Saturday, 14 November 2020: Euro and Folkestone go hand-in-hand. It took Euro Militaire to introduce me to Folkestone back in 2003. Then it was rather grubby and run down. But you didn’t have to squint much to see its former glory. At the turn of the 20th Century, Folkestone was a thriving seaside town for the well-to-do. The Grand, Metropole, Clifton and down in the harbour the Royal Grand Pavilion Hotel was doing roaring trade for London’s most fashionable and notable down for their summer seaside holidays. There was a time it was a more important destination than Brighton. Imagine that?
But. War came to Folkestone in 1940 with the Blitz. And when the dust settled, although England was victorious, it was also near bankrupt. Dover and Folkestone were hit hard by both German bombs from the Luftwaffe and long range guns from Calais.
Whilst reading Roy Humphrey’s excellent book “Target Folkestone”, I came upon an interesting map of Folkestone. It identifies the location and number of bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe, shells fired from Calais by German long-range artillery and more interestingly the numbers of V1 “Doodlebugs” both crashing down in Folkestone and landing in the Channel offshore. The map seems to suggest 593 flying-bombs landed in the Channel close by the town. Even if this number is inflated by half, it is an astonishing number of flying-bombs to have been brought down and also suggests just how badly Folkestone was shot up in the war.
Unrelated to either the map or the book, I also found on the internet an interesting photo of shell damage to the lovely Edwardian
hotels along Folkestone’s Leas. When I first saw this image I immediately recognised the location. This is what is now the Southcliff Hotel, a well known watering hole in for attendees of Euro. A K5 railway gun located in the Pas de Calais fired numerous shells across the Channel during the way. Folkestone and its environs had the unique misfortune of being the only part of the country to face this type of shelling.
During the wars early days the Leas was an exclusion zone for which only military personal were permitted, the hotels taken over officers and other ranks. I hate to think what happened to those billeted in the this part of the hotel.
Of course Folkestone carried on after the war, but post-war Spanish, French and Italian beaches were on offer and such reasonable rates due their privations during the war that British holiday makers began to take their holidays outside of England. Things were to never be the same for the seaside towns, nor Folkestone.