View of the Capel-le-Ferne shoreline

Peter the spaniel, WWII artillery warning dog

Posted by Webmaster on Saturday, March 02, 2013

The village web site has received the following interesting WWII anecdote from Alan Knight, now a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia, but born in Folkestone:

“My father’s brother, Harold Knight, and his wife Ruth bought 100 New Dover Road, Capel-le-Ferne, when it was built in the early 1930s. Harold was a plasterer, and had worked on the house when it was under construction. After the fall of France in 1940, civilians were told that they had to leave Capel, as the expected German invasion might soon turn the village into a war zone. Uncle Harold was doing construction work for the army, and Ruth explained to the military that “My husband doesn’t know how to boil an egg; he will starve without me to cook for him!” The military relented, and Ruth was allowed to stay, provided she agreed to have military personnel billeted at 100 New Dover Road. However, before this happened, the Battle of Britain began, and Capel had a grandstand view of the air battles over the Channel. Dozens of newspaper reporters converged on Capel, and several of them took up residence at 100 New Dover Road. Each morning at dawn they would walk to the cliff edge, and following a dog fight, run to the telephone box at Capel Street bus stop to file their report to Fleet Street. (Among the journalists at 100 New Dover Road was one Reginald Foster, of the now-defunct “Daily Sketch”. He was jailed for contempt of court during the 1960s Vassall Tribunal, for refusing to divulge his sources for a story about the spy John Vassall.)

“Once the Battle of Britain ended, the Germans set up huge guns on Cap Gris Nez to bombard shipping in the Dover Strait. The shell casings of these huge artillery rounds used to be on display in Folkestone Museum when I was a child, and perhaps they still are. The Germans would bombard Folkestone and Dover, and sometimes these shells would land around Capel. Ruth and Harold had a black cocker spaniel named Peter, who would sit on the garden wall, looking over the Channel. After the first few shells landed nearby, Ruth noticed that Peter would tense up when he heard a shell being fired from Cap Gris Nez, and would move his head upwards as if he was tracking the artillery shell on its ballistic flight. If Peter stayed on the wall, the shell was not coming close. If on the other hand, Peter jumped off the wall and ran to hide in the basement, Ruth would clang a shell-case which hung on the wall at 100 New Dover Road, to warn everyone to take cover! Pure “Dad’s Army”!”

Alan Knight