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

The Christmas Truce; born in Folkestone?

The diaries of Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch, a  German WW1 soldier , were discovered by his son while clearing out the family loft. Rudolf was astonished to find  that his father had helped initiate the infamous ceasefire of 1914 . “My father had studied in France. He also visited England. He went on a day trip to Folkestone in 1913,”  Read the full story reported in The Guardian here

The account of the truce, drawing upon the diary and letters, is told in Der Kleine Frieden im Grossen Krieg, or The Small Peace in the Big War, by Michael Jürgs. It is a rare glimpse of the incident from a German perspective. This was followed by a film, Merry Christmas, released in 2005

The Chinese Labour Corps

Men of the Chinese Labour Corps

War Horse – Folkestone

As Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo story about Joey, the War Horse, hits the screens, we take a look at the life of real life war horses. As Britain’s front-line town and gateway to France, many of these noble creatures began their ‘enlistment’, training and journey to the Western Front, in Folkestone.  Click on the heading to read more.

The role of the horse, it’s value, and close affinity to the men who looked after them was recorded in 1919 in an illustrated book, The Horse and the War. Click on the image to read the book online.

As well as the horses of the British army, when they arrived, the Canadians also brought their own animals. Many of these soldiers were accomplished horsemen, and dazzled the people of Folkestone with displays of their skills. Click on the poster to view a rare piece of film of the Canadians in training with their horses.