Robert Hearn

Recollections of wartime memories of growing up in Dover.

Photo:The Mitre band was set up by locals of the pub owned by Robert's parents.

The Mitre band was set up by locals of the pub owned by Robert's parents.

Robert Hearn

When the Second World War broke out on 3rd September 1939, Robert Hearn lived in Dover. He was not at home when the conflict was announced. When he heard the sirens he ran home and his mother and father told him that Britain was at war with Germany.

The Mitre

Robert is an only child and his parents ran a pub in Dover called The Mitre, which was close to the sea. He did not immediately feel the impact of war as his parents decided that it was best for him to remain at home because he was an only child. They did not want him to be lonely whilst billeted in Wales with the rest of his school. However, when Dover began to be more heavily targeted he was sent to live with his aunt in Chiswick. He did not stay there for long and returned to Dover shortly afterwards.  Robert considers that evacuation had quite an impact on Dover’s population as 4 out of 5 left the town. They were replaced by visiting sailors, who frequented The Mitre. Robert recalls that they were very sociable. He also got to know many of the ex-trawler men who were employed during the war years as minesweepers, and he had dinner with them on board their boats.

Sheltering in the caves

Robert recalls the public shelters which were situated inside the local caves at Dover. At Barwick’s Caves he recalls that many civilians sheltered there on a nightly basis as bunk beds, electricity and working toilets were available. Robert witnessed aerial battles between the barrage balloons and the Messerschmitts – on one occasion he became trapped in Scott’s Cave when he was watching a battle and ventured inside because it became too noisy. He had been in there for approximately ten minutes when a loud crash sounded. Either an aircraft or a bomb had hit the cliffs above. Robert was only eight years old and he was terrified – fortunately a group of people, including his father, helped to dig him out of the rubble.

Robert also remembers the initial thrill of hearing that 6 Destroyers were to be docked at Dover. He and his friends often searched for and collected shrapnel – there was great competition as to who could find the largest pieces.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 14/03/2012.