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Gravesend’s saga of war and peace

PUBLISHED: 13:27 16 February 2011 | UPDATED: 13:27 16 February 2011

St Aidans

Rev Richard Martin

St Aidans Rev Richard Martin

Archant

Stories and memories from a decade that was split by the Second World War will be collected for a huge exhibition and archive.

Volunteers attached to St Aidan’s Church, in Gravesend, are preparing to gather accounts of those who lived in Westcourt, or were associated with Gravesend Airfield through the 1940s, as part of a Heritage Lottery-funded history project.

Led by enthusiastic local historian John Woodhead, a member of Horton Kirby and South Darenth Historical Society, the project will include around 50 first-hand accounts and a huge number of photographs and documentation taken from the period, including a plan of the airfield which was published in the The Times back in 1940.

Details will include stories of the prisoner-of-war camp at Denton Marshes, whose inmates were used to build many of the homes in the Westcourt area.

Mr Woodhead, of Holmesdale Road, South Darenth, said: “This project has been a long time in the making but we are now ready to go out and start interviewing the people who lived here at the time. It has been fascinating what has been uncovered already.”

The interviewers have each had criminal record checks and been given training by the Oral History Society.

Funded by £30,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project will exhibit its results first at St Aidan’s Church Hall, in St Aidan’s Way.

Findings will be published on a website and scanned and archived to be stored electronically.

The Reverend Richard Martin first suggested the idea 18 months ago.

He said: “There is such an interesting history here, and the contrast, with the decade split half and half between war and peace, makes it very interesting.

“We thought it would be worthwhile and, after applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund, clearly they did too.”

Hundreds of leaflets were delivered to addresses searching for residents who remember the 1940s.

Volunteers are still keen to speak to anyone connected either with the area or the airfield.

If you have memories of the 1940s, call the church on 01474 351620 or email Mr Woodhead on john.woodhead4@btinternet.com

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