June the 6th 1944, shortly after midnight, 24,000 British, US, and Canadian, airborne troops landed in the region of France that the amphibious assault would capture around 6:30 in the morning that day. Allied troops began landed on the 50-mile stretch of perilous beaches of Nazi-occupied Normandy in order to push back the short-lived Nazi German empire Hitler was rapidly loosing. This happened today exactly 70 years ago. Whilst times and technology have since far surpassed that of wartime Britain, the Second World War is still well within living memory of the members of our community and immediate environment today. It is far too easy to dismiss it as history.

What local connections do we have to D-Day then?

There are two remains locally which hark back to the Allied assault on Normandy. Off the Southend/Shoebury shores lies a wrecked Mulberry Harbour – a floating concrete platform used in great numbers by the allies as supply points in the English channel. One of the floats off of the Mulberry Harbours, ‘ferro-concrete barges’, was moored up near Canvey point for many decades, and became a legendary playground for kids, until it was sneakily demolished in the 2003.

The D-Day Beaches Today

Many of the D-Day beaches are littered with remnants from Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’ (his coastal defense line against invasion via France) which defended German territory from the Allies in D-Day. Only part of this came to use, as Hitler did not know what part of his European coastline would be invaded.

In August 2012 I visited Le Touquet, on holiday in Northern France, a coastal town, which happened to still hold bunkers remaining from the Atlantic Wall on the beach, much to my delight. Below ares some images of such bunkers whose designs would probably have been common across the sections of coastline invaded in D-Day. It’s good to cover some historic remains abroad for a change!

I also visited, in 2011, Sword Beach, a more heavily defended British beach (with the American Omaha beach being far heavier). This was an actual D-day beach, although many remains of the Atlantic Wall here had been since removed. It was on the town of Ouistreham, the name ‘Sword’ merely being a code-name given by the Allies. There was however a very large bunker – ‘The Grand Bunker’, open as a restored museum, which was in fact very good. I will try and find some of the other structural photographs I got of the building at a later date, but for now here is a few:

The current building c.1960 courtesy of Norman Chisman

The current building c.1960 courtesy of Norman Chisman

The King Canute pub is situated in Canvey village, and has been there in some form since roughly 1867, around the era when Canvey village was being constructed. It’s name was changed from the Red Cow after the 1953 North Sea Floods, hence the new sign in the photograph. Beyond the Point recently interviewed Mr. Ray White, who was on National Service in the summer of 1952, and was told about a possible emergency Operation King Canute which would be enacted if there was a major flooding disaster. One of the depots where the Amy would be stationed for reparation was what is now known as the now King Canute pub. The Operation took it’s name from the King Canute, or ‘Cnut the Great’, an old Saxon King was said to be able to hold back the tide with his power. At this time, the pub was still called the Red Cow, but after the floods it was named after the national operation, in 1953, because the pub within Canvey village was built on a high-point on the Island which escaped the flooding (due to the old St. Katherine’s church that the village was built around, built on the highest point in the days when the Island was still subject to frequent flooding).

Mr. Henry Noakes with the new pub sign, the Licensee of the pub at the time

Mr. Henry Noakes with the new pub sign, the Licensee of the pub at the time (Courtesy of Canvey Island Community Archive)

The earliest known public house named the Red Cow, that lasted up until the construction of the current building in 1937, may or may not have been its first venue, and possibly could or could not have been constructed around 1867 when the beer house was first recorded. It was served for a long period by Charrington’s, the widespread London-based brewery (first established around 1757 shown in the sign above), up until 2014, although possibly not since the public house was first founded.

Below are some photographs of the early Red Cow, courtesy of  Canvey Island Community Archive:

The current building was built in 1937 and features contemporary Art Deco architecture. It was announced it would be closed down as a public house, and did so on the 18th of May 2014. We managed to get some photographs of the building whilst being shuttered over a few days later, several show rare viewpoints. All the photographs can be seen here:

http://www.canveyisland.org/page/the_king_canute_latest_pictures?path=0p4p

We have begun a video documentary which will appear in this page in the near future, investigating the pub and its recent demise. It was recently revealed that it would fortunately not be demolished and instead would be turned into a convenience store with exterior intact.

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Stow Maries is a village and civil parish in west Essex. In September 1916, during the first World War, an airfield was established at Stow Maries for the Royal Flying Corps. By 1919 the need for airfields lessened and Stow Maries was closed. The site was then considered for development as an airfield during the Second World War but it was considered unsuitable due to the clay soil and even though not opened it played a role nevertheless, being bombed by the Luftwaffe and used as an emergency landing site by a damaged Hurricane fighter plane.

