Herne Bay Historical Records Society: The Setterfield War Diaries

Herne Bay Historical Records Society tells CommunityAd more about The Setterfield War Diaries; focusing on two intriguing reports.


Inspector Charles Setterfield was Herne Bay chief of police for 21 years up to his retirement in December 1959. He began his career in the police force as a constable in 1921 and moved steadily up through the ranks taking several postings throughout Kent. He was promoted to Inspector in 1936, and subsequently became a station chief when he moved to Herne Bay in 1939, where he remained for the rest of his distinguished career. He arrived in Herne Bay just before the outbreak of WW2, and as well as dealing with the usual day to day police matters, his first few years as station chief were also dominated by the events of wartime.

Inspector Setterfield was required to give daily updates to his superiors, and it is these reports from the first 5 years of his tenure that make up the Setterfield War Diaries. These fascinating documents include all the events you would expect; bombs being dropped (not always by enemy planes), allied and enemy plane crashes, intercepting suspicious characters (not always foreigners!). However, they also include some more unusual stories:

Image 1: In this report from 1940, a police officer was sent to investigate an unusual smell suspected to be Phosgene gas in Dence Park. The brave sergeant that was sent to investigate had no equipment other than his own sense of smell. Fortunately, he concluded that this was not Phosgene, but rotting vegetation carried by the prevailing wind on that day!

Image 2: In May 1944, a carrier pigeon carrying messages back to HQ became disorientated and was found in Herne Bay. Inspector Setterfield immediately contacted the Army Pigeon Service at Wing House in the War Office. He arranged for the messages to be sent via train to Victoria Station, and for the exhausted pigeon to be looked after by a local representative of the National Union of Racing Pigeons (NURP) until it could be returned to active service.

This is just a small excerpt from the diaries, which run to more than 1000 pages of accounts of the events and occurrences that the Herne Bay police had to deal with during this time. If you are interested in reading more of these fascinating stories, members of the Herne Bay Historical Records Society can view the Setterfield War Diaries in full on our website www.hbhrs.org.

HBHRS membership is currently £15 per year and this funding helps us to preserve our vast collection of documents, maps, newspapers and photographs, of which these diaries are just a small part, and make them all available as a research resource. Membership is available through the website, or please contact us on [email protected], or via our Facebook page @hbhrs if you would like more information.


Simon Smith, Herne Bay Historical Records Society

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