war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper


The "We Remember" Booklet 2006



Derek Leach, courtesy Mr LeachDover played a vital role throughout the First World War. 101,872 special trains carried over 12 million soldiers and supplies to cross the Channel and converted ferries brought back one million wounded. There were up to 20 hospital trains a day. The Dover Patrol used the harbour as a base to protect the Channel (pictured below). A measure of their achievement is that of the 125,000 merchant ships that used the Strait between 1914-18 only 73 were lost. 2094 troopship and 3875 hospital ship movements were also protected. 13 Victoria Crosses were awarded, but 2,000 men were lost.


On the outbreak of war the Expeditionary Force crossed the Channel including the three infantry regiments based at Dover as did the Royal Marines who marched from Deal. A fleet of buses and lorries arrived for use in Flanders. Members of the Belgian Royal Family arrived at Dover with the Belgian gold reserves and during October 1914 15,000 refugees came.


The defences of the great naval harbour, completed just five years before, were improved with booms at the eastern entrance and two blockships at the western entrance. From Dec-ember 1914 the harbour was under frequent attack. Early in 1915 the anti-U-boat offensive of laying mined nets from one side of the Channel resulted in fewer casualties. 

Dover Patrol in harbour, courtesy Dover MuseumFollowing the famous Zeebrugge Raid on 23 April 1918, Dover welcomed home the badly-battered HMS Vindictive where she received the homage of every ship in port and cheers from the crowd on shore. 156 died and 400 were wounded in the heroic action, which is commemorated every St. George's Day by the Mayor ringing the Zeebrugge bell outside Dover Town Hall. 

After the Armistice in November 1918, prisoners of war soon started to arrive home. The first 800 were given a great welcome by crowds and were greeted by the Prince of Wales. The whole of Dover turned out the week before Christmas 1918 to greet Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and his commanders when they returned to England with an escort of destroyers and aeroplanes and then drove along the crowd-lined seafront.  

On 10 November 1920, the body of one unidentified soldier was brought to Dover escorted by six destroyers on its way to Westminster Abbey where it was laid to rest, representing the hundreds of thousands of British troops with no known grave or identities unknown.

Derek Leach OBE, local historian and author

Dover patrol in Dover Harbour, courtesy Dover Museum
below: HMS Glatton, wreckage in Dover Harbour, courtesy Dover Museum


Thomas Mackie, courtesy Lawrence Mackie*On 16 September 1918 there was a big explosion on HMS Glatton in the harbour and many were killed or injured. There was a big threat to other ships, the harbour walls, and the town itself from the big store of ammunition on board. The decision was taken to torpedo the vessel with men still trapped on board. More than three-quarters of the complement were killed or injured, but this terrible loss of life saved the town and harbour from serious damage.

One of those who so sadly lost his life was Thomas Brebner Mackie, son of James and Jessie Mackie, from 38 Gratton Place, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. He was an Engine Room Artificer, 4th Class, and was 22 Glatton sunk in Dover Harbour, courtesy Dover Museumwhen he was killed. The bodies from the Glatton were sadly not retrieved until 1930, and are now buried at Gillingham (Woodlands) Cemetery, Kent. Thomas Mackie is named in the Dover Patrol Book of Remembrance here

Right: Thomas Mackie, with thanks to Lawrence Mackie

See also Captain William Pearce's account of the Glatton


Derek Leach has written a number of books about Dover. More information may be found on his website

Copyright 2006-11 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved