Step Short March for Passchendaele

Image: The quagmire of Passchendaele, courtesy of John.

This year, Step Short’s annual march along the Leas in Folkestone (Sunday 6 August) will honour those lost in the Battle of Passchendaele, the Third Battle of Ypres.

The notoriously muddy, bloody battle in the West Flanders region of northern Belgium began on 31 July 1917 and continued until 6 November the same year. One of the defining campaigns of the First World War, it is estimated that at least half a million Allied and German soldiers were wounded or died in the hellish battle of attrition – which finally resulted in Allied gains of just five miles.

During the offensive the flat landscape, churned up by months of shelling and flooded by the heaviest rain in 30 years, became a deathly quagmire. Along with well-established German defences and Douglas Haig’s misplaced confidence, this led to a futile struggle in which hundreds of thousands of soldiers, horses, mules, tanks and weapons were lost to the mud.

The huge massacre occurred just a year after the horrors of the five-month long Battle of the Somme in northern France in which more than a million men were killed.

The national UK remembrance event Centenary of Passchendaele, Third Battle of Ypres takes place on 30 and 31 July 2017.

On 6 August, Step Short, Dymchurch British Legion and other local groups will meet outside the Leas Cliff Hall at 10.30am before marching along the Leas to the Memorial Arch for a remembrance service at 11.00am. All are welcome. 

Join The Team

Volunteers enrolment poster

We’re always looking for more volunteers to join our friendly team. If you’ve got a few spare hours a week and you’d like to help share Folkestone’s First World War story then get in touch.

You could be welcoming guests in our Visitor Centre on Tontine Street or serving up tea and cake with the Mole Cafe gang on the bustling Harbour Arm.

Contact Heather-Gail de Souza (01303 269181) or Ann Berry (01303 278644) for the Mole Cafe and Carl Plummer (07766 796006) for the Visitor Centre, or email [email protected] for either.

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.

Check Out Our November Newsletter

It was a busy autumn for Step Short with a host of remembrance events. Take a look at the November edition of our newsletter below.

And don’t forget, it costs just £10 a year to become a member of Step Short and support our work to raise awareness of Folkestone’s role in the First World War.

November 2016 Step Short Newsletter

Battle Of The Somme Centenary: Poppies On The Leas

School children at Poppies on the Leas, Folkestone, 2016
Sandgate Primary schoolchildren get stuck in, poppy planting on the Leas.

Folkestone children took part in a poignant commemoration of the last day of the Battle of the Somme last Saturday.

To mark 100 years since the end of the British army’s bloodiest battle, families and schools from the area came together on the Leas on the morning of Saturday 19 November 2016 to plant hundreds of steel poppies around the artwork Folk Stones.

Created by artist Mark Wallinger for the 2008 Folkestone Triennial, Folk Stones features 19,240 numbered pebbles representing the British servicemen lost on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Wallinger himself attended Saturday’s event along with the Mayor and Mayoress of Folkestone, Martin and Sheila Salmon, Folkestone and Hythe MP and Step Short’s Chairman Damian Collins, and organisers Roger Joyce of Shepway HEART Forum and Ann Berry of Step Short.

The local community turned out in their hundreds, including pupils from St Martin’s, St Eanswythe’s, St Mary’s and Sandgate primary schools.

According to Centenary News, Martin Salmon said: “Today’s proceedings are a fitting way that this town can remember the sacrifices made to enable us to live in freedom and peace 100 years later.

“At their peak, the three camps in the town were seeing in excess of 10,000 men passing through every day. The rest camps were a blessing for the men, for many of whom it was their final day on English soil.”

Roger Joyce, Chairman of Shepway HEART, read a poem written by Eric Berridge, an officer from Folkestone who died during the Battle of the Somme.

Damian Collins said: “What has been wonderful throughout this series of important and poignant centenaries is that people have demonstrated their interest, and their understanding, and their desire for remembrance and commemoration of these terrible events and the sacrifices that men made.”

The event was organised by Shepway HEART Forum (a local heritage and arts organisation), Step Short and the Shorncliffe Trust.

