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Author Topic: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943  (Read 29393 times)

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Offline Paolo

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2013, 09:39:29 »
With acknowledgement to Chris Goss and RAFA AirMail Magazine:-

The leader of the German planes that day was Paul Keller. His plane blew up over the field behind St Mary's primary school.
Very little is known about Paul Keller. He was born in Gelsenkirchen in 1918 and had been shot down and badly wounded over Dunkirk on 1 June 1940 while flying with 6/JG26. In early 1942 he was posted to command 4/JG26 and was awarded the Deutches Kreuz in Gold for his bravery. He assumed command of 10/JG26 on 20th December 1942, gaining the nickname Bombenkeller for his expertise in fighter-bomber operations.
On 24th March 1943 Oblt. Keller led a formation of Jabos to attack Ashford. After the bombs had been dropped and whilst flying a wide climbing turn to starboard, Oblt. Keller received a direct hit. His aircraft exploded in a huge bright red flame. Therefore it can be assumed that his bomb had also exploded. The propeller, which was flying away by itself, was the only part of his plane which could be seen after the explosion.

JOHN CB

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2013, 09:11:44 »
Thanks for that information.
My dad would probably have first told me the story less than ten years after the event and I am sure it was still vivid in his mind. He was an experienced gunner having served in action in several hot spots. Even up to near his death at the age of 85 he could identify any aircraft from the period he saw on war films or documentaries, this impressed me.
 He told me, as a boy, that the FW190 was a more recent aircraft than the BF ME109 and that it had a radial engine, the formation was a line abreast of ME109 with FW190 at the ends.
The only change to this statement was the note he wrote before his death stating that it was an ME109 he shot down, he was quite old by then still very bright but may just have got confused, I am still sure that up to this late note he had claimed a FW190.
I just wish now I had pressed him for more information when he was alive but I think, as for many old soldiers, the memories were something not to be recalled and discussed in too much detail with the family.
Again thank you for your interest, I will post more information and possibly a copy of his hand written notes when I can
Regards
John

Offline peterchall

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2013, 08:34:05 »
After reading ’Hitler’s Luftwaffe’ by Tony Wood and Bill Guston in more detail, it seems I might have mis-led you.

JG26 (the only single-engined fighter Geschwader based in NW France, JG 2 was based in Normandy) consisted of a HQ Flight (Stab/JG26) of 5 FW190 and 3 Staffeln (I/JG26, II/JG26 and III/JG26) with approx 30 FW190’s each. Some, or all, of these were equipped to carry a single 500kg bomb and in accounts of ‘hit and run’ raids of the period are invariably quoted as the culprits.

However, from February 1942, JG26 also had what is listed as “10(Jabo)/JG26”, equipped with 12 Bf109F fighter-bombers. The text states that “only on rare occasions did the Jabo’s (JG2 also had one) penetrate inland”, and they were transferred elsewhere (Russia?) in April 1943.

In view of the above, but bearing in mind the difficulty of identifying a single-engined fighter seen from head on, does your father’s account throw new light on it?
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JOHN CB

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2013, 22:54:51 »
Thank You peterchall,
My father was very clear that there was a mixture of ME109 and FW 190 in the attack that he was involved with. I remember him telling me this and it is repeated by himself many years later in his brief notes. He never mentioned to me about them flying from France as far as I can remember but this is  recorded in his notes which I need to retrieve from my sister. The interesting point is the number of aircraft, in his note I understand he claims there were a total of 12 aircraft I believe this is the same number as on the raid.

My father used to tell me that the pilot was probably only about nineteen and that the aircraft crashed into a school playing field, I see that the body of the pilot killed in the raid of 24th. April 1943 was found in a "recreational field".  Allowing for tricks of memory and all that was happening on that day it does seem quite a coincidence.
 Until yesterday when I found this forum I was unaware of this raid on Ashford, the internet is a wonderful thing, I have been trying off and on for years to establish some facts as to what went on at the Railway yard.

 I intend to request his service records and they may indicate when he was at Ashford. I do have his pay book and army number and details.
 In the meanwhile many thanks for your interest and help with my project.
John Bowman

Offline peterchall

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2013, 21:43:03 »
Very interesting – thanks for the post :).

Regarding whether it could have been the same attack that is the subject of this thread, ‘Front Line County’ by Andrew Rootes states that 4 enemy raiders swept in at roof-top height over Ashford on Wednesday 3rd February 1943 at 8am.They were over the town for less than 30 seconds but by that time 6 people had been killed and 26 injured. It gives a detailed list of the places destroyed by bombs, none of which were the Railway Works. It does not state the type of aircraft, but my guess is that they were FW190’s, but there is no mention of any being shot down.

The only other specific daylight attack on the railway works was on 26th October 1942, when a lone raider, believed to be a Dornier, dived out of the clouds at lunchtime and dropped 2 bombs, both of which hit the works – much damage was done and 10 workers were killed.

So it does seem most likely that your father was referring to this incident, which is recorded in ‘Front Line County’ as occurring at 10am on Wednesday 24th March 1943 and carried out by a dozen FW190’s which swept in over Ashford at roof-top height in 3 waves, bombing and machine-gunning as they went. It gives a detailed account of the damage and casualties but all that can be added (or repeated) to what has already  been written in this thread is:
1.   5 bombs hit the Railway Works, a quarter of the erecting shed was destroyed and all production was halted for 3 weeks. 8 workers were killed and 41 injured.
2.   One plane caused widespread damage when it blew up over Godington Road after being hit by AA fire. Another of the planes was also brought down (but no other details)

Regarding types of aircraft, JG26 (mentioned in the opening post) was stationed in NW France equipped with FW190’s at that time. Apart from personal aircraft for staff officers, there were no Bf(ME)109’s in NW France. (Hitler’s Luftwaffe)
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JOHN CB

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2013, 19:57:32 »
My Father was a soldier in the British Army from 1939-1946, he spoke very little of his wartime service except that he was stationed at several places manning searchlights and guns. He was a very truthful man never one to brag about anything he has done, however he did tell me that he was stationed in the railway yard at Ashford in Kent and shot down a Fockwulf 190.  I remember his story because as a schoolboy I was very proud of him.

He was manning a twin Vickers machine gun in the railway yard, there should have been two soldiers on the gun but his mate had gone to the shelters for some reason. He told me that 8 ME109 had attacked the yard at very low level, he said that there were also 4 Fockwulf 190 aircraft, 2 each side of the 109's.
 He said that they were machine gunning the yard and I think he said that the spent cartridges were streaming out of the aircraft as they attacked.
One aircraft flew directly towards him and he aimed above it and could see his bullets hitting the aircraft which he said crashed in a playing field. He told me that they had come from France to attack Ashford.
I remember him saying the pilots body had been recovered and he was only a young man.
My fathers army mates had a stags head made from the aluminium from the crashed aircraft and he sent this home to his mother in Darlington. This was given away by his mother who believed he would never come home from the war alive, her two brothers had been killed during WW1.
My sister has a note book with an account of the raid which my father wrote shortly before his death.
I have not seen this yet but she told me that Dad wrote that 12 workers from the railway yard had been killed n the raid and civilians and children had been machine gunned.

My father told me that the army would not confirm his "Kill" because he was alone on the machine gun and any claim needed two soldiers to verify it.
My father never told us the date or even year of this action but his account, allowing for memory and "the fog of war" does lead me now to wonder if he account is in fact of the raid described on this forum, or were there many more similar attacks on the railway yard at Ashford?

I have been trying to find out if any aircraft had been shot down by ground fire over Asford and only yesterday stumbled across this forum, I would be grateful for any information and will obtain a copy of my fathers report when I can, The only discrepancy in the story is that in the written report he writes that it was an ME109 that he shot down but I am sure he always told me it was a Fockwulf 190, "A new aircraft with radial engine"

I hope this will be of interest and would try and furnish any more information that I can.
Regards
John CB

Offline Paolo

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2013, 11:20:57 »
Try this link, Far away. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/71002563/Ashford

Looks like No. 85.

Offline Far away

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2013, 13:20:33 »
I found a link to a list of civilian deaths during WW2 for Ashford: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Kent/AshfordCivilian.html

It mentions that several people who died were from Kent Avenue, and it also mentions a bakery there - Snashalls Bakery. Does anyone have access to a business guide that shows where this was located?

Offline Paolo

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2013, 16:34:51 »
That could well be, Far away, as I imagine the damage from a 500kg bomb would have quite a spread and the two roads run parallel.

With acknowledgements to RAFA Air Mail and Chris Goss as before:

A great number of casualties occurred in and around Godinton Road as a result of the German aircraft exploding.  The main part of the aircraft fell in allotment gardens and the pilot’s body was thrown from the wreckage, landing in the recreation field at Barrow Hill.  He was one of many to die in that area of Ashford that day as

Don Fisher remembers:-

“When I was 14 in late 1941 and left school, I declined my Dad’s invitation to start an apprenticeship in the railway works as it seemed to me that Jerry was forever slipping in and slinging a few bombs into the works.  So instead, I found myself a job in town in a small agricultural repair works called Stanhay’s in Godinton Road, just a low single-storey batch of about five small workshops and stores…
“On this day, the FW190s came in very, very low and there was no warning time... by this time, the guns were firing (them and us) and all the 100 or so employees were running through the works, heading for the shelter.  I was working just outside the small canteen and had just popped in for the 10AM break when all of this started.  The shelter was only a few feet away but to reach it I would have had to go back through the workshop and out a side door and run about 20 yards to reach the shelter.  While trying to make up my mind as to the best thing to do, all hell broke loose as the FW190s strafed the works.  By this time I was alongside a wall on the floor and this saved my life as there was then an almighty explosion close by and all the roof and some of the wall disappeared…”


Like Bob Barham, what Don saw then is too terrible to describe, and even after 60 years, Don still remembers what he saw, what had happened and how many of his workmates had died.  However, he continues:“We didn’t know at that time that there was a plane involved but a little later, one of the chaps came into the place and said ‘we must have got one of the ********; they have just found a body outside and it is not one of ours as it has got flying boots.
14 workmates died there, also the baker in a little two-man bakery alongside the works and of course the German pilot.  After getting over my injuries, I thought if it’s got my name on it, I’ll get it anyway so what the hell as I started my apprenticeship in the boiler works of the Ashford Railway Works in 1944”


The attack had been devastating and even those who experienced it will acknowledge that the Germans appear to have been aiming at the Railway Works which they did hit, putting it out of action for three weeks.  However, the majority of casualties and devastation resulted from what nowadays is called ‘collateral damage’.

Offline Far away

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2013, 14:01:40 »
It mentions a bomb hit Haywards on New Street, perhaps it was the same bomb that destroyed the houses on Kent Avenue?

Offline Paolo

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2013, 21:39:47 »
Stanhays was on the Maidstone side of the bottom of Bank Street, with the Corn Exchange opposite.

With acknowledgements as Reply No. 30:

George Hooker:

“At the time, I was working at ‘Crumps’ in the High Street.  Hayward’s Garage was hit (one killed) and a bomb fell on Waghorn’s Slaughter House, just behind the High Street in St. John’s Road.  We were asked to help, being butchers and only a few yards away.  Tom Weeks, an old journeyman butcher went and we carried the injured and dazed sheep out to an old door to where Tom had to put them down.  I remember how heavy they were and how awkward it was clambering over the rubble…”

Bill Jarvis:

[i]“Each day I cycled the six miles from my home in Bethersden to arrive at Stanhay’s Motor Garage at the lower end of Bank Street by 0730 hours.  The morning (of 24 March 1943) progressed normally until at approximately 1230 hours, the ‘danger’ hooter in the garage sounded (preceding the air raid siren as it quite often did) and we ran across the road to take cover in the basement beneath the Corn Exchange.  As I ran down the steps an explosion helped me to the bottom – this was the FW190 exploding over the Agricultural Works.
The raid was over in seconds and we emerged from our shelter.  At the time I was a Police Messenger and I cycled to the Police Station, eventually finding the front garden where the body of a German pilot lay.  Later I was told that a friend with whom I travelled to work at times was missing in the ruins of Drayswards (Hayward’s? –spiggy) in New Street and when the building was demolished some time later, his body was found.
It was said at the time that Lewis gunners on the railway bridge in Godinton Road had destroyed the 190 but as the raiders had come across from the Newtown direction, it is more likely that other gunners were responsible…”


Bob Barham was a Supernumerary fitter at the Locomotive Works and had heard the ‘Immediate Danger’ sirens:

“As I ran out through the doors towards the air raid shelters, all hell broke loose.  Green and yellow streaks flashing by on all sides – Christ!  Tracer shells!  A stuttering roar of aircraft cannon; aircraft engines – loud, getting louder.  Bloody Hell!  Five of them, head on, very low – big radial engines, FW190s, big black bomb dropping from the belly of one.  It all happened in seconds, yet in slow motion as I flung myself to the ground.  Heavy explosions, the ground kicks me in the stomach, engine noise deafening as the FW190s sweep over at roof top height.  They’re gone and I get up and race for the nearest shelter because I can hear more of the sods coming.  There is a great clattering of feet as many others join me, surging down the shelter steps.
More machine-gunning, a crescendo of noise as the second wave sweeps over.  Another lot of bombs and sand trickles down from the shelter roof.  Ack-ack firing back now.  The rattle of light machine guns and the slower bark of a Bofors.  In the background, the belated mournful wail of the public air raid warnings siren started.  Yet a third wave comes in – their bombs further away…
…As I emerged from the shelter, I was shocked to see a great pall of dense black smoke rising above the Shed roof – God, that one must have been bloody close!  It was closer than I thought.  People were running.  I joined them and later wished I hadn’t…, a 55kg bomb had hit ‘E’ Class Loco No. 1515 on the right hand side of the boiler just below the steam dome.  It had torn open a riveted seam, entered the boiler and twisted the fire tubes to resemble the rifling in a gun barrel before bursting through the tube plate into the firebox striking the foundation ring below the fire door which, unfortunately for the poor Fireman still on the footplate, was open.  The bomb then turned through 180 degrees to emerge some 20 yards in front of the engine where its delayed-action fuse caused it to detonate a few seconds later leaving a crater 40 feet across and 15 feet deep.  The blast caught the 55 ton loco, pushing it over sideways to lean drunkenly against the Coal Stage with its side framing ripped vertically upwards.

The Driver, apparently not seriously hurt, was lying near the edge of the crater and urged those who came to help him see to his Fireman first as he was trapped on the footplate.  His Fireman was indeed trapped under nearly two tons of coal.  The boiler, with several hundred gallons of steam and water under pressure, had literally exploded, all of the water converting instantly into steam at nearly twice the temperature of boiling water…
When we reached him, he was conscious and screaming in his agony.  As he was being stretchered away, his cries of “God, dear God, please let me die” haunted my dreams for many weeks.  Mercifully, heavily sedated with morphine, he succumbed to his injuries some three hours later.  By the time our First-aiders returned to the Driver, he too had died.  Although having no outward signs of injury, blast had caused fatal damage to his lungs.  After roll call another person was found to be missing, a labourer and near neighbour of ours.  His body was found some hours later, buried in ashes  in the Disposal :Pit, another victim of blast-damaged lungs.
Not surprisingly, everything not in the immediate vicinity had been blotted from one’s mind.  Now, with time to think more clearly, the full impact of what had happened began to dawn.  I realised with horror that one third of the 600 foot long Loco Works Erecting Shop had virtually gone.  Only the girders and stanchions supporting the overhead cranes remained over a 200 foot length.
Just how many lives were saved that day by the two men who gave the ‘Immediate Danger’ warning will never be known but for them in their post on top of the Railway Works bath house, the casualty list would have certainly been very much longer.  They must have been very, very alert”

Offline Far away

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2013, 14:24:51 »
I assume that the hospital was the former one at the top of Kings Avenue, and I also assume that Stanhay's was on the other side of Godinton Road and nearer the town centre, on Godinton Way. In about 1980 I remember some agricultural engineers there, plus some other former factory buildings.

