Wartime Childhood and Ramsgate Memories by Benedict Austen

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Wartime Childhood and Ramsgate Memories 1938-1950 has been published by former Chatham House student Benedict Austen.

Benedict was born and grew up in Ramsgate during the war years. His twin brother was Father (John) Benedict, for many years the Parish Priest of St Augustine’s. Benedict attended the Royal College of Art in addition to his maths and physics studies to become an industrial design engineer. 

Benedict, who previously published intricately illustrated ‘historical adventure’ Gargantua & Pantagruel, shares tales of Spitfires and Bren Guns, shelling, soldiers and the thrill of being able to paddle in the sea. He decided to create the illustrations for the book due to a lack of photographs.

“It was an idyllic childhood. I do not want to make light of the war but we were boys living on Ramsgate seafront with the Germans just 21 miles away. There were Spitfires and the skies were full of bombers, parachutes and shells – one hit our house in Royal Crescent – and there were smells of cordite and red petrol.

“We had rides on the Bren Gun carriers, they were like little tanks that would rock forwards and backwards on caterpillar tracks. We called them ‘wooshers.’" 

The first ever taste of lemonade given to a young Ramsgate lad by soldiers at the NAAFI – “a mug full of bubbling stuff”- is one of the memories recounted in this beautifully produced book of tales and illustrations.

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