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Local History Snippets 

 You will need to scroll down the page to read all contents

Charles Cobb – Hero of Dymchurch

Charles Cobb Close in Dymchurch is named after a former Victorian Rector. The story of his bravery is told in a copy of the Board of Trade citation which is displayed on the west wall of the church.

“The Queen has been graciously pleased to confer the decoration of the Albert Medal of the First Class (i.e. in gold) on:-

The Rev. Charles Cobb, Rector of Dymchurch in the county of Kent. The following are the services in respect of which the award has been conferred.

“The French Lugger ‘Courier de Dieppe’ of 59 tons with a crew of four persons in all, drove ashore at Dymchurch on the morning of Sunday January 6th 1867. On the evening of January 5th a strong gale of wind arose, the weather became tempestuous, and the vessel was found to be on the English coast. The next morning the master failed to get assistance, and ran the vessel ashore. Attempts made to reach her by Mortar Apparatus were unsuccessful: and the master, a cabin boy, and a seaman were washed overboard and drowned.

“Soon the vessel parted, and the portion on which the mate, the only survivor of the crew, had taken refuge, was driven within fifty or sixty feet of the shore.

“Jean Batist, a boatman at the Coastguard Station at Dymchurch, clad in a cork jacket and having a line attached to him, attempted to reach the vessel, but failed and was dragged ashore.

“The Rev. Charles Cobb, Rector of Dymchurch, then rushed into the water, made for the bulwarks of the vessel and after one or two ineffectual attempts, reached the survivor who was in the rigging: Batist followed, and with a line which he carried with him, the French sailor was dragged ashore supported by Mr. Cobb and Batist. Mr. Cobb made this attempt in spite of the remonstrances of the crowd on the spot, and declined the assistance by refusing to take a line with him. It was blowing a strong gale from the South by East:a heavy sea was running at the time.

“Mr Jean Batist was awarded the Albert Medal of the Second Class.”

Extract from the London Gazette of 7th June 1867.

On the anniversary year, 1967, plans for a special service to mark the occasion were drawn up by the Revd Ron Meredith (Rector of Dymchurch, 1962-68)    

“The Bailiff or Rector to ask Monsieur Collett (the French consul in Folkestone) to attend the service. Order of service to be printed. It was suggested that a luncheon should be arranged afterwards to which the Archbishop, the Cobb family, the Bailiff, M. Collett and the P.C.C  should be invited.”

Tricia Wright (who still keeps up our Book of Remembrance) was at home in Dymchurch during the summer vacation and she transcribed the memorial citation which was dedicated and blessed by Michael Ramsey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury  between 1961-74. The citation was presented to the Archbishop by W. B Smith, Bailiff of Romney Marsh, at a special service held at 11 am on October 22, 1967.

In December 1967 magazine, Ron Meredith wrote as follows:- “The visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury on October 22 to dedicate the Memorial Citation to Charles Cobb was a very happy day for the Church, and His Grace and Mrs. Ramsey both wrote letters of appreciation. I am grateful to all who helped to make everything go so smoothly; special thanks must go to the Bailiff and his Sergeant, Mr. Gibson and the Choir, the Wardens, Tom Miller and Bert Uden, and Sidesmen, also to Mrs Riddick who, as secretary to the P.C.C. had a heavy burden to bear. Well done all.”

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The Record of a Visit to Dymchurch “Front Line School” during World War II

School built of Canadian Pine Wood.  Reopened 5th January 1942.

Schoolmistress Miss Weth with one assistant Miss Hampton.  70 children.

Shelter Drill practised regularly at the School. Children can pick up coats which are always on the back of chairs and get from classroom to shelter in 45 seconds. Up to date of bombing the children did not always go into the shelters, only when gunfire was heard.

On September 24th 1942, a Thursday, it was  a very cloudy day and about 2 o’clock the siren sounded. “We did not go immediately to the shelter” Miss Weth said, “but suddenly one of the boys called out “Cannon fire” – at that time the boys were having a drawing lesson and the girls needlework – Everybody rushed out to the shelter, the senior boys opening the doors. As the children ran across the playground the gunfire was continuing. Miss Weth was the last to leave and as she stood at the school door and called out “Is anyone else in the School?” the bombs fell, one only 70 yards away and the blast from this one took Miss Weth from the door across onto the playground. The other teacher had a small child under each arm but fortunately no one was hurt. The roof was lifted one side and there were two bullet holes where bullet came through the roof and out through the window. One door blown completely  out  and all bolts and fastenings went. The pendulum of the clock was blown across the schoolroom, in fact, the school looked as if it had been swept by a hurricane.

The children were wildly excited but very sensible. Some of the children felt sick but this was probably excitement or shock and one or two little ones cried.  Several of the children lost their homes. We had to stay in the shelter about 2 hours.

Normally when in the shelters the children say recitations or tables or do mental arithmetic, sometimes they sing songs and give concerts. The boys have a band known as “The Dymchurch Shelter Comb Band”; and the girls “The Dymchurch Schoolgirls Orchestra”. Since the raid in September the children immediately go to the shelters when the siren sounds.

One morning the local clergyman had called to take prayers. Just as he commenced the siren sounded. The children immediately rushed out, so prayers were continued in the shelter. No matter what is happening the children go.

Miss Weth was told by a pilot that it is only a matter of six minutes from the time the plane leaves the aerodrome in France comes over, drops bombs and is back again at its drome.

