Stained Glass Window Tells A WW1 Story

A tweet we received last weekend highlights the importance of the Canadian Army in the First World War, particularly their presence in Folkestone.

Folkestone resident Graham Adams visited the National Railway Museum in York at the end of September 2016 and happened to notice a stained glass window bearing the Kent Invicta insignia.

On closer inspection he discovered that this was in fact one of eight memorial windows presented by the Royal Canadian Army to the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR) in 1919. The donation had been made in recognition of the role played by Shorncliffe railway station during the Great War. The windows also feature the SECR coat of arms and Kentish hops.

Originally the windows were installed in the Refreshment Room at Shorncliffe Station, now Folkestone West Station. Today they are part of the National Railway Museum’s collection in Yorkshire.

During the First World War, more than 100,000 railway royal engineers served the front by keeping supplies and troops moving by train. The SECR railway played a key role in the war, with 556 of the company’s men lost whilst serving during the conflict.

The National Railway Museum exhibition Ambulance Trains opened in July 2016, and shares the largely forgotten stories of the trains carrying millions of injured soldiers from the battlefields to safety between 1914 and 1918.

Tens of thousands of Canadian soldiers based in Folkestone during WW1 had a huge impact on the seaside town. As well as training hard to do their job on the frontline, they were an exciting addition to the community. More than 1,000 local girls married Canadian soldiers and later returned with them to Canada!

Every year the community continues to honour the Canadian troops on 1st July (Canada Day) at a special service at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery, which holds the bodies of 305 Canadian soldiers who died during the Great War.

Read more about Folkestone and the Canadians during WW1 in this article by military historian Michael George, published in the Western Front Association Bulletin.