war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper


Frederick Gardiner


Frederick Gardiner, courtesy Dover Express
Frederick Henry Gardiner was the first man from Dover to be decorated for War Service in the Second World War. He was 25 and the youngest of a family of twelve; his parents, Mr and Mrs William Gardiner lived at 57 Tower Hamlets Street. William Gardiner had enlisted in the Middlesex regiment in 1883, and during the Great War, aged 54, had rejoined. 

Sergeant Gardiner was an old St Bart's schoolboy. He left when he was 15 to work in Buckland Paper Mills, and then joined the RAF as an aircraftman in June 1934. He became a wireless operator, and, after service abroad, trained as an air observer. the king pionning on the award, photo from the Times, reproduced in the Dover ExpressHe passed and was promoted sergeant.

In November 1939 Sergeant Gardiner was awarded the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for meritorious services.

  The citation read: "The plane in which Sergeant Gardiner was air observer was attacked during September by enemy aircraft and was seriously damaged. Despite much bleeding from a gunshot wound over the right eye, Sergeant Gardiner continued his duties and set an accurate course to the base.  The aircraft caught fire on landing. Although his own clothes were alight, Sergeant Gardiner began to extinguish the burning clothing of the wireless operator by rolling him on the ground and beating the flames with his hands. Not until these efforts had succeeded did he attend to his own clothing"

Sergeant Gardiner sSergt Gardiner and Miss Hood marry, courtesy Dover Expresspent several weeks in hospital, recovering. He was engaged to be married to Miss Clara Elizabeth Hood, second daughter of Mrs M L Hood of 6 Pioneer Road and the late Mr J B Hood, CPO TC of the Royal Navy, but the wedding had been postponed, owing to the outbreak of the war. The new date set was 25th November 1939, and they married at St Andrews, Buckland. The bride was attended by her sister, Mrs Thompson, and the groom's niece, Miss Nora Ricketts, and was given away by her brother-in-law, Mr Thompson. The best man was Mr P (Mick) Gardiner, the groom's brother. 

Owing to the groom's award, the wedding attracted much interest, with a large number of people waiting outside the church and along the path to the lych gate to see the couple.

Sergeant Gardiner was on leave after the wedding when he was suddenly recalled to France. Believing he was going back to duty, he was surprised to discover that the recall was in fact so that he could receive his award from the King, then in that country. As the King pinned on the medal he said to Sergeant Gardiner, "I am pleased to meet you, and wish you good luck." Sergeant Gardiner was then returned to England, to continue his honeymoon.

source: Dover Express

Some other Firsts for Dover:

First Great War bomb that landed in Britain, 24 December 1914 (two bombs had been dropped off the Admiralty Pier, Dover, on 22nd December)
(Dover was also the last town to receive an air raid before the Armistice was signed)

above - garden where bomb landed

Taswell Street


broken windows at St James rectory nearby

First insurance claim paid out in England for damage done by hostile aircraft, after the bomb dropped on Christmas Eve


by agents Messrs Boyton and Son of 5 Martin's Place, Dover in February 1915 (cover could be arranged at 3s 4d per £100 per annum for damage by bombs or aircraft, and 15s per £100 per annum for full war risks)
First gun fired by the British Army in the campaign in France "E" battery, to which belonged Capt Bartram, son of Canon Bartram
First black army combat officer (Walter Tull) - his mother born in Dover Alice Palmer
First black outfield professional football player (Walter Tull) - his mother born in Dover Alice Palmer
First (and only) Jewish winner of the VC in WWII - born and educated Dover. He was also the first VC winner born in Dover. He was given the freedom of Dover on 11 January 1943 Thomas Gould
First winner of the VC from the Essex regiment William McWheeny, buried in Dover 1866
First town to be attacked by the German navy in the Great War (submarines tried to enter the harbour and torpedo battleships) December 1914 from Dover Harbour
First town in England to suffer a moonlight air raid - January 23 1916 - also called the first "real" air raid 9 bombs across from SECR station and machine-gun over Langdon battery
First victim of such a raid (above) Harry Sladden, Red Lion Inn
First Great War Dovorian civilian casualty - 23 January 1916 Harry Sladden, Red Lion Inn
First raid against the barrage (mined nets across from the Goodwins to the French coast) 27 October 1916
First Great War baby born to a soldier of the Berkshire Regiment Ivy N B ("Norma") Fussell, born 14 August 1914
First Dovorian Reservist to apply for a rail ticket on call up Harry Sole
First Dovorian known to have died in the Great War - 14 August 1914 Frederick Geard
First Dovorian to receive Great War Military Cross and bar - Gazette 17 September 1917 Alexander F Worster
First fatal flying accident at Dover - Martin Mill - 7 September 1915 Geoffrey Brian Hobbs, buried at St Margaret's
First Great War fatal accident on a Dover firing range - 10 October 1917 Private F. Dunn
First WWII black-out fatality in Dover (probably) - knocked down by a bus when walking his dog on 27 September 1939 William Banks
First WWII casualty recorded from the County (Grammar) School - 13 January 1940 Stanley Mornington West
First military funeral and volleys for civilians in Dover SS Maloja victims February 1916
First WWII War Dovorian civilian casualty - 6 June 1940 Edith Wells
First Dover injury in the Battle of Britain - bullet in leg of ambulance driver standing at Matthew's Place (RH) - 10 July 1940 George Knight
First Dover injury in WWII - from "goofing" - watching dogfights (HRPB) William Ransom(e) (Deputy Town Clerk)
First WWII shells in Dover - from K5 railway-mounted guns 12 August 1940, Edgar Crescent
First casualties from shelling in Dover 12 August 1940 Helen Barker, Alfred Reid, St Radigund's Road
First time Zeppelin illuminated by searchlights - 17 May 1915 (the Dover Anit-Aircraft Corps received silver badge awards for this, which occurred on the first Zeppelin raid on Dover)  Langdon Battery
First war vessel sunk in Straits of Dover, having left Dover the afternoon before. Torpedoed from submarine HMS Hermes (31 Oct 1914)
First Yule Log (Christmas cake) in Dover (or anywhere?) was said to have been brought by a cook/confectioner working at Holmes Morris, the baker and cakemaker. He later became a Great War victim George Bates
First church bellringer to die in the Great War, a Dover ringer who had rung at St Mary's and St James Archibald Percy Randolph Gibbs


From the Kentish Express, 5 March 1943 - on 27 September 1940, during the Battle of Britain,  a Spitfire forced down an Junkers 88 bomber on the marshes between Whitstable and Seasalter. When British soldiers went to capture them, the crew opened fire with machine-guns. The British soldiers, from the 1st battalion London Irish Rifles,  replied, and eventually the crew of the plane surrendered. The aircraft, saved from an explosive charge intended to destroy it, was subsequently examined at Farnborough, providing much useful information.

This event, said the newspaper, was small in comparison with the battle in the skies, but "actually of" great historical significance". The Battle of Graveney Marsh was "the first time Englishmen ... fought with foreign troops on British soil since the Battle of Hastings, 1066"

In September 2010,  a commemorative plaque (right) was presented to The Sportsman public house, where the London Irish Rifles battalion had been stationed in 1940. The plate reads: Presented to The Sportsman Inn 26th September 2010 to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of "The Battle of Graveney Marsh" by the London Irish Rifles Regimental Association".

* Notes: On 6 January 1781, the Battle of Jersey was fought against a French army attempting to invade. A later battle on British soil was fought at Fishguard between 22-24 February 1797 against invading French Revolutionary troops.


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