The ‘Battle of Graveney Marsh’ took place on September 27th 1940. On September 26th 2010, a plaque was unveiled in a local pub near Graveney Marsh to commemorate what some call the last armed battle against an enemy that took place on British soil.
The Battle of Graveney Marsh took place against the background of the Battle of Britain. On September 27th, 1940, a Ju-88 crashed in marshland very near to Graveney Marsh near Whitstable in north Kent after being attacked by two Spitfire’s from the RAF’s Fighter Command. Men from ‘A Company’, 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles were billeted in the local pub, the ‘Sportsman Inn’ in Seasalter near Graveney Marsh. They went out to pick up the survivors and to place a guard around the wreckage so that souvenir hunters could be kept at bay.
Little did they expect that as they approached the downed aircraft the aircraft’s four-man crew would fire on them. The crew used the Ju-88’s two machine guns and their issued firearms to defend themselves.
The men from ‘A’ Company split in two with one immediately retuning fire while the other crawled via a dyke to within 50 metres of the Ju-88 and fired on the four-man crew. Facing fire from two sides, the crew surrendered after a 20 minutes fight as it was clear to them that they were up against greater firepower.
One of the aircrew was heard to say that the Ju-88 would ‘go up at any moment’ and this was taken to mean that an explosive charge had been placed on the aircraft to blow it up. The commander of ‘A’ Company ran back to the Ju-88, found an explosive charge under a wing, removed it and threw it into a ditch. Thus the aircraft was saved for British intelligence engineers to examine. Captain John Cantopher was awarded a George Medal for this act of bravery. What he would not have known was that the Ju-88 shot down was the newest version in the Luftwaffe’s armoury and had been flying for only two weeks. Its capture was a major coup for the British.
The crew were marched under escort to the ‘Sportsman Inn’ and given some beer before being taken away to a Prisoner-of-War camp.
The incident was hushed up during the war as the British did not want the Germans to know that they had captured nearly intact one of their most modern bombers. Therefore, the newspapers of the time made no mention of the ‘Battle of Graveney Marsh’ and over the years it effectively faded out of peoples memory.
On September 26th 2010, a drumhead service was held attended by Major General Corran Purdon, MC, President of the London Irish Rifles Regimental Association before a plaque commemorating what occurred back in September 1940 was unveiled in the pub.