West of Calais along the D940 coastal road towards Boulogne, perched high up on the cliffs, is a poignant memorial to the ‘Dover Patrol’. This was a joint force combining French, British and American sea powers that defended the Channel stretches during the Great War. There are three identical Egyptian style obelisks dedicated to the courage and sacrifice of the Navel powers involved. One is close to Sangatte in northern France, one near Dover in England alongside St.Margaret’s bay and one in Brooklyn, New York.
Northern France and the Low Countries had to fend off German submarines and enemy mines that were spread across the English Channel. The patrol that endured for all of the war years consisted of anti-submarine vessels, minesweepers and battleships. They engaged in very dangerous operations. There were a number of small yachts and improvised tiny boats that did their bit as well.
Numerous German U boats and mine laying vessels were attempting to protect the enemy national interests during WW1. The allied countries were equally determined to protect their state borders from invasion. They also appreciated the need to protect the principal allied port of Zeebrugge along the Belgian coast. More than 2000 allied seaman lost their lives and many top line medals were awarded including a Victoria Cross.
Many of the allied force’s aircraft were also involved in the relentless and tenacious struggle. The memorial along the coast road by the Cote Opal preserves the sailor’s names for ever. Car parking fairly close to the column just off the road is available and the trudge up the gentle hillside to the obelisk will be refreshing. It is a dominating and prominent structure surveying the countryside for miles around. Look across the water on a clear day and take in the view of the White Cliffs of Dover, just twenty odd miles away.
The joint Dover Patrol Force operated tirelessly throughout the War. They destroyed a number of enemy submarines and hidden mines. They were under constant attack from the Germans but displayed enormous courage. The seas were often rough and the tides and currents powerful but the allied interests, both in Europe and the American continent, had to be preserved.
The great memorial resting high on a grassy hillside overlooks the channel and stands proudly. It is erected in its own marked square surrounded by plaques and information describing the activities of the Force in both written and photographic detail. It is a splendid inspiration for all generations as it is faced by the sea and resting under the sky. It is a reminder of the tenacity and courageous nature of France and her allies.
The overbearing obelisks close to Dover, just across the water, and the one in New York are pretty much identical. They symbolise the joint friendship and defence partnership that rested with our companions from so many generations ago. Go and have look as you drive away from Calais on your next trip to France.