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Boughton, Dunkirk & Hernhill
War Memorials



Kate Jessup’s eventful journey home

Kate Helen Jessup was born in October 1885 in Hernhill, the daughter of Charles and Mary Jessup (sometimes spelt Jessop). The 1891 census shows that Charles was a butler at Mount Ephraim. Kate was their second child and she was Christened at Hernhill Church on 16 August 1886. Her brother Aubrey Jessop was a year older; he enlisted in the Black Watch and died in action in Mesopotamia. In the 1911 census, Kate is aged 25, and living as a boarder with a policeman's family in East Dulwich, and her occupation is shown as that of  school teacher.


Faversham and North East Kent News                                              Saturday, November 7, 1914



HERNHILL LADY’S EXPERIENCE


HER ESCAPE FROM BELGIUM,


HAZARDOUS WALK for 30 MILES to the DUTCH FRONTIER


Miss Kate H. Jessup, L.L.A., daughter of Mr Charles Jessup of Hernhill, Faversham, has had a very trying experience on the Continent as a result of the outbreak of war while she was on holiday there. Miss Jessup, who, by the way, has had a very successful scholastic career, is a school teacher under the London County Council.   It was at the latter part of July that she started with a friend and others for a holiday on the Continent, which was to embrace Holland, Germany and Belgium.   She did not get back again to England until Monday last week.  


For weeks she and her friend, a young lady of Tottenham, were virtually prisoners at Spa.  Their efforts to obtain passports failed, owing to the German’s hatred of all English.  At length Miss Jessup and her friend, together with three Yorkshire gentlemen who were similarly circumstanced, determined to try and make their escape into Holland.  This involved a walk of nearly thirty miles and it was a most hazardous undertaking, as the consequences would undoubtedly have been serious – imprisonment, if not something worse – if they had been detected.  However, although they had some very anxious times, particularly on one occasion when they met a German officer and some soldiers, they got through safely to the Dutch frontier, from whence they journeyed to Flushing.   


Miss Jessup reached her home at Hernhill on October 26th and we need not say how relieved her parents were to see her after their long anxiety as to her safety.  After a few days rest at home Miss Jessup left on Saturday last, to go back to her school work in London, which she resumed on Monday.  Miss Jessup has kindly furnished us with a short account of her experiences which we feel sure will be read with much interest.  She writes:-


“On July 25th my friend and I started with a party of tourists for a holiday on the Continent, the first week to be spent in Holland, the second in Germany, while the last fortnight was to be spend by my friend and I in Belgium, with another party and guide of the same Association.


Everything went well until Monday August 3rd, when we were at Bonn.   On that day our party of thirty had intended to take the steamer up the Rhine to Bingen, but as the vessel had been stopped it was resolved to return to Cologne, from which place we two decided to continue our journey into Belgium


As the German troops were mobilising, we asked the guide if it would not be best to return to England with him, but he emphatically assured us that Belgium was a neutral country.  We were told that we should have to walk a little distance over the German frontier, take a train, and meet our other guide at Namur at 9 o’clock p.m. Of course, no one knew at that time that the neutrality of Belgium would be violated.


At Aix-la-Chapelle we had to wait about two hours for another train.  After our luggage had been examined at Herbesthal we walked to the first station on the Belgian frontier.  We took a train which was going to Namur, and accidentally entered a compartment where there were three elderly Yorkshire gentlemen.  As we approached the little station of Dolhain we heard a loud explosion.  A little further on we learnt that a tunnel had been blown up by the Belgians to prevent the entrance of the Germans.  As it was late in the evening and pouring with rain, we stayed in the train till the next morning.  The next large town was Verviers, to which we took a conveyance in the hope of continuing our journey by rail.  Imagine our consternation on finding the railway station closed, and a notice to the effect that further service was suspended for THE LINES HAD BEEN CUT.


The next proposal was to take a conveyance to Liege, for from there we could get to Ostend.   After driving several miles our progress was stopped, for the roads were barricaded by pine trees, which had been felled by the Belgians and thrown across the road to retard the advance of the enemy.  As it was impossible to get over these, there was nothing left but to go back.  The villagers said that the German soldiers were coming through Verviers, and advised us to go to Spa, a beautiful watering place in the Ardennes.


