Cockburn's Diary Ramsgate Life in the First Word War
First Published 2006.
A5 format – Card Cover 90+ Printed Pages.
From the Introduction: -
WW1 was in fact the first war in which it was possible to attack the civilian population of the UK. Aerial attacks either by Zeppelin or aeroplane were entirely new and the defence against them experimental in nature. The aircraft themselves were fairly frail unreliable and of a limited range, this meant it was easier for them to attack here in this part of England closest to Europe. In Ramsgate the people were very shocked that ordinary civilians many of whom were women and children were targeted by the enemy.
Diary starts – Saturday August 1st 1914 the following are just snippets from the entries: -
Sunday August 2nd – After breakfast I went up to see Mr C.J. Fox’s (the chemist in Addington Street) were news of any important events has been posted up ever since the commencement of the Boer War in 1899. There I found that Germany had declared war on Russia at 7.30 the previous evening….
Wednesday August 20th – We are taking steps to guard the Water Works at Westgate, after consultation with the authorities we find that we cannot have any constables…..
Saturday September 25th – Today they have been searching the Granville Hotel, Ramsgate for spies. The hotel has been shut-up all winter and I understand that, as their suspicions were aroused, the authorities sent an armed party to search the premises on Thursday last.
Wednesday April 5th 1916 – Mother and the children left Ramsgate for Canterbury by the afternoon train. About mid-day we had two air-raid warnings by telephone at the office and also a verbal message to stand by, to sound the siren. Then we heard rapid fire and continuous firing in the distance. I phoned Ramsgate but found the attack was not there and it turned out, Mother and the children got away without knowing much about it.
Mr Valon came down to Westgate today. Talking about the company applying for an exemption from Military Service for me.
Entries finish July 19th 1919 photographs from the time – bomb damage etc.
Centre pages map showing -
Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Margate, Westgate, Pegwell Bay and Birchington.
I have put the first 6 monthes below to give you a flavour of this remarkable book
This is the fifth book I have published about the First World War, the original hand written manuscript is in places very hard to decipher. Both my wife and I have read it several times and have cross-referenced the names of houses, businesses and people in the 1914 and 1939 street directories that I publish. We have also crosschecked many of the events with “The North Foreland lookout Post in the Great War” by E. S. Oak-Rhind and the other First World War books about Thanet that I publish. Many of the illustrations in this book are taken from “Ramsgate During the Great War 1914-1918” by A. H. Siminson that I publish. There are still a few names of people and places that we have been unable to decipher. Those we can't read at all marked thus; ???? and those where we are uncertain being written in italics. I have scrupulously avoided any unmarked guesswork that would get between you and your local history.
I would recommend having our other First World War books to hand when reading this journal, as it was never intended for ordinary publication. It is I think best described as an account, to explain to people who had heard about the events in Ramsgate and wanted to know what it was like to live through on a day-to-day basis.
This is very much a local book and although it is not a particularly significant military book it is important to remember that the civilian population were not greatly affected by bombing in the majority of the UK. Ramsgate was very much the exception rather than the rule.
The First World War was in fact the first war in which it was possible to attack the civilian population of the UK. Aerial attacks either by zeppelin or aeroplane were entirely new and the defence against them experimental in nature. The aircraft themselves were fairly frail unreliable and of limited range, this meant it was easier for them to attack here in this part of England closest to Europe. In Ramsgate the people were very shocked that ordinary civilians many of whom were women and children were targeted by the enemy. During the previous European conflict, the Napoleonic wars stopping invasion had been sufficient to protect the population of the UK.
Both the public and the authorities were understandably very concerned by the threat of invasion by the enemy. It was assumed that if the enemy tried to land an invasion force it would be somewhere on the southeast coast. It took a considerable time for the authorities to organise both air attack and air raid warnings.
I would like to thank the owner of the original manuscript for letting me publish it so we can all share it. Of course if you have any local manuscripts I would be very interested in publishing them.
I should like to point out that it is only a matter of luck that it wasn't donated to Ramsgate Library and destroyed in the fire. I hope that you will agree with me that it is only by publishing it that one can guarantee that it is permanently preserved. Obviously if you have anything that you feel would make one of our publications don't hesitate to contact me.
Mr Cockburn, as you will find out if you read the book, lived with his family in Ramsgate and worked as the secretary for Westgate gas and water works. He was responsible for the administrative side of the company, the management of essential services has to go on even when a country is at war so he stayed in Thanet for the duration of World War One and didn't go off to fight in the trenches.
His father held a managerial position at Ramsgate gas works so you may find a little background information on gas supply at this time helpful. In the early 1900s gas was the main source of lighting in streets and people's homes, electricity generation was still only done on a small scale some business had electric light but very few private residences. At this time, before the discovery of the North Sea gas reserves, gas was made in each town from coal the by-product being coke (a smokeless solid fuel). The gas was stored at the gasworks in holders or gasometers (huge cylindrical tanks that rose out of the ground the more gas stored the higher they got) those at the old Ramsgate gas works only being removed now 2006. The coal was transported by ship or railway, to as near to the gasworks as possible and finally moved by horse and cart. Most people at this time heated their houses with coal fires and cooked on a coal or coke fired kitchen range although gas cookers were becoming fairly common. Gas lighting by this time had become very efficient the gas flame was used to heat a mantle (asbestos woven about the size of the end of ones thumb) that became white hot. Coal gas fumes are not as toxic as natural gas fumes so all in all lighting a house with gas was more pleasant and effective than one would first expect. The gas itself though was poisonous, people who committed suicide often did so by gassing themselves with their own cooker. So when Cockburn talks of the men being gassed this was a serious danger.
German prisoners of war at Ramsgate police station in 1917
Ambulance outside Ramsgate police station
As this is not intended to be a complete diary of the war, but only a few brief notes on the various items of interest in Thanet and in connection therewith. There is no necessity to attempt any detailed account of the political events which preceded and lead up to the declaration of war on Germany by Great Britain on Tuesday the 4th August 1914.
It may be well however for the sake of clearness to refer briefly to the events of the week preceding that date, culminating as they did in the declaration of war on Russia by Germany at 7.30 on the evening of Saturday 1st August 1914.
The trouble between Austria Hungary and Serbia was of course a menace to the peace of Europe and on Sunday 26th July 1914 the vicar referred in solemn tones in his sermon to the serious crisis in Europe but the public could hardly believe that it was more than a gigantic bluff on the part of Germany, and on the whole had no idea that a general European war was so near.
As the week wore on however the crisis became more and more acute. The British fleet, which had been assembled at Spithead for a review by His Majesty King George V was kept in readiness, and all leave was stopped. During the week the 1st British battle fleet left Spithead under sealed orders.
By Friday the 31st July 1914 the situation was extremely critical, and thence onward events developed with great rapidity. On that day my Grandpa Grandma and I went down to Tunbridge Wells for uncle Charles's wedding.
While at Westgate in the morning I learned that the Admiralty were making a base on the seafront there for seaplanes and a wireless installation was being installed.
During the morning several motorcars passed my office with Bluejackets of The Royal Naval Flying corps.
On the way home I learned that the Army Authorities were commandeering houses in Canterbury and elsewhere, and that various military bands that were performing in different holiday resorts were being recalled to their regiments, the ones at Broadstairs having left by the Granville express for London.
As the day wore on the outlook became blacker. At Tonbridge it was impossible to buy an evening paper, but a London train coming in, I got one which was left in a carriage. We learned that the Stock Exchange was closed and the Bank Rate was raised to 8 per cent, an ominous sign!
Grandpa told me tonight that Mr Ogier, the manager of the Capital and Counties Bank in Ramsgate [3 & 5 Queen Street], (who holds a commission in the Jersey Militia) has been called up to join his regiment, and that Lieutenant Wills of the local Territorials, a clerk in the same bank, who was in camp at Bordon Hants. for the annual training, has been sent back with the men to guard the cable hut a Dumpton Gap. Evidently the authorities fear the worst.
Saturday August 1 1914
The wedding was on Saturday August the 1st, and after seeing Charlie and his wife off by the 11.20 train from the L.B. and S.C. Railway [London Brighton and South Coast] I went on to the Pantiles [Tunbridge Wells] with Sidney Port and Wilfred Burfield. Here also the band had been recalled, and instead of commencing at 11 am as advertised, it was past 12 o'clock when a scratch band, hastily secured and brought in by motor car, began to play.
The Bank Rate today was up to 10 per cent a figure never exceeded and only twice reached in passed years.
I left Tunbridge Wells with Sidney Port for Ramsgate at 6.10 pm. The trains were all late, and contained many soldiers and sailors hastening to their various posts. The evening papers were more depressing than ever. The great Question was, is Germany playing a great game of bluff, or will she really force a war? Many people tried to believe the former, but most of us went to bed fearing the worst.
Sunday August 2 1914
After breakfast the next morning I went up to Mr C. J. Fox's (the chemist in Addington Street) where news of any important events has been posted up ever since the commencement of the Boer War in 1899. There I found that Germany had declared war on Russia at 7.30 the previous evening.
The European War then had actually begun. The question now was, would it spread to other nations, particularly would England become involved? France being Russia's ally, was bound to assist her, but England's position was more delicate. The original (or nominal) cause of the dispute viz. Austria, Hungary and Serbia, did not immediately affect us. With regard to France although the “Entente Cordiale” conceived by King Edward VII had gained in strength as years went by. Still this country was not bound by the treaty to assist France, although there were those amongst us who felt that we should be disgraced for ever if after all our professions of friendship, we failed our friends in their hour of need.
The tension and suspense of this the succeeding two days were greater, I suppose, than anything known, by any man then living. The cabinet was to meet at 11 o'clock, and everyone was asking what would they do?
Great excitement was caused in St. Georges Church this morning by the Parish Warden coming to the bottom of the pulpit steps, just as the vicar concluded his sermon, with a sheet of paper in his hand. Everyone wondered what we were to hear, but when the vicar read out the message it proved merely to be a communication from the farmers of Thanet (assembled at Quex Park) to the effect that owing to the crisis they felt it to be necessary to gather in the harvest without further delay, and were working today for that purpose.
After church we all went to Addington Street and found that the cabinet was to meet again at 3.30 but no hint of the decision was given.
Between 4 and 5 pm I went again to Fox's. Still no news from the government. But it was reported that the Germans had entered Luxembourg. This was a further complication, although not unforeseen, as we were bound by the treaty to preserve the neutrality of Luxembourg and Belgium. The general opinion now appears to be that it was impossible for us to keep out of it.
After evensong tonight I noticed a crowd round Clark's Newspaper in High Street, and on investigating I found that a telegram was posted up there announcing that 25,000 Germans had been repulsed with heavy losses.
I paid one or two further visits to Addington Street , but there was still no news from our government and we all went to bed in a state of greater suspense and anxiety than ever.
Monday August 3rd 1914
Surely there has never before been such a Bank Holiday as this has proved to be. The morning papers stated that the Cabinet would meet again this morning and that Parliament would assemble at 3.30 pm when the Prime Minister would make a statement. During the morning no further news of any importance was received at Ramsgate. All sorts of rumours were about, and as the baker told us that the government had taken over the L. C. & D. (London Chatham & Dover) Railway station. Mummie and I walked down that way in the afternoon to see if my train would run to Westgate as usual tomorrow. The station was open, but all the Inspector could tell me was that “as far as he knew” the trains would run as usual tomorrow. Returning to Addington Street we waited about in case further news should come through. All we heard however was that Bank Holiday would be extended until Thursday, and that the British Mediterranean fleet was reported to have cleared for action.
Directly after tea I went again to Fox's and found a notice to the effect that the Cabinet were unable to make up their minds what to do and the question was to be debated in the House of Commons tonight. It also stated that Mr John Burns and Sir John Simon had left the Cabinet. This, is as afterwards proved, was not a fair resume of what had taken place. But it served to dishearten some of us very much, as it appeared that the Government was hesitating when the honour of the country was at stake.
The next message half an hour or so later, was to the effect that “ war would be declared on Germany tonight or tomorrow morning,” “Mr Balfour and Mr Bonar Law have joined the Cabinet.” This was altered by the substitution of Lord Lansdowne's name for that of Mr Balfour, but the whole message subsequently proved to be incorrect.
Later in the evening Mummie and I went on to the East Cliff. The Band and Concert Party were playing, but the crowds were not up to their usual Bank Holiday standard, either as to size or merriment. Indeed it was defiantly noticeable all day that a sense of anxiety and suspense weighed on the majority of people in the town.
The public lamps on the East Cliff in front of the Coast Guard station were extinguished, to enable the coast guards to distinguish more readily the lights and signals from the sea. We could not see any signs of the two gunboats which had been lying off Ramsgate all day and concluded that they had gone, when suddenly first one then the other started flashing their searchlights about. They had been laying there all the time with their lights out. Presently they commenced signalling with their flash lamps from the masthead, and suddenly 5 or 6 ships further out at sea, whose presence we had not before suspected, commenced replying also by flash lamp. This was evidently the French Naval Squadron, which had passed Dover late this afternoon, steaming northwards. It was very interesting to watch, knowing that France was in for, and we on the brink of the real thing.
Tuesday August 4th 1914
This mornings papers were more reassuring. That is to say the Government, although still striving for peace, were resolutely determined to uphold the honour of the country and to fulfil its obligations to its friends. Sir Edward Grey's fine speech on the situation was reported fully, and gave great satisfaction to everyone. Few developments occurred during the day, until the evening it was reported that England had given Germany notice that unless she gave a satisfactory reply before midnight tonight to our request for the withdrawal of the German troops from Belgium, England would declare War on Germany. As we learned the next day England did declare war on Germany at 11 pm on Tuesday 4th August 1914, a truly memorable day in the history of the world, how memorable, the future alone can tell.
Wednesday August 5th 1914
The Government have taken over control of the Railways and all cheap tickets and excursion trains are stopped. A few of the ordinary trains are also cancelled, but so far it has not affected me. The 8.45 am up and the Granville express and the 6.20 pm from Westgate are still running as usual.
For several hours this morning we could hear heavy guns firing in the distance, many people thought that a big sea fight was going on, but the Navy men on Westgate front say it was not sustain enough to be a big battle, and was probably only practicing, or firing at merchant ships as a signal for them to “heave to”.
Both Admiralty and the War Office have kept absolute silence as to the movements of ships and troops, and no one knows what is going on.
Consequently the wildest and most circumstantial rumours are flying about. For instance I was told that two British and seven German ships were sunk, and later on that 5 British and 5 German ships were sunk, 11 German ships were captured (this was afterwards increased to 14) and that Admiral Jellicoe's flagship had been blown up. All this proved to be false and we soon learned to mistrust any news that was not official.
Three of our own men from Westgate Gas works have been called out, Fred Foreman (a stoker petty officer) in the Naval Reserve and two others, W Cocks and H Letley with the local Territorials, The Buffs.
There are some signs of panic with regard to food supplies, and people in Ramsgate are besieging the shops, Sally and Maggie shopping and found many of the grocers shut, as they already had more orders than they could deal with. Prices are already up, tea for instance is 2d a pound more (about 60p now 2006) and bread is up ½ d a loaf (about 15p now 2006). But this is more due to the panic buying than to any fear of shortage of supply. Everyone seems mad to get in supplies, Mummie heard one man in Lipton's [tea & provision merchants, 4 High Street] asking for 20 lbs. Of tea, they let him have it!!
Friday August 7th 1914
A call was made this morning for volunteers relieve guard at the Naval Air Station at Westgate. There are only about 15 soldiers there, and they are on duty so constantly that they are getting worn out for want of sleep. Sergt. Cornelious [William Cornelious 13 Alexander Road] (the local drill instructor) is trying to get enough men to take over the entire guard from 2 pm to 8 pm so as to give the “Tommies” 6 hours a day off. Jack King and Horace Lanchbery had volunteered last night and I said that I would be pleased to help for a few hours a day. However they have enough old volunteers to do the job, so are confining it to them, although Jack King has got taken on. He goes from 3 to 5 pm Lanchbery goes in the evening, and several of our men are taking turns. Six men go on at a time at different posts, they have the soldiers loaded rifles, with fixed Bayonets, their bandoliers, with 150 rounds of ammunition, and their belts with Bayonet scabbards, shovel handle etc., a good weight to carry in the hot sun.
The banks are open again today, for the first time since August 1 had quite a job to get the wages money, as they are keeping back the gold for the use of the Government, and the new £1 and 10/- notes have not reached the Westgate banks yet. They wanted me to wait until tomorrow and when I said I could not do that they asked me if I could wait until the mid day post came in, in case the notes came down then. I asked if I did that whether they could guarantee me gold then if the notes had not come, and they said “yes, as it was for wages”. I went down again at 1.15 and found no notes had arrived. They wanted to know the smallest amount of gold I could do with, so I took £16 gold and £25 silver,
instead of the £31 gold and £10 silver as usual, but we were able to find enough gold in the office to make up the usual quantity.
The working men seem to dislike the idea of these notes. One stoker, when I paid him tonight said “to paper money” “tonight then sir,-” I said “No not tonight.-” So he said “Good job too, don't want any of them”. I told him he would probably have them next Friday, so he said. “Well I suppose people will be bound to take them”. I told him they would be every bit as good as gold and no one would dare to refuse them, that seemed to cheer him up a bit.
The local (Ramsgate) Artillery (Territorials) under the command of Major S. H. Page has been encamped at Chatham House grounds while the final arrangements of mobilisation were being made. This morning they left for Dover and Mummie, Auntie and the children saw them march down the street, with their 4 guns and equipment complete. In the rear in ordinary dress, were marching many recruits who had joined during this week. The battery is up to full strength although some men had failed to pass the doctor, as there were recruits to fill up these gaps. As the men marched down the High Street, Mr Mockridge [baker, 78 High Street] came out of his shop and presented each man with a bag of cakes &co. These were received with evident pleasure, and promptly stowed away in haversacks for further use.
During the week false and foolish reports have appeared in a certain London paper that the cliffs and sands at Westgate, Margate, Ramsgate and &co. have been cleared of bathers and visitors and taken over by the military authorities.
This evidently originated from the fact that a few yards of sea wall at Westgate, near the sea planes, has been fenced off and guarded by sentries. It is too bad to magnify this into an absolutely false statement, as we are loosing enough by visitors leaving, without trying to prevent others from coming down. The various towns promptly put out notices to reassure the visitors.
Saturday August 8th 1914
During the week train loads of Admiralty coal have arrived and been carted down to the harbour for use by the Government tugs and warships. The Admiralty have also fitted up a wireless station at the clock house in the pier yard (Ramsgate.) During the week the public have been allowed on the pier the London boats have run as usual, but we were not surprised on Saturday morning to find the pier gates closed, and the following notice posted up:-
that any unauthorised
person approaching or
attempting to enter the
Navy Office, commonly
known as the Clock House
is liable to be SHOT by the
sentry or police constable.”
It looks very grim to see such a notice on our usually peaceful front. A space around the Clock House is roped off, and a sentry with a loaded rifle and fixed bayonet is stationed there.
Grandma heard from Uncle Bob today, Harold who has been at home for his exams, and has passed them, and has obtained a berth as fourth officer on the Rewa, a hospital ship. He had three days to get his kit ready, and Uncle saw him off on Friday from Waterloo, to join his ship at Southampton.
Uncle says he expects Lester “will join something.” He also says that they hardly see anything of Arthur now. His Gas Works, at Sydenham, are guarded all night by the military, by special orders form the War Office, and all the staff are kept pretty close to their posts.
Miss Chilton has issued an appeal in the local papers today for money with which to buy material for the working parties who are making garments for the wounded who may be brought here. Mummie has ruled up a collecting card for Mary, who has been going round to various friends collecting subscriptions. She has got 16/- today.
Sunday August 9th 1914
A special service of intercession was held at St. Georges Church, Ramsgate at 3.30 pm today, in connection with the war. The mayor and corporation attended. Grandpa of course went with the corporation, being an official of the Borough. I was on duty in the West Gallery, as a sidesman. Mary went to the service with Auntie and Sarah.
Monday August 10th 1914
Mary has been out collecting again today. Her collection reached a total of one guinea, which Mummie has sent to Mrs. Chilton.
Just as we finished tea there seemed a considerable excitement outside' people standing and looking at something, we ran out. And found that a large biplane was passing over the town. Mary and I ran out on to the sea front and saw her fly out over the sea in the direction of France. We watched her till she became a mere speck in the sky, and was finally lost to sight in the clouds.
While on the cliff tonight Mary and I saw the Naval Patrol at work. One of the Naval tugs stopped two large steamers. The first she only detained about 5 minuets but the other she kept quite a long time. The tug ranged up alongside the steamer amidships, and presumably the officers went aboard and examined her papers etc. Eventually we supposed they were satisfied, for they allowed her to proceed.
This sort of thing goes on all day and every day. Every ship going down Channel (i.e. towards Dover) is stopped and examined by our naval officers. The ships going up Channel towards London are not challenged here. I believe they are searched before entering the other end of the Straits of Dover. Sometimes Germans of military age, or otherwise suspicious, are captured. These are brought ashore at Ramsgate and marched through the town by soldiers with fixed bayonets. They are taken, I believe, to a concentration camp near Dover.
Many Germans Austrians etc. left the town today owing to the order in council, published today under the Alien Registration Act, prohibiting their residence in towns on the East coast.
About 11.30 this (Monday) morning, they telephoned us from the Gas Works (at Westgate) that a large air ship was passing over Quex Park. We turned out to have a look at her and could see her plainly through the glasses. She looked more like a big fish than anything else, thick at the front and tapering towards the stern, with planes, or propellers (she was too far off for us to tell which) at the stern, which gave the appearance of a fish's tail. We saw her turn and make in our direction, but eventually she turned again, and disappeared over the skyline in the direction of Sandwich and Deal. Later on the foreman from the Estate Office called on me and asked me to kindly telephone at once to the Estate Office (who were in touch with the naval Authorities on the front) whenever we saw anything of that sort, as being over the back of the town it was not visible from the front. As soon as they heard of it the Naval officer sent two “planes” up to reconnoitre but she turned out to be a British Army Airship. This was the first time I had seen an airship. Have seen plenty of aeroplanes and seaplanes, but no airship until this one.
Tuesday August 11th 1914
Saw another air ship tonight as I was coming out of the station at Ramsgate about 5.30. She was a mere speck over the sea and I could not at first see if she was an airship or a biplane, though I judged form her size that she was a “ship”. She drew rapidly nearer and then proved to be a definable airship. I had a look through the glasses, but could not stop to see which way she went.
Just as we were starting for Southwood about 6.45 Mary saw an aeroplane right over our heads, flying southwards. These sights are becoming an everyday affair now, and it will be impossible and useless to note here in future every time we see one. As Mummie expressed it “the air seems full of them”.
Wednesday August 12th 1914
We are taking steps to guard the Water Works at Westgate. After consultation with the Authorities we find that they cannot let us have any constables, although the Police
Detail from 1920s map of Westgate
Sergeant says we certainly ought to have the Works guarded at night. So our men who are helping to guard the seaplanes will come off that job, and go on guard at the Water Works at night, two from 8 to 12 pm and two from 12 to 4 am, with two spare men to give each pair on night off in three. The men who will be sworn in as special constables will go on duty tonight for the first time.
Detail of the gasworks from the above picture
In Mr. Valon's absence, King and I thought it necessary to take precautions, as spies are supposed to have been found cutting telegraph wires etc, as near as Sturry.
Notice is given that certain of the cheap tickets etc, on some railways (including the S. E. & C. R. [South Eastern and Chatham Railway]) will be resumed. This looks as though mobilisation is completed and the expeditionary force already on the continent, but there is nothing official to this effect.
Thursday August 13th 1914
A grim and terrible side of war is being brought home to us by the preparations which are being made for the wounded. The General Hospital at Ramsgate is preparing 60 beds for them, and the local branch of the Kent Voluntary Aid Detachment are getting ready for nursing &co. Classes are being formed for Ambulance and First Aid instruction and a notice is posted in Ramsgate today asking all men who are willing to act as stretcher bearers to assemble at Commerford's Stores [49 Cecilia Rd] tonight at 8 pm to give their names and receive instructions etc. Working parties are being formed in all the Thanet towns to provide necessary garments for the wounded. Mummie has been to the Vicarage this morning helping Mrs Crawford to cut out some work. Mary has had a flannel cover for a hot water bottle to make.
Notice has been posted in Westgate that firing practice over the sands at #s from 8 pm to midnight on August 12. 13. 14 and 15. This is signed by an officer and is obviously intended to avoid any scare or false summons getting about, as the guns can be plainly heard at Westgate.
Notice has been posted in Westgate by the Naval Air people, prohibiting the flying of kites on the sea front, or elsewhere.
Sunday August 16th 1914
The Vicar has printed a letter, which was circulated amongst the congregation at Matins this morning giving details of special services on Friday next 21st August, which has been set apart by the Archbishop as special day of intersession.
Notice is also given that on and after tomorrow the bell at St. Georges will be rung for a few minuets after 12 o'clock (noon) in order that all who hear it, wherever they may be, may pause and offer, a short silent prayer to GOD for our sailors and soldiers.
Maggie told me tonight that when her young man was cycling back to Ash from Ramsgate last Thursday evening he was stopped twice on the Sandwich road by soldiers, once near the Sportsman and once at the saltpans. In each case he was cycling along quietly in the usual way, when a solider sprang out from each side of the road, with a rifle and electric torch, and stopped him. They wanted to know who he was, where he came from and where he was going to and so on. But as his answers were satisfactory of course they let him go on. It just shows, however how the country is being guarded in these anxious times.
Monday August 17th 1914
Our “tin” wedding day, Mr. Vince called at the office today and told me Mr. Arthur Valon, who was in Switzerland when the war broke out, had written from Berne and will be returning to England as soon as he can get through.
This afternoon we all walked from Ramsgate to Broadstairs. Sentries are posted at the end of East Cliff promenade Ramsgate, in the corner by the old shelters seat, which is roped off. Passing Dumpton Gap we found the cable hut at the top of the “gap” fenced off and a sentry on duty with fixed bayonet, while another sentry armed, was on the sands at the bottom of the gap.
