Thursday, 14 April 2011

Canadian Ghosts in Appledore, Kent

Walking Distance: 16 miles
Ghostly Rating ***
Route: Appledore - Ivychurch - Old Romney - Brookland - Appledore
Map: OS Explorer 125
Start/ Parking: Appledore high street.
Public Transport Appledore Railway Station and level crossing are on the walk at Point 2.
Conditions: This route is mostly over lanes and surfaced paths.
Refreshments: There are pubs at Appledore, Ivychurch and Old Romney that offer meals and a shop in Appledore that sells soft drinks, crisps and snacks.

This is the longest walk in the book, but is over the flat Romney Marsh where no steep hills offer problems. It is a gentle stroll, although a long one. The ghosts are a mixed bag, but hark back to the history of this surprisingly remote and windswept area of Kent.

1) Park in the high street of Appledore, and walk south towards the church.
This area of the village is haunted by a boisterous group of ghosts. These four young men wear the ill-fitting khaki uniforms of World War II infantry with, for those close enough to see such detail, the flash “CANADA” on their shoulders. They seem jovial enough as the stroll around the village, laughing and joking with each other, but paying no attention to the modern world around them.

These four men came to Appledore in the summer of 1942 from their homes in Canada. Like many other brave young men from Canada they had come to Britain to help our nation defy the armed might of Nazi Germany. Their stay here was to be short and happy, but was to end in tragedy. Along with the rest of their unit they were billeted in Appledore so as to be close to the South Coast and ready for the mission in which they were to take part.

During 1941 and early 1942 a series of highly successful raids on the coasts of occupied Europe had been made by commandoes and other units. It had been decided to follow these up with a major raid. This raid had a dual purpose, on the one hand it was to destroy a major port and so deny its facilities to the Germans, on the other it was to test the feasibility of capturing a port intact. The acquisition of a port would be vital to supply any future invasion of occupied France, as eventually took place on D-Day in 1944. The target port for the raid was Dieppe.

In the weeks before the raid the Canadians staying in Appledore became popular. Their easy going manners and cheerful good humour made them good companions, and they always paid their way. Then, in August, the Canadians marched away to raid Dieppe. Due to poor planning by the Allies and quick responses by the Germans, the raid was a disaster. Several of the Canadian units that took part were effectively wiped out – every single man being killed or captured.

Soon after news of the massacre reached Appledore these four soldiers began to appear in spectral form. At first people took them for other soldiers, but none were staying in the village. Laughing, joking and larking about the men seem to be recreating their last happy days on Earth before they went off to meet death in battle.



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