I also remember a gap in the terrace on Kent Avenue, used as an allotment garden until a new house went up in about 1980.

Offline Paolo

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2013, 11:26:09 »
An excellent article appears in Air Mail (Magazine of RAFA) January 2013 issue.  The Editor, Colin Pullen, has given permission for extracts to be posted with acknowledgement to the Author, Chris Goss and his contributors.  Any photographs in the article remain copyright of the Author so are not posted here.

“The official British report is graphic as to the attacks effectiveness:

this attack was heavier and more successful than the enemy’s previous efforts.  The enemy flew across Ashford at low level from south-east to north-west.  Two of the five bombs aimed at the railway works did considerable damage whilst three bombs which fell to the north of the works damaged rolling stock. The remaining enemy aircraft appear to have made an indiscriminate attack on the town.  One enemy aircraft made a cannon attack from roof top height on a petrol lorry standing in the yard of an agricultural works and the lorry exploded.  The bomb carried by this aircraft was hit by light anti-aircraft fire and the enemy aircraft blew up.  Extensive damage was caused to the works as a result of the explosion…

Memories are particularly vivid:

Jim Poynton:-   

I was in Ashford Hospital for a hernia operation – in those days they didn’t send you out the next day as they do now.  You were in for three weeks with 10 days in bed.
The warning went just before the raid started and all patients who could went to the shelter.  Several others and myself were still confined to bed.  The raid was carried out by FW190 fighter-bombers, flying very low, presumably the main target was the railway works.  There was lots of anti-aircraft fire when suddenly there was a loud explosion – one of the FW190s had been hit and exploded over Stanhay’s Agricultural Engineers in Godinton Road, about a quarter of a mile from the hospital, killing and wounding quite a number.  Seconds after, a lump of ceiling crashed down between my bed and the old gentleman in the next bed.  On inspection afterwards, they found a lump of the FW190’s engine had come through the roof and lodged in the cross beam between our beds.
After what seemed a long time, the casualties started being brought into the ward and was soon full and camp beds were put in the middle and down the corridor with three men ending up in the Women’s Ward!  Some of the casualties were very serious and didn’t make it.
I was 12 and a half when this happened and those days there were no trauma clinics or counselling.  You just had to get on with it”


Peter Wall:-
I can remember vividly the raid.  At the time, I was a young telegram boy and had just come on duty and collected a number of telegrams for delivery, one of which was for an address in Kent Avenue.  I was cycling along the High Street and can remember the window of Gutteridge’s the Chemists oscillating violently – it was restrained by large rubber suckers and wires.  A quick glance over my shoulder revealed a Focke-Wulf 190 skimming the top of the Town Hall.  At this point, I jumped off my bike and stood with my back against the wall of the Castle Inn.  The slates were cascading off the roof and crashing into the road in front of me...”

Offline smiler

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2012, 15:25:52 »

Offline peterchall

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2012, 22:55:45 »
It's interesting to compare how Rodney Foster recorded it in his diary (The Real Dads Army) at the time that it happened, writing in Hythe.

"At 10am about a dozen Huns crossed our front firing, the alert sounding when they were directly overhead. They came back in a quarter of an hour, with our fighters attacking them. The raid was on Ashford, where much damage was done to the town and railway, and about 35 people killed. One Hun was shot down in the heart of the town; one of ours was brought down at Pellinge, but the pilot was safe. It seems wrong that the Hun should be able to get inland so far and dive-bomb the town, yet only lose two".

There is no indication of the source of his information, but 'Front Line County' states that the Home Guard (presumably Ashford HG) went to the scene after their normal days work and assisted with the rescue work, so perhaps it was 'bush telegraph'. 'Front Line County' also states that another raider was "said to" have been shot down over the sea by a fighter squadron.
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