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In the halcyon days of peace, before the last war came to black them out, Whitstable people were talking of a new type of motor-driven vessel that was being built down on West Beach at the Number 2 shipyard.

A small craft, it was called a speed boat, and the designer of it was a young man, Leslie Herbert Wood, whose father at that time was the owner of the shipyard. The electrifying speed at which these midget vessels were driven thrilled the spectators watching from every vantage point on the beaches and along the Tankerton slopes.

Visitors on summer holiday would spend hours there on the chance of seeing one of the little speed boats dash past, often obtaining such momentum that it would leap from the water like some sportive porpoise, come down, and rush madly on again. Designing all his own boats, tuning his own engines. Leslie carried on at the shipyard, with his new venture with increasing success. He became known in in speed racing circles for his skill and daring.

In 1930 he represented England at the international meeting at Venice where, when his boat was racing at 60 miles an hour, he was thrown out and injured. He raced at Lake Windermere, on the Serpentine, at Nottingham, Bristol on practically every open stretch of water in the country. Competing in a 100 mile open race at Poole Harbour he won the handsome trophy presented by the “Yachting World” newspaper to the victor. Other prizes awarded him were the Lord Wakefield, the Earl Dufferin, the Roy Fedden, the “Daily Mirror” and the Prince of Wales trophies, the last named being the award for winning a speed boat racing contest on the Thames. The various trophies he has won number more than 50, some from places abroad, but most of them awards made to him in this country.

The designs he turned out for speed boats for himself and his numerous customers ran into hundreds. When the last war broke out he stopped making speed boats and took up work for Government service departments at the West Beach shipyard. His last race in a speed boat of his own design was on Lake Windermere, in September, 1939, when his craft attained a speed of 100 miles an hour.

In 1943, he disposed of his business at the shipyard and started a small motor garage and workshop in Essex Street. Last year he went in for motor cycle racing. Riding a German BMW machine, a treasured possession of his, he has raced at Ashford and other places, winning all his heats in a number of contests with most of the crack riders of the day. A friend of his who is often with him at these events, and occasionally takes part in them, is Eric Knowles, the son of “Charlie” Knowles. The success he is having as a racing motor cyclist, however, does not turn Leslie’s thoughts away from his old love, speed boat racing, which he is hoping to excel in again when circumstances permit.

His work at the Essex Street motor garage now and again brings him into business contact with another friend of his, Norman Perkins, the owner of a small shipbuilding yard on Island Wall, trading under the name of Perkins and Smith.

 

Written by Ernest Brindle in May, 1948

Transcribed by Brian Baker in Feb, 2018

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It was a perfect autumn day. The sun shone like a ball of fire in the blues sky. The twittering of the bird and the piping of the wild fowl sounded over the marshes. Nature was at peace, majestic in repose as in time of storm and tempest, but there was something that struck a note of glaring incongruity in the scene.

The green landscape was dotted here and there with the parked weapons of war. Round the house that stood by the side of the track leading on to Faversham, men in khaki and steel helmets stood in groups, or moved to and fro, intent on their duties.

This house was the “Sportsman,” a popular rendezvous for Whitstable people fond of taking a long walk on a fine day. But on this particular day, September 27th, 1940, the doors of the “Sportsman” were not open to visitors in search of refreshment and pleasant companionship. They had been closed when war broke out and the place was requisitioned by the military authorities.

Now it was in the occupation of a battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Twice that day the siren had wailed its warning and squadrons of German aircraft, flying at a great height, had roared overhead on their mission of hate and destruction.

Following a protracted lull, the siren wailed a third time, and out of the blue came a solitary enemy plane, one of the famous, yellow-nosed Junkers 88’s. She was flying low, a vulture of the air, wounded and crippled by pursuing Spitfires of the R.A.F.

 Down she zig-zagged, coming lower and lower, watched with glistening eager eyes by the soldiers on guard below. Ha! Now she strikes the ground, at a spot a quarter of a mile beyond the “Sportsman” in a “belly” landing that carries her across the flat, desolate marshland for a distance of 300 yards.

Bumping, crashing, rolling drunkenly from side to side in her wild, uncontrollable career, the big Junkers 88 skims across a dyke like some exhausted heron mortally stricken, plunges on another fifty yards, and then settles down never to rise again.

Elsewhere, in places all over Kent, enemy planes had been falling and crashing ever since the Battle of Britain began to star the pages of history with immortal glory. But when they were brought to ground their crews were quick to surrender. All the fight had been knocked out of them. The tame captivity of a prisoner-of-war camp was more to their liking than death for the Fatherland in a last desperate stand on English soil.

But the crew of the yellow-nosed Junkers 88 that came down on the marshes near the “Sportsman” were of tougher mettle. Clambering out of the crippled plane they took up a position behind a small hillock and one of them, lying down flat on his chest, opened fire with a tommy-gun at the company of Royal Irish Fusiliers who, led by an officer, were advancing at the double to surround and capture them. The German with the tommy-gun – we will call him Fritz as his name was never blazoned abroad – must have been a fanatical follower of Hitler, a warrior who thought it shame to surrender so long as he had a gun in his hand. And Fritz, by his defiant stand, made history.

Never before since the Norman conquest of this country had drawn to its close, and its blood-stained passages were things of the past, had a battle with invading enemies been fought on English soil.

This clash with the German crew of the Junkers 88, though a battle in miniature and one of brief duration, will be remembered as the Battle of Seasalter.

