41c – Leaving Dungeness

It is impossible to walk out of Dungeness by heading west.  Lydd Ranges bar the way.  You have to walk north, inland, and circumnavigate the Ranges.  There is still a choice on how to leave, however:  the road, or a footpath.  The footpath passes a memorial.  It commemorates two Polish pilots who died in World War Two.  One crashed 15 yards away from the memorial itself, and I have read that the wreckage of the aircraft was to be found for years after the war had ended.  The memorial is a simple affair, in fact almost home-made.  Although these two men died over 60 years ago, still someone maintains their memorial.  I wonder who that is, for this does not appear to be an official one.

Polish Pilot MemorialThe pilot who crashed close by was Boguslaw Mierzwa.  He was born in Wasaw on 14 March 1918.  When war broke out he was serving in the Polish Air Force, and he flew in combat against the Luftwaffe.  When his country fell to the Nazis he escaped, made his way to France, and served for a time in their air force.  He continued on to England, joining 303 Squadron at Northolt on 21 August 1940.  He saw combat, engaging some Me109’s whilst in a Hurricane on 7 October of that year.  He crash-landed at a decoy aerodrome in Chatham, on fire but unhurt, and was able to take off again.

On 16th April 1941, Boguslaw Mierzwa flew a Spitfire with 303 Squadron when they helped in escorting six Blenheims who were bombing a fighter airfield at Berck-sur-Mer in France.  As they turned for home, they were engaged by Me109’s over the Channel.  Two pilots from 303 Squadron died: the two men who are commemorated here.  Mierzwa is buried at Northolt, in North West London, and is also commemorated at the Polish War Memorial at Northolt.  When he died he was 23 years, 1 month and 2 days old.

Polish Pilot Boguslaw MierzwaThe second pilot who died that day, and who is commemorated here is Mieczyslaw Waskiewicz He was born in Wilno, Poland, on 27 March 1917, and was awarded his Pilot’s Wings on 15 June 1939, aged 22.  After the Polish campaign he also escaped, to Romania, in September of that year.  He made his way through France and over to England, joining 303 Squadron after serving with 307 and 32 Squadrons.  When he was shot down, Mieczyslaw Waskiewicz crashed into the sea rather than on land.  Both aircraft and pilot were listed as missing.  Neither were recovered.  He died aged 24 years and 20 days old, less than two years after receiving his wings.

Polish Pilot Mieczyslaw Waskiewicz

At this size the photographs of these two men reduce their faces almost to dots on a page.  Yet they were real people, doing very real things, and they died here at Dungeness.  Their memorial here is maintained to this day.

We left the memorial and walked on the shingle, back to Dungeness Road.  From there we looped back in to Dungeness itself, to collect our car.  We had finished our walk around Dungeness.  Britain’s only desert is a strange place.  It is barren, yet welcoming.  I found it a very interesting place to be.  I like to think that one day I might go back there.  I hope the memorial to Boguslaw Mierzwa and Mieczyslaw Waskiewicz will still be as well maintained.  I live only a few miles away from the Polish Memorial at Northolt.  I have read about it but have never visited.  When I do (and one day I will) I will look out for these two names and remember them at Dungeness.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Polish Pilots Memorial:  N 50° 55.009 E 000° 58.058
  • Dungeness Road:  N 50° 56.003 E 000° 57.333

Walk #41 Statistics (of which this post forms the last part):

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3 Responses to 41c – Leaving Dungeness

  1. Jon Combe says:

    I’m enjoying reading about your walks along the UK coast line. I’m doing a similar walk myself and so far covered the coast from Kings Lynn in Norfolk around to Minehead in Devon with the exception of a small stretch of the South Devon coast I aim to plug later this year (from Torcross to Bantham). I’ve also walked the east coast from Hornsea to Redcar and the north west coast from the Welsh border up to Tarleton. I’m trying to cover most of the islands too, so far I’ve walked round the Channel Islands, Isle of Wight, Isles of Scilly, Lundy, Flat Holm and Steep Holm. Sadly I’ve not been organised enough to write it up in a blog, but you can find at least some of my photos at the website address I’ve given.

    It’s probably too late for you now, but It’s a shame you ended up walking around the ranges here. You can walk along the shore line all through the ranges but they are not open that often, so you have to check in advance by calling 01303 225518. When firing is not taking place there is a permissive path along the coast, see https://www.gov.uk/public-access-to-military-areas#lydd-ranges

    I walked this part of the coast in 2006 and walked from Rye to Dungeness, then took the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch railway up to New Romney and then the bus from there to Rye.

    • Jon Combe says:

      I meant Minehad in Somerset of course!

    • Wingclipped says:

      Thanks Jon – your pictures are really good! I would recommend the Orkney Islands when it comes to islands. I had the opportunity to go up there last year and really did enjoy it. Whether to try and walk through the Lydd Ranges was a difficult decision. The MoD don’t make gaining access easy, I think, and though the OS map shows a right of way through most of the ranges, there seemed to be no right through the western side. We opted to walk round, rather than walk several miles and then find our path blocked. Nic

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