“PLANNING FOR PEACE AND SOCIAL SECURITY” was the leader article’s heading in the Saturday April 7th 1945 edition of the Kentish Gazette & Canterbury Press. The article read:-

“For nearly a week now there has been an entire absence of those far too regular and sinister reports of “damage and casualties” caused by V-missiles. To Southern England, which has formed the chief target for this indiscriminate type of warfare on the civilian population, the news that the whole of the V-coast and most of Holland has been cut off by Field-Marshal Montgomery’s forces will come as a particular relief. The possibility that the V-bombs may be discharges from the interior of Germany, or even from Norway, cannot be excluded; but the allied armies are making rapid strides towards the complete conquest of the enemy, and in their pre-occupation of the defence of the Fatherland, the Nazi High Command, having lost their chief vantage point, are unlikely to bother themselves unduly with their doodles and their rockets.”

“Even the most hardy of those who have been subject to these dangers must admit that (coming on top of the bombings from piloted planes) the past nine months have proved a trying ordeal. The toll of casualties has been considerable – and, apart from that, the more nervously disposed over the wide target area have been obsessed by an ever present anxiety of the menace presented by those “bolts from the blue”!”

“As the dangers recede, we must not, however, forget those grim experiences – not that we want to dwell on sordid and unhappy recollections. We must remember them in order to strengthen our resolve that NEVER AGAIN shall any people be exposed to such inhuman and senseless methods of warfare.”

“As the protracted struggle draws to a close, all the civilised nations are looking expectantly for a peace settlement which, THIS TIME, will provide a really effective restraint to any would be aggressor. As a preliminary, the ability of the predatory Germans to make war must be ruthlessly eliminated – but an even wider measure of world security is needed. We hope to see the plans for the future world organisation firmly established at the San Francisco Conference to be held on April 25th. Here a truly wonderful opportunity will be presented, not only for banishing the fear of war from the face of the earth, but for ensuring the economic welfare, the spiritual and material freedom, and the cultural advancement of all nations, small as well as great.”

“Let no petty disagreements about the voting strengths of this or that Power, or minor differences of any kind, be allowed to divert the energies and enthusiasms of the Allied Nations in their pursuit of this grand objective. The difficulties of securing complete accord between representatives with different racial characteristics and outlooks are obvious. Yet, given a spirit of mutual comprehension and a recognition of the supreme issues that are at stake, the San Francisco Conference may well mark the beginning of the greatest epoch in human history.”

“In this country we shall have an important contribution to make to the problem of world planning for universal betterment. We shall require to keep our sea, land and air forces at a strength which may not only protect this island against any sudden assault, but which will also enable us to play our part in the world military-combination for the suppression of any war-like eruption, wherever it may occur.”

“Beyond this we have a formidable programme of social welfare to carry through in this country. It can truly be said that never in Britain has there been a more widespread and keener desire for legislative enactments which will make for the educational progress and human betterment of the whole of our people. Certainly, we want to “cash in” on this full to overflowing measure of goodwill.”

“Shortly, after the war in the West is over, we shall be having a general election, when we shall be given the chance of choosing the members of a new House of Commons. This is all to the good, for the old Parliament has, in the interests of the war, been prolonged for a decade. The “battle of the polls” will no doubt be contested with vigour, and, we hope, not without humour. Parties can without losing any advantage, conduct their campaign with dignity, yet whole-heartedly, for the candidates whom they feel will best implement their desires. Still, there need be no rancour, bitterness or feckless recriminations. After all, it is the underlying unity and selfless co-operation of all sections of the population which have carried the nation through its darkest years of trial, and it is this over-riding influence which offers by far the best prospect for bringing about the “brave new Britain” which we all wish to see.”

Seven days after D-Day, in the early hours of June 13th 1944, “a single enemy raider was shot down over the London area”, according to an official communiqué. However, in the War Office, Air Ministry, Home Office, in Intelligence rooms of those Commands responsible for the defence of Great Britain, there was full knowledge of what that object was, where it came from and what it could do.