What was this battle like? Fritz, lying prone behind the little hillock, opened fire on the advancing company of Irish Fusiliers with his tommy-gun, and kept up the fire until he was wounded by a rifle shot fired by one of the advancing force. Fortunately, only one shot of his, which hit an oncoming Irish Fusilier in the left foot, did any damage. When he himself was hit and wounded his comrades, four in number, put up their hands and surrendered without showing any sign of resistance.

Taken prisoners they were marched off and placed in detention. P.C. H Fullager, who cycled out to the “Sportsman” after receiving a telephone message telling him of what was happening, saw the captured Germans when he arrived on the scene. “They were rough, dirty and unshaven,” he says, “quite unlike the University type of German airman who first came over in the early part of the war.”

The search made of the stranded aircraft revealed a number of time bombs.

These were taken out and stood on a mound, where they were left until security police arrived and removed the fuses. These time-bombs would have been used by the crew of the aircraft, had time and opportunity permitted, to blow her to pieces.

She was a brand-new machine, only three weeks out from the factory, and this was her first, and last, raid on England. Her undercarriage was smashed and the fuselage riddled with machine gun bullets from our Spitfires, but her instruments and machinery were found to be intact. Taken to pieces the crashed Junkers 88 was removed by a demolition squad.

In recognition of his bravery in leading the company of Royal fusiliers to close quarters with the German airmen, when Fritz opened rapid fire with his tommy-gun, the officer in command was awarded the George Cross.

To reach the battle site, walk past the “Sportsman” until you come to a turning on the right. Take the turning and it will bring you to the field on the marsh where on September 27th, 1940, a little battle that made history was fought, on the ground, while the grand boys of the R.A.F. were fighting the Battle of Britain high up overhead in the air.

 

Written by Ernest Brindle, 1946

Transcribed by Brian Baker, 2018

The Star Mineral Water Company

Back in March, 1891, a youth of 17 started work for the Railway Company at the Whitstable Harbour Station, as a booking clerk. He had a busy time of it, for the train service between Whitstable and Canterbury was well patronised by the residents of both places and by holiday makers staying in the neighbourhood.

The

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The Castle by the Sea

Published June 1949

A castle by the sea. One that has seen the slow passage of many centuries. Not a ruined crumbling castle, with broken, crumbling walls, but one that stands like an imperishable rock on green and alluring Tankerton hill.

It started as a tower from which watch was kept over sea and land for approaching

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Another Whitstable Trade

This is the title of an article that Charles Dickens penned in 1860. It begins, “If it had not fallen to the lot of Whitstable to be celebrated for its oysters and its company of free dredgers, it might have claimed a word of notice for producing that rarest of all workmen, the sea diver.”

Dickens,

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Peggotty House

Before you read on,  understand that this is an opinion article based on historical fact and a love of Whitstable which encompasses all of its parishes.

In one of my Whitstable Times history articles in 2013 and expanded on in a talk to a Women’s Institute meeting, I used the phrase that some supermarkets like to

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A short update on Seasalter

A short update on Seasalter.

It’s pleasing to find some people moving into an area then starting to take an interest in their new surroundings as this is the beginning of integrating into a community. This article was put together to give an understanding of the history of Seasalter as a parish in its own right

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Time Travel Tourist Information Exhibition

I shall be assisting in this exhibition which will take place at the Horsebridge Centre in Whitstable, from 12th to 27th January 2013, 9am-6pm daily.

The Horsebridge Centre’s will be transformed into a Time Travel Tourist Information Centre from 12th – 27th January 2013 as part of an art installation by artist Alexis K Johnson in

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Dave Lee MBE

Dave Lee MBE

It was the summer of 1969 when I first met Dave Legge. Dave worked as a washing machine engineer for the same company that my father worked for as a TV engineer. My father, in an effort to increase his income, purchased two ice-cream vans and Dave helped him out as a driver

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Whitstable in 1907

I bought a map and it arrived today. A map of Whitstable from a survey in 1872, with additions to 1906 and printed in 1907. At a scale of 25 inches to one mile it’s a bit on the large size for scanning at around 40 inches by 30 inches so I guess it will

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A new car for the New Year

We start 2012 off with a Whitstable Times picture from exactly 50 years ago.

Ford Anglia – I bet these guys thought they had reached the pinnacle of their jobs with these.

Fifty years on: Garage gone, Arthur Collar Ltd gone, Rover gone. Residential flats now where this picture was taken – Tankerton Road, to

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Bullet relics from Seasalter mud-flats

I was fortunate to be able to purchase these from David Rawkins to ensure they stayed in Whitstable. David collected these in his youth between 1947 and 1953. The collection consists of 40 expended bullets of various calibres (30 lead and 10 with other metal jackets) plus 3 lead bullets which have impacted robustly and

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Another Whitstable Trade - by John Bevan pt.1

Another Whitstable Trade by John Bevan

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting up once again with Dr. John Bevan of the Historical Diving Society. The occasion was the Whitstable launch, at Whitstable Museum, of his new illustrated book of helmet diving history, very appropriately named “Another Whitstable Trade” – the title Charles Dickens

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Oystertown goes Green

As you explore Whitstable from the past you soon realise that the early industries here, particularly the Oyster fisheries, were extremely efficient in terms of usage of natural resources – so much so that today they would have been regarded as examples of Green management (no pun intended) at its best.

Oysters themselves help purify the

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Oystertown

Welcome to Oystertown – Whitstable and its people.

This site is being rebuilt at present. Come back soon.