11The first aircraft to arrive at the new aerodrome in September 1916 belonged to “Flight, 37 (Home Defence) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. The Squadron was charged with the eastern aerial defence of the capital. In the earliest part of its existence the accommodation consisted of wooden hutting and tents. The buildings now present on the airfield are later additions when the possibility still existed of the aerodrome being made permanent. The first commanding officer of Stow Maries Aerodrome was Lieutenant Claude Ridley. Educated at St Pauls School, London, he was barely 20 years of age but had already seen service with the Royal Flying Corps on the Western Front.

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Following a period of organisation and training at Stow Maries the first recorded operational flight took place from the aerodrome on the night of 23rd/24th May 1917 when Ridley (now promoted to Captain) and Lieutenant G Keddie were ordered aloft in response to a large Zeppelin raid targeting London. They scored no success on that occasion but as time went on the amount of operational flights grew as did the aircraft establishment of the station. Both day and night patrols are recorded but it was to be “Flight at Goldhanger that claimed the Squadrons first confirmed destruction of an enemy machine, when during the early hours of 17th June 1917, 2nd Lieutenant L. P Watkins was credited with the downing of Zeppelin L48 at Theberton in Suffolk. This was to be the last Zeppelin brought down in Great Britain during the war.

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One of the stations busiest days was 7th July 1917 when aircraft were ordered after a formation of twenty two Gotha bombers heading for London. Stow Maries pilots engaged the enemy aircraft in a running fight and scored several hits. Fire was returned however and the ground crews found a number of bullet holes in the returning aircraft. Day and night patrols continued but it was the fragility of the aircraft of the period and the inexperience of the young pilots that caused the loss of aircrew from the station. June 1917 saw the loss of 2nd Lieutenant Roy Mouritzen from Western Australia in a flying accident and July of the same year serious injury to Captain E Cotterill through engine failure. Captain B Quinan crashed at Woodham Walter on a training flight and was severely injured. He died in July 1918 in which that year saw continued losses at the aerodrome.

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Flight moved to Stow Maries from Goldhanger in February 1919 bringing the total staffing levels to around 300 personnel and 24 aircraft, the first time the whole Squadron had been located at one Station. It signalled the end for the Essex aerodrome however and the following month the Squadron moved to Biggin Hill in Kent, leaving the site empty. An interesting fact now…the floor tiles below are from the old, now derelict, Castle View School site on Canvey Island.

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The airfield buildings are still mostly intact, with some evening having the original windows still in place! The buildings were used to store grain and farm vehicles until 2008 and has since been purchased by Steve Wilson and Russell Savory and is being restored to a state that it would have been found in 1919. Liam and I visited the site last year and we are hoping to return soon.

 

Starting in 2014, to commemorate the Centenary of World War I, and in partnership with other companies, 5–8 different WW1 aircraft will be brought to the UK to tell the story of the technical and tactical aerial combat that occurred between allied and German aviators throughout the Great War. Subject to funding, WAHT (WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust) will acquire a WW1 aircraft each year on behalf of the nation to tell the story of each year of the War at airshows and commemorative events in the form of air displays, flypasts and static diorama. It is planned that ultimately these aircraft will be based at the Stow Maries site supported by an apprenticeship scheme to foster the preservation and restoration of WW1 aircraft.

See the rest of the Stow Maries photographs we took here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.559850337370501.1073741836.238743826147822&type=3

In other news, we’ve been busy recently in the press so hop over to our Facebook Page (there is a link on the left) where you can see scans of the articles. Also, the Explore Your Archive campaign is still going on, so why not visit their website by clicking on their logo on the left?

Chafford Gorges

Posted: April 21, 2014 by BTP Liam in Event Review
Tags: , , ,

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Transformed from chalk industry giants of the 20th Century, these huge craters in the landscape now form nature reserves due to the mineral-rich soils. What’s more, is that water collects in the bases of them, forming lakes. One of these can be walked to after ten minutes, as soon as you cross the Lakeside c2c railway footbridge. The chalk was harvested from the gorges for use in making cement at the Tunnel Portland Cement factory roughly on site of the QE2 bridge (Essex side), built in 1874.

A photo of the industrial site at Thurrock, 1948. Courtesy of Britain From Above.

A photo of the industrial site at Thurrock, 1948. Courtesy of Britain From Above.

