Visit the places that have seen conflict in Kent
Kent has a wealth of connections to significant periods in history, and especially to both WWI, WWII and D-Day, including the house that hid code breakers, the coast where bouncing bombs were tested; the secret tunnels from which Operation Dynamo was masterminded; and the airfields from which Spitfires and Hurricanes flew.
Visit the places that saw conflict, many that are now just silent memories of the past and imagine what life was like for the soldiers, volunteers, local residents and many more stationed here.
The Historic Dockyard, Chatham
The World Naval Base at Chatham is one of Europe's most exciting heritage destinations and boasts a display of three powerful fighting ships including HMS Cavalier, Britain's last remaining WWII destroyer. Highlights at the base include the No1 Smithery Gallery and the brand new Hearts of Oak gallery, allowing visitors to walk through the Royal Dockyard of 1758 where Britain's wooden warships were built.
Secret Wartime Tunnels, Dover Castle
Dover Castle was at the heart of the British efforts to repulse the threat of invasion. From within its network of underground tunnels, cut deep into the chalk below the medieval castle, military commanders played out key scenes in the war such as managing the evacuation at Dunkirk. At the Secret Wartime Tunnels, visitors can experience what it was like to be at the heart of Britain's defensive campaign.
In the Warrior's Chapel of St Michael, at England's finest and oldest cathedral, are laid up the colours of The Buffs, the Royal East Kent Regiment which traces its origins back to 1572. The modern east window by William Wilson and the altar with its cross and candlesticks are memorials to the men of the regiment.
Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
Travel the 14 miles by steam train, aboard the world's smallest public railway through the atmospheric Romney Marsh, to Dymchurch and Dungeness. The railway played it's part during WWII: it was controlled by the Army and used to transport troops and goods up and down the line.
Set in the stunning countryside of the Weald of Kent, Chartwell, near Westerham, was wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill's country retreat from the pressures of public life. The rooms in the house remain much as Churchill left them, right down to the daily papers and his famous cigars. There is a museum with impressive displays, sound recordings and Churchill mementoes and uniforms.
Fly with a Spitfire, Lydd
Situated on the coast, in the memorable Battle of Britian landscape, Action Stations operate a Spitfire and Hurricane flight for visitors. As each aircraft is flying, guests are flown in a Chieftain executive passenger aircraft to meet either or sometimes both in the air. Once the aircraft meet up, a specially choreographed flight programme commences with all the aircraft, in which visitors can see the Spitfire and /or Hurricane in a way that they probably have never seen before. This year, Action Stations are hosting a variety of special anniversary events and flights for enthusiasts - a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Martello Towers, Folkestone
Built originally as part of Kent's defences to repel invasion by Napoleon's troops, a number of the Martello Towers were adapted for use in WWII. A particularly striking example is the battery at Sheerness which has two 4.7inch gun emplacements mounted on concrete towers. Other fine examples are at Folkestone and Dymchurch.
New Tavern Fort, Gravesend
The fort was built in the 1780s to defend the Thames against the threat of naval attack from France and was extensivley rebuilt by General Gordon between 1865 and 1870. Underground Victorian tunnels now house themed exhibits including full size bomb shelters showing Gravesend under WWII aerial bombardment.
Maunsell Naval and Army Forts, Herne Bay
Visitors to Herne Bay can see offshore the army forts of Shivering Sands and Red Sands, designed to guard against bombing raids on London. The forts, built in Gravesend, were towed downriver and lowered to the sea bed. Of the 21 forts in the Thames, only 13 still exist.
Further offshore stands Knock John naval fort, one of four built to protect against the laying of magnetic mines. The forts were constructed on pontoons and towed to positon before being 'sunk'. Knock John remains unoccupied after the military abondoned it in 1956 - a silent memory to the past.
Fort Amherst, Chatham
Built to protect Chatham dockyard during the Napoleonic War, Fort Amherst includes among its many attractions a Home Front exhibition which takes a look at life during WWII. The fort also houses a fascinating network of underground chambers and tunnels and is the scene for regular military re-enactments.
Listening Ears, Greatstone
Some of Kent's strangest military relics are to be found around Greatstone, Dymchurch, Denge and above Hythe. The 'Listening Ears' were passive air defences built after WWI as an early warning system to detect the arrival of enemy aircraft by collecting the sound of the engines. Abbot's Cliff, overlooking the English Channel at Capel, near Folkestone, is a paticularly fine example. The value of the'Listening Ears' was undermined by climactic conditions and the dramatic increases in aircraft speed which reduced warning time. They were abandoned in 1939 with the arrival of RADAR.