The Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-Le-Ferne, Folkestone
Like me being a Kentish Man and never going to Dover Castle until this year, I hadn’t been to the Battle of Britain Memorial either, so yesterday Leo and myself drove the 20 minutes down there to have a look.
It really is some setting I have to say, if you brought a house there, it would be worth a bit believe me. The views north to Dover, south to Folkestone and eastwards accross the Channel to Boulogne and Calais are quite spectacular and we were lucky enough to choose a sunny September day.
Unlike most Memorials, this list the names of all those participating in the Battle, rather than those who sadly lost their life’s. The Christopher Foxley-Norris Wall is in simple style and reading along the list you will find how it wasn’t just the British Airmen, but those from distant lands as well.
Next to the small and basic Cafe with some Souvenirs, there are the full size replicas of a Spitfire and Hurricane, icons in our recent history and as I wandered around them, many memories of youth came rushing back….
Although I was born in 1948, the after effects and community type spirit from those dark years still lingered on. I remember for instance going to the Shops with a Ration Book and how gardens really were for Vegetables and Chickens !
In the late 1950’s I would ride my bike from our home in Sevenoaks up to Biggin Hill for the Air Show. In true youth fashion I never paid, I knew the area well, left my bike in the neighbouring woodland and climbed the fence !
They were the days when Spitfires and Hurricanes were many but flight had evolved itself to the Meteor and the Lightning Jets and although it was some 50 or more years ago, the sound of those things flying over just above your head, crushed your ribs with sound and vibration just as much as they do today.
A few years later and just about old enough to enter local ‘watering holes’, my friends and myself would often pop into ‘The White Hart’ at Brasted where we would sit close to the Blackboard signed by Pilots from Biggin Hill at the time of the Battle.
It is one of those memories which is in black and white as were most of the British movies of that time. With the way technology has changed, it really does seem like a previous age.
So I guess with that upbringing, my father served in North Africa and my Grandparents in Ypres and Gallipoli, a pride of what we have achieved is built into you.
I looked at all those names on the wall, some of which are still alive today and think about how very close we were to being invaded by a far superior (at that time) force. It was just a matter of hours before the planned invasion they finally succumbed, resolved themselves that the Channel was a bridge too far and decided on, if you like, ‘Plan B’.
Just a few months after the disaster and embarrassment of Dunkirk when we were on our knees listening to the striking ‘We will fight them on the beaches’ Churchill words, a few men got into two types of Aeroplane and turned history around.
Living in Kent we are still blessed with the odd Spitfire or Hurricane flying over and I can tell them before I see them, the sound is imprinted and when I do look up and see them, it still brings a lump to my throat of memories past.
So may this Memorial remain forever as a symbol that nothing cannot be done if you have pride, courage, resolve and spirit, no matter what it is.