Ann Berry & Mark Wallinger, Poppies on the Leas, Folkestone 2016
Step Short’s Chairman Ann Berry and artist Mark Wallinger on the Folk Stones.
Counting the Folk Stones, Poppies on the Leas November 2016
Local children tackle the impossible task of counting the Folk Stones.
Mayoress Sheila & Mayor Martin Salmon, Poppies on the Leas, Folkestone 2016
Folkestone’s Mayoress Sheila and Mayor Martin Salmon.
St Martin's pupils, Poppies on the Leas Folkestone 2016
St Martin’s pupils preparing to plant their poppies.
Local children at Poppies on the Leas, Folkestone 2016
Folkestone’s young people mark the Battle of the Somme Centenary.
Schoolchildren at Poppies on the Leas, Folkestone 2016
Folkestone families get busy planting.
Local schoolchildren at Poppies on the Leas, Folkestone 2016
Children from St Mary’s Primary Academy help Folkestone to remember the end of the Battle of the Somme.

Bugler’s Last Post

On the evening of Remembrance Day, Sunday 13 November 2016, Bugler Bryan Walker played under the Step Short Memorial Arch for the last time before retiring.

Bryan has played the Last Post every Sunday at 7pm for Step Short, from the first Sunday in August until Remembrance Sunday, for the last few years. This event is timed to coincide with the Last Post played daily at the Menin Gate, Ypres in Belgium – a memorial to British and Commonwealth WW1 soldiers who were lost in battle on the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown.

Step Short would like to thank Bryan for his great commitment, and send him the very best wishes for retirement. We look forward to continuing this moving service next year with a newly appointed bugler.

Bugler Bryan Walker Step Short Arch Remembrance Day 2016
Bugler Bryan Walker plays the Last Post on Remembrance Sunday, for the last time.

Folkestone Remembers

Child & Poppy Armistice Day Step Short Arch Folkestone 2016

Step Short’s annual Armistice Day service took place under the Memorial Arch on the Leas at 11.00am on Friday 11 November 2016.

The event was well-attended by the local community, including schools Stella Maris Catholic Primary and Folkestone Primary Academy.

Bugler Kevin Bradley played the Last Post and Reveille; and Piper Ben Millbery played the Lament Flowers of the Forest. Wreaths were laid and poppies attached to the railings close to the top of the Road of Remembrance.

Piper Armistice Day Step Short Arch Folkestone 2016
Piper Ben Millbery playing alongside bugler Kevin Bradley, Royal Marine Cadets and veteran Philip Jones.
Laying of wreaths, Armistice Day Step Short Arch Folkestone 2016
Wreath being laid by WO2 Guy Sargent REME.
Local schools & attendees, Armistice Day Step Short Arch Folkestone 2016
Attendees at the Step Short Armistice Day service 2016, including children from Stella Maris Catholic Primary and Folkestone Primary Academy.

Remembrance In Folkestone, 2016

Step Short Memorial Arch Folkestone
Folkestone’s Memorial Arch. Photo:UpSticksNGo Crew

Folkestone Remembers

Don’t forget that there are a number of events taking place in Folkestone this November to remember the servicemen and women lost during past and more recent conflicts.

Armistice Day on 11 November 2016 will be marked at Cheriton Rd Cemetery, Folkestone. The Machine Gun Corps Ceremony consists of a short service and two minute silence held at 11am.

Step Short will also hold a service at the Memorial Arch on the Leas between 10.30 and 11.30am.

A live webcast of the Royal British Legion’s ‘Silence in the Square’ event on Armistice Day from Trafalgar Square, London will also be available on the British Legion website.

The annual Remembrance Day Parade in Folkestone takes place on Sunday 13 November at the War Memorial on the Road of Remembrance from 10.45am to 11.30am.

On Saturday 19 November at 11am, Poppies on the Leas will mark 100 years since the end of the bloody Battle of the Somme. Local schoolchildren will plant 1,000 symbolic metal poppies close to the Folk Stones artwork on the Leas. Mark Wallinger’s piece features 19,240 numbered pebbles representing the British men who died during the first day of the battle.