Hellfire Corner Association

1940s WEEKEND 

Union Flag

"Land of Hope and Glory" - on 16th and 17th June 2007 Pencester Gardens, Dover, hosted the third 1940s weekend, arranged by the Hellfire Corner Association. With re-enactors and living history groups, specialist researchers and entertainers, and a 1940s dance in the evening at the Town Hall,  it was a weekend not to miss!  And thousands of visitors agreed.

For all of us who were there, here's a chance to enjoy it all again. For those who weren't - don't miss it next year!

Bob Markham

The weekend was opened by our very own Bob Markham, Mayor of Dover. He then used one of the old-time Terry Nunnsirens to sound the all clear for ... a lot of fun!

Here's our Master of Ceremonies, one Terry Nunn.  What have you done with Chesney, Terry?

Terry tells us that, despite all our suspicions,  his magnificent bow tie doesn't revolve and flash, so ...with the event well and truly open, let's wander around, and see what's on.

Here's one of the displays, from Gary and Cheryl Patten. A lot of Dovorians remember the Anderson shelter - and there are still quite a few in Dover. Inside the shelterNowadays, though, they're used for more peaceful pursuits, like storing the garden tools. This glimpse inside shows some of the things people might have grabbed when the sirens began to wail - a game for the children, some cigarettes, the family picture. One lady always seized the cat as she raced down the garden path, with her children all running behind. Gary and Cheryl



The shelters are small, about as long as a grown man, and were partially buried in the ground. Earth would be heaped over them, and in the spirit of utility and digging for victory, often vegetables would be grown on the top.  They had a small entrance to crawl through, usually covered only with a blanket and protected by the surrounds. This was less dangerous than a door which could be shattered by a blast.

Susan and Kay

Here's the Women's Land Army. With most of the men off fighting, and a great reliance pre-war on imported foods, Britain couldn't have survived without the ladies working the farms. Disparaged at first, uGI with land army lassnder the belief that they wouldn't be able to stack stooks and manage machinery, they soon earned respect.

Even so, it was only in 2000 that they marched past the Cenotaph for the first time, and they have never been awarded medals for their vital service.

Kay and Susan Brown are enjoying a well-earned break - but there are other distractions on the horizon too. Not for the first time, there's a GI chatting up one of our lasses! (It's okay, it's her husband, Tony, also in costume!)

group of four, man carrying a brown suitcase

two ladies, one with green headscarf

There were plenty of 1940s people to spot, mingling with the crowds. They're from the re-enactors, "Don't Mention the War!" and from the Kent Time Warp Car and Costume group, who also brought along their classic and veteran vehicles.

This is a smart group on the left - I wonder where they're off to? And two ladies pause in their errands to enjoy a chat while all's well.

Even policeman Steven George has a few moments off from his beat, to exchange the news with one of the locals (Trevor Foster).

policeman with local

ARP post, an old shed

CD man helping pilotBut Britain must always be on the alert, and especially in Hellfire Corner itself. Just up the road is the ARP Post. Air Raid Precautions Wardens were organised in 1938. Originally ridiculed for form-filling "nosiness", their extensive local knowledge soon proved itself. Each in charge of a couple of streets, they knew who lived in each house, and where to turn off the water and electricity in case of emergency. Above are ARP Warden Sean Couchman, and his later counterpart,  Graham Wood, from the Civil Defence, exchanging vital information.

It's just as well, too, because you never know when the call will come. This poor pilot (left) has crash-landed from a Hawker Hurricane, and he's clearly in need of some assistance. 

mobile canteen

At least he's still walking - and here (left) is just the place to go. A nice cup of tea and a bit of cake should soon put our pilot right.

The big smile from Naafi lass Joanne Bater (right) will complete the cure! 

The mobile canteen is an Austin, dating from 1941, and it was used by the National Fire Service during the war. Many enthusiasts, including the Invicta Military Preservation Society, brought along their period vehicles - and here are some of them below.  


army lorries Renault ambulance
classic veteran

The ambulance (right) served with the 147th Field Ambulance Corp RAMC and was involved in the Normandy landing on 27th June 1944.



