Folkestone 100: A Century Since the Armistice

To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, a full memorial service will take place at Folkestone’s War Memorial at 11.00am on Sunday 11 November.

The service will begin at the Leas Cliff Hall around 10.30am with a march down to the Step Short Arch, where a wreath will be laid, continuing on to the War Memorial at the top of the Road of Remembrance.

Folkestone’s Remembrance Sunday events start at 6.00am with a lone piper playing under the Arch and end at 7.00pm with the lighting of a beacon at 7.00pm to coordinate with towns across Kent and nationwide. Free cake will be available at the Mole Cafe on the Harbour Arm between 12.00pm and 3.30pm, just as it was throughout the Great War. At 6.00pm, there will be music and poems at the Leas Bandstand with commemorative candles handed out to the public for the procession to the beacon.

The Pages of the Sea creative remembrance event will also take place on Sunny Sands beach in Folkestone on Sunday.

Local Hero – Walter Tull

Walter Tull has been making the headlines a century after his death on 25 March 1918, amid calls to posthumously award him the Military Cross he was believed to have been recommended for during the First World War, but never received.

On Sunday 25 March 2018, a centenary commemoration service for Walter took place at the Step Short Memorial Arch in Folkestone, close to the plaque that bears his name. Military historian Liam Tarry (right of photo) spoke about Walter’s life and his inspirational military career which ended in battle at Favreuil. Piper Ben Milbery (left of photo) then played the Lament Flowers of the Forest.

Second Lieutenant Walter Tull’s story resonates today for many reasons, most notably for the racism he fought and rose above to become the British Army’s first British-born mixed race officer to lead troops into battle. Walter’s experiences also help to raise awareness of the diversity of those involved in WW1, extending far beyond the traditional representation of the British ‘Tommy’ or upper-class officer. The Indian Army, the Chinese Labour Corps, other black soldiers such as Private William Nurse, and thousands of women all played a significant part in the war, along with Commonwealth troops.

Walter was born in Folkestone in 1888 to Daniel and Alice Tull, a Barbadian carpenter and his wife who came from a local farming family. He seemed to enjoy happy working class family life until the deaths of both his mother and father in quick succession. At the age of nine, Walter and his brother Edward (the youngest boys of five siblings) were sent to a children’s home in Bethnal Green, East London. Despite this very tough end to his childhood and the prejudice rife at this time, he went on to become one of the country’s first black professional footballers before enlisting with the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment in December 1914.

Awareness of Walter’s story and support for his posthumous award has been growing in recent years. Campaigner and biographer Phil Vasili recently spoke at Folkestone Museum about the launch of the latest edition of his book Walter Tull 1888 to 1918, Footballer and Officer. The museum is planning an exhibition about Walter to open in autumn 2018.

For more information about Walter Tull and his legacy, go to the Walter Tull Archive, Lives of the First World War and Phil Vasili’s website.

Folkestone 100 Years: Armistice Centenary March, 22 July 2018

Step Short has a busy summer season ahead as we near the culmination of four years of WW1 centenary commemorations. For this very special year we will be holding our annual march on Sunday 22 July, with a variety of commemorative events taking place in Folkestone during the summer.

The march will begin with all groups assembling outside the Leas Cliff Hall at 10.15am, ahead of a service at the Step Short Arch beginning at 11.00am. Lord Boyce, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, will unveil the last two plaques at the Memorial Arch followed by the laying of wreaths. After the service, there will be a walk down the Road of Remembrance to the harbour area. Free tea and coffee will be served at the Grand Burstin Hotel and participants can pre-book tickets for a post-service buffet at the Grand Burstin Hotel for £10 per person. Email [email protected] for more information.

Other WW1 centenary events in Folkestone include a photographic exhibition at Folkestone Town Hall organised by the Folkestone & District Local History Society during June and July; the Invicta Band performing at the Leas Cliff Hall on Wednesday 18 July (see flyer to left); guided history walks and talks on Saturday 21 July; a planned performance of the play ‘My Boy Jack’ by David Haig; and Hythe Town Band performing on the Leas Bandstand on the afternoon of 22 July.

And don’t forget, the Mole Café on the Harbour Arm is open weekends and bank holidays until the end of October. Mark Simmonds, Step Short’s Membership Secretary, will be there running his regular genealogy sessions on the last Saturday of the month between 10am and 2pm, May to September, for anyone interested in exploring their own family’s WW1 history.

We hope you’ll be inspired to get involved, perhaps discover something new, and help to remember those who lived in, came from or passed through Folkestone during WW1.

One Woman’s War

Dorothy Earnshaw Manor House Hospital FolkestoneDorothy Earnshaw was a VAD nurse (Voluntary Aid Detachment, the Red Cross) based at the Manor House Hospital in Folkestone during the First World War. Like many others during this unique and life-changing time, she kept a friendship album.

According to Red Cross records, Dorothy came from Wimbledon, Surrey to serve full-time in Folkestone for two periods between June 1916 and September 1918. Interestingly though her friendship album begins in Folkestone in November 1915, when she was 22 years old.

A small hardback notebook, it is stuffed with signatures, sketches, photographs, poems, letters, newspaper cuttings and heartfelt messages from servicemen from Canada, the United States and Australia as well as Britain. She was clearly popular with her patients and some messages hint at stronger feelings. Extremely personal, it is also a fascinating and poignant glimpse into a time that was to have such an influence on 20th century life.

Take a look at Dorothy’s album here, with the kind permission of Kent County Council.

The Manor House auxiliary hospital opened in October 1914, led by local philanthropist Commandant Florence Daly. The impressive building on the corner of Earls Avenue and the Leas Promenade was originally built for Folkestone’s fifth Earl of Radnor in 1895 but later sold, and loaned for the war effort by new owners.

Auxiliary hospitals were generally smaller, less formal and more homely than military hospitals, making them a very welcome retreat from the Front for wounded and convalescing soldiers. In such close proximity to the battlefields, Folkestone is thought to have had up to 47 hospitals by the end of WW1.

Dorothy’s album is now held by Folkestone Library. The Manor House still stands today, a Grade II listed building containing eight apartments overlooking the Channel towards France.

Learn more about VADs and the various roles women took on during WW1 on the Red Cross website.

Date For The Diary – Sunday 22 July 2018

Step Short Annual March 2017To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, we are planning a number of special events in Folkestone during the summer of 2018. More details will follow over the coming months.

This year’s Step Short Annual March takes place on Sunday 22 July. The march will begin as usual at 10.30am at the Leas Cliff Hall, followed by a service at the Memorial Arch and procession down to Folkestone Harbour Arm. The Mole Cafe will be open for refreshments, as it was during WW1.

Keep checking our Twitter and Facebook pages for more news of Step Short events for 2018.

Back To School

Stella Maris visit Step Short 2017
Step Short’s Ann Berry welcomes the Stella Maris group.

In mid-September 2017, Year 6 pupils from Stella Maris and Christ Church primary schools came to Step Short’s visitor centre (‘the Hub’) to discover more about the First World War in Folkestone.

Both schools spent an afternoon with Step Short for their First World War topic, a feature of the Year 6 curriculum. Vice Chair Ann Berry welcomed the groups and explained the work of the charity. Step Short director Geoff Tolson then shared a brief history of WW1 and Folkestone’s important role in the conflict. The children completed a quiz created by Step Short’s Heather-Gail de Souza, based on the information boards and artefacts at the visitor centre, followed by well-deserved refreshments.

“We had a great afternoon with both schools. The children were enthusiastic and asked interesting questions,” said Ann Berry. “And some were already aware of the Mole Cafe on the Harbour Arm.”

Please contact Ann Berry (01303 278644 or [email protected]) if you would like to arrange a school visit or other educational activity with Step Short.

Christ Church visit Step Short 2017

Christ Church visit Step Short 2017Stella Maris visit Step Short 2017

Armed Forces Day 2017

Ann Berry, Armed Forces Day 2017, Folkestone
Our Vice Chair Ann Berry (left) mans the Step Short stand.

On Saturday 24 June, Step Short joined a host of community groups on the Leas in Folkestone for this year’s Armed Forces Day.

The event is held annually across the UK on the last Saturday of June to honour the work of the country’s servicemen and women, including those currently serving, veterans and cadets.

This year’s local event ran between 11.00am and 4.30pm and featured displays and stands from organisations such as the Royal Gurkha Regiment, Ministry Of Defence, Battle of Britain Experience, Royal British Legion, and the Army, Air and Sea Cadets.

The day also included a formal parade, military show, aircraft display, local schools and a programme of entertainment at the bandstand. Folkestone Town Council bought a new set of drums for the Folkestone and Sandgate Sea Cadets which they played on the day.

Armed Forces Day 2017, Folkestone

Armed Forces Day 2017, Folkestone

Tontine St Air Raid Remembered

Tontine St Memorial Service May 2017
Crowds gather at the Garden of Remembrance, Folkestone. Photos of the event courtesy of Hattie Miles.

On Thursday 25 May 2017, more than 200 local people gathered at the Methodist Church and Garden of Remembrance in Folkestone to remember those lost in the tragic air raid on Folkestone exactly 100 years earlier.

Here, Margaret Care, one of the event’s organisers and great granddaughter of Frederick Stokes, a greengrocer who died as a result of the bombing, has written for Step Short about the day and what it meant to her.

We had the dream – but all those who gathered on 25 May 2017 made it come true. At 6:22pm, on that day, in Folkestone’s Garden of Remembrance we unveiled a plaque to remember the 81 civilians who died as a result of the Great Folkestone Air Raid.

This all started three years ago when Martin [Easdown] and I met in Keppels Bar at the Grand Hotel in Folkestone to discuss the possibility of marking this 1917 event, 100 years on. Ideas were discussed; a plaque; a booklet;  and a church service. There followed three years of planning, travelling, research, correspondence and meetings which culminated in the very successful day enjoyed by all who attended.

With thanks to the assistance of many, the event started at 2pm at the Methodist Church, Folkestone, with displays from local historian Alan Taylor, artist Roy Eastland, and Kent County Libraries; Martin Easdown’s latest book Poignant Journey made its first appearance.

Refreshments were available and a very emotive service was led by Rev. Sam Funnell. Some 106 descendants and relatives were joined by the Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, Ros McCarthy; Damian Collins MP for Folkestone and Hythe; the Mayors of Folkestone, Hawkinge, Hythe and Ashford; the BBC Radio 4 Home Front Team; two representatives of the Folkestone Fire Service and approximately 90 people from local history societies and those interested in Folkestone’s history.

Tontine St Memorial Service Methodist Church May 2017
The packed Methodist Church as the service begins.

At the beginning of the Service, Damian Collins made reference to the tragedy that had taken place in Manchester at the beginning of the week, when again several children had died in a bomb attack.

After the service it was over to the Garden of Remembrance where the plaque was unveiled jointly by Vic Thorogood of the Folkestone Fire Station as a recognition for the work carried out by that organisation (as indeed they continue to do in London as I write this) and Ted Cotterill, the great grandson of Isabella Wilson, who was the oldest person to die in the Raid.

It was without a doubt a very poignant occasion, made even more so by the weather which replicated exactly that of 100 years before: A beautiful sunny summer’s evening with a bright clear cloudless sky.

Read more about the Tontine Street Air Raid in Folkestone’s Forgotten Tragedy.

Tontine St Memorial Damian Collins May 2017
Damian Collins MP with the Rev. Sam Funnell in the background.
Tontine St Memorial Plaque May 2017
The new memorial plaque in Folkestone’s Garden of Remembrance.


Tontine St Air Raid Memorial Service & Poem
Martin Easdown’s poem, Poignant Journey. Click to read a larger version.