Thanet and the First World War

11th November 2018 marks 100 years since the First World War ended. In commemoration, we thought we’d share the Isle of Thanet’s Great War connections and the extraordinary role that the Isle and its people played between 1914 and 1918.

The Armistice Message

Fretter - Charles - Keith Garrison's Grandfather - sepia
Charles Fretter © Keith Garrison

The message that the war was to cease at 11am on 11 November 1918 was sent from Dover to the naval base at Ramsgate Harbour at 9.45am that morning. The townspeople were informed by ships’ sirens, fog horns and whistles.

Charles Fretter (1879 – 1964), who became a Birchington resident towards the end of his life, was the first person to receive word from France confirming the end of the hostilities. Between 1916 and 1918 he was stationed at Dover Castle, on wireless communication and signalling duties. As soon as the message came through, he followed the correct protocol by informing his immediate superior and saying nothing to his colleagues!


Manston airfield © RAF Manston

In June 1914, a Royal Naval Air Station seaplane base,  opened at St Mildred’s Bay (formerly Marsh Bay) in Westgate. An airfield on adjacent farmland followed, becoming operational in April 1915. But it was not suitable for night flying and became too dangerous to land there, so a year later, on 29 May 1916, the airfield moved to Manston.

By 1917 Manston airfield had grown to include four underground hangars, its own railway line to Birchington, a power station to generate electricity, barracks for 3,000 men and even an indoor swimming pool. The WWI seaplane lookout can still be seen at St Mildred’s Bay. Discover more about the history of the airfield at the RAF Manston History Museum

Caring for the Wounded

Quex VAD Hospital

In October 1914, a telegram to Birchington notified the town that 100 wounded soldiers were on their way, by train, in need of emergency hospital accommodation. This marked the transformation of Quex Park into a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) hospital.

Internal Groups 1914 001 Museum Ward- Rowland Ward to Hospital Ward exhibition.
Quex Park VAD Hospital © Quex Park / Powell Cotton Museum

The first patients were Belgian soldiers, with Major Powell-Cotton’s own domestic staff taking care of cooking and laundry. Quex was one of 80 VAD hospitals in Kent and remained open until January 1919, treating hundreds of patients of varying nationalities. See photographs and artefacts from this extraordinary time in Powell-Cotton Museum’s current exhibition ‘Quex Park VAD Hospital Welkom Vriend’

Sea Bathing Hospital
Royal Seabathing Hospital, Margate

The Royal Seabathing Hospital, Margate was used to treat the wounded from French and Belgium battlefields.

Yarrow Home in Broadstairs was used as a military hospital during the war. The building is now the Yarrow Hotel based at East Kent College.

“The most bombed seaside town in England”

ramsgate auxiliary hospital november 1916 - unloading ambulances

Ramsgate was the first town in the country to experience a zeppelin raid and was repeatedly hit due to it being on route to London bombings.

On 16 June 1917, a German LZ42 Zeppelin dropped a 650lb bomb that landed on the fish market near the harbour Clock Tower, which the Royal Navy was using as an ammunition store, causing a massive explosion. 700 houses were damaged and 10,000 windows were shattered across the town. By the end of the First World War, the town had been given the unenvious title of ‘most bombed seaside town in England’.

© Ramsgate Town Council Archive

Margate suffered too, and pictures of the damage caused by the downed zeppelins can be seen in Margate Museum’s Great War exhibition.

Finding Shelter

The Sailor’s Church and Harbour Mission at
Ramsgate Harbour

In 1914, a sloping passage was cut from the cellars of the Vicarage of the Holy Trinity Church in Margate, so that the residents could use the Margate Caves, (closed at the time), as an air raid shelter. Trinity Church was subsequently destroyed during the air raids of the Second World War.

3,300 survivors of the First World War are known to have been fed, clothed, sheltered and medically treated at The Sailor’s Church and Harbour Mission at Ramsgate Harbour. Built in 1878 by Canon Eustace Brenan, vicar of the nearby Christ Church, the mission was intended for spiritual guidance and physical help for the men and boys who made up the crews of the sailing smacks who fished out of Ramsgate in the nineteenth century. Like many buildings in Thanet, its original purpose took on new meaning during wartime.

In Remembrance

Poppies (by Iris) Jul 2013 - b

Many women and men in Thanet died during or as a result of the First World War. They are remembered on memorials and in cemeteries across the Isle, such as St Peter’s WWI War Graves, which offers tours, and Margate Cemetery.

There are a number of events and displays happening to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War across Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate and the Villages. Find a full listing here

Visiting the Isle? Why not follow one of our Frontline Thanet itineraries.

Do you have a First World War story or commemorative event you’d like to share? Tag us @visitthanet on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Kent WW1,, Isle of Thanet in the Great War by Stephen Wynn,,

Food and drink on the Isle of Thanet

This month we thought we would share with you why the Isle of Thanet is a great foodie destination and give you a taster of the mouth-watering experiences you can enjoy here.

Broadstairs Food Festival (28 to 30 September)


We always get excited about this tasty event and it never disappoints.  Just walking around the stalls sampling the food and drink and selecting favourites for an impromptu picnic make for a very pleasant time.  This year the festival celebrates its 10th anniversary with special guests Rachel Green (chef, author, TV presenter, demonstrator and food campaigner) and Stephen Harris (self-taught chef and owner of The Sportsman at Seasalter, National Restaurant of the Year 2017). Plus there will be the ever-popular chefs demonstrations and workshops.

Ramsgate Brewery Tours

brewery tour

Experience how great beer is made and perhaps try an award winning ale, their Gadds No.3 won Kent Beer of the Year in this year’s taste of Kent awards.  Tours run on the first Saturday each month between 11am and 1pm at its only £13.68 per person, including beer.

And whilst on the subject of beer, did you know that Thanet is rumoured to have more micro-pubs than any other destination?

Award Winning Eateries

There are so many delicious restaurants in the area we can’t name them all, but we can tell you which ones have recent awards or have been listed in The Good Food Guide 2019.  This is just a list so you can click-through to the menus and find the one that most tickles your tastebuds:

Taste of Kent Awards 2018

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Buoy and Oyster, Margate – Winner, Kent Restaurant of the Year – seafood restaurant serving seaside favourites with a modern twist.  Their terrace has super views over Margate Main Sands

Bessie's Tea Parlour, Broadstairs - afternoon tea - landscape - credit Alice Horner
Credit – Alice Horner

Bessies Tea Parlour, Broadstairs – Winner, Kent Food Producer of the Year – tea parlour with a little touch of nostalgia

The Good Food Guide 2019

Angelas – Scallops A Coghlan

Angelas, Margate – which won the Editors’ Award in a new category ‘Best for sustainability’ – seafood restaurant serving ethically sourced, MSC certified seafood alongside simple, seasonal vegetable-based dishes.

Bottega Caruso, Margate (Italian)

Hantverk and Found, Margate (seafood cafe)

GB Pizza, Margate (pizza)

Greedy Cow, Margate (cafe, simple well-cooked meals)

The Kentish Pantry, Margate (bistro with local produce at its heart)

Stark, Broadstairs (their slogan is ‘good food, laid bare’)

Albarino, Broadstairs (tapas)

The Corner House, Minster (British)


7 Unbelievable photos of Thanet

Believe us- they’re real. Tropical plants, clear water and outrageously beautiful sunsets?! Yes- we have all this and more. We’ve picked some outstanding images we think you’ll love, and some even look like they could be far, far away! Don’t forget to share your own pics with us using the hashtag #visitthanet.

Margate Main Sands, courtesy of MegOfMargate

A tropical plant, crossed with powdery sand, turquoise sea and a California-coast style Lifeguard Hut- yes this is Margate!


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Viking Bay, Broadstairs. Thanet Tourism. 

The dreamy candyfloss skies over Broadstairs are so unbelievably beautiful you’d be mistaken for thinking you were in paradise itself.


Ramsgate, Thanet Tourism.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this chalky reef and clear sea was on the coast of Greece or certainly not in Britain, but we took this along the west side of Ramsgate, just beyond the Port.


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Kingsgate Bay, Broadstairs. Thanet Toursim. 

Where are some of the best sea caves in the country? Right here at Kingsgate Bay, Broadstairs! Just watch the tides on this beach as nooks and crannies can easily cut you off.

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Dumpton Gap, Broadstairs. Thanet Tourism. 

Where do you think has the longest continual stretch of Coastal Chalk in Europe? It’s right here- in Thanet! From towering cliffs to solitary chalk stacks and all the charming little cliffy nooks in between, if it’s coastal geology you’re after we’ve got more than you’d think.

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Margate Harbour Arm. Thanet Tourism.

It’s no secret our sunsets are to die for, but even after seeing thousands of sunsets on our coast, sometimes even we can’t quite believe our eyes!

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Ramsgate Harbour at night. Visit Kent/Thanet Tourism.

Marseille? Could be! The Old Port in this French town looks strikingly similar to our own Royal Harbour!


10 picnic spots in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate

What’s better than a picnic? Probably a buffet!….But an outdoor spread is a spring/summer must-do activity! From parks covered in lush greenery to sandy nooks at Blue Flag beaches, there’s some great places to tuck into something tasty….(and please remember to dispose or recycle your litter!)

In no particular order….

  1. Margate Sea Defence Steps- This huge space is not only an excellent sea defence that protects our charming Old Town, but arguable one of the best spots to sit and enjoy your sandwiches, ice cream or fish n chips. Just watch out for the gulls! Especially beautiful when the tide is in.
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Relaxing on Margate Steps

2. King George VI Park, Ramsgate- A large, green park with children’s playground, small kiosk serving light snacks and teas and coffees and the charming Itialianate Glasshouse tea garden. Just a stone’s throw from the seafront right in the middle of Broadstairs and Ramsgate there is loads of green spaces to sit and enjoy your picnic.

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The Italianate Greenhouse, George VI Park.

3. Botany Bay, Broadstairs- one of our most picturesque bays. Sit beside the Chalk Stacks or on a grassy verge and lap up the sunshine!

Types & Characters
A young family relaxing together on the beach at Botany Bay.

4. Monkton Nature Reserve A 16 acre wildlife oasis reclaimed from a former chalk quarry. Enjoy your lunch in the company of over 350 species of flowering plant, including 9 species of orchid, and 25 species of butterfly. Several picnic areas and benches throughout the site.

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Monkton Nature Reserve.

5. Broadstairs Promenade- Where to start?! Rows of benches set amongst quaint Victorian Gardens, densely populated with flowers. Sit by the Bandstand and watch a concert, or in the Clocktower seating area, wherever you go you’ll be overlooking the marvellous crescent-shaped Viking Bay.

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Vicrotia Gardens along the Promenade, Broadstairs.

6. Palm Bay- A vast green space with ample free parking bays nearby. Overlooks the beach.

Endless grass to perch on, overlooking Palm Bay.

7. Minnis Bay- A long stretch of sand with grassy verge. Great sunset picnic spot.

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Minnis Bay as the sun sets.

8.Ellington Park, Ramsgate. Huge, towering trees, a nature area and close proximity to Ramsgate Rail Station make this an excellent stop before you explore the rest of the town.

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Ellington Park.

9. Quex Park, Birchington- A visit to the Powell Cotton Museum and stately home Quex House and Gardens is made even better by their charming picnic areas.  Rest under the cool shade of the mature trees or next to the refreshing sound of the water fountain (entry fee applies). During the summer months you can also picnic near the Maize Maze.

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The beautiful gardens at Quex Park.

10. Sandwich and Pegwell Bay Nature Reserve- Great for a family day out, this reserve is also a haven for nature lovers. Made up of a complex mosaic of habitats: inter-tidal mudflats, saltmarsh, shingle beach, sand dunes, ancient dune pastures, chalk cliffs, wave cut platform and coastal scrubland; there’s always more to discover on each visit.



10 photos of Spring time at the seaside

Tea with a view, Dumpton Gap, Broadstairs.
Cliff top flowers, Cliftonville, Margate.
Victoria Gardens, Broadstairs Seafront.
Margate Beach.
Westbrook, looking towards Margate.
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Italianate Glasshouse, Ramsgate.
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Flower bloom in Sarre Village.
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A bright spring day at Viking Bay, Broadstairs. 
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Quex Park Gardens, Birchington. 
Monkton Nature Reserve
Monkton Nature Reserve 

10+ things to do this February Half Term

January is finally over, (the month felt like a whole year to us!) celebrate by getting out and exploring this Half Term… Here’s a few of our suggestions:

  1. Get your game on…. at GEEK, Dreamland’s huge festival of play and gaming, back this half term. There will be hundreds of games, from old favourites spanning the generations to virtual reality experiences, there’ll be something for everyone to enjoy and get involved in. This year’s theme is space and the team will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the arcade classic, Space Invaders! Various prices, 16th-18th Feb. If you’re into gaming you also might like to try one of our 3 Escape Games attractions too! Click here

  2. Skate & Scoot….The award-winning team at Revolution Skatepark are here to teach your little ones how to get confidence on two wheels. Learn the basics with skilled instructors and brush up on your extreme sports skills! Must be booked in advance. £10 plus equipment hire. 11th, 12th,14th,16th,18th Feb.
  3. Go underground….At Ramsgate Tunnels. The Tunnels are a true TripAdvisor favourite, consistently scoring excellent reviews and are suitable for all the family. Just pre-warn the kids it can get quite dark! Grab your hard hat and torch and enjoy a guided walk of the UK’s largest network of civilian wartime tunnels. Booking advised. Closed Mon & Tue.
  4. Dragon hunting….Join Half-Term favourite Simple Simon on this panto-style adventure story with songs, comedy, joining in and small prizes at Margate Winter Gardens. 13th Feb. £7.50 per person. There’s also Children’s Showtime on 15th-17th Feb & popular Police Panto Cinder-Ella at Theatre Royal too (also 15th-17th Feb)
  5. Pancake flipping….There’s a traditional pancake race in Station Road, Wesgate-On-Sea and this has been held annually off and on for years! Check out this photo we think is from around the late 1950’s! Get involved or get down there just to spectate or run alongside the participants. 13th Feb. 10am.