We had tea at the Caves Café at Broadstairs and spent a most enjoyable time. In fact we quite forgot about the war for an hour or so, until on our way back we saw the Red Cross flag flying over the Yarrow Home [for Convalescent Children of the Better Classes, Ramsgate Road], which is being used as a hospital. This brought the fact of war back to our minds with all its grimness.
The mayor of Ramsgate has convened a meeting for 8 pm tonight at the Town Hall to discuss the enrolling of a Civil Guard for Ramsgate.
Auntie has had a letter from Miss. Wilson, The Beeches, Canterbury, giving us an interesting account of the number of troops in that City. She herself has 17 men billeted on her at the Beeches, and the houses next to Aunties have 4 men each.
It is quite a sight to see the hoardings and the shop windows now, they are full of notices re the war: copies of various proclamations calling out the army, navy and reserves; Notices re registration of Aliens; Calls for assistance by the Kent Voluntary Aid Detachment for nurses, stretcher bearers &co; calls for men to join the army in response to Lord Kitchener's Appeal for 100,000 men; Notices of various meetings re the Prince of Wales Relief Fund, and the enrolment of the Civil Guard; various notices to endeavour to allay uneasiness among the visitors caused by the alarmist news in London papers and so on and so on.
Tuesday August 18th 1914
Official news was published today that the British troops, under General French are in France.
Friday August 21st 1914
Special day of intercession. Services at St. George's Church, Ramsgate.
Thursday August 27th 1914
A number of Territorials arrived in Ramsgate this week and have been quartered at the County Rink.
The Post Office and Telephone Office at Ramsgate are now guarded by soldiers with fixed bayonets.
Official news was received during the week that H.M.S. Konnell, while chasing a German destroyer was fired on by batteries of Tsing Tan and lost 3 men killed and 7 wounded.
Maggie's brother-in-law (Gartinge) is on this ship, but his name is not among the casualties.
Friday August 28th 1914
Recruiting meeting at Westgate; about 17 names given in.
Cricket match at Streete Court, Westgate in aid of the Prince of Wales Relief Fund, realised £25.
Saturday August 29th 1914
News received in Ramsgate of a Naval Action in the Heligoland Bight. 5 German ships known to be sunk.
Monday September 14th 1914
There is a Belgian Fishing Smack in Ramsgate Harbour, moored opposite the bottom of York Street, with two families on board. It causes much interest amongst visitors and residents, and there is always a crowd hanging over the railings looking at them, and sometimes throwing pennies or apples etc. To the children on board of whom there appear to be 3 a little girl and two little boys.
Wednesday September 16th 1914
Capt. H.B. Bartram R.H.A. (son of Canon Bartram, sometime vicar of Ramsgate) died today at Alexandra Hospital, Cosham of gastritis from the resides of putraitons in the field.
Thursday September 24th 1914
We walked from Ramsgate to Margate along the cliffs today and saw the trenches between North Foreland and Cliftonville. They are on the edge of the cliffs, about 5 feet deep, I should say so that a man can stand in them and fire at anyone attempting to land on the sands. They are sheltered on top by plants on which earth and turf is laid.
Went to the Rifle Club tonight. Heard that A. Keen, the Range Superintendent is in the North Sea on H.M.S. Bacchantes, one of the ships engaged in the actions of the Heligoland Bight.
Sunday September 27th 1914
The Naval Patrol in the Downs sent in to Ramsgate Harbour a motor boat which they had arrested, with orders that on no account was it to be allowed to leave the Harbour. It was berthed in the East Gully and a sentry with fixed bayonet placed on board.
We saw a little Belgian Baby and her mother on the West Cliff this afternoon. They were with Miss Egglestone, who told us that they were refugees from Louvain. Their shop in
that town was burned down and 45000 francs worth of stock destroyed. The men and women were marched out of the town in separate columns, and were then separated; the women and children going to Antwerp and thence these two came to England, but the lady had heard nothing of her husband since leaving Louvain, although she had written to Berlin to see if he was prisoner there. The baby, nine months old, was named Yvonne, and was a dear little mite, and very friendly with us.
There are a lot of Belgian Refugees in Ramsgate and they all look so pleased and grateful at the English.
Tuesday September 29th 1914
The Sentry on duty at the Navy office at Ramsgate, a Birchington territorial, was found asleep on his post last night by the Naval Officer. He will be court marshalled.
The Naval Officials have asked the Local Authorities to curtail the lighting on the seafront as much as possible, which is being done as from today. Coming down Grange Road and the West Cliff tonight, I found the only lamps alight from the corner of St. Augustine's Road along the front were a light in the sheltered seat in Government Acre, and two lamps at the entrance to the new Concert Hall; and it is the same down the new road and on the East Cliff.
Tuesday October 6th 1914
We received notice at Westgate to turn out all street lamps at 10 p.m. as from tonight.
On the promenade at Ramsgate tonight I noticed that every alternate lamp on the sea side of the promenade was alight, but the pane of glass facing the sea was blackened so that the light was not visible form the sea.