V1 flying bomb on a sledge being pulled by soldiers to the launch ramp.
Photo credit: public domain from German Federal Archives.

That “single raider” was a Vergeltungswaffe 1 (Retribution Weapon 1) the first of the Nazi vengeance weapons, intended to cause fear amongst the British population and whose existence had long been secretly known.

V1 flying bomb in flight after launch.
Photo: public domain from German Federal Archives.

The pilotless V1 flying bomb, which became known as the “Doodlebug”, was an early cruise missile, which flew until the engine’s fuel supply was shut off after a propeller had rotated a pre-set number of turns. The first flying bomb fell on open farmland, north of the A2, at Swanscombe and the second bomb fell on Bethnal Green killing six people.

On September 8th a mysterious explosion occurred on a Chiswick housing estate. More explosions followed, which the Government announced were “gas main explosions”.

It was not until November 10th 1944 that Prime Minister Winston Churchill publicly confirmed the existence of the V2 long range ballistic missile that was the cause of those alleged “gas main explosions”. Three RAF missions for Operation Wildhorn seven months earlier in April had included an aircraft landing in a beetroot field in German occupied Poland to retrieve parts the Polish resistance had obtained from a complete unexploded V2 rocket.

Test launch of a V2 ballistic missile at Peenemünde Army Research Station, rocket experimental area, in March 1942.
Photo credit: public domain from German Federal Archives.

The V2 rocket took just five minutes from launch to impact, travelling at up to a maximum estimated height of 328,000 feet and at a maximum speed of 3,500 miles per hour, too high and fast to be tracked.

Between June 13th 1944 and the last V1 falling on British soil on March 29th 1945 on open countryside near Sittingbourne, a total of 9,251 flying bombs were plotted, with 1,444 of them falling on Kent.

“V BOMB DAMAGES HOMES – casualties from flying glass” headline.
These houses, close to where a V bomb fell recently in Southern England, were badly shattered, but stood up remarkably well to the blast.
Photo credit: Kentish Gazette & Canterbury Press January 20th 1945 edition.

Two days earlier, on March 27th, the final V2 rocket had been launched against England. A housewife in Orpington was the last of 2,824 people to be killed by a total of 1,115 V2 rockets fired at Great Britain, with 64 fired at Kent.

By September 16th 1944 all flying bomb launch sites in France had been captured by the 21st Army Group commanded by Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery. The British Liberation Army subsequently went on to capture the remaining V1 and V2 launch sites in western France, Belgium and Holland.

On October 12th 1944 His Majesty King George VI, wearing his army uniform bearing the insignia of Field Marshal, visited the British Liberation Army in Holland, guided by Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery.

HM King George VI visiting the British Liberation Army in Holland on October 12th 1944, pictured with the Commander of the 21st Army Group, Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery. On the right is Air Vice Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst of the RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force.

Bernard Montgomery and his brothers Donald and Harold attended the King’s School of the Cathedral Church of Canterbury for the Summer term in 1897, during the time when their grandfather Frederick Farrar was Dean of the Cathedral. Monty subsequently kept the school informed of his career progress, including his marriage and promotions.

The front page of the Kentish Gazette & Canterbury Press edition dated February 5th 1944 carried the headline “’MONTY’ CHEERED – Crowd’s Great Welcome!”, following the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies of Invasion visiting “a town somewhere in the South-East” on February 3rd and finding time to visit the Mayor, who entertained him to tea.

“’MONTY’ CHEERED Crowd’s Great Welcome!” Kentish Gazette reported.
Photo credit: Kentish Gazette & Canterbury Press February 5th 1944 edition.

Not reported four months before D-Day was that the town visited was the City of Canterbury and that a memorial service for Algernon Latter, Headmaster of the King’s School between 1916 and 1927, who had joined the staff in Summer term 1897 and became Junior School Headmaster in 1908, had been held in the Cathedral Eastern Crypt on the day of Monty’s visit. Wartime secrecy included newspapers not publishing military details which would provide information useful to the enemy in improving targeting.

In 1945 Bernard Montgomery became a Governor of the King’s School.

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