Mole Cafe Welcomes Canadian & French WW1 Tour

Walking in the footsteps of John Arsenault 2017

A group of Canadian and French visitors will settle down to tea and cake at the Mole Cafe, Folkestone Harbour Arm on Wednesday 29 March 2017 as part of a 20-day First World War centenary trek marking the anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Marching across Canada, England and France in the footsteps of Canadian Private John Arsenault, the event has been organised to honour all Canadian veterans of the Great War, and the enduring relationship between Canada and France.

The tour began on 19 March in Chéticamp, Arsenault’s hometown on the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, and will end in Givenchy-en-Gohelle, Pas-de-Calais (site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial) on 8 April.

On arrival in Folkestone on Tuesday 28 March 2017, the group will attend a reception at the Town Hall (1.30pm). They will take a walking tour of Folkestone the following day to include the Memorial Arch on the Leas and the Harbour Arm.

The Mole Cafe is being opened especially for the occasion at 10.30am, ahead of its official opening for the summer season on Saturday 1 April.

John Arsenault was a coal miner who enlisted in the 85th Canadian Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) on 5 October 1915. He passed through Folkestone on 10 February 1917 on his way to Boulogne and on to Artois. Arsenault fought in the landmark Battle of Vimy Ridge (an opener to the British-led Battle of Arras) in April 1917 in which all four Canadian divisions fought together for the first time.

The Canadians successfully achieved their objective of taking the German-held ridge, though John Arsenault died on 9 April 1917 during consolidation work after the battle.

Step Down To The Harbour This Spring

Step Short Mole Cafe volunteers Folkestone Harbour Arm 2016

Our trusty volunteers are busy preparing for the 2017 opening of the Mole Cafe and Visitor Centre at Folkestone Harbour.

Folkestone Harbour Arm reopens on Friday 31 March, with the Mole Cafe welcoming its first visitors of the season on Saturday 1 April.

Located on the old railway pier, the First World War cafe (or Harbour Canteen as it was also known) will serve up tea, coffee and cake between 10am and 4.30pm every weekend and bank holiday until the end of October.

Step Short volunteers in period dress recreate the canteen, which was the last stop for British servicemen and nurses before they sailed across the Channel to the Western Front during WW1.

More than 40,000 men and women enjoyed free refreshments and signed their names in visitors’ books provided by the Folkestone women who established the cafe. Today visitors can still sign a guest book.

In 2014 Step Short digitised the Mole Cafe visitor books to make this unique piece of local history available to an international audience. View or search the Harbour Canteen visitor books now!

Our Visitor Centre at the bottom of Tontine Street reopens on Wednesday 12 April at 9am. Here visitors can read about life in Folkestone during WW1; view wartime artefacts and memorabilia; and become supporters of Step Short for just £10 a year. Check with our volunteers for specific opening times throughout the season.