Churchill visits ‘Hell-Fire Corner’

Winston Churchill viewing activity in the Channel from an observation post at Dover Castle during his tour of defences, 28 August 1940. Enemy air attacks were in progress at the time, and two German bombers were seen to crash into the sea.

Winston Churchill viewing activity in the Channel from an observation post at Dover Castle during his tour of defences, 28 August 1940. Enemy air attacks were in progress at the time, and two German bombers were seen to crash into the sea.

The Prime Minister Winston Churchill studies reports of the action that day with Vice Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Flag Officer Comanding Dover, on 28 August 1940.

The Prime Minister Winston Churchill studies reports of the action that day with Vice Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Flag Officer Comanding Dover, on 28 August 1940.

Famously Winston Churchill claimed “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.”. Throughout the war he was to show great enthusiasm for visiting the front line wherever he travelled, sometimes making a nuisance of himself with the military authorities. Throughout the summer of 1940 he was energetic in visiting many areas in the south of England that might be potential invasion areas.

It was while we were at Dover, that we saw the approaching German bombers and just a short distance away they were met by British fighters. Mr Churchill seemed mesmerized as the air battle took place almost overhead. We saw maybe two German bombers crash into the sea and some fighters with smoke trailing from them as they spiraled away from the main dogfight.

Later that afternoon, we had to drive to Ramsgate and on the way we saw a smoldering aircraft in a field, and Churchill asked the driver to pull off the road and get as close to the wreckage as he could. There was firemen, soldiers and ARP men standing around and I walked with the Prime Minister towards the aircraft. Even though I warned Mr Churchill about the dangers of being out in the open during an air raid, he said that he must have a look, and when he saw the tangled mess he said ‘Dear God, I hope it isn’t a British plane.’ He was reassured that it was not.

Inspector W.Thompson, Churchill’s bodyguard

Winston Churchill and his entourage walk away from the crash-site of a Messerschmitt Bf 109E on Church Farm at Church Whitfield near Dover, 28 August 1940. Churchill was travelling between Dover and Ramsgate at the time, touring invasion defences, when the German aircraft was shot down. He ordered his car to halt and walked over to view the wreckage, much to the consternation of his personal bodyguard, Inspector W H Thompson (seen here on the right), as German aircraft were still in the vicinity.

Winston Churchill and his entourage walk away from the crash-site of a Messerschmitt Bf 109E on Church Farm at Church Whitfield near Dover, 28 August 1940. Churchill was travelling between Dover and Ramsgate at the time, touring invasion defences, when the German aircraft was shot down. He ordered his car to halt and walked over to view the wreckage, much to the consternation of his personal bodyguard, Inspector W H Thompson (seen here on the right), as German aircraft were still in the vicinity.

By contrast Adolf Hitler was very reluctant to visit the site of war damage in Germany. There are no photographs of him visiting bomb sites – the Nazi Propaganda Ministry had to resort to using a pre war photograph of him visiting the site of a domestic gas explosion in order to pretend that he did.

The Dover War Memorial Project records that there was a steady stream of civilian casualties during 1940. The Ministry of Information appear to have been quite desperate to give a positive picture of the situation in Dover. The town’s citizens are presented as being almost nonchalant in the face of the onslaught:

The Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspects bomb damage caused by Luftwaffe night raids in Ramsgate, Kent, England on 28 August 1940.

The Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspects bomb damage caused by Luftwaffe night raids in Ramsgate, Kent, England on 28 August 1940.

Morris Quad and 25-pdr field gun passing through a town 'somewhere in England', 28 August 1940.

Morris Quad and 25-pdr field gun passing through a town ‘somewhere in England’, 28 August 1940.

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