50 Years Ago This amazing picture represents a generation of Rye history.
The photograph was taken in the Drill Hall for what was almost certainly a Dance put on by 2274 Squadron (Rye) Air Training Corps. Percy Mitchell, the Rye ATC Commanding Officer is seen seated with two Air Force Officers, probably from R.A.F. Rye, the Home Chain Radar Station, locally known as ‘The Pylons’.
The Pylons were at Kent Ditch Corner and the living accommodation for the unit was further on, where the Filipino Village is today. The photograph, taken in 1954 or 1955 would possibly have been the last occasion that the Drill Hall was used as a dance hall. Soon after R.A.F. Rye was closed, so this picture represents the end of an era in more than one sense.
Those that remember the occasion or were in Rye at that time will be able to put names to many of the faces. I myself know most of the faces but many of the names escape me. Fifty years on and a lot of water has passed under the bridge.
The Drill Hall is gone and on the site stands Rye’s modern Fire Station. The Rye A.T.C. was disbanded twenty years ago and sadly many of the people in the picture are no longer with us. Ken and Doris Kewell, in the picture right behind Percy Mitchell, emigrated to Australia and made a successful life there. They have both passed on but a grandson, Harry moved to England and played soccer for Liverpool in the Premier Division. Pity Rye United could not have signed him up! No doubt I shall hear many more stories sparked by the publication of this photograph, some will be happy others sad.
Some will be about those who stayed and made their life in Rye and others about those that left in search of adventure and different life styles. Most will reflect the part that this town played in their story for at the end of the day 90% of those in the picture were born in Rye and still have their roots here. Most that left will have returned, some for a visit others returning for good, for as one old Ryer once said, “The sound of Rye Church Bells will draw you further than gunpowder can blow you”.
“Rye’s Own” October 2005
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