WW1 Film Festival in Folkestone

WWI Film Festival – In partnership with Silver Screen Cinema in Folkestone, the National Army Museum and Folkestone Town Council have organised a series of FREE screenings of classic and contemporary films inspired by the First World War, with related talks. The Programme is as follows:


·        Gallipoli (1981) 23 January 2015, 7.30 – 9.30 pm.

·        War Horse (2011) 24 January 2015, 10.30 am – 1.00 pm

·        Joyeux Noel (2006) 24 January 2015, 2.30 – 4.30 pm

·        All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) 24 January 2015, 7.30 – 10.00 pm

·        My Boy Jack (2007) 25 January 2015, 12.30 – 2.30 pm

·        Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) 25 January 2015, 3.00 – 5.30, pm

·        Nurse Edith Cavell (1939) 25 January 2015, 7.30 – 9.30, pm

Films will be shown at the Silver Screen Cinema, Town Hall 1-2, Guildhall Street.  Related activities will take place in the Town Hall over the weekend between 10am – 4pm, including an opportunity to handle some of the National Army Museum’s Collections.

Speakers include Mark Connelly from the University of Kent, TV historian Andy Robertshaw, author Diana Souhami and experts from the National Army Museum who will introduce the films and host Q & A sessions.  Related activities at the Town Hall will appeal to families and younger visitors.

For more information and to book tickets please follow the link www.nam.ac.uk/film-festival or google “Your Country Calls: First World War in Film”


Feeding the Front Line

One of the most remarkable facts about Folkestone during the Great War is the number of men and women who set out for the Western Front from the town’s harbour. The figure is in the millions! Perhaps even more astonishing is the fact that not a single person was lost to enemy action while crossing the Channel to France. Add in the freight, horses, food, clothing, armaments, then the scale of the operation begins to become apparent.

As a snapshot, and by no means complete, here is a table of some of the troops who made the crossing in July 1915:

Date July 1915
4 July 12th Btn Highland Light Infantry 814 men plus officers
10 July 10th Btn Worcester Regiment Part of the 19th Division
10 July 7th Btn KOSB
10 July  11th (Service) Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
? July 7th Btn The Buffs(East Kent) Regiment
15 July 12th (Service) Btn Manchester Rgt 30 officers 975 ORs
15 July 10th (Service)Bn Lancashire Fusiliers
15 July 10th (S) Sherwood Foresters
18 July 5th Btn Canadian Infantry(Saskatchewan)
19 July 10th Worcesters
25 July 8th(Service)Btn Norfolk Regiment 997 men and 34 officers
25 July 10th (Service) Btn Essex Regiment
26 July 7th Btn Bedfordshire Regiment 820 men and 31 officers
27 July 8th Btn East Surrey Regiment Part 55th Infantry Brigade
27 July 7th(Service) Btn The Queens Regiment 55th Infantry Bgde
29 July 7th Btn Leicester Regiment Part of the 110th Brigade
31 July 8th(Service)Btn East Lancashire Regiment

The logistical organisation behind this achievement is often overlooked.  It required close co-operation between the railways, the billeting officers in and around Folkestone, the Harbour Master, the troopships and the warships Dover Patrol. The image below is a schedule of sailing times for the the transport and Royal Navy ships from Folkestone-Boulogne and Dover-Calais in June 1917. Click on the image to open in new window.

The Channel was patrolled by airships and warships to protect the troops crossing to France from Folkestone

Commemorative arch now in place

Years of planning, hard work and fund-raising came to fruition when the Step Short charity’s impressive commemorative arch on The Leas at Folkestone was craned into position.

It took a team of experts most of the day to finish the painstaking task under the guidance of Lend Lease, the international construction company that has donated its project management skills to the arch installation, and the final result was stunning.

The arch, shining in the midsummer sunshine, has been erected in tribute to the millions of men and women who passed through Folkestone on their way to and from the western front during the 1914-18 conflict.

It remembers nurses and civilians as well as all the soldiers from many nations, many of whom would have heard the order “Step Short” as they prepared to descend the steeply-sloping Road of Remembrance – then known as Slope Road.

Member of Parliament and Step Short chairman Damian Collins was one of the first to pay tribute to the value of the arch in raising awareness of Folkestone’s vital role in the First World War, while vice-chairman Ann Berry and finance director Paul Emden watched much of the construction work during the day.

Also on hand to show his support for the project was Shepway District Council leader David Monk, who backed the council’s decision to commit £200,000 in support of the scheme. He said the arch would be a long-standing reminder of the debt the town and country owed all those who fought.

The arch, just one part of a wide-ranging programme of educational initiatives driven by Step Short, will be dedicated by His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales during a parade on Monday 4 August.

The arch nears completion

Folkestone Library to house joint photographic exhibition

An exhibition supported by Step Short that highlights Folkestone’s important role in the First World War will open to the public in the Sassoon Room of Folkestone Library on Monday, 7 July.

Folkestone in the Great War will include artefacts as well as photographs and has been organised by Step Short in association with Folkestone Camera Club and the Folkestone and District Local History Society.

Library staff are hoping to arrange child-friendly activities in the history resource centre and displays in the local history room at the library during the summer to tie in with the free exhibition, which will remain in place until 21 September and is being staged with generous support from Kent County Council. The displays and activities will complement both the exhibition in the Sassoon Room and the National Army Museum’s major exhibition in the Town Hall.

The NAM exhibition, entitled Your Country Calls – Enlistment to Embarkation, is being staged in partnership with the town council and draws on a host of artefacts, photographs and local stories from the museum’s collection.

The National Army Museum is currently closed for renovation and is staging exhibitions around the country as part of an extensive First World War commemoration programme. Entry to the Folkestone exhibition, which runs from 24 June through to 8 May 2015, is free.

The Sassoon Room exhibition, mainly photographic but with some First World War memorabilia, will cover topics including the Belgian refugees, Folkestone Harbour during the war, recruitment, Shorncliffe Camp, rest camps, the arrival of Canadian troops, the air raid of 25 May 1917 and spies in Folkestone.

Visitors will be able to see an audio-visual display prepared by Folkestone Camera Club showing the town during the First World War, while on some days there will be online access to a database of articles in the local paper of the time about local people who were killed during the war.

BBC to feature Folkestone (again)

Folkestone’s importance at the heart of troop embarkations during the First World War will again be emphasised in a BBC ‘docudrama’ being broadcast on Monday 2 June.

Entitled The Spies Who Loved Folkestone, the film will be broadcast on BBC One (South East) at 7.30pm and will then be available to watch on iPlayer for a week.

The 30-minute film features interviews with Step Short Trustee, historian and author Michael George and uncovers a fascinating side of Folkestone during the 1914-18 conflict.

The BBC’s own curtain-raiser for the programme explains: “As Folkestone became a hotbed of espionage, writer Anthony Horowitz discovers the remarkable men, women and children who risked their lives operating as spooks during the First World War.”

Help fill our time capsule and play a part in history!

Stake your claim to a place in history by contributing to our time capsule, which will be buried close to the commemorative arch being unveiled in the presence of HRH Prince Harry on 4 August.

The plan is that the capsule will stay hidden for the next 100 years before being opened in 2114 and what the people who open it find inside is down to you.

Organiser Ann Berry, Step Short’s vice-chairman, has written to 24 local schools inviting them to put forward items for inclusion, but other groups or individuals can also contribute.

Song lyrics, photographs, diary entries, poems, event programmes and stories about life in 2014 would all tell the people of 2114 a great deal about the world we live in today.

Small artefacts such as toys, key rings, jewellery and other items could also be placed in the time capsule, but the items must be wrapped carefully so that they do not deteriorate over the next century. They should also be clean and in good condition.

“We want everyone to get involved in submitting items and material for the time capsule,” said Ann. “Any written material needs to be no bigger than A4 and the other items should be small but interesting.”

The deadline for items to be submitted is Saturday 7 June. They should be sent to Ann at 35, Birkdale Drive, Folkestone CT19 5LP – or telephone 01303 278644 for more information.

The are lots of internet links about how to present and wrap material so that it will still look at its best in 100 years. One of the best places to look is the British Library site at www.bl.uk/blpac Go to the FAQ section for advice.


Get close to the event as a volunteer marshal!

Organisers of the Step Short First World War commemorative event on Monday 4 August are looking for a few more volunteers to help make sure the day runs smoothly.

With His Royal Highness Prince Harry in town to dedicate the new Step Short arch on The Leas that day, it is vital that there are enough people to help with marshaling along the route.

Shepway District Council is  looking to recruit 200 marshals for the day and evening events taking place on The Leas and in the harbour area – and you could be just right for the job.

Marshals will have the task of ensuring that visitors to the town have a safe and enjoyable viewing experience during this ‘once in a lifetime’ event to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the 1914 – 18 war. You will need to give information to visitors and help with event safety.

To find out more about the role and to apply to become a volunteer marshal for the event, visit www.shepway.gov.uk/volunteer or telephone the council’s customer services team on 01303 853498.

The deadline for applications is 9 June 2014. Please note that there will be a briefing on Sunday 13 July.