Dad’s Army’s early days

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Two members of the 3rd Battalion Cinque Ports Volunteers, Andrew and Matthew Mullen, were on duty at East Street when the exhibition was opened to publicise the Museum’s latest exhibition, “Leading to Waterloo” which continues after the Arts Festival ends. The battle was fought 200 years ago in 1815.

The original Cinque Ports Volunteers were first formed in 1794 towards the end of the French Revolution. After the Peace of Amiens in 1802, they were disbanded, but were reformed in 1803 when we were again at war with France and at their peak they numbered 3,000 men. They manned the Martello towers and sea defences along the south east coast during Napoleonic times and were commanded by the then Prime Minister William Pitt. They were eventually disbanded in 1809 to be reformed as the Cinque Ports Militia.

The Cinque Ports Volunteers would have been on the front line if the French had ever crossed the Channel. The Cinque Ports was an ancient trade confederation consisting of Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich, along with the Ancient Towns of Winchelsea and Rye and the Confederation Towns of Faversham, Folkestone, Lydd, Margate, Ramsgate and Tenterden.

All the Cinque Ports were in Kent and East Sussex, many within sight of French soil. Their importance in terms of national defence is best demonstrated by the number of castles built over the centuries, such as Dover, Deal, Walmer, and Sandown – and when defence was needed against German invasion in 1940, the Local Defence Volunteers took charge (possibly better known as “Dad’s Army”) and pill boxes were built alongside the Martello Towers.

The modern day Cinque Ports Volunteers are re-enactors who aim to keep our history alive.The 3rd Battalion is based at Folkestone but appear at events along the coast of Kent and East Sussex. They regularly appear at civic functions at Rye Town Hall. They have even been over to Waterloo for re-enactments, the last occasion being this year when there were 5,000 re-enactors at the event.

The Rye Museum in East Street will be open every day until Sunday September 27 for the duration of the Rye Arts Festival. It is open from 10:30am to 4:30pm, last admission 4:00pm. Entrance is free but donations are welcome. After the Festival, it is normally open weekends until the the end of October. The exhibition will remain until then.

Photo: Ray Prewer

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