A recent revisit took me back to the Battle of Britain memorial at Capel-le-Ferne between Folkestone and Dover, in Kent. It sits high on the cliff-top, in a windy corner, a stones throw from the international docks at Dover, and the Battle of Britain airfield at Hawkinge. A ‘recent’ addition to the range of memorials, it is a poignant reminder of the young men who, from many nationalities, gave their lives in the name of freedom and the defence of this country.
Last time I was here, work was starting on the new visitor centre and the two replica aircraft, a Spitfire and Hurricane, had both been removed.This week, on May 25th 2015, I went back to see what had been done.
The new centre is superb. First of all it has a good car park with ample space for a large number of cars.
The visitors centre itself has a bright open reception area and a small shop for souvenirs (I had to buy a book!) and upstairs a new cafe with a balcony overlooking the monument and across the English Channel to France.Entrance to the memorial is still free, but there is the option to try the ‘scramble’ experience, which I believe costs £6.00.
The Spitfire and Hurricane are both back, admittedly both are metal replicas but up here it gets very windy and the weather can change dramatically in seconds, so it’s probably for the best. They are certainly good replicas.
The carved Pilot, sitting in the centre of a three-bladed propeller, gazes patiently out to sea, watching for his missing friends. Designed by Harry Gray of the Carving Workshop, Cambridge, the pilot is surrounded by the creats of those squadrons who took part in the famous battle in the Kent skies.
To either side, two large mounds, signify the locations of anti-aircraft batteries, now silent and filled in, perhaps two replica emplacements might add to the ‘feel’ of the site, although sometimes less is more.
As before, the monument is a quiet and moving place to sit; to read the names of those who gave their lives for us, and to absorb yourself in the battle through the numerous information panels around the site. From here you begin to imagine the vapour and smoke trails high above you and to think that Hitler and his invasion forces, stood not more than 30 miles away in the distant haze on the coast of France.
A big improvement to a very moving place.