Monthly Archives: March 2015


ramsgate shelters

The Thanet Advertiser 8th January 1916

Life becomes daily more complex in war time. “Twelve short, sharp blasts” I now murmur in my sleep. The possessor of a sadly inefficient memory, I have been endeavouring to learn by heart the latest musical exercise.
“Twelve short, sharp blasts” I repeat at breakfast, dinner, tea and before going to bed, with the hope that having impressed the instructions on my mind I may comport myself with calmness and with dignity when the siren sounds the shrill, short, sharp signals.
“To avoid confusion” runs the official notice, “the inhabitants are particularly requested to notice that this fire alarm signal is distinctive from the signal to be given in case of an aircraft raid or bombardment by ships, either at Ramsgate, Margate or Broadstairs.” The authorities are so considerate, so thoughtful, so motherly. Most people would be gratified for the warning. Alas – and I confess it with abject shame – I have quite forgotten the signal which is to be given in case of air raid or bombardment at either Ramsgate, Margate or Broadstairs.
My one recollection of the signal is not a happy one. I was shocked out of that sound slumber which is the just reward of the guiltless by an unearthly syrenical shriek – and for a week afterwards the life of some well-meaning but misguided official at Broadstairs would have terminated abruptly had he the misfortune to meet me.
Now, however, I am in calmer mood, and I wait in pleasant anticipation each Saturday morning for the gentle blast from Boundary Road. I should have been sorely disappointed had the instrumentalist been given a little holiday on Christmas morn. But at ten o’clock on the tick he cheerfully piped away his weekly serenade. “Twelve, short, sharp blasts.”

War has descended upon our Empire

Thanet Advertiser Saturday 8th August 1914

War, dreadful and drastic – has descended upon our Empire, and in a trice, all private and party differences have been forgotten in the face of the national crisis with which we are confronted. Such an appalling prospect has never been before these islands since the days of the Crimea, and that is beyond the memory of most of the present generation.It is a far cry from the national to the parochial outlook, but health resorts such as Ramsgate, have inevitably felt the force of the blow in their most vulnerable spot. To all intents and purposes the season will probably be at least considerably curtailed; and the resultant outlook is not a bright one. In such circumstances it behoves all classes to remain calm and not to become panic stricken. The laying up of stores of provisions only re-acts on buyers in the shape of increased prices, and hits with terrible force at the poorer classes of the realm. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s text on Sunday last “bear ye one another’s burdens” appeals to us as peculiarly applicable to present circumstances. Many of Ramsgate’s residents – hardy veterans of the nation’s services, and the youth of the town who are associated with the Territorial Forces- leaving their families and their ordinary avocations behind them, are serving the colours of their King. There are those who must remain, and upon them will fall the duty of seeing that, so far as is humanly possible, disaster shall not come upon the dependents of such men. The manner in which the town has so far responded to its obligations – both as shewn at the Mayor’s meeting on Tuesday night and in the private offers which have been made of other necessary forms of help – goes far to prove that Ramsgate, as a town, will not fall short of its obvious duty.

Live Bait Squadron

The following Thanet men were lost when their ships were torpedoed in the North Sea on September 22nd 1914. They are commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial

Assiter A Chief Yeoman of Signals                   HMS Aboukir
Blackburn L Leading Seaman                          HMS Hogue
Brenchley George Charles Able Seaman        HMS Aboukir
Brenchley J C Seaman                                      HMS Aboukir
Brown H J Seaman RNR                                  HMS Aboukir
Castle John Shipwright 1st Class                    HMS Cressy
Howes Albert Edward Petty Officer              HMS Aboukir
Morris Stoker J 1st Class                                 HMS Hogue
Wheat George Alfred Signalman                    HMS Cressy or HMS Aboukir
White F 1st Class Petty Officer                      HMS Cressy

Oliver comes home


January 15th 1915

In the early days of the war a few families were able to arrange for their dead sons, fathers and husbands to be brought home. Lance Corporal Oliver Smith, who died in the 3rd London General Hospital in Wandsworth, was the first soldier killed in the war to be brought back to Ramsgate to be buried in St Lawrence churchyard. As the Thanet Times reported there were hundreds of local people lining the route to pay their respects from the house in Bloomsbury Road to the church.

