafront. It bounced and hit a tree in the Avenue and there was a mark on that tree for many years afterwards. On that morning I remember hearing a terrific bang and the windows blew in. My father came into my
bedroom and lay on top of me sheltering me from the glass.
. . . I can also remember the first doodlebugs going over our house. Mum and I stood on the back door step and watched this flying object with flames coming out of the back. The soldiers were shooting at it with everything they could lay their hands on but it went straight through. When the air raid sirens went off we often used to go down under the stairs as dad thought that would be better than the Air Raid Shelter. One day, my father saw me pick up something from the garden which was like a bottle.
Apparently it was some sort of bomb but luckily the soldiers disposed of it.
. . . The Civil Defence headquarters were in the Assembly Rooms and the Warden in charge was Mr. Roberts (who later had the local printing business in the High Street). The full-time rescue team included Sam Cook, Lomas Jones, George Bolton, Percy Cloke, Reg Williamson, Jim Tedham and John Gordon. The top of the Church Tower was used as the Air Raid Lookout. I can remember seeing a Typhoon crash land in the field opposite the junction of St. John’s Road and the main Lydd Road. I also remember seeing lots of Anti-Aircraft Guns along the shore at Littlestone.
. . . There was a Nissen Hut at the rear of the Scouts Hut in Church Lane, roughly on the site of the present Scouts Hut. It was the headquarters of the local Home Guard and included an armoury of rifles, grenades, ammunition and other explosives. After the war, it was handed over to the Army Cadet Force as their headquarters.
. . . Many of the properties from Littlestone to Dungeness were converted to machine-gun posts and later included workshops and pumping stations etc. in connection with PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean). Along the coast at Littlestone, just above low water mark, I can remember the scaffold barrier, topped with barbed wire. There were also three ‘mulberry harbours’ just off shore. Two were blown up at the end of the war but because the remains were an underwater danger to local fishermen, the third one was left.
. . . In July 1940, King George VI visited the town and I remember having a day off school and standing in Station Road with lots of other children and local people
waiting for him to travel down to Littlestone to inspect the coastal defences. The King also inspected the Somerset Light Infantry who had their headquarters in Southlands School. I believe their Officer’s Mess was in ‘Craythornes’ in Fairfield Road.
. . . Around 1942, some of the local lads decided to organise a football team (we called ourselves the ‘Romney Busters’) and we used to have our meetings in a bus shelter in the High Street. Eventually we had enough players and also a couple of reserves.
We used to play our matches on a piece of ground off Station Road, where the clinic is today (the Sports Ground had been ploughed up).
We played some of the Army Platoons but never ever beat them although we did occasionally win matches against the ATC and Lydd.
Some of the players I can remember were Cecil Pumphery, Derek Frew, Bert Paine, Lawrence Flisher, Joe Masters, Bert Tyrell, Bob Bark, Ted Paine, Dennis Polden, Doug Gillham and Bernard Ellis. Bill Gillham was our referee
and we used to buy him twenty cigarettes for refereeing our matches. We didn’t have any shirts so we went round the town knocking on the doors of the families of the pre-war New Romney team asking if we could borrow their kit as their men folk were away on war duty!
. . . Apart from the football matches, there wasn’t very much entertainment locally. Very occasionally, there was a picture show in the Ship Hotel and a couple of times a week, we used to cycle to the cinema that was at the far end of the High Street at Lydd.
They had programmes Mondays to Wednesdays, Thursdays to Saturdays and a separate one on Sundays. Paul Carey was a good mate of mine and we sometimes
scrounged a lift in one of the coaches – although we had to go the long way round via Greatstone and Dungeness. We also occasionally were allowed into the cinema in Lydd Camp.
. . . Sometimes, dad would let me go down to the sea front and I remember when the ‘mulberry harbours’ were blown up. One was destroyed opposite where the house known as the ‘Mustard Pot’ is. I also remember the Flying Fortress that crashed at ‘The Hoy’ behind Queen’s Road. We became friendly with the Americans and scrounged what we called ‘Aeroplane Glass’ which was really Perspex. Some of the children used to burn holes in it and shape it to make jewellery etc. The American troops used to give us half-a-crown (12½p) to take
messages to the Land Army Girls in the hostel that was based near Brodnyx corner, between New Romney and St. Mary-in-the-Marsh.
. . . Looking back, New Romney was quite a dangerous place to live in – the field where Southlands is today was mined and the only building there was an old pavilion.
Not only that but some of the things that us lads got up to would be frowned upon by the authorities today! I won’t name names but we used to collect jettisoned petrol cans and cut a hole in the top and use them for canoes on the local dykes. We used to go over the golf links collecting smoke flares and setting them off. I remember putting carbide in beer bottles and making home-made bombs. We used to squeeze live bullets in the school gate and then hit them with
a stick that had a nail in it. We used to ‘borrow’ fog signals (detonators) from the branch line station signal box, put them on the RH&DR tracks and drop bricks on
them from the sheep bridge alongside the mainline station.