war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper


News Report

THE TORONTO STAR, 25 February 1941

We were recently sent this front page cutting from Canada of The Toronto Star. Written by M H Halton, it provides an interesting perspective of Dovorians under bombardment and threat of invasion.

"Listen to Voice of Dover And Buy War Savings"

"I built new house on ruins of old", says Dover man defiantly.

Talk Only of How Terrible It Will Be for Nazis, Halton Finds.

"We Are Waiting"

Dover, Feb 25 - (CP) - German long-range guns on the French coast opened up on the Dover area today. They fired a small number of shells which caused neither casualties nor noteworthy damage. The strait was misty and the sea calm.

It's 21-Mile "Moat" by M H Halton

London, Feb 25 - It's a moving and exciting experience to stand once more on the white cliffs of Dover and peer across that 21-mile stretch of water which is a moat between civilisation and the dark. To stand there and see things I saw is to wonder how enemy hordes ever will dare to come.

On a clear day you can stand on this white bastion which England calls Shakespeare Cliff and see the coast of France. When I was there, the coast of France was hidden by scurrying clouds. There were gulls crying and white horses running down the dark blue channel, and 'twas hard to believe that here soon may be fought the most decisive battle the world's ever seen. 'Twas hard to believe that just a few miles away around gay Calais where one went so often in happier days Attila's hordes were preparing their desperate enterprise, but on a wall in Dover is a poster with Churchill's words. "We are waiting for them; so are the fishes".

Carries On As Usual

The last time I was there Dover was untouched by war, but that entire 21 miles of frontier water was covered with craft of every description bringing the British army home from Dunkirk. This time I found the old town carrying on as usual, though it's in the very front line of our battle.

It's almost unbelievable to see how Dover's carrying on. For six months it's heard the enemy's winged squadrons drone over. On and off for six months it's been shelled by the enemy's big guns. I expected there hardly would be any Dover left.

I found life going on as usual. I talked to women shopping in the market place, to workers on streets, to business men and civic officials. "Where's the damage done by German guns?" I asked, and this question made them laugh.

"Most of their shells fall in open country or in the sea," they explained. "We hope our own big guns do more damage than theirs."

Wnnie, Pooh "Wonderful"

Winnie and Pooh, as two of our big guns are called, are wonderful engines which throw shells across the narrow waters. There's reason to believe they're more accurate than Hitler's Big Berthas. At any rate nobody in Dover worries about shells, and they seem to worry little about bombs.

At night when I was there we heard German squadrons humming over, but we also heard British squadrons going the other way - sounds in the night, that's all - sinister sounds and comforting sounds. And in the daytime we saw streaks of vapor in the sky high and far away and learned later a roving German bomber had been shot down.

No bombs fell, but next night I was with friends in a tiny country village. Late at night we stood in a lane listening to German planes passing right overhead, but so high they were invisible against the star-decked sky. For a few minutes there was no sound in the world but that of droning bombers - and then an explosion which made the earth tremble and windows shake. A heavy bomb had fallen three miles away. next day we learned "A  few people injured, several houses damage, and two sheep killed in a village in one of the home counties".

"There's Our Navy"

Many persons talk about how terrible the German attack will be when and if it comes, but in Dover people talk about how terrible it will be for the Germans. Said an old sea captain who once hunted whales and now runs a deadly little ship for the navy: "There's our army which is bigger and better than anything Jerry can get ashore; there's our air force which is far stronger now than last September; but here's something more important which people seem to forget - there's our navy."

When you peer into the channel mists and think of the gauntlet the enemy will have to run before he even touches Shakespeare Cliff you get new ideas about invasion prospects. Majority opinion in both the navy and air force seems to think the Germans won't attempt an invasion. The army seems to think they will.

"But maybe it's only wishful thinking," laughed a British officer. "It will be too bad if they don't come." Most men of Kent feel that way, and it's Kent which would feel the worst shock of invasion.

For good reasons one can't describe how the island's coasts are manned and fortified nor the hidden strong point with their immense potentials of firepower, but when thinking of Britain's preparations you have to think not only of coast defences whose job it will be to fight to the last man, but also of the wonderful mobile and armored divisions ready to strike swiftly at any point where the enemy might attain dangerous concentrations.

Hard as Supermen

You must think also of hand-picked units trained to pass days without food or sleep and hardened into supermen preparing meticulously for enterprises which one day will astonish friend and foe. Think also of Dover carrying on and listen to Dover's voice.

"My cottage was destroyed by the blast from a German bomb last September," said a tobacconist, "and friends in Manchester wanted me to evacuate, but I fixed up a new house in the same place and I'm here for the duration.".

"During some raids last autumn," said an air raid warden, "I had more people than I could handle coming out into the danger and volunteering help. I know doezens of people, including two little old women, who ought to have the Victoria Cross."

"Dover hasn't had so much fun since the Spanish armada was beaten," said a civic official.

"I've never seen such goings on," said a charwoman, angrily shaking her fist at the sea.

And in old Lord Warden hotel people sat chatting as gaily as if Hitler were only a memory like that other adventurer, Bonaparte, who once gathered his barges at Boulogne. Such is the situation on Shakespeare Cliff.  

Copyright 2011 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved