Kent at War 1939-1945...

 

...from Pen & Sword

 

Title: Kent at War 1939-1945

Author: Tanya Wynn

Publisher: Pen & Sword

ISBN: 978-1-47388-7-404

 

There are plenty of stories from the many counties of the UK but Kent was the one closest to Europe and appropriately called 'Hellfire Corner' because of it. Though I was not born at the time of the war, I was born and brought up on the Kent & Sussex border, near Tunbridge Wells, and found so many familiar places featured in this book, many of which I had not known about beforehand.

The story is told across 16 chapters, looking at each year of the war, from 1939 through to 1945, and the events in Kent that relate to the war as it progressed, and the many people who come from the county. At the start of the war is was the starting point for so many of the ships that sailed across to the BEF at Dunkirk. For many soldiers it was their reception point back home. It was also a home to camps for many European Jews who had escaped from the Germans. That evacuation had also been organised by Admiral Bertram Ramsey while based in the tunnels below Dover Castle. Add the teams of Royal Artillery crews, who crewed the railway guns which were stationed near Dover, and traded shells with large German guns on the French side of the channel. Then there was the Battle of Britain, when the most forward airfields were home to the Spitfires and Hurricanes of Fighter Command. Names such as Biggin Hill, Manston, Hawkinge and more litter the story of the Battle. Another Kent airfield, at West Malling, is another which is included in the book, when examples of the then new Focke Wulf Fw 190 all landed there in one day. One crashed while one was captured intact. Life had to continue at home, so one chapter features Kent Police Officers and the work they did during the war. There are additional sections on Dover Castle, Kent's Commonwealth Connections, Victoria Cross and George Medal winners from the county, Wartime Airfields, POW Camps and Memorials among others.

I found this a very interesting book to read. Just as an example, West Malling airfield these days is a large housing estate, the airfield is long gone. However, when I was young, I remember passing the gates regularly, while it was still RAF West Malling. If you have an interest in history, then 'Hellfire Corner' had quite a story to tell, and if you live in the county now, a lot to learn perhaps about the area you live in. Recommended.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

Robin