The following is taken from the issue of the Whitstable Times after the bombing raid of 11th October 1941. You will notice, because of wartime censorship, that no places are named. It is almost as if the report was written about some other unknown town, not Whitstable itself. The town did not suffer to the extent of many of our cities, but then a sleepy seaside town was not a target of any significance. The shock factor was therefore more intense. Nevertheless the townspeople pulled together to help their friends and neighbours in whatever way they could.
These events had last lasting effects on the people and the physical structure of the town and it is right that they should be recorded here to honour those who died and remind ourselves about the horrors of war.
A South-east coast town was the scene on Saturday night of an attack by a single German raider which was flying so low that several people declare they actually saw it.
Some cannon fire was heard, which leads to the theory that the raider was being chased by a night fighter and possibly unloaded his bombs to get rid of them. In any case one of these heavy calibre bombs fell and dropped near the junction of two streets in the most densely populated part of the town, where most of the surrounding streets comprise working class dwellings.
The blast rendered inhabitable many houses. Among buildings which received damage were a Methodist Chapel and a large hotel, while churches and business premises also suffered. The damage to the other houses came chiefly from flying chunks of debris which came crashing through roofs, and from the shattering of glass, some of the streets being thick with the splinters.
Unhappily three people lost their lives - Miss. Tilley, Mr. Day, and a soldier named Shepherd of the Royal Engineers, who happened to be in the town on leave. All were in, or just outside a fried fish shop, from which were also rescued about seven of the sixteen people who were taken to hospital.
The injured were Mrs. Day - who husband was killed, Mrs. Christie, Mrs. E. Parker, Mrs. Daming, W. Clarke, J. T. Parker, Herbert Collar, Joan Camburn, Ellen Baker, Angela Harris, Gordon Wicks, Albert Wicks, Mrs. Bessie Wicks, Mrs. Emma Rigden, Ruby Vera Rigden, Sidney Rigden, J. F. Strand and Mrs. Newman. Some of these were children. Over 20 other people received treatment for minor injuries at the first-aid posts, where the personnel did splendid work.
Following the explosion, the civil defence services went into action with the utmost promptitude. Throughout the night, the rescue and demolition squads toiled without thought for themselves to extricate those who were trapped in their homes. In this they were splendidly assisted by parties of soldiers who were despatched to the scene. No praise is too high for the way they all worked under most difficult conditions. Everybody was got out as quickly as was humanly possible.
In this connection it may be mentioned that many tons of debris were shifted because it was thought that two 14-year-old girls were underneath. Actually they had not been at home when the bomb fell, but the incident emphasises the importance of people, who are out when their homes are wrecked, immediately notifying the police or a warden of their safety.
Incidentally, the rescued included a black cat found under a floor and two rabbits from a demolished house.
Actually this was the first time in the whole country that the new Morrison indoor shelters have been tested in a bombing. Several people owe their safety to the fact that they took refuge in them. One of these was Mrs. Doris Dunn, wife of a sailor on active service. She lived with her mother, Mrs. Shingleston, in one of the houses that were wrecked.
In an interview, Mrs. Dunn paused in the midst of salvaging some of her goods, to tell "The Whitstable Times" about it.
"We were sitting in the kitchen," she said, "and heard the plane coming over. 'I don't like the sound of that' I said, and we dived into the table shelter. Almost immediately the whole house seemed to crash on top of us. We were choked with dust and in pitch darkness, but we found that we were not hurt. I groped round and managed to find the torch. We started to push away the rubbish round the shelter. We then heard voices and my father, who was out when the bomb fell, called to us. We shouted back and the rescue men dug down to us and got us out. We owe our lives to that shelter. It was really splendid."
The manner in which the shelter stood up to the strain was equally well illustrated where it remains intact, still supporting the full weight of the fallen roof and first floor which had collapsed on it.
From another table shelter a man and his wife and child were rescued unhurt notwithstanding the enormous amount of of debris which completely covered it.
Elderly Mr. J. T. Parker was pinned down in his home and when the timbers were cut away and he was helped out, he insisted on returning for one of his slippers which had fallen off his foot!
Similar calm was shown by an elderly woman who, although trapped, cheered on her rescuers and gave them valuable directions as to what to move and what not to move to free her.
Mr. Wicks, a blind man, was found lying across his wife as though he had thrown himself on top of her to protect her. Both were extricated but were among the injured.
Rescuers speak highly of the pluck of several children who had been buried.
A heavy piece of debris crashed through the roof of a cinema and landed in the circle near where some patrons were sitting. Not far away another chunk went through a bedroom roof and right through the bed. In a similar instance, debris crashing through the roof struck an iron bedstead and twisted it out of recognition. Quite a number of people in the streets had remarkably narrow escapes from being hit by these "missiles."