The gorges, some taken over as Nature Reserves, others left ‘abandoned’ to form lakes, were visited by myself and Jack Swestun early Winter 2013. We discovered a few remains such as a shell of a small outbuilding, manholes, and pipes. Climbing around a gate to get to a restricted path on the opposite side of a fishing lake in one of the gorges, we were rewarded by tons of fresh apples growing on trees. However, we should’ve turned back, as carrying on around the lake meant we had to tackle a metal spiked fence by stacking chairs found nearby, after rolling down the bottom of the cliff-face among heaps of chalk. Dangerous, and best not repeated!

Wikipedia explains:

The reserve is on the site of three major chalk quarries – Warren Gorge, Lion Gorge, and Grays Gorge which were worked from the end of the 18th century for around 150 years.[2] In the Lion Gorge are the remnants of an old tramway cutting created in the nineteenth century to transport chalk from Lion Pit to the riversidewharves.[3] The tramway ran roughly south from the chalk diggings to the Lion Works – a Portland cement factory opened in 1874. (Until about 1980, Thurrock was a major centre for cement production.) Part of the course of the tramway can be seen under the bridge where the railway line crosses a path from The Chase to Hedley Avenue and is also visible on London Road between The Chase and Foxton Road.

Lt. Col. Horace Percy Fielder could be considered the man to whom established Canvey as a residential area. A few decades before, at the turn of the century, Frederick Hester established Canvey as a tourist plotland area (read more here). However, Fielder could be considered the first to put Canvey on the map as a day to day residential ground – before, it’s population consisted mainly of retired individuals, tourists, or farmers. Now, it would become a place where the everyman could live.

Fielder’s Bunglows

The Canvey pioneer began his work by arranging the construction of similarly designed bungalows all over the Island, during the 1930s.  Although cheap in construction, they were considered of modern design at the time. Many remain to this day, either in original state – abandoned or still lived in, or heavily refurbished to the point where they are difficult to recognize. A giveaway feature is the slanted roofs which sometimes subtly change angle at the front, sometimes with original square roof tiles. The reason for the front side of the roof’s angle becoming more obtuse about half way down is because they were originally built with the roof slanting over a porch, with an air of American ranch house. Many of these porches were converted not long after into extensions of the house, being small as they are, but some remain intact. About half of the bungalows had such porches, the rest had straight sloping roofs which were longer on their right side as the building extended a extra room. Both examples can be seen in the 1933 photo below. Please note there were other variants, and were not an ‘exact science’.

Rainbow Avenue, a small road off Rainbow Road on Canvey, is a complete 1930s Fielder street. Many of the bungalows have been heavily modernised, others barely. It consists of ten Fielder bungalows.

Fielder's Canvey from a 1933 Guide

Fielder’s Canvey from a 1933 Guide

 Thorney Bay Holiday Camp

During the early Second World War, Fielder was posted at Canvey Fort – the sea defence battery and army camp at Thorney Bay. In May 1940, he lead Canvey troops to engage the Germans in Norway. At the time, he was Colonel of Canvey’s Territorial Army. After returning he furthered his pioneering prestige by established Thorney Bay Beach Camp amongst the wartime buildings remaining from the war, in the early 1950s. For example, the barrack huts were reused as accommodation, or halls. It drew many East End holiday-makers to Canvey up until the 1990s, many of which settled here. It still stands as the dubiously named ‘Thorney Bay Holiday Camp caravan site, whilst nearly all of the military buildings are long-since gone.

Whilst he also planned a promenade pier, to rival Southend as a seaside resort, these never came to fruition.

Fielder did however decide to crate a dam across part of Thorney Bay itself, allowing thirty acres of inland water to remain when the tide was out. This was successfully created, but has since been filled in as land, now home to a children’s park.

Radio Caroline, one of the most famous radio stations in the UK was launched 50 years ago today, just off of the Essex coast. Founded in 1964 by Ronan O’Rahilly, it is considered the first proper kick-start of popular music broadcast however Radio Caroline was unlicensed by any government for most of its early life which became formally illegal in 1967.

