war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper


The "We Remember" Booklet 2006



Terry Sutton, courtesy TerryToday, as I look across the Dover Strait to the beckoning cliffs of France, I find it hard to believe that just over 60 years ago we watched that coast for a very different reason. Any day or night the enemy’s invasion barges might have been seen arriving. Night and day the dwindling population of Dover watched for the flashes of the long range guns and waited for the explosions of the incoming shells.Sheltering in Winchelsea cave, courtesy Mrs Wright

Before September 1939 Dover’s population was well over 40,000 but in 12 months had dwindled to an estimated 12,000. Most of the town’s school children - including myself - had been packed off on evacuation. (Some boys and girls stayed, and the national newspapers named them “Dover’s Dead End Kids.” For months they received no education.) Factories and mills closed, the cross-Channel steamers went elsewhere for war work, Customs officers and Immigration staff moved out. It was mainly those engaged in essential work that remained.

They faced not only the daily ordeal of likely shelling but also bombing, the dropping of land mines, shot down barrage balloons falling on their homes, the danger of being sprayed with anti-aircraft shrapnel. More than 2220 shells, 464 bombs, three parachute mines and a trio of flying bombs fell on the borough. 

But Dover carried on. Dover survived, often on short rations because tWellesley Road, courtesy Dover Museumhe local infrastructure was battered by enemy action. Housewives. often in clothes wearing thin, braved the dangers. Often alone. Their husbands were serving away in far away places like North Africa, India and Burma; their children with unknown families where they were not always welcome. The town was flooded with men and women in uniform. Mostly British but Dutch, Poles, a few Free French and, later in the war, the occasional American. The Navy boys filled the pubs which many deserted hurriedly to join their ships and other craft that could be heard roaring out into the Channel. Another disturbed night for Dover folk was likely.

It was an experience that will never be forgotten by those who lived through those terrible days. And an experience I hope we never have to endure again.        

Terry Sutton MBE, Dover journalist for 57 years

In Winchelsea Cave - Mrs Ethel Ealden, next right her sister, Mrs Lou Pulham, mothers of WWII casualties Walter Ealden and John (Jack) Pulham (see "We Remember" 1)
Wellesley Road bombed, courtesy Dover Museum

Copyright 2006 © Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved