The Memorial at Leathercote Point | Credit: Nilfanion / Wikimedia Commons
Submitted to Dover Express
100 years ago this month, hundreds watched the Prince of Wales – later King Edward VIII – unveil the Dover Patrol Memorial at Leathercote Point, near Dover.
National leaders attended the clifftop ceremony on July 27, 1921, and a book of remembrance was placed in St Margaret’s Church, containing the names of nearly 2,000 sailors who lost their lives.
Sadly, ambitious plans to commemorate the centenary were interrupted by the pandemic – with proposals for a grand parade, a commemorative brochure and a carved stone suspended.
However, a scaled-down ceremony will still take place this year, Sunday July 25 at 10:30 a.m., when wreaths are laid at Leathercote Point.
Malcolm Gibbons, of the Downs branch of the Royal British Legion, said they are offering to hold a commemorative centenary parade at the memorial on July 24, 2022.
The Dover Patrol kept the Channel free from enemy warships and submarines during World War I.
It holds a special place in the hearts of the Dovorians who had walked along the road through town to St James’s cemetery where dozens of patrol members were buried.
The patrol was established in response to sending flotillas of German submarines to the Strait of Pas de Calais to prevent Allied military reinforcements from reaching the front line in Flanders.
Hundreds of peacetime fishermen joined the navy to arm trawlers and dinghies to establish an anti-submarine cordon between the French coast and the Kent coast.
Poorly armed fishing boats faced attacks from German destroyers who tried to break the cordon to allow the U-Boats to pass.
Thanks to the bravery of the men of the Dover Patrol, millions of Allied soldiers and tons of war material, including shells and explosives, were able to cross the Strait of Dover and Folkestone to Calais and Boulogne without loss.
And the hospital ships bringing back the thousands of wounded soldiers were also able to cross the Channel without a hitch.
Records show that more than 40 German submarines and other enemy craft were destroyed in the Dover Patrol area by British destroyers, mines, seaplanes, or ran towards the Goodwin Sands and were sucked up while trying to escape the patrol.
Losses on the Allied side were also heavy, with nearly 2,000 brave sailors and fellow fishermen killed in Channel waters.
Following a dramatic naval battle off Dover in April 1917, the national newspapers published lengthy articles on the bravery of the men of the Dover Patrol.
The Daily Sketch headline was “They died defending our shores,” with photos of the funeral procession through the market square.
Two days later, the German dead were also buried in St James’s Cemetery, where a contingent of the Sixth Navy Flotilla paid homage, while their admiral laid a wreath “To a brave enemy”.
When peace returned in 1918, a committee was formed to honor the men of the Dover Patrol. A fund was started by the mayor of Dover and supported by press mogul Lord Northcliffe.
In a very short time, over Â£ 45,000 had been raised and it was decided to erect memorial obelisks in St Margaret’s Bay and on the cliffs of Cap Blanc Nez near Calais.
A third, smaller replica of the memorial was erected overlooking New York Harbor, marking the debt of American soldiers to the Dover Patrol.
Every summer, outside of the war years, hundreds of people made their pilgrimage to Leathercote Point to remember those who died.
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