Continue reading Oliver comes home

Ramsgate in August 1914


Ramsgate was a town of some 30,000 inhabitants whose prosperity in 1914 relied heavily on its visitors in the summer season, whether day trippers or boarders. Other important industries were the railway, fishing and market gardening. A large flour mill and brewery were also important employers in the town. The many small family-run shops and businesses were busy catering for visitors and townsfolk alike, offering a level of personal service unknown to most of us a century later. Some tradespeople were directly involved in servicing summer visitors, such as bath chair proprietors, licensed porters, and a bathing machine proprietress, as well as all those people who ran furnished apartments, boarding houses and dining rooms. Other important jobs were servicing the boat owners, sailors and fishermen in the harbour, such as sail makers, ships’ chandlers, shipwrights, and smack owners.

Many young men would have been apprentices before enlisting in the army but one local man was listed as a Journeyman butcher, one who had completed his apprenticeship, but was not yet considered a master-craftsman. Another was a Brewer’s carman, who drove the wagon with the barrels to deliver them to customers or to the railway stations.Yet another was simply listed as an errand boy.Here are some of the other jobs, those we know about mainly from the local papers, that the young men of Ramsgate had before enlisting:-

Ramsgate Council employees Shopkeepers, managers and assistants
Local school masters Insurance clerks
Builders Bank employees
Doctors Shipwrights
Local Reporters Printers
Policemen Postmen and GPO employees
Gas works employees Newspaper distributors
Coach builder Plumbers, carpenters
Painters and decorators Hotel and catering staff
Cinematograph operators Signwriter

Those poor Belgians

When World War I began, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg as part of the Schlieffen Plan, in an attempt to capture Paris quickly by catching the French off guard by invading through neutral countries. The British were still bound by the 1839 agreement to protect Belgium in the event of a war. On 2nd August 1914, the German government demanded free passage through Belgian territory. The Belgian government refused so on 4th August German troops invaded Belgium and Britain declared war on Germany. Continue reading Those poor Belgians

HMS Natal


The Thanet Advertiser January 8th 1916

During World War I HMS Natal was assigned to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet, but did not participate in any battles. The ship was sunk by an internal explosion near Cromarty Firth on 30 December 1915. Many Thanet men were serving on her. The commanding officer Captain Eric Back who died was the brother of Mrs Maud Hatfeild, a well-known Margate personality  who later became the first woman Mayor of Margate. Eric Back’s name is inscribed on the All Saints Church (Westbrook) War Memorial where his brother, Guy, was the Vicar.

Reported Missing

Ordinary Seaman Stanley James Attwell Drayson aged 18 of 53 Albion Street Broadstairs
Sick-berth steward J A W Jenkins of Shannonville, Dundonald Road, Broadstairs
Leading Seaman T W Jervis of 4 King Edward Road, Ramsgate.

Reported saved

Chief Petty Officer W F Chandler (formerly of Ramsgate, now of Sheerness)
Petty Officer C H Port of 31 Avenue Road Ramsgate
Shipwright 2nd Class A Harty of 57 Albion Street Broadstairs
Ordinary Seaman L C Pantony of 1 Camden Villas, Green Lane, St Peter’s
Ordinary Seaman E Stupple of 1 Calva Cottages, Vicarage Street, St Peter’s

A Casualty


You came to me with your eyes ashine
With a soldierly, careless tread.
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 well glad to go!”
But your lips were set in a line so grim
That boded ill for the foe.

My fighting blood leaped up in pride –
You looked so British, so grand;
But my woman’s heart was 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.

To-day, in letters that scorched like flame,
As I read of the toll we have paid-
The reeking horrors, the awful strife,
The crimes that will ne’er from history fade –
There leaped to my anxious eyes your name;
Died, fighting hard, as a soldier should;
Killed as a valiant deed you assayed.
I wept – but I gloried. I understood.

You called me once “Your comrade brave,”
And never, I trust, I’ll belie your thought;
But to-day far away in your nameless grave
Lies all the love that you never sought.
I know that you died for England’s sake.
Maybe – I know not – ‘tis better so.
I do not murmur; but should there break
A heart to-night – only God will know.

Miriam E Gladwell

Thanet Advertiser October 1914

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.


Awake! Awake! You men and boys, who boast of British blood,
Come forward now, come quickly, to stay the dreadful thud,
For England must and will gain victory great and sure,
But it’s men with grit and courage that are wanted more and more.
‘Tis not a time for trifling, ‘tis not a time for thought
Of home, of friends, of luxury, ‘tis not a time for sport,
For the honour of our Country and our safety is at stake,
So it’s courage, lads, all courage now, Awake! Awake! Awake!
Your King and Country need you, that is the call today
So boldly give your services and to the good God pray
That He will watch and keep you from danger to the end,
You do your best, he’ll do the rest and victory He’ll send

Ida Warwick

Published in the Isle of Thanet Gazette 5th December 1914