The English coastal port of Folkestone was the ‘artery’ through which millions of men and women passed between 1914 and 1918, on their way to or from the Western Front. For them, Folkestone had a special meaning; it was ‘Blighty’.
Folkestone was also the point of arrival for the Belgian Royal Family and served as a temporary home not just for them, but for over 100,000 other Belgian and French refugees from the fighting.
The date of 25th May today holds little significance for the people of Folkestone; but it should. On that day in 1917, the Friday of Whit weekend, the town entered the history books as the victim of the first air raid by a mass formation of bomber aircraft. The route taken by the German Gotha GIV planes left a trail of dead and injured, but the full horror of this new weapon of war was revealed only as the warplanes flew over Tontine Street in Folkestone. Here, a single 50kg high explosive bomb left dozens of civilians, mostly women and children, dead and injured.
A recent and unique memorial to the victims of The Great Air Raid is a series of drawings by Thanet artist, Roy Eastland. To view some of his pictures click here
To read more about the day when death and destruction fell from the skies above Folkestone, click here
This epithet awarded to American soldiers (GIs) in Britain during WW2 is well known. Less so is the fact that the ‘Yanks’ also arrived here after the USA entered the War in 1917.
Below are a few pictures and snippets from books by American troops; their time in Folkestone was brief but memorable!
Cartoon drawn by American soldier of No 3 Rest Camp on The Leas