    Pancake Race, Westgate-On-Sea. Sunbeam Collection, Copyright Thanet District Council.
  6. Get creative….at Pick ‘n’ Paint a Pot, Cliftonville. Their half-term workshops are themed and allow children to get stuck into something creative. 14-16th Feb. Booking advised.
  7. Time for a walk….Should the weather be kind to us, enjoy an Active Ramsgate walk, cycle trail or even a bit of geocaching. Ramsgate is a friendly Harbour town with stunning coastal scenery- perfect for some fresh air.
  8. Dare we suggest beaches?….Broadstairs has 7 of them! While we’re being hopeful about the weather, why not wrap up warm, grab some fish & chips and play on the sand. You’ll be surprised how many other families brave it this time of year!

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    Viking Bay and Broadstairs Harbour in winter
  9. Family Magic….Houdini’s Magic Bar in Broadstairs present their fantastic children’s magic shows with Magician Lucky Lee in their Magic Lounge!
    Family cocktail/mocktail menus plus board and Card Games available to play. No booking necessary. Advise early arrival to avoid disappointment. One child free entry into the magic shows for every adult drink purchased. 11th Feb 1pm-4pm.
  10. Easy Holidays/Easy Sundays….Get creative at Turner Contemporary with one of their popular family workshops on Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the holidays. Various prices.

    -credit Carmen de Witt
    Workshops at Turner Contemporary, credit Carmen de Witt.


Winter in Margate, Broadstairs & Ramsgate

Inspired by Craft and Travel’s blog on daytripping to Dreamland in Winter we thought we’d share some of our favourite pics and must-do’s for the chilly season! Make sure you check out her blog all about visiting the park in the winter here….Okay, onto some other suggestions….

Craft and Travel- Visit to Dreamland in Winter

Walking We love to see our beaches busy in the height of summer but who can say no to a whole beach to yourself in the winter? Wrap up warm and enjoy some invigorating sea air! We have 15 beaches & bays to choose from, each with its own distinct coastal features and charm but for the largest variety, head to Broadstairs where you’ll have 7 to choose from. You could also try any of the ActiveRamsgate series of walks trails or energetic coastal activities or if you’re feeling adventurous opt for cycling or walking the circular 32 mile Viking Coastal Trail, (or break it up into smaller parts!) it has some of the best coastal views around.

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Viking Bay, Broadstairs

Food We’re just going to be honest here and say eating is our number 1 thing to do! We’ve got stacks of award-winning restaurants, cafes, micropubs dotted around our towns and villages. Some say we have the highest concentration of micropubs in the country and these cosy little places are perfect for winter! If you’re visiting Margate this winter, check out megofmargate’s winter foodie suggestions here. Also read Betty Magazine’s blog here for more food,  indie shopping and things to do in winter.

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Cheesy Tiger, Margate Harbour Arm from Meg of Margate’s Blog.

Sunsets For some reason, we’re certain these are at their best during winter! We have no scientific explanation for these, but there probably is one (?!) If you can’t get enough of ’em view our dedicated sunset blog post here. For viewing tips, try anywhere towards Margate or Birchington and remember that a cloudy day does not always mean a lack of a beautiful sunset.

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Sunset, Margate

Indoor Attractions If you’re feeling less than brave about the seaside this time of year, head to one of our covered attractions. Explore the UK’s largest network of civilian wartime tunnels, try to uncover the mystery of the cavernous Shell Grotto or try one of three Escape Rooms! All this and more waiting to shield your from whatever the weather may be! See all of our attractions here.

Ramsgate Tunnels


Outdoor Adventures If you’re okay whatever the weather, our Coastal Explorers bags are perfect! These expedition-style bags are crammed full of equipment and activities to use to really explore our beaches. Fishing nets, marine identification charts, collecting pots and 12 activities will keep you busy….just wrap up warm! for more info on these exciting bags, click here. 

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Coastal Explorers

Hopefully that’ll keep you going until summer shows! Let us know what you like to do in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate in winter on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.