Saturday October 10th 1914
The first Belgian wounded soldiers to reach England arrived at Ramsgate about 4 p.m. this afternoon. They crossed to Folkestone, and motors were sent to fetch them to Ramsgate. There were motor ambulances for the worst cases, and private motor cars, lent for the purpose and in some cases, driven by the owners themselves, for those who were able to set up. Uncle Charlie and his wife were staying at Oak Villa and we all went on to the West Cliff and saw the cars come round the corner, past the Paragon Hotel (now used as a barracks by the Territorials). There was quite a lot of people there to give the Belgians a welcome and a cheer and the men looked so pleased and so grateful. Those who could, saluted or waved their hands, but some were too ill to do this. We could see the nurses sitting in the ambulances but not the patients who were on stretchers. The men looked very war torn and were stained with powder and dirt and F.A.Coleman, who helped as an ambulance man, to undress them at the hospital told Grandpa that they were in a terrible state, having come straight from the Trenches.
Wednesday November 11th 1914
H.M.S. Niger, the guard ship in the Downs was sunk this afternoon off Deal by a German Submarine. Several lives were lost. The news reached Westgate just before I left at 5.50 p.m. and when I got to Ramsgate, I met a lot of the survivors just outside the station. They had lost all their belongings and had been supplied with ordinary civilian clothes.
Thursday November 12th 1914
A small quick firing, or Maxim gun has been mounted on the West Cliff at Ramsgate, at the top of Jacob's Ladder so as to command the mouth of the Harbour.
Sunday November 15th 1914
We overheard this morning's postman talking to a passer-by and thought he said that Lord Roberts was dead, and on going up to Mr Fox's after breakfast I found that it was so. Lord Roberts, who was in France on a visit to the Indian contingent at the front died there last night about 8 p.m.
Wednesday November 18th 1914
The Naval Authorities have taken over all the Harbour at Ramsgate. The West pier and cross walls have been closed to the public as from 6 a.m. today and barbed wire entanglements are being erected on the East and West piers.
Wednesday November 25th 1914
Attended at the Town Hall this evening, with about 200 other gentlemen to be sworn in as Special Constable. There are about 600 in all to be sworn in i.e. 200 now, 200 tomorrow and 200 Friday night. The Chief Constable explained to us that the Naval and Military authorities were preparing a scheme for the defence of Ramsgate in case of an attack from the sea, and our services, if required at all, would be in connection with that scheme. We should receive printed instructions later on, and then be called together and addressed by the Military Authorities.
Tuesday December 8th 1914
Maggie's brother, Ted Kemp, called in to see us this evening. His Ship, H.M.S. “Derwent”, a t.b.d. (Torpedo Boat Destroyer) engaged in patrol work on the East Coast, has been in collision with a steam trawler and is now in dock, repairing. He gave us a most interesting account of his experiences of patrol work in which we were very interested, after seeing so much of it off here.
Wednesday December 16th 1914
In the train, on my way home tonight, I heard of the bombardment this morning at Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby by German warships.
Monday December 21st 1914
Mr Arthur Valon came down today and visited the Town Clerk of Margate for the purpose of completing arrangements for allowing Margate Corporation to couple up their water mains with those of the Westgate and Birchington Water Company. The Military Authorities have given the Margate Corporation notice that in the event of the Germans landing on the coast hereabouts, the bridge over the river Stour at Plucks Gutter would immediately be blown up. As this bridge carries the trunk water main from the pumping station at Wingham to Margate, this would of course cut off water supply from the latter town, and we have agreed to allow them to couple up their mains to ours at Streete Court, so as to give them a supply for hospital use and so on, in the event of their own supply being cut off in such a manner.
We have received notice at Westgate that no public lamps at all are to be lighted in that town from tonight until further notice.
Thursday December 24th 1914
This morning a German aeroplane appeared over Dover and dropped a bomb which fortunately fell in a cabbage patch and so did no damage.
Friday December 25th 1914
Christmas Day. A German aeroplane appeared over Sheerness but was chased by the British airmen, and escaped. It was reported to have been over Westgate and Ramsgate, but I think this was more likely to have been a British plane on the look out for the enemy.
Tuesday December 29th 1914
Today all the approaches from the cliffs to the sands and piers at Ramsgate have been closed and barbed wire entanglements have been erected. This includes the Marina Roads, where sand bags have been placed behind the barbed wire, I suppose as shelter for the riflemen. Kent Steps, the steps and bridge over the L.C. & D. (London Chatham & Dover) Railway, the steps near Barnwell's shop in Harbour Parade and the steps to the Western under cliff and Jacob's Ladder.
Sunday January 3rd 1915
Special day of intercession. Mayor & corporation of Ramsgate attended St. George's Church 11a.m. accompanied by Territorials, police, firemen, volunteer training corps etc. After church, at the Drill Hall, a letter was read from Col. Woodhouse - commanding the Liverpool Territorials now quartered at Ramsgate, stating that he was preparing a scheme for the removal of women and children from Ramsgate in case of emergency and asking for about 150 men of the volunteer training corps to help in keeping the front clear. Those members who are special constables will not be eligible for their work as they will be on duty as “Specials”.
An alarm of Zeppelins was raised at Westgate and Birchington this evening between 7 and 8 o'clock. We had to put out all the steel lamps in Birchington (the Westgate ones of course were not alight). The Churches had to turn out the gas & finish their services with the aid of four candles. The Special Constables were called out & the police called at private houses & told them to put out all lights. They called thus at both Hewalk & Pewtles houses.
