When Fjordr first looked at the East Coast War Channels in the First and Second World War, a decision was made to draw a southern boundary between the War Channels and the Dover Sector along an east-west line just to the south of North Foreland. The focus of the War Channels was to the north of this line because the Dover Sector presented a very much more complex picture that would have distorted the intended focus on the conflict over civilian shipping along the length of the east coast.
Historic England were keen, however, that the landscape approach taken to the War Channels should also be applied to the south east, resulting in a separate project to address the specific complexities of the Dover Sector.
The conflict over the East Coast War Channels largely took place quite close inshore, within the 12-mile limit of today’s UK territorial waters. In contrast, the Dover Sector reaches right across from England to the Continental shore: it is hardly possible to make sense of the Dover Sector in either the First or Second World War by looking only at what happened in English waters; and the significance of the heritage sites – such as ship- and aircraft wrecks – derives in part from activities and events in the waters of the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
Accordingly, the boundaries of the Dover Sector project are, in the north east, a line from North Foreland to Westkapelle in the Netherlands and, in the south west, a line from Dungeness to Le Touquet. The Continental coast included in the project area encompasses the Western Scheldt, Zeebrugge, Ostend, Dunkirk, Calais, Boulogne and Etaples – names that resonate as much as Dover, Folkestone and Ramsgate.
The project is focussing on the surviving remains of the First and Second World War in the Dover Sector, especially those that fall within the remit of Historic England’s advice. As well as sites in the marine area, the project is also addressing sites on land whose primary role was related to the war at sea, such as the infrastructure of wireless, coastguard and air stations.
Of course, these conflicts did not keep to neat geographical or thematic boundaries, but the intention is to help place individual heritage assets within their wider landscapes, and to show how these landscapes related to each other and changed over time, within and between the two wars. There are some key commonalities between the war at sea in the Dover Sector in the First and Second World War; but also some important contrasts.
As well as looking at heritage sites and landscapes, the Dover Sector project is seeking to raise public awareness of the war at sea in the First World War in particular, to coincide with the current centenary. As a result, Fjordr is working with the CBA’s Home Front Legacy project, CITiZAN and other national and local organisations to draw attention to the First World War at sea and to encourage people to get involved in recording archaeological sites.
The results of the Dover Sector project will be made available in a report online and other material. Please watch this space and look out for #DoverSector on Twitter.