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The Radio Caroline name was used to broadcast from five different ships owned by three different owners from 1964 to 1990, and by satellite for over a decade up to 2013. Radio Caroline currently broadcasts 24 hours a day via the Internet and by occasional Restricted Service Licence.  Ronan O’Rahilly was an Irish musician manager and businessman. Encouraged by the presence of the Scandinavian and Dutch pirates, Ronan O’Rahilly raised the capital to purchase a suitable vessel and in February 1964, he obtained a former 702-ton Danish passenger ferry, Fredericia, which was converted into a radio ship at the Irish port of Greenore, which was owned by O’Rahilly’s father. Financial backing for the venture came from six investors, including John Sheffield, chairman of Norcross, Carl “Jimmy” Ross owner of Ross Foods and Jocelyn Stevens of Queen magazine, with which Radio Caroline shared its first office with. O’Rahilly named the station after the daughter of US President John Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy. On a fund-raising trip to the US, O’Rahilly reportedly saw a photograph of Kennedy and his children which inspired the name “Caroline Radio”. In the photo, Caroline Kennedy and her brother, John F. Kennedy Jr., are apparently dancing in the oval office as their father looks on, an activity which O’Rahilly reportedly interpreted as a playful disruption of government

With the decision made, The Fredericia was renamed MV Caroline and was anchored off the cost of Felixstowe, where it began test transmissions on Friday, 27 March 1964, 50 years ago today. radiocaroline460The following day it began recording regular programming at midday with the official opening being conducted by Simon Dee. The first programme was pre-recorded and was hosted by Chris Moore. The first theme of the show was ‘Round Midnight’ by Jimmy McGridd which was a jazzy tune. Band The Fortunes, recorded a song in March 1964 called ‘Caroline’ which later became the main theme song. The theme can be listened to on YouTube here. The slogan of the station was “Your all-day music station” with tunes being broadcast from 6am-6pm, 7 days a week, to avoid competition from Radio Luxembourg. The station did however return at 8pm ad continued until after midnight to avoid direct competition with popular TV programmes. The target audience of Radio Caroline was housewives however they later targeted children and without serious compeition, they quickly gained a daytime audience of over 3 million listeners.

Only July 2nd 1964 the station was merged with Radio Atlanta, which closed that day at 8pm. The new station was called ‘Radio Caroline South’ and whilst MV Mi Amigo remained off Frinton-on-Sea, MV Caroline would broadcast as ‘Radio Caroline North’.  BBC Radio 2 newsreader Colin Berry and Classic FM’s Nick Bailey started their careers reading the news on Radio Caroline South.MV Caroline sailed from Felixstowe around the coast of Great Britain to the Isle of Man, broadcasting as she went with the only broadcast staff on board being Tom Lodge and Jerry Leighton.  The two stations were thus able to cover most of the British Isles and some programmes were pre-recorded on land and broadcast simultaneously from both ships.

In October 1965, O’Rahilly bought Crawford’s interest in the MV Mi Amigo and engaged Tom Lodge from Radio Caroline North to make programming changes and regain the audience from Radio London. Tom Lodge hired a new group of DJ’s and introduced a free-form style of programming which, by August 1966, had succeeded, creating an audience numbering 23 million.

Radio_Caroline1In 1967, the UK Government introduced the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act 1967, which outlawed advertising on or supplying an unlicensed offshore radio station from the UK. In an earlier House of Commons debate (in June 1966), the government had claimed that the pirate ships were a danger because of radio frequency interference to emergency shipping channels, and to overseas radio stations and the pirates were paying no royalties to artists, composers or record companies. Furthermore it was stated that the pirates’ use of wavelengths also broke international agreements. The Manx parliament (Isle of Man) attempted to exclude the North Ship from the legislation, appealing to the European Court on the legality of the act being applied to the Isle of Man. Two of the stations, Radio 270 and Radio London (out of 4 offshore stations) were closed, but the two Caroline ships continued with their supply operation moved to the Netherlands, which did not outlaw unlicensed ship based broadcasting until 1974.

When the act become law on 14 August 1967, Radio Caroline was renamed Radio Caroline International. Six weeks later, the BBC introduced its new national pop station Radio 1, modelled largely on the successful offshore station, Radio London, and employed many of the ex-pirate DJs. The BBC Light, Third, and Home programmes became Radios 2, 3 and 4.On 3 March 1968, the radio ships, Mi Amigo and Caroline, were boarded and seized before the day’s broadcasting began. They were towed to Amsterdam by a salvage company to secure unpaid bills for servicing by the Dutch tender company, Wijsmuller Co.

So there you are, a brief oversight of the ‘Boat That Rocked’. In 2009 a film was released about it called Pirate Radio starring Nick Frost (you can see the poster and UK trailer in this post). If you remember listening to the radio station then drop us a comment below!