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.

Commander Bone, who had gone up from Westgate in a seaplane pursued one of the

planes when it turned southwards and shot it down over the Goodwin Sands.

The following night there was a meeting of townspeople at Ramsgate Town Hall

at 8 p.m. to insist upon better protection for the town against attack by

aircraft. They were angry because the warning siren had not sounded until the

danger was practically over. A prompt warning might have saved the children’s


The following Tuesday a train load of anti-aircraft guns, search lights, motor

cycles and about 60 soldiers arrived at Ramsgate. Two search lights and some

guns were placed on Warre’s field near Ramsgate Station, and on Government

Acre on the Westcliff, and the West Cliff promenade was closed to the public.

The mayor and corporation attended the funeral of the children the following

Thursday in Ramsgate cemetery after a service in St Luke’s Church. Local

school children also attended the funerallong with a large contingent of

Canadian soldiers. It was the saddest week Ramsgate had known for many years.

Ramsgate people were complimented in the House of Commons during the week on

their plucky behaviour, but they felt that more protection for their children

would be worth much more than compliments.

The raid was reported in the Times of 23/3/1916. The children who died

included brothers Ernest and George Philpott. George was badly wounded but did

not die until 1917.The other children were James and Gladys Saxby, Herbert

Gibbens and Grace Ward, who died of her injuries ten years later.Adults Frank

Hardwick and Henry Divers also died, and Mrs Bishop who died of her injuries

several days later.

The Canadian soldiers organised a collection for a headstone for the children

in the shape of a maple leaf. In recent years the stone lay damaged but has

now been replaced in time for the 100th anniversary of the air raid in 2016.

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