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Swanscombe pensioner: North Kent hit by Blitz just like London
THE Bomb Sight project has mapped thousand of bombs which fell on London during the Second World War with a mass of data points.
As you move east across the online map the clusters which cover the capital dwindle to nothing over towns like Greenhithe, Northfleet and Gravesend.
But after News Shopper reported on the year-long Portsmouth University project last week, a Swanscombe resident got in touch to remind us how badly the town was hit.
John Chapman, aged 81, was just a boy in September 1940 when the Luftwaffe began their infamous bombing campaign which raged until the middle of 1941.
He said: "I used to wake up in the morning and walk down the road and the houses used to look like hedgehogs because all the rafters were sticking out of the roofs."
The great-grandfather of eight remembers many a night spent underground sheltering from the German onslaught in the nearby Eastern Quarry. He said: "It was damp, horrible and squalid.
"It was absolutely terrible but you had to get used to it and one thing I did find was people were more together during the war than they are today.
"We were just kids and we got on with our lives."
The former glassworker remembers one particularly hair-raising brush with a V-1 flying bomb.
He said: "I can remember being in Swanscombe pool and all of a sudden we spotted a blooming doodlebug.
"It was so close we all thought it was going to come down on us but it glided over and exploded in a field.
"It was bloody frightening I can tell you."
Mr Chapman says he had a near miss one night in October 1940 when four houses were destroyed in Lane Avenue in Knockhall while he took cover in a nearby air raid shelter.
The incident has been recorded by local historian Christoph Bull who says Swanscombe was "unfortunately the wrong distance from London".
The town was often caught when German bombers unloaded explosives left over from raids on the capital as they made their way home.
He added: "The first V-1 ever fired at Britain fell on Swanscombe in a potato field in 1944."
The librarian says the 600 civilian deaths in Swanscombe, Northfleet and Gravesend from 1940-1945, do not match the death toll from one night of Allied bombing in a German town in March 1945.
That town is Neumünster and it has been twinned with Gravesend since 1980.
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