High above “The Garden of England”
I suppose it’s driving the school bus that makes the mind return to one’s own childhood and all that
entailed and can be remembered. In the UK we didn’t have school buses apart from those schools
that were not close to public transport routes so after primary education in the village school and
taking the “then” dreaded 11+ exam it was off to the “big” school in the local town. I had 3 public bus
routes serving my village of Bridge, only three miles from my place of learning in Canterbury. All three
of these buses would arrive within 20 minutes in the morning, the 15 from Dover and then the 16 and
17 coming along two different routes from Folkestone and in the evening about the same schedule
leaving Canterbury but only one of each per hour.
My bus in the East Kent livery of red and cream
From the age of about 11 I was determined to join the Royal Air Force and very little else was of
interest to me at this age. Looking at my village where I grew up we had a collection of shops, a
bakery, chemist, several auto technicians, butchers, a barber, flower shop and for later delights………
3 public houses known to all and sundry as the village pub!
The Red Lion
Immediately opposite where I lived on the main road was what would become my all time favorite,
“The Red Lion”, whose brewery was Fremlins, an old and established brewery who served a very good
pint of bitter. Further up the village, but within 300 yards was “The White Horse” which was owned by a
national company called Whitbread.
Never had all those hanging baskets in my day !
Next door to me was the Chemist and then the side street of “Brewery Lane” and on the other side of
the lane was the last pub called “The Plough & Harrow” who sold a Kent produced ale under the
Shepherd Neame banner. Two pubs within 50 feet of my front door!
The Plough & Harrow
At the bottom of Brewery Lane there was a private entrance to a large estate and delightful country
manor which was owned by the Neame family. This was later sold and became a nightclub where all
the rock bands of the era played including the Beatles and the Kinks. This was a late night venue after
all the mainstay pubs had closed as I discovered on one of my rare visits back to Bridge while I was
out in Cyprus flying the Canberra Bomber
My first “tour” on Canberra Bombers in Cyprus
Never having been a “Neamers Man” I was surprised doing this article to find out a lot about the
company after my cousin sent me an email with some of the Shepherd Neame advertising of their
latest beer. The company is the oldest brewery in Great Britain !! dating back to 1698 and since I left
Kent they have been hard at it buying up pubs throughout the south east of England.
Their new beer was introduced in 1990 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the WW II Battle of Britain
which took place predominately in the skies over Kent. The new beer was called “Spitfire” and their
advertising is a clever play on wartime memories and is all bannered under the “Bottle of Britain”.
Having flown with the real Battle of Britain Flight out of Coningsby in Lincolnshire for 8 years during my
time in the RAF their advertising and my boyhood memories had to be worth an article.
The Real Thing ! The RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
When this new beer came out I was in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf War and at that time my favorite
gunmaker, Beretta, issued a Battle of Britain limited edition 12 bore to comemorate the 50th
anniversary. I was offered gun No 50/50 for the 50th and as money wasn’t an object snapped it up.
Needless to say 50/50 for the 50th was very special with exhibition wood, and gold engraving!
The B of B Beretta 687EELL No 50/50
Engraved with WW II fighters instead of gamebirds
As with anything of a nostalgic note we remember what we want to remember and when one thinks
of WWII and aerial battles one of the first fighters that comes to mind is the Spitfire (and no doubt why
Shepherd Neame chose it for their new beer) whereas in reality the real “killing” machine was in fact
the Hawker Hurricane.
The timeless beauty of the Spitfire
Anyway, that aside, let’s see what the advertising boys at Neamers came up with, I haven’t included
them all but here are some of my favorites.
An epic air battle over the Kent countryside
Not factually part of the actual Battle of Britain a Lancaster of 617 Squadron drops the “Barnes Wallis
bouncing bomb” during the famous Dams Raid. However, having been on the Lanc for 8 years I’m
glad the Neamers Men included her in their advertising
617 Squadron with the bouncing bomb
Of course a fair number of enemy aircraft were also shot down having been identified by the Royal
Observer Corps who spent,like myself, hours studying aircraft recognition silhouettes to prevent
“blue on blue” engagements.
An AA battery crewed by Timber Woods, Chalkey White, Nobby Clark
and Dusty Miller commanded by Sgt Lefty Wright
Another one that I like is the “play on words and misspelling, a bit George Bushish” but conveys the
message that Spitfire is beyond comparison.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever !
A flock of Focke Wulf 190’s
Our Neamers men also used a lot of the classic wartime banter and must have had a riotous time
coming up with some of the slogans. Phrases I remember from my time in the RAF were
“Wizard prang”, “What rotten luck”, “Golly gosh !”, “Johnny went in the drink”, and so on. Others were
various adaptations of Churchill’s famous remark ” Never was so much owed by so many to so few”
……… which while we were under training was changed to
“Never was so much owed by so Few to so many” referring to our bank loans to pay for poor choices
of exotic cars, fast women and bouts of ill advised drinking!
Very clever ! but it never got into pint/print
The 6 minute pint !
I will have to wait until my next trip to Blighty but until then………….
SQN LDR TONY DOWN RAF (Rtd)