It was a gorgeous sunny day last August, when Himself and I paid a visit to the Battle of Britain memorial at Capel le Ferne, in Kent. It wasn’t our planned destination when we set out that day, but our chosen destination was rather disappointing and, being in the area, we diverted – it being on Himself’s bucket list.
Almost as if it had been choreographed, a Spitfire flew overhead as we arrived – too high to capture on camera, nevertheless the sound of those Merlin engines was absolutely unmistakable. On its way to or from one of the many air shows, we both stood, watched and listened – with the obligatory lump in the throat – despite having done likewise so many times before.
Overlooking the Channel roughly midway between Folkestone and Dover, the memorial is a small and quiet space. We skipped the interactive experience indoors and headed straight for the sunshine and the view. A day with one of those cloudless, bright blue skies, we had the White Cliffs to one side, a martello tower to the other and, in between, holiday-makers frolicking at one of many little coastal inlets.
It was all too easy to imagine pilots returning home after a raid – some successful, others not, some unharmed, others desperately limping back to safety.
Flying Hurricanes and Spitfires, they flew out of Tangmere, Biggin Hill, Duxford, Northolt, Manston, Kenley and Hendon. The lengthy list of squadrons included some with distant origins – China, Uganda, India, Basutuland, Ceylon, Natal, Canada, Rhodesia, Burma and Gold Coast among them.
Replica aircraft are represented at the site, but the main features are the memorial wall listing all who flew in the Battle of Britain, and the Statue of a pilot wearing his (Irvin) flying jacket. This outfit was chosen in order to eliminate the requirement to select any one nationality, squadron or rank as representative and is sat atop the centre of a giant propeller ‘boss’ made up of squadron badges. The propeller is doubtless quite the sight when seen from the air, as even at the end of a parched summer, it was clear to see from the Memorial balcony where we enjoyed an afternoon tea and cake.
This year the Battle of Britain is being commemorated on Sunday 7th July. There’s no entrance charge to visit, only the cost of parking and petrol – why not pay them a visit?
Oh & you can pick up a bottle of gin while you’re there if that’s your tipple …
Writing this reignited my interest in WWII, so I’ve downloaded historian Antony Beevor’s book on D-Day: The Battle for Normandy which I’ll review in due course.
Do you have any little gems you’ve visited recently?
© Debra Carey, 2019