High over Folkestone Hawkinge lies,
Up on the hills where they reached for the skies.
When pilgrims came from over the sea
Heading for ancient Canterbury
The Saxon people had their home
Round the edge of our aerodrome.
These fields we want to save for ages
Have taken the weight of history’s pages.
Over the fields where the young men died
When the bombers came, there was nowhere to hide,
But still they came to this forward station
Men who would fly to save our nation.
Not only ours, but others came,
Poles and Frenchmen just the same.
In the first world war, or so we’re told,
When flying men were very bold,
The SE5’s and the Sopwith Camel
Were taken over across the Channel
To help the war on the Western Front
Or join in an enemy aircraft hunt.
Mail by air from Hawkinge went
Over to France, over to Ghent,
To help the Belgians after the war
And it started the cargo carrying corps.
Bringing news of life and birth,
Throwing a mantle round the earth.
Spares for engines, food and stores
Kept them going between the wars.
Whilst the world rearmed and played
At aerial acrobatics, Squadron 25 was made,
Tied with bunting and with string
Came that special fighter wing.
And whitewashed hangars could be seen
From across the Channel with eyesight keen.
In the early days, when navigation
Was a problem to us all,
Compasses were very few then
So they lined up on Hawkinge Hall.
Killing Wood was oft a landmark
For the flyers from above.
Oh how very pleased they were then
To come down on the field we love.
As the clouds of war assembled,
As our drooping spirits trembled,
Men in all our forward bases
Put their aircraft through their paces.
Home guards sat like painted statues
Round the edges of the ‘drome
Ammunition sadly lacking
For the arms they’d brought from home.
Some with wooden rifles furnished
Some with only pitchforks armed
Staring out across the acres
That were green and should be farmed.
Some had been at Monns and Arris,
Some had been at Dardenell,
These old men had seen some fighting,
Only they had known that hell.
As the Arian armour neared us,
As the allies let them through,
Came the booming German bombers
And the ME fighters too.
“Out to Hawkinge send the fighters,
Let them risk their lives from there!”
“Forward bases for all aircraft,
Send them where the ground crews care!”
In the backroom here at Hawkinge
Dynamo was set to work,
Planning how to bring our troops back,
Ever nearer to Dunkirk!
Whilst at Maple Farm, the lassies,
German speaking, every one,
Understood the U-Boat Captains
And plot the course they run.
Using Hawkinge, 8 Lysanders
Dropped supplies to Calais town
Numbers 2 and 613 lads,
They were nearly all brought down!
Spitfire squadron, 41 group’
Hurricanes of 245
Tried to help the Dunkirk fellows,
Very few returned alive.
The Defiants we had hopes of
Proved disaster from below
And the Germans got the lot of
On that day so long ago.
Germans now have reached the Channel,
Only water holds them back.
Do they really know our weakness?
Do they really know our lack?
On a Monday eve in August
When the Luftwaffe came down,
Waited till our planes had left us
Came in screaming from the town.
Came the dreaded German bombers
Line abreast across the sky,
Bringing death and desolation,
Many lads are bound to die!
Suddenly across the airwaves
Came the call of 32
“Have to land and get some fuel up
And the ammo’s almost through!”
Landing gently midst the craters,
Tired crews were getting out,
When across the shattered airfield
Came again the klaxon’s shout.
88’s were flying lower,
Fire bombs fell across the ‘drome.
No one helped us, so the Stukas
Just turned left and headed home.
Three or four more times the strafed us
In the weeks that followed on.
Never whole days out of action,
Still the ground crews struggled on.
Now the tides of war are turning,
Now the early dawn patrol,
High above the clouds they traversed,
Observation was their goal!
Search and see along the coastline,
Just what Jerry is about,
Poke and pry above the skyline,
See what they can ferret out.
Orders came, “Do not engage them,
If you see a foreign plane,
Turn around and run for home lad,
Bring your news back here again!”