Captain Leslie Harris (right) is an army chaplain, and belongs to a regiment with possibly one of the longest names in history! It's the All American Pathfinders, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment. These Pathfinders were parachuted into the drop area,  with the task of distracting the enemy before the main troops came in. The lads, he tells us, were young and fast, and a few of them running around could make it seem as though a large contingent had arrived.

Swingtime Sweethearts

On the band-stand, the enter-tainment went on all day. Very popular, of course, was the song, "There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover" and we were blessed Clover Sisters





with some super singing sensations to perform that and many other traditional songs too. Above (left) are the talented Swingtime Sweethearts, Le'arna Ashleigh and Annie Riley, and (right), the lovely Clover Sisters, Bee Campbell, Holly KasChambers and Laura Whitehead.  

crowdKiss me Kas! 1940s Sweetheart Kas - Kelly Ann Sproul -  recently sang in front of Dame Vera Lynn and also met  the oldest surviving veteran from the Great War, Henry Allingham, who has just celebrated his 111th  birthday. The lasses were met by a most appreciative crowd, who also enjoyed in the warm sunshine the fabulous Betteshanger colliery band ...

Betteshanger Coliery Band

... and members of the Blackfish academy, who performed "It's That Man Again!", based on a war-time BBC radio comedy programme often known as "ITMA". It gained its name from the ever-increasing mentions of Adolf Hitler in the newpapers. 

Blackfish - three men

Blackfish - two men, two ladies







Bob RAF man Speaking of whom, here's Bob Pryor, the only re-enacted German at the weekend, there to remind us that war has its costs for both sides. He comes from Ramsgate, and is part of the "Summer of 1940, Battle of Britain Collection". It's otherwise known as "Blitz and BoBs"!

There are many salvaged items in the collection. One was a control column from a Hawker Hurricane which had been shot down over Godstone in 1940. The pilot baled out and was treated in Sevenoaks hospital. Below is a magneto assembly from Hawker Hurricane R4074. The aircraft was shot down over Dungeness on 22nd October 1940. Sergeant J P Morrison, the pilot (below right) died.   

magneto assembly J P Morrison

members of the Hawker Hurricane SocietyHere are some people who know all about Hawker Hurricanes. From the Hawker Hurricane Society are chairman Tim Warrener, secretary Ann Booker, and researcher and archivist Graham Booker.

Clearly passionate about the craft, they tell us that two thirds of shot-downs were by the Hurricanes, which had a more stable gun platform and which were much more quickly repaired than the Spitfire if they were damaged. The first went into service in 1937, and their service had finished at the end of the war. Now there are just 12 world wide still flying.

Reg Levy

Reg Levy, pictured right with a facsimile of Guy Gibson (Dam Busters)'s log book,  knows more than most about planes. Awarded the DFC, he's completed over 27,000 flying hours. At the beginning of the war, aged 18, he trained in the United States, and still remembers his first ever raid, a low flying day-time expedition over Antwerp.

But it was the night raids that were the worst - "nightmares", he describes them - with their long hours in the air and the corkscrew flying motion to avoid being hit.  His last mission over Germany was in 1944. He remembers vividly a 109 on his wingtip - just out of range but so close he could see the pilot distinctly. The pilot pointed to his guns and shrugged, then rolled over and flew off. He had run out of ammunition.

Mrs Collor

Mrs Collor lost her brother, Donald Halke, as Flight Engineer Sergeant in the RAFVR, in 1944. He had just had his 21st birthday. She came especially to see his picture Bob Markham with our two ladieson our Dover War Memorial Project display in Remembrance of all those Dovorians who lost their lives in the two World Wars of the 20th century.

Cllr Bob Markham popped in to see the display too. He's with Mrs Elsie Taylor and Mrs Marjorie Cox, who had been reading the display when he arrived.

Hellfire - glass cases








While we're in the tent, let's pause for a moment to look at the Hellfire Corner Association display. It's from the extensive collection of posters, cuttings, paperwork, and artefacts owned by Colin Smith.

One of the posters (right) is of Keith Gillman, one of Churchill's "Few" from the Battle of Britain.  He was from Dover, and family connections still live here.