On our way back we saw German soldiers on their way to Liege, and on the Tuesday afternoon and the five following days there was a continual stream of troops, ammunition, wagons, etc.  We were impressed by the self-confidence of the ordinary soldier, and the idea possessed by one and all that no obstacle would impede their march on Paris.  On the wagons they had chalked “To Paris,”  “One God, One King, One Pope” etc.  They had written on a door that by August 20th they would dance the Tango in Paris.  As they passed through, papers were distributed announcing the fact that the Belgians need not fear the horrors of war in their country, as they were simply marching through to fight those who were attacking them.  They promised also to pay in gold for the wear of the roads.  At night the soldiers stayed the spa and went forward in the morning.  After a few days the attitude became changed, for automobiles with armed guards rushed back to Germany, hence we inferred they had encountered reverses.


It was about this time that seven German officers committed suicide, one in his motorcar in the road, after he had brought the news that he had lost practically all his men.  


On August 9th, we were told, at General von Balow’s headquarters, that no passport would be granted then, but by August 20th we should be able to resume our journey as everything would be finished.


From time to time the German command issued regulations to which the civilian population had to conform, e.g., all lights in the rooms of the house had to be out by eight  (Belgian time), and no one must be in the street after that hour.  One evening our party broke this rule, but producing an empty pill box, he told the sentry had had been going to the doctor.  The next day a  [       ]   intimated that if anyone wished to see a doctor after eight o’clock they must get the nearest sentry to accompany them to the doctor’s house and back again to their hotel and discussion of war news was not allowed.


Once we saw an aeroplane fired at [several?] times, but without success.


For a month there were thirteen or more Landstrum men (aged 45 – 50 years) – German reservists – stationed at our hotel, which was situated on a hill overlooking the town.  According to their papers the Germans were ‘WINNING ALL ALONG THE LINE.’  Occasionally, however, we saw an English paper, so that we could ascertain the true state of affairs.  In the morning the men were drilled, when they tried their best to perform the “goose-step.”


The public buildings, such as the Royal Baths, Casino and schools, were converted into hospitals for German and Belgian soldiers, though many train loads of wounded were sent back to Germany.


One day we walked to Francorchamps, a village about three miles from the German frontier.  In this place 23 houses were burned and 22 people were shot.  In the few remaining house, the holes made by the bullets in the windows, bore evidence that the inhabitants had been fired on.   The proprietor of a café showed us the room in which his wife and domestic had taken refuge while the soldiers in the saloon had smashed every object they could find.


Last Sunday fortnight we visited Battice and Herve, each of which had populations of about 4,000.  They are both situated on the direct route from Aix-la-Chapelle to Liege.  We saw hundreds of houses which had been systemically destroyed – not a vestige of anything that would burn was to be seen.   We went to the Church, of which only the walls remained.   One man told us that he had his hands behind him for eight hours expecting to be shot, but regained his freedom when an officer recognised him to be the man who had given him a cup of coffee the previous evening. On that same day they had found seventeen corpses in a ditch with their hand tied being them – they bodies had been there since August 8th. These towns had been demolished to retaliate for the in taking the forts at Liege.


INABILITY TO OBTAIN A PASSPORT


A notice was inserted in the German newspaper to the effect that British women would be allowed to return to England on applying to the American Ambassador at Cologne.  I wrote on behalf of the English women asking we also might be granted passports.  But there was the difficulty of sending the letter.  A gentleman of our party gave it to a German postman, to take over the frontier and post it.  But he was observed to do this by the officer, who destroyed the letter, and threatened him with imprisonment if he tried to get a letter posted again.  Repeated efforts were made to the Commandant to obtain passports but such was the bitter hatred of the [   ]  that they persistently said they would grant no facilities whatever to the English and all our endeavours proved fruitless, we five resolved to leave our luggage and walk to the Dutch frontier, a distance of nearly thirty miles.   A Belgian guide conducted us off the beaten track, across fields and meadows and through a wood until we reached Holland.   This farmer’s son guaranteed that we should not pass a single sentinel, but just before we were out of Belgium we met four soldiers and an officer.  Fortunately they did not stop for they already had three prisoners.   One, an old man whom they were to [question] for carrying firearms, the other two for having bicycles, which were forbidden.   The next Sunday, October 25th, we took a train from Maestrecht to Flushing, whence we crossed to Folkestone, which we reached on Monday afternoon.


One English gentleman staying at Spa, was a retired captain of the army.  Early one morning he was taken by an automobile to Germany to be kept under supervision.  [Scarcely] a day passed but we heard the distant cannonading.  In Spa itself no houses were destroyed nor were the troops molested.  We were at perfect liberty to walk about, only we could not leave the country.’


A brother of  Miss Jessup’s is a Sergeant with the Black Watch, and is serving with the Expeditionary Force.

Sources:

Nation al Archives in association with Ancestry.com.  1901 and 1911 England census database.

Faversham and North Kent News



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