"IN THE CAVES" by Wendy Lynch
I spoke to
my eldest brother Gerald Sedgwick and asked if he could remember
anything about the tunnels and the war years. He is now 72 but
had vivid recollections about his then childhood.
The ladies in the photographs were my
Grandmother Isabel Young pouring the tea and my mother Vera
Sedgwick standing behind her. My brother remembers my gran
making various cakes, pastries and Bread Pudding that she used
to sell in the canteen. He remembers sleeping in the tunnels on
two and three tier bunks and also using them as a short cut to
St Bartholomew's school at Tower Hamlets. The Canteen, he tells
me, was the hub where people would meet and share stories and
such like with each other during the raids.
Both my brothers and my Mum used the
tunnels regularly rather than the Anderson shelter in the rear
garden. During the War years my father was working away doing
salvage work. During the war years my gran lived at no 6 and my
Mum at no 10 Winchelsea Terrace and they were able to get to the
caves via their back gardens and down the chalk pit when there
was an air raid. The sides of the chalk pit in those days was
apparently a gentle slope rather then the steep drop that it is
today. Also there was a series of steps made from sandbags
leading from the garden of the house halfway up the hill.
He remembers the garages opposite the
tunnels were used by a bus company that were used to transport
the miners to work. From his recollections he was able to tell
me there was flush toilets in the tunnels and outside and a
place where they were able to carry out minor operations. There
was also hot and cold running water. In the chalk pit itself on
the site of the now factory there was a decontamination centre
and a 1st Aid Station. There was also an incinerator where the
rubbish was burned.
My brother remembers being sent out to a
fish and chip shop in Tower Hamlets with my younger brother
Raymond to buy fish and chips for as many as 20 people some
nights when there was no bombing. He talked about the large
wooden doors on the entrance to the tunnels, the double blast
walls and the gas curtains that could be lowered if there was
the threat of a gas attack. He remembers coming home from the
cinema one Saturday afternoon and seeing a glow in the sky and
the house opposite ours had been completely destroyed by a bomb.
In 1944 my brother at the age of 14 had
an accident that left him blind and missing his right arm up to
the elbow. This was caused when he and some friends found what
turned out to be a practice hand grenade on the hills. They took
it to school and were washing it in the sink when it exploded.
My brother took the force of the blast, a sad day for all of our
family. However despite this he has gone on to marry, have a
family and hold down a job in a London bank until his
retirement. He now lives in Yorkshire but still holds fond
memories of his childhood in Dover.
This article first appeared with
John Vaughn's Dover
Reproduced with permission and with thanks
Sheltering in Winchelsea Cave: Isobel Young is pouring the tea,
and her daughter-in-law Vera Sedgwick is standing behind her.
On 3 October
1943, three boys were injured by a bakelite grenade, which they
had found on Plum Pudding Hill. Donald Smith was then 16; he
sadly lost one hand, with the other being seriously injured, and
there was damage to his eyes. He lived at 185 Folkestone Road.
John Earl, from 48 Longfield Road, then 14, and
then 13, of 30 Longfield Road, were injured in their faces,
arms, and bodies. (155/21)
On 10 January
1944 a bakelite hand grenade exploded in a small wash house at
St Bartholomew's as the school was re-assembling after dinner.
Gerald Sedgwick, aged 13 1/2, from 10 Winchelsea Terrace was
injured in his stomach, face and eyes, and he lost his right
hand. George Findlay, the same age, living at 21 Belgrave Road,
was injured in his back, arm and head. The wash house was
considerably damaged and Cyril Blowers, of 14 Chamberlain Road,
at the end of the passage, was cut on the cheek by flying glass.