Category Archives: Civilians

The Big Bang

n Sunday 2nd April 1916, just as most Ramsgate folk were sitting around the table enjoying their Sunday roast, they were suddenly jolted by a tremor, which to some felt like an earthquake. In fact what they were experiencing was the aftershock from the explosion at the Explosives Loading Company factory at Uplees, near Faversham in which 108 men died. Many local women worked there too but luckily did not work on Sundays. Fifteen tons of TNT and 150 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up when some empty sacks caught fire.

So great was the explosion that windows across the Thames estuary in Southend were shattered and the tremor was felt in Norwich and in France as well as Thanet.

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Remembering Ramsgate’s saddest week

On Sunday 19th March 1916 five enemy seaplanes raided Dover, Deal, Ramsgate &

Margate. In Ramsgate townsfolk heard heavy firing in the distance but it was

too misty to see much out at sea that afternoon. Suddenly the rapid firing of

shrapnel was heard then the sound of bombs exploding. Damage was done in King

Street and Chatham Street.

The driver of a motor car was struck and killed on St. Luke’s Avenue and most

of the windows in the vicinity were shattered. Five children were killed on

their way to St. Luke’s Sunday school and nine people were injured.

There will be a commemoration service at St Luke’s Church in Ramsgate on Sunday 20th March 2016 at 10.30am. All are welcome to attend. If fine the congregation will be invited to join a short walk to the cemetery to see the gravestone of the Saxby children which was restored in 2015.


Women put on a brave face


When waving off their menfolk women put on a brave face, but as these two verses of a poem by Miriam E Gladwell show, many a tear was shed at night in the privacy of their own bedroom:-

You came to me with your eyes ashine

With a soldierly, careless trend

In a khaki uniform so trim

And a new peaked cap on your head

I’m off to the front dear comrade mine and I’m jolly glad to go

But your lips were set in a line so grim

That bode ill for the foe

My fighting blood leaped up in pride

You looked so British, so grand

But my women’s heart was so vaguely stirred

As you heartily shook my hand

Stirred with a pain I struggled to hide

You were marching to glory – or death

And ‘twas only God that night who heard

The tears that were choking my breath

Miriam E Gladwell was a Ramsgate poet, well-known to the concert-going public in the town and district, who had made many successful appearances on the platform as an elocutionist of merit, and was always available for the organisers of charity events. In October 1916 the Thanet Advertiser published a book of her poems called “In War Time,” which was followed by another volume in December 1917. Miriam and her husband Charlie ran the Wellington Hotel in Ramsgate High Street. Her children Vincent and Miriam were the original Bisto kids designed in 1919 by the cartoonist Wilf Owen from Rochester who worked for a time for the East Kent Mercury newspaper.

Some recent WW1 commemorations down under

A new memorial had been unveiled at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. A simple black oculus representing a camera lens is dedicated to the work of journalists, photographers, camara operators and artists. The new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, himself a former journalist, said that the new War Correspondents’ Memorial was about courage in the face of death.

The Heritage Council of Victoria has published some trail leaflets “100 places for 100 years” encouraging people to visit all the WW1 and WW11 memorials in the state of Victoria.

The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne’s Visitor centre in the crypt has been extended and now includes a museum. They publish a quarterly What’s On brochure outlining their ongoing programme of talks etc..

The Monash Choral project is ambitiously creating a series of performances based on the life of General Sir John Monash GCMG, KCB, VD.

A quiet corner of Ramsgate

On a recent visit to Ramsgate’s Jewish Cemetery to see the grave of a civilian who died in a WW1 air raid my attention was drawn to two other graves on which WW1 soldiers are remembered.

The civilian who died was Kate Cleopatra Bonny who was killed on the Eve of the Day of Atonement 5676 on 17th September 1915 aged 32.

The first soldier was Alfred Abraham Silver, a Lance Corporal in the 2nd Garrison Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment who died in India from influenza aged 22 on 25th October 1918, and whose parents lived in Augusta Road. He was buried in India and remembered on the Kirklee Memorial. There was an obituary in the Thanet Advertiser of 9th November 1918.

The other soldier was Morris Julius van Thal, a Rifleman in the 24th Battalion Royal Fusiliers who died in France on 29/04/1917. His body was not found so he is remembered on the Arras Memorial.


Ten Ramsgate Communities and counting!

There are now ten Ramsgate communities on the IWM LivesoftheFirstWorldWar website. They are not complete yet. I have just added the Old Augustinians and the Old Laurentians and will be adding the Chatham House OBs and church honours boards too over the next few months. My guided cemetery tours are now finished for 2015 but nearly every time I learn something new. In August the grandson of a Ramsgate Buff who survived the Great War showed me where his grandfather is buried. An interesting twist is that Fred Elliss was a beach photographer before the war. My next quest is to find out if the honours board for the Ramsgate branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters still exists as I have a list from a local newspaper of a number of names which appeared on it.

St Lawrence College opened their doors for the first time last weekend as part of the national Heritage Open Days – a great opportunity to see their WW1 honours board in the chapel, which was itself built as a war memorial.

Women employed for the war effort

In March 1915 the Labour Exchange in Turner Street, Ramsgate, claimed that no able-bodied person need be unemployed. Women were wanted as farm and dairy hands, for leather stitching, brush making, machining clothing and for light machining for parts for the armaments industry.

By April 1915 there were already signs in the Thanet Advertiser that women were starting to take on the jobs of the men who had left for the front:-

It is all to the good, therefore, that women should take up the lighter duties of distribution, and there are many duties in the railway, postal, police, and administrative services that might well be done by women, thus releasing many fit men for the greater and heavier employments.

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