The Local History Society holds the original Air Raid Precautions (ARP) logbooks from September 1939 to December 1944. During this period Goudhurst Parish was divided into 10 sectors: 1- Winchett Hill, 2- Ballards-Trowswell, 3- Ladham, 4- Iden Green, 5- Central Goudhurst, 6- Risebridge, 7- Bedgebury, 8- Smugley, 9- Kilndown and 10- Flimwell. Each sector had its own Wardens. Early records show that there was little “action” in Goudhurst Parish until the Battle of Britain began on 10 July 1940. In the following text, the ARP reports have been divided into two areas, the bombs that landed on Goudhurst and the planes that were shot down over Goudhurst.
Part 1 – THE BOMBS:
The first significant reports were on July 17th 1940 when, at 16.05, the Warden, Captain C W L Blunt of Marlingate Farm, reported that two “whistling bombs” had “dropped, one between Marlin Gate and Bedgebury Park and another in sector 7, at 15.50”. This was closely followed by further reports of bombs landing in fields in and around Forge Farm in sector 8. Despite numerous reports coming in, a total of just four bombs was reported to Control at Tenterden.
On Sunday 28th July at 23.15 five explosions were reported by sectors 1 and 5, seeming to come from Staplehurst direction. Messages followed showing that Goudhurst wardens had communicated with the surrounding areas, Staplehurst, Frittenden, Cranbrook and Horsmonden until, at 23.30 on 29th July, F Hinds Coleman recorded “Don’t know where the damn things are yet”. Nothing had landed in Goudhurst.
On August 8th a red air raid warning was received at 11.40, followed by a white message at 12.24. A note at the bottom of the page reads:
“A girl who answered the phone at Goudhurst 16 (The Grange) was entirely ignorant of the meaning of both Red and White Messages. Suggest that Mr Fillery be asked to rectify this to avoid delays in future”.
For clarification, a red warning meant – ‘air raid imminent’, and a white message was the ‘all clear’.
At 00.30 on 29th August a message came in from Hildenborough that a number of bombs had fallen in woods between Combwell and Kilndown, one of which had exploded but the remainder had not. The warden, Mr Blunt , thought they might have fallen in Shernfold Wood. At 12.30 warden, Mrs Jefferis confirmed that the bombs had fallen behind the Policeman’s Cottage at Flimwell. No unexploded bombs were found.
Perhaps the worst incident to date occurred on Sunday September 1st. A red warning was received at 10.58. At 11.26 Mr Calcutt reported that 2 women had been injured by machine gun fire at Blue Barn Farm. Mrs Nellie Gray suffered a wound to her thigh and the other, Mrs Hilder, to her stomach. It transpired that the machine gun fire was not from enemy action, but from a Spitfire fighting enemy planes overhead. Mrs Gray from Ilford, a hop picker at Blue Barn, was treated at the First Aid Post. Mrs Hilder, also a hop picker and from Ilford, was admitted to Kent and Sussex Hospital for treatment.
Several reports were logged of bombs being dropped in the Parish during September 1940. On the 2nd a report came in that there was an unexploded bomb at Pillory Farm, Kilndown. It was subsequently found and reported to the police. Throughout the month incendiary and high explosive bombs had fallen on various sites in the Parish including Blue Barn Farm, Park Farm, Fegan’s Farm, Combourne, Pattenden Farm, Smugley, Bedgebury and Curtisden Green, most of which had exploded.
Part 2 – THE PLANES:
In the above section we dealt with ARP logbook records of bombs that had fallen on Goudhurst Parish during the Battle of Britain, July to October 1940. We now turn to the planes that came down in the area, both British and German. To recap, during this period Goudhurst Parish was divided into 10 sectors: 1- Winchett Hill, 2- Ballards-Trowswell, 3- Ladham, 4- Iden Green, 5- Central Goudhurst, 6- Risebridge, 7- Bedgebury, 8- Smugley, 9- Kilndown and 10- Flimwell and each sector had its own ARP Wardens.
The Luftwaffe began waves of air attacks on British airfields on 13 August 1940 and the RAF responded with defensive sorties. The ARP logbooks show that the first plane to come down in Goudhurst was on 31 August. A Hurricane was reported down at Sugar Loaf, Bedgebury at 2.55pm. The pilot , Sqdn. Leader Peter Townsend (the Peter Townsend associated with Princess Margaret), baled out and survived, but his plane was “smashed to pieces”. A few days later, on the morning of 6 September, a British plane came down in the south west corner of sector 6. The Hurricane was burnt out but the pilot, P.O. H W Eliot, had parachuted out and survived.
On 9 September at 5.45pm a British Hurricane was reported down in a hop garden at Lime Trees Farm in sector 4. The plane was wrecked and the pilot P.O. S B Parnall, was dead. At 6.00pm another plane was reported to have come down in the north west corner of sector 3, and 5 minutes later, a 2nd report of a plane down in the south east corner of sector 2. This was the same plane and it had come down at Bockinfold Farm in sector 2. The plane, a Hurricane, was wrecked and the pilot , P.O. G J Drake, was killed. A short while later, at 8.30pm, a German Messerschmidt was reported down at the top of Rosemary Lane, Kilndown, sector 10. The pilot, Uffz. M Massmann, survived and was taken prisoner by the Military.
On 15 September 1940, subsequently designated ‘Battle of Britain Day’, the Germans mounted their biggest air attack yet but the RAF planes outnumbered the Luftwaffe. At around 2.49pm a plane came down behind the waterworks at Risebridge, sector 6. It was originally thought to be a German plane but was later identified as a Spitfire. The pilot, P.O. R H Holland escaped by parachute and survived. At around 3.15pm a German Dornier bomber crashed near Priors Heath. The fire set the woods alight and then its load of bombs exploded. Sadly, John Waters of Kilndown, a member of the Home Guard, died following the explosion.
On 2 October at 10.12am a plane was reported coming down at Smugley. Confirmation followed that the plane, a Messerschmidt 109, had come down at Forge Farm, not Smugley. The pilot, Gefr. H Zagg, was found severely wounded and was taken prisoner by the Military. Then, on October 7 a message came in from Tenterden central asking about a plane reported to have come down in the Parish. The following day Goudhurst ARP confirmed that a Messeschmidt 109 had crashed on the boundary with Flimwell and the pilot, Uffz. Lederer, was wounded and had been taken prisoner by the Military.
On occasion planes had come down in neighbouring parishes but the pilots’ parachutes had carried them to Goudhurst. On 16 August Sgt. Ralph Carnall of the RAF landed in an orchard at Little Trottenden. He had suffered burns to his face, neck and hands and was transported to Tunbridge Wells hospital. His plane had come down at Palmers Green Farm in Brenchley. On 15 September a dead German pilot was found at Curtisden Green by Mr Kendon. Uffz Richard Lenz was transported to the mortuary. A badly wounded German, Otto Krumhelium, had come down at Quarry Field south of Fegans and was transported with an armed guard to the Casualty Clearing Station at Benenden.
By 15th September the RAF had gained air supremacy over the Luftwaffe. Air attacks continued for a few weeks, but 31stOctober 1940 is officially recognised as the end of the Battle of Britain. The numbers of red warnings received in Goudhurst Parish during the Battle of Britain were: July – 2; August – 41; September – 90; and October – 103. Nearly 3000 men had taken part, either with the RAF or the Fleet Air Arm, and of those 544 lost their lives.