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Par For the Course: Hythe in the War

by Kent Libraries- Shepway District

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Kent Libraries- Shepway District
People in story: 
Pamela Ellis
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Contributed on: 
22 August 2003

The following is a memoir from Pamela Ellis. It was typed by Fiona McNeill of the Folkestone Heritage Team and added to the site with the author's permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

Our house was built in the middle of a Golf Course in 1929, and permission had to be otained from the then Southern Railway who owned the land before we were able to build.

There were no mechanical aids in those days for maintaining the Fairways. Sheep grazed, and the groundsmen used long handled wide shovels to clear them. A great bay horse named Joey was used for work, and had leather overshoes so as not to mark the ground. Every green was mowed with a hand propelled machine, and after use was put onto a small two wheeled metal carrier and pushed to the next green.

In 1939 the golf course was closed and was not reopened until 1964, when it was redesigned by the late Henry Cotton.

During the 1930's we had a Cook-General who was paid £1.00 a week, she did however live in, and our Gardener came for an eight hour day for 10 shillings. Before coming to us he had already worked for an hour in the nurseries of a firm called 'Duruz and Sons', a Swiss family concern in the Seabrook Road in Hythe.

Our Gardener, being too old to be called up, continued to work for us throughout the War. He often had to get onto our roof to straighten shifted pantiles due to the vibration from bombs and gunfire. He said he could feel the roof lifting if he was still up there when the guns started up again.

One interesting feature of the War was the fact that our cat used to retire under the grand piano long before we could hear a Doodlebug. He was our advance warning system.

We had two groups of American Ack Ack nearby and an English Gun Crew opposite the house. We used to let the boys in for baths and allowed them to use our dining-room in the evenings to read and play darts.

One of the War efforts in Hythe was to sell Saving Stamps, price two shillings and sixpence, to stick onto a bomb to be dropped on Germany. We had a glut of strawberries that year and my Mother and I stood outside the Town Hall, and gave one fruit to everyone who bought a stamp.

My parents were both in the A.R.P. My father was at Headquarters in a house in Saltwood. My Mother drove her own car throughout the War, as a Casualty Car, and had to tow the Mortuary trailor.

One bomb dropped on the Arcade in the middle of town killing several people. I was standing in the garden at the time. [I] saw this giant mushroon of smoke, and when it dispersed, pieces of patterns and shop bills blew into the garden on a Southwest wind. One shop that was destroyed was the Bodsham Farm Shop. A girl assistant was badly cut about the face and neck. My Mother who was in a shop two doors away took her to the Dressing Station, and heard later that a piece of glass that was embedded in her throat, she had mounted as a brooch.

When I was seventeen I learnt to drive. I had four lessons at seven shillings and sixpence a time on a taxi. The engine could only be started with a crank handle. You soon learnt not to lose your engine!! I was already helping on Y.M.C.A. vans that served tea and buns and cigarettes etc to the troops in an area covering half the Romney Marsh, Lympne and out to Wheelbarrowtown near Stelling Minnis, also round the Capel area. So from taxi driving, a large van was a bit daunting. We bought out dozens of buns from Ludlow the baker in the High Street, soon after 8.30 in the morning each day. The vans were kept in the Hythe Motor Cab Company garrage opposite the bakers, and the Y.M.C.A canteen for the men was in Grove House, still named the same today. It was during one of our days out that I saw an American soldier carrying a pork chop. He bought a piece of our fruit cake and slapped the two together!!

Wartime meant coupons for clothes and knitting wool, but skeins of mending wool were exempt, so I bought these in pastel colours, knotted them together and made fancy patterned jumpers, carefuly arranging the knots on the inside.

I remember seeing sections of the Mulberry Harbour being towed down the Channel in preparation for the invasion of France. They looked like great Martello Towers. I also remember seeing dozens of German bombers droning in on a daylight raid over Dungeness. In the middle of the pack was one painted black. We joked that Goring must be aboard. This was on a Friday, a day one always avoided going into Hythe to shop as it was usually the day they dropped their load over the town, either delibrately or jettisoning them on their way back to France. During the War years the population of Hythe dropped from 8,000 to about 2,000.

I have lived in my house for over 60 years. As was mentioned earlier the land was bought in 1929. The cost for just over an acre was £250.00. Later we bought more land but I do not know what we payed for it. We still have a right of way across the golf course, and if we wished, could drive cattle across.

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