At Ramsgate during the past week a barbed wire barricade has been erected across the road leading to the sands (between the wall of the railway turntable and the Royal Victoria Pavilion). Searchlights have been erected at the top of the Smack Boys home - and on the roof of the Royal Victoria Pavilion.
Thursday January 7th 1915
The Westgate Parish Council have issued a long notice expressing their opinion that it is unlikely any attack would be made on the Isle of Thanet but at the same time giving information to the civil population as to how they are to act in the unlikely event of an attack occurring.
Notice has been posted in all the Railway carriages requesting passengers to see that the blinds are pulled down after dark - except when the train is standing at a station - this being necessary to comply with Government regulations.
Thursday January 14th 1915
A meeting of Special Constables and other townsmen was held at the Royal Palace Theatre today at 4p.m. to hear Col. Woodhouse explain the scheme which has been prepared for the evacuation of Ramsgate in case of necessity. The town has been divided into four sections, and each section has been further divided into various subsections. Each section has a Marshall, Sub-Marshals for each subsection and as many special constables. There is a place of assembly for each section. Each section has been given a separate, distinctive colour. Special constables will call at each house in their section and ascertain the number of women and children therein. Special Billing officers will be appointed from amongst the special constables whose duty it will be to provide for the housing of the people. A card of the proper colour for the section will be left at each house and all special constables for the section will wear round the left arm a scarf of the section colour. The alarm signal will be two maroons. (There are four points in the town from which this signal will be fired - one is in the gas works yard, close to Grandpa's office window.) On the alarm signal the people are to take two days provisions, wrap up in warm clothes, lock up the house and proceed to the place of assembly. They must obey the orders of the special constables of their section. At the place of assembly arrangements will be made to get them out of the town.
Commander Sewar of the Royal Navy also addressed us. It is not thought likely that an attack will be made but it is necessary to take precautions!! If an attack is made it will probably be about dawn. The authorities are confident of repelling the attack so that the inhabitants can return within 48 hours. The instructions issued are in case of an attack from the sea. In the event of an attack by air craft, the only thing to do is to keep within doors, preferably in the basement or cellar. Under the evacuation scheme no one is compelled to leave, but those who remain behind must keep within doors. This meeting, which was well attended, was presided over by the Mayor. The scheme was explained by means of special maps thrown on a screen by the lantern. It was announced that Major Page had been promoted to be Lieut. Colonel. Capt H K Bamel to be Major.
Monday January 18th 1915
Attended a meeting at 6 o'clock this evening at 23 Cavendish Street, the office of Mr John H Robinson, solicitor, the Marshall under whom I as a special constable have to serve. The object of the meeting was to explain our duties to us. We are not given any duties under the evacuation scheme. I have not to patrol the town at any special times. We are not to advertise the fact that we are special constables. But when we are out we are to look for any signalling by unauthorised persons any unmasked lights, or any suspicious person giving information or performing acts to the detriment of the state. Any thing of this sort observed is to be reported to Mr Robinson who will communicate with the police.
Tuesday January 26th 1915
About 4.30 this afternoon a most stringent order was published, covering the counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey. All lights other than those not visible from the outside of any house are to be extinguished between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7.30 a.m. This order includes parish houses as well as shops and street lighting and is to be completely carried out tonight. All lights showing either at the back, front or skywards to be totally obscured, rendering it necessary to cover all windows with heavy curtains or other dark material to prevent the light showing through Venetian or other blinds.
As a result of this, many of the shops closed at 5 p.m. and I found it very dark indeed when going to Southwood this evening. One of the tenants there told me her son had been stopped for having a light on his bicycle. He told the policeman he thought he would get into trouble for riding without a light - but was told that on the contrary he would now get into trouble for showing one.
Sunday January 31st 1915
Owing to the above lighting order, Evensong at St.Georges was at 3.30 p.m. today and will be so until further notice. The regulations were relaxed slightly as from Friday evening last and the other churches are able to have their services at 6.30, but as St Georges is so visible from the sea the Naval authorities will not allow us to have a light after dark.
Saturday February 13th 1915
We have about a dozen minesweepers stationed at Ramsgate now. There are generally 6 in the harbour and 6 out at sea. They are small swift steamers and have a gun mounted in the bow.
Saturday March 20th 1915
There was quite a little excitement in Ramsgate this morning. Four German aeroplanes had been sighted close to Deal by the Patrol Boats in the Downs. The boats opened fire on them and 3 turned back, but one went on and dropped several bombs near Deal but they fell in the sea and no damage to life or property resulted. The neighbouring towns were warned of the hostile craft's approach and British aeroplanes went up to watch for the German. One was flying over Ramsgate when I went home.
Thursday March 25th 1915
During the past four weeks, 3 sheds (or hangars) for aeroplanes have been erected on the cliffs at Mutrix between Margate and Westgate, and 3 or 4 aeroplanes stationed there. This week 4 armoured motor cars belonging to the Royal Naval Air Squadron have arrived and are housed at Jackson's Garage in Station Road, Westgate. This afternoon some of them passed my office very grim, ugly looking things, painted a stale grey colour all flying the white ensign and escorted by men of the R.N.R.S. (Royal Naval Reserve Service) on motor cycles.
Wednesday March 31st 1915
Today Mummie saw a German aeroplane flying at a great height over Ramsgate. From her description it was evidently a Taube and was flying very high eventually disappearing into a cloud. It was also reported over Ash and Canterbury and each time it was either entering or emerging from a cloud.