Lydd is a town in Kent, England, lying on the Romney Marsh. It is one of the larger villages on the marsh, and the most southerly village in Kent. Actually located on Denge Marsh, Lydd was one of the first sandy islands to form as the bay evolved into what is now called the Romney Marsh. The name Hlyda, which derives from the Latin word for "shore", was found in a Saxon charter dating from the 8th century.
As with much of the marsh, the town was a base for smuggling in the 18th and 19th centuries. Lydd is the 'birthplace' of the fictional character Doctor Christopher Syn, aka the scarecrow, aka Captain Clegg: created by author Russell Thorndyke
Before World War I Lydd became an important artillery practice camp. Experiments with high explosives carried out on the shingle wastes around 1888 led to the invention of the explosive Lyddite. Lydd was at one time a garrison town and the area is still an important training ground for the armed forces, at one time having an extensive narrow gauge railway network.
Lydd Club Day is the annual local Carnival held on the Rype – the largest on Romney Marsh, held on the third Saturday of June. It was established in 1868. Apart from a brief cessation during the war years, has taken place annually ever since. The day features a funfair, boot fair in the morning, stalls and Children's Dressing Up in the afternoon and Floats in the evening, (though there has been much talk amongst Lydd residents about the appropriateness of the judges, as often in recent years the 1st prize winners have not necessarily been the entrant(s) residents would definitely perceive as deserving, causing concern about the judges not being significantly unbiased to judge their fellow residents). The evening ends with a firework display and the lit up funfair.
On the Friday evening before Lydd Club Day, there has been a long standing tradition of “Test Night” when the funfair opens, at reduced prices for the evening. In recent years, an event entitled 'Pirate Friday', has begun. Most Lydd residents have no real understanding of what this event is supposed to entail, other than Lydd’s pub frequenters dressing in pirate outfits! The event was created in 2006 by local residents Jason James,David Usher and Ian Parrot in the Royal Mail. The now annual event has proved so popular it has been adopted by every pub in Lydd. Since the evening parade in 2011, there has an entrant from residents that had participated in the Pirate Friday.
Lydd during World War II
On 3 September 1940, four German spies landed near the town on the coast between Hythe and Dungeness, but were soon caught. It would seem they were ill trained, with only one able to speak English. One of the German infiltrators was arrested in a local pub, the Rising Sun (owned by Clifford Cole), at 9.30 am, because he wanted to buy a drink, and locals would have known the pub did not open until 10.00 am. This suspicious behaviour at the time tipped off a local RAF officer, and the visitor failed to produce a required permit permitting him to travel freely along the coastline, and was handed over to the local police. Another of the four was caught and it was discovered he had hidden radio equipment in a tree not far from the Lydd to Dungeness road. At least three of them were sentenced to death by hanging at Pentonville Prison. At least two of the men proved to be Dutch in origin, and were recruited as spies as a result of their complicity in currency smuggling.
On 21 October, a Dornier was forced to land at the Lydd aerodrome, short of fuel, having been confused in his bearings whilst attempting to return to France, by the use of recently invented equipment devised to interrupt the homing beams sent from Germany to guide such planes. The Dornier was the first example of this new type of bomber to fall into the hands of British Intelligence. Lydd's wartime airfield was situated north of the town - only one Nissen hut now remains.
A Wellington bomber had the misfortune to crash-land on 26 June on returning from a 1,500-plane attack on Bremen. The 19-year-old pilot managed to get the plane down safely near Lydd, and the crew survived the crash, but were not certain they were in England until rescuers came to their assistance.
On the 27 November, a train came under attack by two Focke-Wulf 190s. The train, haulded by Southern Railway D3 number 2365 which was just departing from Lydd Town railway station, had its boiler hit. The resulting jet of high pressure steam from the engine hit the plane, causing it to crash-land nearby, the pilot was found dead, but no railway staff or passengers were injured. The two planes, had been heading over the coast after a raid on Ashford.
A pumping station was built at Lydd, linking Dungeness with a Petroleum pipeline from Walton-on-Thames. Although top secret at the time, this was part of the project Pluto: "Pipe-Line-Under-The-Ocean", a secret plan to supply petrol across the Channel, to fuel the invasion forces. Begun in 1942, the plan included a thousand miles of pipelines linking Grain on the Hoo peninsula, and other oil refineries, first to Dungeness and soon after to Sandown on the Isle of Wight, where pumping stations were set up to successfully carry over 6,000 tons of fuel a day to Cherbourg. The Romney Hythe and Dymchurch light railway was used to assist in the construction of this project, which at its peak in 1945 was able to deliver one million gallons of fuel a day to the allied armies in Europe.
The fuel was pumped through steel pipes made by Stewarts and Lloyds at their (then) recently completed, integrated iron & steel tube-making plant at Corby, Northamptonshire. Sections of straight steel tube were welded together before being wound like a thread onto a huge drum - called HMS Conundrum, which was towed across the Channel several times to lay the network of pipes required. The company made a film about the project just after the war, which can be viewed at a heritage centre near Corby.