Frontline Thanet Did You Know?
Below we have listed a few interesting points relating to Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate and villages and their links to WWI and WWII
• The message that the war was to cease at 11am on 11 November 1918 was sent from Dover to the naval base at Ramsgate Harbour at 9.45am that morning. The townspeople were informed by ships’ sirens, fog horns and whistles
• Yarrow Home was used as a military hospital in WWI. The building is now part of the Yarrow Hotel at East Kent College in Broadstairs
• Granville Hotel, Ramsgate was a Canadian Special Hospital
• Fairfield House, Broadstairs now a nursing home was used as a hospital
• Manston Airport - Just before the outbreak of the First World War, a Royal Naval Air Service Station, used by seaplanes was opened at St Mildred’s Bay (formerly Marsh Bay). Seaplanes took off from the sea and slipways were constructed to convey the seaplanes from the hangers to the sea (and vice versa). Following the creation of the seaplane base, an airfield on adjacent farmland became operational in April 1915 as a sub-station of the seaplane base. A year later, the move of the airfield to Manston was approved following a number of accidents at Westgate airfield. The last patrol from Westgate airfield was on 20th May 1916 and Manston – as a sub-station of the seaplane base - became fully operational on 29th May 1916. The seaplane base was shut down in February 1920.
• The WWI seaplane lookout can still be seen at St Mildred's Bay, Westgate. When it became too dangerous in 1916 to land here, Manston was developed as a Royal Naval Station.
• At Quex Park, Major Powell-Cotton gave his home for use as a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachments) hospital with his own domestic staff taking care of cooking and laundry.
• The Royal Seabathing Hospital, was used to treat the wounded from the French and Belgium Battlefields
• On 16th June 1917, a German Lz42 Zeppelin dropped a 650lb bomb on Ramsgate. It landed on the fishmarket near the harbour Clock Tower, which the Royal Navy was using as an ammunition store, it caused a massive explosion. 700 houses were damaged and 10,000 windows were shattered across the town
• During May and June 1940 Operation Dynamo was launched and an assortment of yachts, motor cruises, fishing boats and other small craft assembled in Ramsgate, before crossing to Dunkirk to ferry men from the beaches to waiting ships. These ‘Little Ships’ were under constant attack from German aircraft and guns, and of 765 vessels involved in the operation, almost a third were lost. Despite heavy losses the valiant ‘Little Ships’ assisted in the rescue of 309,739 troops around 40,000 of whom were landed at Ramsgate. Today one of the boats used ‘Sundowner’ is kept in Ramsgate harbour.
• Granville Hotel Ramsgate was used as a military hospital. The gable on the western end of the building destroyed by a bomb in WWII
• Winter Gardens - The Isle of Thanet was made a restricted area, due to invasion fears, and it was prohibited to enter it for leisure or pleasure purposes. The Winter Gardens' first war-time role was during the evacuation from Dunkirk when it acted as a receiving station for some of the 46,000 troops landed at Margate. It was also used as an air raid precaution and food rationing centre. There were concerts for the troops on Sundays and Brighten-Up Dances every Thursday and Saturday. In January 1941 many of the windows were broken when a sea mine exploded nearby, but the main structure was undamaged. Six months later it received a direct hit on 7th July 1941 causing considerable damage. The main structure of the hall remained intact and the chandeliers survived as they had been removed for storage. The plans for reconstruction of the Winter Gardens were drawn up in 1943 but due to the war, a start on the work could not be made until February 1946.
• Manston Airport, during an eventful Battle of Britain, Manston was heavily bombed and airfield buildings destroyed. This caused dispersal of many of the staff to surrounding housing. It was one of the few airfields installed with the Fog Investigation Dispersal Organisation (FIDO) system designed to remove fog from airfields by burning it off with petrol. Being close to the front-line and having a long and broad runway the airfield became something of a magnet for badly damaged aeroplanes that had suffered from ground fire, collisions, or air attack but retained a degree of airworthiness.
• During the war, the entire Royal Seabathing Hospital, was evacuated to Southill Park near Bracknell, Berkshire, and the building was used again by the military medical, particularly following the evacuation from Dunkirk. The number of beds was increased from 324 to 520 to accommodate them. Following closure in 1996, the hospital has been turned into private residents
• Sundowner, in 1940 rescued 130 men from the Dunkirk beaches and brought them back to Ramsgate. The ship was restored in 1990 to take part in the 50th anniversary celebrations of Dunkirk