Prince Harry in Folkestone for WW1 Centenary 4th August 2014

Buckingham Palace issued the following Press Release today: ‘HRH Prince Henry of Wales will attend the “Step Short” commemorative event in Folkestone.’ The Chairman of Step Short, Damian Collins MP, and his fellow Trustees are delighted with this news and will look forward to joining the people of Folkestone in welcoming the Prince to the town on the occasion of our annual commemorative march and the official unveiling of the Memorial Arch on The Leas on 4th August 2014, 100 years exactly since Britain entered the First World War.

Click here for Buckingham Palace link.

More details will be announced shortly.

Military March Music Competition in Folkestone

9th May 2014

Military March music composed by the Army and the Royal Air Force in honour or those who took part in the First World War will be aired for the first time next month at a competition in Folkestone.


Educational charity Step Short invited the Directors of Music of the three Armed Forces to ask their musicians and student musicians to compose a military march called Step Short to be played at the unveiling of Folkestone’s new commemorative arch on 4 August.


Step Short was the order given to millions of men and women to allow them to shorten their stride as they descended the steep slope of Folkestone’s Road of Remembrance on their way to the harbour and a boat to the Western Front during the war.


The Directors of Music of the RAF and Army have now each put their two best entries forward for a Step Short judging panel that will meet on Friday 9 May at Sir John Moore Barracks, Shorncliffe, near Folkestone. The Royal Marines were unable to compete due to other commitments.


The Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas is hosting the event and will play the four entries for the judging panel, which will be advised by Major David Cresswell (Retd), the Director of Military Music at the Duke of York’s Royal Military School in Dover.


The winning composer of the Step Short March will be presented with a prize of £1,000, thanks to a private Sponsor, and the music will be played by the Gurkha Band as part of the parade and march that will take place on 4 August during the unveiling of the commemorative arch on The Leas.


Judges will be competition coordinator Alan Warren, from the Step Short events group, Ann Berry and Ben Millbery BA.

Black Soldiers in WW1. Can you help?

We know most of the nations and nationalities that passed through Folkestone during the First World War. We believe that among these soldiers of the British West Indies Regiment might be included as several battalions of the BWIR served on the Western Front. Do you know of any black soldiers, ancestors perhaps, who boarded the troop ships at Folkestone Harbour? If so please do contact us urgently at [email protected]

Harbour canteen books already producing results

Our online harbour canteen visitors’ books are already helping people find long-lost relatives who crossed to the Western Front from Folkestone between 1914 and 1919.

The books, which were signed by 43,000-plus men and women as they went to, or returned from, the battlefields, have been digitised and transcribed by Step Short to create a fantastic resource for historians and family members alike.

Anyone can access the scanned pages, but only members of Step Short can use the index which makes searching for a relative so much easier. Membership costs just £10 and allows for unlimited access for a year. Follow this link to find out how you can search the books.

One subscriber, who signed up as Sheena, got in touch to say she was “chuffed to bits” with how well the site was working for her.

She added:  “Might just have found one of my grandmother’s brothers – which, if it proves correct, will be amazing

“Excellent site – am thoroughly enjoying browsing both it and the books.”

We would love to hear from anyone else who finds a relative through the online database or who thinks we might have transcribed a name wrongly. This is very much ‘work in progress’ and we know that in interpreting 100 year-old handwriting, done in pencil on the way to or from a battlefield, our volunteers will not have interpreted every name properly, so please help us to help you.

Walk & Talk

We will soon be announcing a series of guided WW1 walks around Folkestone, to be led by Step Short Guides. In the meantime, we are delighted to highlight the work being done by Geoff Rambler.  

With considerable experience, Geoff ‘s walks are relaxed, informative and healthy. Add to that the fact that they are free (any donations most welcome and these will be passed on in full to the Royal British Legion), and it is no wonder that we are pleased to support Geoff.

Below is a link to his website, but do please note that Geoff will be leading a Folkestone walk on Saturday 29 March. Taking in many of the sites and events that make the town a ;must’ for anyone with an interest in WW1, the 8 mile circular walk starts at just before 10am at the Central Station Car Park.

For more information click here

An Online Feast!

With the launch of the Folkestone Harbour Canteen Visitors’ Books at the end of the month, we also learn that The National Archives have launched the first tranche of digitised WW1 Unit War Diaries. These consist of the diaries of the original BEF  (that contemptible little army)   made up of three cavalry and seven infantry divisions. To find out more, follow this LINK

National coverage continues

Excitement is continuing to mount as Step Short prepares to unveil the 42,000 names contained in the Harbour Canteen visitors’ books.

After a full page feature in Britain at War – the leading magazine of its kind – stories have now appeared in Discover Your History and Family Tree magazine, both well-respected national publications. Another magazine has been gathering material for a feature at the end of this month as interest in these historic documents continues to grow.

Every page of the eight, red-bound visitors’ books has been scanned and will be available on this website from the end of January following an official launch of the database. In the meantime volunteers have been transcribing the information given – usually name, rank and regiment but sometimes with an extra message – and indexing it.

Anyone who joins Step Short will then be given a password that will allow them to go ‘behind the scenes’ and search for a particular name amongst the 42,000 signatures. Reading the handwriting has not always been easy 100 years later, and the charity is hoping that some people who access the database will be able to throw new light on some of the names.

Keep an eye on the website for the date when you can find out more about the 42,000 men and women who signed the books on the way to or from the Western Front a century ago.

Family Tree mag DYH

National magazine features our visitor books

Britain at War, one of the most respected magazines of its kind, was so impressed with our work on making 42,000 names in the Mole Cafe visitor books available to everyone that it devoted a whole page to the project in its  December issue.


The visitor books are due to go on line as part of this website in the new year and will be available to researchers, family members and historians around the world. You can read more about the project here.

Access to the original scanned images of the eight visitor books will be free of charge, while those who wish to see the transcribed detail or use an index that will allow them to search for a particular name will be asked to pay a nominal charge of just £10 to join Step Short. The charity sees this as a valuable source of funding for its educational projects.

You can click the link below to see the Britain at War feature.