On 25th May 1917 the first daylight German bombing raid took off with London as its intended target. The mission was aborted because of low cloud. The long range Gotha bombers turned and followed the railway line south from London to Dover in the hope of dropping their bombs on the alternative targets of the Royal Flying Corps park at Lympne, the Army Camp at Shorncliffe near Folkestone and the naval base at Dover.

The noise of the bombs could be heard in Folkestone but it was thought to be gun practice at Shorncliffe Camp. The air raid warning system failed to alert the coastal towns of the change in German plans; there was no warning and no anti-aircraft guns over Folkestone. The Gothas reached Folkestone just after 6.00pm. It was a sunny spring evening and the shops usually stayed open late on Fridays because it was payday. On this particular Friday, there were more people around than usual because it was Whitsun weekend and also word had gone round that a consignment of potatoes, a scarce commodity at that time, had arrived at Stokes Brothers.

At 6.22pm a single 55lb bomb fell on the queue outside Stokes’ destroying the shop. 61 people were killed and many more maimed. Many of those in the queue were mothers and children and in several instances whole families were wiped out. The tragedy of that day remains etched on the collective memory of Folkestone people. The failings which had contributed to the magnitude of the disaster were ameliorated when anti-aircraft guns, sirens and shelters were installed thanks to the Air Raid Relief Fund set up by the Mayor.

A Glint in the Sky, Martin Easdown, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2004

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