By Len A.Hynds

It was 1944, the fifth year of the war, and I was a Sergeant Cadet with the East Kent Regiment,( The Buffs), but attached to a battery of three Bofors quick-firing anti aircraft guns of the Royal Artillery, situated 50 yards apart on the East cliff ( The Paragon) at Ramsgate. I was their runner to carry messages in case of telephone breakdown with Ramsgate Fortress and Harbour HQ, which was in the Royal Yacht Club building, and run by the navy.

I was on duty every afternoon and evening, and had the mornings free. I decided I needed to earn some money, so offered my services doing anything during mornings only, to Grummants the builders, and went out each morning with a very old deaf roof tiler, replacing roof slates that had been smashed or blown off in the constant shell bursts throughout the town.

The old chap had returned when the war started as all the young men had enlisted, as so many retired people did, and this old chap was a master at his craft. We pushed the barrow to the Margate Road, and put a ladder up to the roof level, carried the next ladder up and laid it on the roof so he could reach the damaged part. I simply hated ladder work, so he let me stay at the bottom, holding the ladder and just carrying slates up for him to use.

Suddenly the shell warning siren started, and I knew we had just three minutes before it landed. That was the time it took for those massive shells to travel all the way across the channel, and from when our look-outs had seen the enormous gun flash on the other side.

Knowing that the old chap couldn't hear the siren, I raced up the ladder frantically waving to attract his attention, and when he looked at me, I pointed upwards. He smiled and nodded and I slid down the ladder and laid flat behind a low wall. Survival had become instinctive.

The massive shell landed about 100 yards away, demolishing two more houses, and being very close to the railway viaduct which had obviously been their target. The old chap had not come down the ladder, and I feared he had left it too long and had been blown off that high roof with the blast, which again had broken all the windows, and made the wall I was behind shift slightly.

I raced up the ladder fearing the worst, and he was just sitting there admiring the finished job, smoking his pipe. He turned and saw me, and indicated that we should get the ladders down, and have a nice cup of tea from his flask, before going on to the next job.

He had not heard a thing, and had been protected from the blast by the chimney stack.