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.
Two of Step Short’s projects featured on a recent local history tour of Folkestone organised by The Mayor, Councillor Martin Salmon.
The guided history ramble was led by local historian and Step Short director Eamonn Rooney on Tuesday 4 October 2016, and raised funds for the Mayor’s three nominated local charities: Folkestone Rainbow Centre, Folkestone Division Guides and For Young People (FYP Charity).
Ramblers walked from the Town Hall on Guildhall Street to various sites of historical interest in the town, including the Memorial Arch on the Leas and the Mole Cafe on the Harbour Arm. Here participants, including visiting mayors from the local area, enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea and slice of cake from our volunteers in WW1 period dress.
The event also included lunch at Blooms in the Creative Quarter. Tickets were available to the public with all proceeds going to the charities.
On Sunday 10th July 2016, Step Short’s Chairman, Damian Collins MP, signed copies of his first book at the Mole Cafe on the Harbour Arm in Folkestone.
‘Charmed Life: The Phenomenal World of Philip Sassoon’ charts the eventful life and career of the glamorous British politician, socialite and art collector. Sassoon was born in Kent, into the Sassoon and Rothschild dynasties, and used his impressive political and social connections to great effect during the early part of the 20th century.
He was Hythe MP from 1912 until his early death in 1939, and became a second lieutenant in the East Kent Yeomanry during the First World War. Sassoon served as private secretary to Field Marshal Haig between 1915 and 1918 and passed through the original Mole Cafe on 29th October 1915. Take a look at Sassoon’s signature in the Mole Cafe visitor books, available to view and search on our website.
He was renowned as a fantastic, Great Gatsby-style host, holding legendary gatherings at his country houses, Port Lympne near Hythe and Trent Park in North London.
Read more about Damian Collins’ biography of Sir Philip Sassoon in Kent Life magazine.
The Mole Cafe has reopened for the 2016 summer season, welcoming visitors to Folkestone’s revamped Harbour Arm with lashings of tea and cake every weekend.
Volunteers in First World War period dress man the eatery, housed in its original location on the old railway pier. It first opened to the public last summer when the first stage of the Harbour Arm restoration was completed, both proving a runaway success.
This year the Harbour Arm is open for food, drink and entertainment from Friday to Sunday every week and on weekdays during school holidays. The cafe starts serving from 10.00am and closes around 4.30pm at the weekends.
Established by local women in World War I, the Mole Cafe (also known as the Harbour Canteen) was the last stop for servicemen and nurses from across the British Empire, and their final taste of Blighty, before sailing across the Channel to the front line.
Of the millions who passed through the port during the Great War, more than 40,000 men and women tucked into the free refreshments and signed their names in poignant visitors’ books.