Three weeks before Christmas the children had their Christmas Party. They were given a holiday in the morning while the room was decorated and buns and cakes got ready. They all arrived at 1.15. At 1.30 the warning went and they had to go to the shelters. “All Clear” at 2.20 so they came back into school; the caretaker just started pouring out tea when the warning went again. Miss Weth said “Pick up what you can and run”. This they did. They were in the shelter until 3.20 when they were told it seemed quiet and they could go over to the school and get tea. But not many minutes after rapid gunfire was heard and the children once more had to leave their party and dash to shelter. The party was over at 4 o’clock – “and that was our Christmas Party”.

When siren goes during play hours the children sometimes have impromptu concerts. One boy excels at mimicking Lord Haw Haw – such little speeches as “The great factories at Dymchurch have all been wiped out etc.”  It seems the bombs were aimed at the school and the adjacent yard which do resemble a factory and goods yard. The first lot of bombs which fell hit the Casino and Chalets which resemble a bridge.

The bridge went in August 1940, the bomb went into the basin. Had it hit the Wall, Dymchurch would then have been flooded. There is an old saying that the people used to use “God save the King but never mind our Wall comes first”. If the gates go wrong the whole of Dymchurch would be flooded.

Just before the “Raiders Passed” signal sounds 2 planes fly over. They have been nicknamed “Gert and Daisy”. A local inhabitant was stated to have been stealing coal from one of the houses and when accosted by the Police replied “If they let them pinch Singapore why shouldn’t we pinch a bit of coal.”

In the classroom we saw a book – Junior Red Cross Book sent by Pupils of Talbot School S.S.I. Romney, Kent County (Busy Bees). It contained letters and short descriptions also photographs of the town where the pupils live. One boy writes “I wish I had been an Indian 100 years ago with hunting knife and tomahawk and an arrow and a bow. Lois Collard, Grade III, tells how the Indians ate fish, meat and wild animals; while Evelyn Collard describes how their canoes were made of birch bark and cedar wood. Another page showed an Indian Doll, a Tee Pee, a fruit boy drawn with bananas, a vegetable girl. On one page is a bulldog and a Union Jack and the words “Give aid to Britain”.

There was another book from Main School Greymouth, New Zealand. Thanking the friends in Greymouth for their Album, Ruth Spencer says “We have been a long time replying to your lovely Album. We began with such good intentions last autumn, but air activity and other things caused disturbances and we put your Album away”.

Diana Bilton, in very nice handwriting, describes how the children spent Christmas. “We had a very jolly time,” she says, “in spite of the war. Miss Weth and Miss Hampton, our two teachers, decorated the tables and prepared everything in the morning. We came at 1.30 but alas the siren sounded in the midst of tea, so we picked up our buns and ran for the shelter. Here we laughed, sang and shouted until the “All Clear” was heard. When we returned to our classroom we played Musical Chairs first and how the infants enjoyed it; you should have seen their little legs hurrying round their chairs. The winner received a rubber squeaky elephant. But the party was cut short with another raid.”

Other contributions to the Album included a drawing by Denis Arter of a Curtis Tomahawk Plane; a black cat on a brilliant background by Roy Flisher and Pam Woodland has painted “Our School”.

On the school walls were many posters of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.  The school has entered many competitions held by this Society. On one occasion they were third of all England.

Miss Weth stated that more time was spent some days in the shelter than was spent in school. One day there were eight “Alerts” during school hours.

PT in the playground presents quite a problem. Passing soldiers help the teachers with instructions and often these have to be shouted against the rumble of passing Bren-gun carriers, tanks, army lorries and guns.

Dymchurch School is certainly a front line school.

A report on this vivid account was included in the Kentish Express, October 23, 2003 and Jane Jones, head teacher of Dymchurch school wondered if anyone knew who had written it. This week the local newspaper reports that Evelyn Boorman was the author of the report.  The wife of Henry Pratt-Boorman she acted as driver and secretary for him. The report will be used by Year 6 pupils as part of their studies on the history of the war and its effect on the school and village.

Pam Rees (nee Wilson) remembers the bombs falling on Dymchurch very clearly as one of them landed on her house, in fact the tailfin was later found entangled in her mattress. Fortunately she was at school at the time; her mother who was at home survived, only suffering a badly bruised back.    

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Here's another gem from my cousin ;  amazing how a 6th century idea is used universally today

The symbol @ is an 'arobase', the word used in French for internet addresses instead of 'at'. The linguist Berthold Ullman gives the date of the origin of the symbol from the 6th century when Latin scribes wrote 'ad' in this way - an encircled letter 'a' expressed in French as a lower case 'a' surrounded by a circle or a 'rond bas', which transformed to 'arobase'. The symbol was found in merchants' accounts in Florence in the Middle Ages and was in very wide commercial use throughout the world in the 19th century: "five apples @ 5 cents each", hence its appearance on early typewriter keyboards.
(From the London Times of Oct 30, courtesy of Mr. Gerry Woods-------)

The application of the symbol came about as Mr Ray Tomlinson, an American computer engineer, was trying, in the 70s, to write a program to enable message communication with his office colleagues, and looking at his Teletype machine decided to use the @ symbol to designate where his recipients 'were at'! While some would have patented the idea, Tomlinson never made a penny out of it-----

J V Holmes

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