The blast smashed the back of a taxi, the wheels being twisted into freak shapes, yet the front of the car was practically untouched. Two lorries belonging to a builders' merchant were demolished.
The composing room at a printing works was badly damaged, as were other business premises.
All day Sunday and Monday work went on in the way of salvaging goods from the wrecked homes, of finding homes for the homeless, and of first aid repairs to the less damaged houses. Part of it continued throughout the week.
This town once again showed that it could "take it." The calm and cheerfulness of the people most directly concerned is beyond both belief and praise. They just set to in an effort to retrieve what they could and make the best of things. It was the British spirit that cannot be broken. One little incident illustrates it so well - a lorry load of salvaged furniture with a large Union Jack fluttering on top.
High tribute must be paid to the work of all branches of the civil defence services - those who rescued, those who tended the injured, those who helped with the demolition and salvage, the firemen who quickly put out two small fires before they could get a hold, as well, of course, to the Police and the military. Long hours and hard work were put in with only one thought - to help those in trouble.
Even in the worst situation a touch of humour raises a smile. Two soldiers apparently sent to join a party, arrived on the wrong side of the crater. Addressing a policeman, one asked "What have we got to do?" The constable dryly replied "Well, you can try your hands at filling that hole!"
The occupier of one of the houses demolished was sitting reading when a bomb fell and he was more than surprised when the building fell around him. Fortunately he escaped without injury.
At a meeting of the local Council this week the Chairman said they were all aware of the catastrophe which had befallen that town on Saturday night and no words of his could express the feeling of contempt for the perpetrators of that cowardly and dastardly outrage. It was some slight consolation - with a large measure of gratitude to Providence - that despite the material damage, the loss of life and limb was not greater. They as a Council had to express their heartfelt sympathy with those who had suffered financially, those who had lost all their earthly possessions, those who had received bodily harm, slight or grave, and, above all, to those who had been so suddenly bereaved.
The members stood in silence.
The Council also approved a letter of warm gratitude, on behalf of the townspeople and themselves, which is being sent to the officer commanding the troops concerned in the rescue and salvage work.
It was stated that £100 had been received within less than 24 hours from the Lord Mayor's National Air Raid Distress Fund, with a promise of more if required. Although suggestions to that effect had been made, it was thought better not to start any local fund, in these circumstances, although £10, £5/5/0 and £1 had already been received.
It is pointed out that the Lord Mayor's National Air Raid Distress Fund was inaugurated for the specific purpose of preventing overlapping and of rendering financial help much more quickly than could any local fund. The balnce of £70 of another relief fund had been forwarded to the National Fund from the town, in which a flag day for the same cause had also been held. Towns which subscribe to the National Fund are automatically entitled to immediate relief and it will be noted that £100 was promptly sent to this town with a promise of more if required. For these reasons no local fund will be opened.
At the same time, it is recognised that there are residents who would wish to send donations as thanksofferings for their own escpaes from injury or loss. These, sent to the town's Council offices, from which they will be acknowledged and remitted to the National Fund, will ensure further help should the town again be blitzed.
If ration books are destroyed, help will be given at the local food offices.
The following may be deemed too personal to be included here, but are already within the public domain. Their inclusion is for several reasons including honouring those who lost their lives and enabling researchers to trace family members and friends of Miss. Tilley and Mr. Day.
With hearts filled with sympathy for those who had lost their dear ones, and wiyh feelings of contempt for those responsible for causing the bereavement, friends who intimately knew the late Mr. Day and Miss. Tilley gathered at the cemetery where the victims of the raid were laid to rest yesterday (Thursday).
The funeral of Mr. Day took place first, and the cortege was met at the approaches of the Cemetery by representatives of the wardens, first-aid parties, mobile units, first-aid posts, etc., and at the cemetery, in addition to neighbours and friends, the Chairman, members and officials of the Council joined in the silent tribute to one who was known in various parts of Kent. Mrd. Day served an apprenticeship with the late Mr. Wright, at Market Place, Faversham, and was at Canterbury for a period. In the last war he was with the forces at Salonika. Aged 60, he was the eldest son of the late Mr. William Day, of Faversham.
At the impressive service the chief mourners were Mrs. Day (widow), Mr. and Mrs. H. Acors (brother and sister-in-law), Mrs. Smith (sister-in-law), Mr. Howland (brother-in-law), Mrs. L. Acors (sister-in-law), Mrs. Blackmore (niece), Mr. A. Acors, Mr. Walter Fisher, Mr. H. Howland and Mr. W. Keam (nephews).
Beautiful floral tributes were sent as follows:-
With happy memories of my devoted husband and companion, from his sorrowing wife.
In ever loving memories of our dear brother-in-law, Doug, from Beattie and Hugh.
In loving remembrance of Doug and Uncle Doug, from sister Lizzie and niece Iris.
With deepest sympathy from Auntie Floss and Flossie (Newton Lodge, Faversham).
In fond memory of dear Doug, from Horace.
In fond remembrance of a loving brother and true friend, from Lill.
In loving memory of Doug, from Olive and Lily.
In loving memory of Uncle Doug, from Walter and Win, Alf and Maud.
To the loving memory of our dear Uncle Doug, from Eileen and Hughie.
In remembrance of dear Uncle Doug, from Jack, Louie and John.
With loving memory of our dear Uncle Doug (for ever), from Bob and Joan.
In loving memory of uncle Doug, from Lil, Bill and the kiddies.
In loving memory of Uncle Doug, from Madge and Ralph, Eva and Arthur.
In loving memory of our dear Uncle Doug, from Lily and Tom.
In sincere remembrance of our Uncle, from Harris, Dora and the boys.
In loving memory of Uncle, from Jack, Cis, John and Jean.
In ever loving memory of a kind and dear Uncle, from his nephews and nieces, Jim, Nellie, Arthur, Douglas, Sylvia, Rene, at Eltham.
In memory of a dear friend, from Mr. and Mrs. J. Sargent.
In memory of mr. Day, from Mrs. A. Rigden.
With deepest sympathy, from Daisy.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. Tritton and Mr. and Mrs. Snelling.
With sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. Hunt and family.
To one of the kindest of neighbours, with deepest sympathy, from Mrs. Cooley and Joan.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. J. Philpott and Mr. and Mrs. J. Edwards.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. Blackmore.
Mr. Day - from three who will miss his smile.
As the committal sentences were being read at the graveside of Miss Tilley, two Spitfires passed overhead. The eyes of those who had gathered to pay their last respects to one who was so much liked, moved upwards, and the presence of these planes afforded a comfort that cannot be expressed in words. Although the pilots were unconscious of the solemn ceremony taking place below, the planes dipped as they passed overhead - a salute, so it seemed, to one whose life had been so abruptly ended.
Members of the Council and Council staff and the representatives of civil defence services who had attended the funeral of Mr. Day, were present at this service, and many friends of Miss Tilley also gathered around the graveside.
The chief mourners were Mrs. W. Tilley (foster mother and aunt), Mr. J. Baker (father), Mrs. E Jordan (aunt), Miss. E. Harris (aunt), Mr. R.G. Harris (uncle), Mrs. Pollington (cousin), Miss. W. Bashford and Mr. G. Castle.
Beautiful floral tributes were sent as follow:-
In loving memory of Edith Mary Baker, my dear adopted daughter.
In loving memory of our dear daughter, from Dad and Nell.
With much love and sympathy, from Aunt MAy and Ethel and Uncle Ted (Folkestone).
In loving memory of our dear cousin, from Maggie, Ted and Jackie (Dover).
In loving memory of Edie, from cousins Dolly and May.
In affectionate remembrance, from Auntie Kit, Jean and Ted.
In loving memory of our dear niece, from Uncle Dick, Auntie Bertha and family.
In loving memory of Edie, from Win, Will and Doreen (Tunbridge Wells).
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. House.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. Castle and family.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. Felix.
With deepest sympathy, from George.
With deepest sympathy, from Mrs. Hart (Folkestone).
With deepest sympathy, from Bessie and Gladys (Waterloo Road).
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. S.F. Iddenten.
With deepest sympathy, from the boys at the Fire Station.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. Abel and family.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. S. Appleton and family.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. Rigden (56, Middle Wall).
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. F. Rigden (The Guinea).
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. Dengate and Vi.
In happy memories of Edith, from Mrs. Bills, Mrs. Sampson and Mrs. Hammond.
A token of respect, from one of her customers.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. and Mrs. N. Camburn.
In remembrance, from Maudie and Mrs. Newing.
To a dear friend, with deepest sympathy, from Rose.
A token of sympathy, from the neighbours.
In loving memory of Edie, from Mr. and Mrs. T. Bashford and family.
With deepest sympathy, from all at 20, Victoria Street. Happy memories of Edie.
With deepest sympathy, from all at 34 Island Wall.
With deepest sympathy, from Mr. A. E. Hadlow.
In loving remembrance, from Mr. and Mrs. A. Stapleton.
The body of the soldier was taken to Longport, Somerset, for burial.
In addition to the text recorded above two pictures of damaged houses were included in the original copy. Unfortunately these pictures are of insufficient quality from microfilm to reproduce here. We will be seeking out any copies to include them and complete the page. If you have any such pictures, or indeed any first hand or passed down recollections of these events then please let us know.
Within this single page of the Whitstable Times much information is present, yet much is hidden between the lines. The analysis of this and the connections it provides will be the subject of a further page on Oystertown.net as this information is sorted.