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15 October 2014
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Air Raids Over East Kent: John Side 4

by Thanet_Libraries

Contributed by 
Thanet_Libraries
People in story: 
John Side
Location of story: 
Ramsgate
Article ID: 
A2601389
Contributed on: 
05 May 2004

This is a story by John Side. It has been written by his daughter Lyn Davis who kindly provided it to the Thanet Libraries and UK-Online project during the session at Broadstairs Library.

John Side — Air Raids over East Kent

When the Local Defence Volunteers had changed its name to the HOME GUARD and nicknamed “Dad’s Army”, I did a patrol in Ramsgate every 4 nights — starting from the Regency Hotel right along the promenade, the top of the West Cliff which was barred to the public by barbed wire, and then through ‘COURTSTAIRS’ (a vacated home) with a large garden area of rose bushes, quite frightening if you were going through there in the early hours, fortunately there would have been two of you on these patrols. During the spring and the early summer the smell of the roses was intoxicating, from there we walked through Pegwell village and onto Chilton where the A.T.S. were manning Anti Aircraft guns. Here we reported, and sometimes got a cup of cocoa.

During these patrols we witnessed many air attacks on Ramsgate and Margate when Holy Trinity church was destroyed, also distant attacks on Deal and Canterbury. The worst of these attacks was the night Ramsgate suffered. The first attack almost destroyed Townley Street, the local pub was reduced to dust — the till was never found! The Tidal Ball area came next when the FOY BOAT pub got a direct hit, and where my sister Eileen’s father-in-law was killed, the third attack hit the harbour. Another night when on patrol near the harbour lift, we could hear engines out at sea, when suddenly 6 German bombers swooped up narrowly missing the cliffs and flying at chimney pot height made towards Canterbury. This was the second time that I had been just a few feet from airborne German aircraft.

Because I was considered the best shot in our section, I was saddled with an American automatic rifle, and this I kept underneath the mattress of my bed, and beneath the bed was a box of ammunition containing about 500 rounds. Fortunately few of the family knew anything about this. Had the possibility of invasion been imminent, 2 of our section would have come round to 12 Nelson Crescent Ramsgate and carry the box of ammunition away to our secret hideout position.

I was still spending a lot of my spare time in the Home Guard, especially evenings and Sundays, I had been promoted, and we had moved our station right inside the Regency Hotel but we still did our nightly patrols to Pegwell.

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