LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Ramsgate’s Roll of Honour from WW1 was lost during the Second World War so I am re-creating it in memory of my paternal grandfather who died in France in October 1918. If you go to St George’s Church in Ramsgate you will see the town’s war memorial in front of the main entrance but there are no names listed on it.There are, however, a number of plaques inside the church and other Roll of Honour boards still exist in local schools and churches. Not all the names listed have been found on the CWGC website so I have used local newspapers and street directories to find out more about the families. Stories about survivors are just as interesting. People move around a lot more these days so I have been surprised how many families still live locally a hundred years later.
While putting the names of Ramsgate’s WW1 fallen into alphabetical order it has been difficult to know who to include. Do you just include those men who are known to have lived in Ramsgate, or who went to school in the town, or also add those buried here in Commonwealth war graves as well. Using ‘Ramsgate’ as a search term on the CWGC website threw up a number of anomalies, including several Ramsgate Street addresses in other parts of England.
Soldiers from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia were killed and buried elsewhere, but are listed as natives of Ramsgate, or had parents still living in Ramsgate. My own grandfather was British, had never lived in Ramsgate, and is buried in France, but as my grandmother was living in Ramsgate by the time the list was compiled he was included. One soldier had enlisted at Ramsgate but had no other connection with the town as far as is known.
Thanet’s proximity to the channel port of Dover meant that trainloads of wounded soldiers arrived in Thanet nearly every day. The distribution of the patients to local VAD hospitals was organised from Margate Station by Major Powell-Cotton of Quex Park in Birchington, whose wife ran a VAD hospital in their own home. Remarkably, throughout the war, there were only one or two deaths at these Thanet hospitals. One patient died at the Bethel VAD hospital in Ramsgate and is buried in Ramsgate Cemetery.
Early in the war two Canadian hospitals were set up in Ramsgate until the bombing made the location too dangerous. One patient was killed when the Granville clifftop hospital was bombed. Some Canadians died and were buried in Ramsgate Cemetery. Several Canadians married local girls.
When Ramsgate Harbour was closed to local shipping in 1914 many Ramsgate trawlermen relocated to Brixham in Devon. Over forty Ramsgate fishing smacks were lost during the Great War and fourteen local fishermen were lost to enemy action by submarines. Skipper George Judge died in an Aberdeen Hospital and was brought home and buried in Ramsgate Cemetery.
Other local fishermen took part in the Dover Patrol preventing German ships and submarines from using the English Channel to reach the Atlantic Ocean. Ramsgate was a base for armed drifters and trawlers working for the Admiralty. The stormy weather off the Kent coast also gave plenty of work to local lifeboatmen when ships and barges delivering essential supplies got into trouble on the treacherous Goodwin Sands. During the war Ramsgate’s Sailor’s Home catered for 44 shipwrecked crews, numbering nearly 600 men. A number of unidentified sailors, bodies retrieved from the sea, are buried in Ramsgate Cemetery.
In Ramsgate Cemetery is also the grave of thirteen men of His Majesty’s Torpedo Boat No 4 who were killed in an explosion in Ramsgate Harbour in May 1917. The seamen came from all over the country, including Bristol and Plymouth. The funeral procession through the town was attended by thousands of townspeople, who subscribed to erect a white marble cross.
It is important to remember that not all victims of WW1 are buried in Flanders. There are many WW1 graves scattered around British cemeteries too. Some are of local men like Mr Trowbridge who were brought home to Ramsgate too ill to return to battle. Others are wounded men who were brought back through Kent and died here. The graves of most Australian, Canadian or South African men buried in Kent have probably never been visited by their families so at this time of commemoration why not see if there are any buried in a cemetery near you.
As a by-product of my research I also offer guided tours of the WW1 graves in Ramsgate Cemetery. The next one will take place on Wednesday 13th May at 7pm meeting by the chapel.

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