How town was changed by war bombings
DURING the war years, the United Kingdom suffered badly at the hands of the enemy, and sadly Ashford was no exception. Many towns and villages up and down the country were scarred, many beyond recognition, leaving life for many shattered. Those dark hours meant the usual tranquil and harmonious lives of many were never the same again. Lives were lost, and many lost their worldly goods, but thankfully we have not experienced such widespread devastation since. The town’s railway status meant its works were attacked and, although a large percentage of bombing raids missed their target, the works at Newtown took a direct hit, causing extensive damage. The landmark industry survived until its final closure in the 1980s. This week, we look at some of the less fortunate sites and locations around the town in some recently acquired pictures, taken by the Kent Messenger in 1943. Many of the pictures used in Remember When come from my own collection, but this week’s fantastic pictures come from Bert Oldfield, who has very kindly loaned the following pictures, which effectively tell their own story. My sincere thanks go to Mr Oldfield and I am indebted to my friend Jenny Easton, who took the trouble to telephone me. The first of this week’s four pictures, taken after the daylight raid in March 1943, shows the gutted shell of Hayward’s Garage in New Street following a direct hit by a Focke-Wulf 190 fighter which destroyed the nearby premises of Snashalls Bakery in Kent Avenue, too. Two people were killed at the garage alone. The bustling, family-run garage was later rebuilt and expanded, and became part of the Caffyns group in 1967. The second picture shows the devastated premises of Lewis and Hyland. Their once popular department store, which stretched along New Rents, was a stone’s throw from the aforementioned Hayward’s Garage, and suffered extensive damage. Again the buildings were rebuilt, and trade continued. Lewis and Hyland relocated to the Tufton Shopping Centre in 1975, and the New Rents premises were demolished the same year. This week’s third picture shows Beaver Road school at the corner of Beaver Road and Victoria Road, where all 300 pupils escaped unhurt after a direct hit all but destroyed its buildings. The headmaster, Mr E.H.White, and his staff had trained the children to get into the shelters as soon as the warning sounded. Every child was under cover in 30 seconds, and just moments later the bomb hit. The school and its close proximity to the railway station made it a possible poor target by the enemy. The final picture shows the extensive obliteration of the Tannery in Dover Place, where four people lost their lives. Cars were tossed on their sides like abandoned toys, some mangled beyond recognition. Despite the town being bravely defended by the Bofors antiaircraft guns, the enemy were obviously intent on ruining the calm of the sleepy market town. Today’s generation (including myself), do not know how lucky we are. As always, I would like to appeal to readers who either took or have any amateur or professional pictures of the town during the changes from the 1950s to the 1970s, as I would love to see them. I am always keen to hear from those people who worked in the town, perhaps in local government, and whose job entailed photographing the town, for example for planning and conservation, highways and consultation purposes, and also those involved with the Compulsory Purchase regulations in the 1970s. Please contact me at the address below if you have material that you are willing to share with readers. Have you got any pictures, negatives or transparencies from the past that you would be willing to share with readers?
Send them, with brief details, to Steve Salter, Kentish Express Remember When, 34-36 North Street, Ashford, Kent TN24 8JR, or by email to rememberwhen_ firstname.lastname@example.org Please supply a return address for the return of originals.
Wrecked buildings and overturned cars after the bombing of the Tannery in Dover Place, Ashford, where four died
Hayward’s Garage in New Street was destroyed by fire after being bombed in the daylight raid in 1943