But, Jim Crows, for that they called them,
Flying high at dusk and dawn,
Spotted everything that happened,
Spotted every movement born.
But they soon forgot their orders
Not to dive and have a go,
Specialised in close encounters
On the transports down below.
Oh, Jim Crows were very special,
Individuals every one,
Though they came from different countries,
Were the same behind that gun!
Meanwhile, back at little Hawkinge,
Where the fuel and spares were kept,
Failing aircraft came for rescue,
Even so, they often wrecked.
But again those blessed ground crews
Rescued, comforted and fed,
Gently took them from the cockpit,
Many of them, sadly, dead.
Air sea rescue with Lysanders
And the gallant Walrus too
Were established here at Hawkinge,
Fishing out the ditched crew.
Saved our airmen from the water
And some Jerry blighters too!
As the plans for the invasion
Were developed here at base,
Squadrons then from other airfields
Helped us to step up the pace.
How they fooled the Axis planners
Into thinking we would strike
Up this end, across the Channel,
Going for the Dutchman’s dyke.
Hawkinge station took the squadrons,
Czech and Dutch and Belgians flew.
Aussies and Canadian fellows
Only stayed a week or two.
Such the pressure, such the danger
And the lack of sleep was so
Overcoming that their stay here
Was a case of touch and go.
Then the fighter escort kites
Flew out over bomber flights,
Deep into the Fatherland
For the bombing raids they’d planned.
Underneath the fighter’s wing
Extra petrol tanks they’d swing
So that on the way far back,
They could intercept attack.
Keep our bombers to return,
That was now their chief concern.
Doodlebugs with pre-set ranges
Brought about some dreadful changes
For the folk in North Kent towns.
“Try to drop them in the sea boys,
Or before they cross the Downs!”
“Not as easy as it sounds lads,
For they fly so very fast.
Fly too close and you’re engulfed
In that dreaded HE blast.”
“Out of ammo? Fly beside it,
Give its wing a gentle tip,
Turn it over as you pass it,
Stop its dreadful nightmare trip.”
Once the peace had broken out,
Once the crowds had ceased to shout,
Life at Hawkinge settled down,
Brought the ladies in from town.
Tried to drill them into shape,
Tried to tie them in red tape.
Now the field is greening over,
Planted out with sweet pink clover
For the sheep to safely graze
Where so often thick white haze
Had misled the early flyers
Heading North to distant shires.
So they called them Hawkinge Hoodoos,
Dreaded so much by The Few crews.
Field that still the traces show
From the air, down here below
The pattern of the bygone ages
So marked out for history’s pages.
Saxon, Roman and Spitfire
Dwelt upon our chalky mire.
Many feel such passion for
Comradeship, left from war.
Can we tolerate the thought
That this grass, so dearly bought,
Should be hidden under bricks,
Lost beneath the builders’ tricks?
When for all time it should be
Left for everyone to see.
Green, green field, no concrete there,
The only one that’s left to spare
And to show those early flyers
Just took off between the byres.
All brave, some foolish but may
They be remembered for eternity.
History as Evidence by Pat Lamb
This poem was written by Mrs Pat Lamb as part of the campaign to save Hawkinge Aerodrome from the developers. Even though there was considerable opposition to the plans, building went ahead and there is more still in progress.
Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a’s
Armstrong Whitworth Siskin
A Home Guard Troop
Ground Crew helping Pilot.
Ground Crew at work
British Tommies manning Bofors
anti aircraft gun.
Boulton Paul Defiant
RR Griffon engined
Messerschmit ME 109
Junkers JU 87 Stukas
Hurricane and Spitfire
Spitfire Mk XII’s
No 31 Advanced WRAF GST Course,
Hawkinge, August 1955
Hawkinge Gate Guardian
Slingsby Cadet Glider
Glider ready to go
105 Squadron, Hawkinge
RAF Hawkinge Gate