Hellfire - posters

JamesNigel and Edward

The war was fought on all fronts. The Desert Rats were raised from troops in North Africa, and fought there in 1940 and 1941, after which they went to Burma, and thence to Iraq and finally to Italy where they served out the war.

Nigel Bodiam, here with his 10 year old son Edward, depicted the Rats in the 1940s, while James Hutchison brought to mind the troops still fighting in the current day by his display of contemporary desert equipment. 

Here, perhaps, is the army of the future - the 354 Dover Squadron ATC. They performed a number of drills throughout the day, and helped with all the essential tasks of the weekend.


Arthur Their Chairman, since 1973, is Arthur Knowles (right). He was an engineer on the Sunderland, the flying boat known as the "flying porcupine" because of its many aerials. It was the first double decker aircraft, he tells us, with the engineer, navigator, and pilot upstairs, and the remainder of the crew down. There was even a primus stove and flushing toilet!

He had first-hand experience of the blitz of Dover - he recalls being at the bottom of Tower Hamlets, when Chitty's Mill, Charlton, was hit by a shell. With perhaps some good fortune, he was blown into a pub by the blast.

He recalls that to enter Dover one had to have a special pass. Dover was filled with troops of all kinds and nationalities.

two ladies two men group of four
two men two  men

group of men

home guard







A familiar sight would have been Dad's Army. Above (right) is Colin Parker, representing the Folkestone Home Guard. It was formed on 17th June 1940, and for drilling and weapons they used anything and everything they could get their hands on, as at the time there was no official issue.  KT7, the Lyminge group, was the first to be armed, as it was thought that the first enemy landings would be attempted here. 

Ann Gaston (left), surveys war-time issues. Meanwhile (right) is John Parks from the Hastings division of the Home Guard, and Wayne Parkhouse, RAF. They are the two newest members of the re-enactment group, but their tents are authentic World War II issue.

Tom Pinkney is one of the original Cave Kids, named thus by the media as so many families sheltered in caves during the bombing and shelling. He recalls coming down Bunker's Hill with his brother in a pushchair, when a man gave him a helmet and him and his brother little wooden rifles. The picture was in the national newspapers the next day, captioned, "Hellfire Corner Kids".

He can remember the dog fights in the skies overhead, and recalls watching boats in the channel bombed by Stukas. He had his own narrow escape - out in a Co-op butcher's van one day a damaged plane flew overhead and machine gunned the van. Fortunately he and his companion were uninjured.

An ever-present fear was the use of gas. People could remember only too well the dreadful harm done by gas attacks in the previous war; indeed Arthur Knowles' own father was one such sufferer.  Gas masks were carried everywhere; in the 1940s house, this lady's well-prepared.

Perhaps she or her husband tends the garden. Everyone was encouraged to grow as much as possible of their own food, to supplement the rations and to help ensure that Britain did not starve. It wasn't just the enemy they had to contend with - birds were partial to a tasty meal from the garden too. No matter how scary the scarecrow, there'd be sure to be a voracious feeder undeterred. See the little bird on his shoulder?

The 1940s house belongs to Judi ("Utility Jude") and Tom Knight (right). They seem just now to be forming a bit of a queue for their smallest room. I wonder how long that fellow with the brown boots has been in there!

Left are plenty of the things with which the housewife would have been familiar.  This is a display of kitchen items from Mrs B - that's Bobbie Bradley and John (right).   

Much depended on the housewife's skill in the kitchen, but, even with rationing and shortages, it was still possible to conjure up a treat for tea.

Left are Fred and Bernie, with a scrumptious display of cakes.  They're all made with war-time recipes and rations. We tried some of their vinegar cake. The cake was made without eggs, and the vinegar was intended as a preservative. It may sound a strange ingredient - but the cake was light and absolutely delicious!

And above are just three of the people to whom we owe such a fabulous weekend - Lee and Jackie Prescott, and Barry Williams.

Look out for the 1940s weekends - around the second weekend in June each year, Pencester Gardens, Dover.

pictures by Simon John Chambers

Our Exhibition at the 1940s weekend

Don't Mention The War
Kent Time Warp Car and Costume Group
The Hawker Hurricane Society
Blitz and Bobs

Hellfire logo


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Copyright 2007/8 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved