During the dark days of the Great War, millions of men boarded troop ships that would take them to the trenches of France and Belgium and an uncertain future. For most, the journey to Folkestone Harbour was a march along The Leas to the steep hill, Slope Road, leading to the lower town. At the top of the hill, the men were given the order to ‘Step Short’, thus preventing them from toppling forward. The hill down which they marched is, today, the Road of Remembrance.

Not all the passengers were soldiers, but most were fighting men – and estimates suggest that while ten million left for the Western Front, two million fewer return journeys were made. For many, the sights and sounds of Folkestone harbour would be the last they saw of home.

A WWI map showing the key role played by Folkestone as an artery for soldiers on their way to the Western Front. Click on the map to open a larger version.

Recent research by Step Short members reveals that there were a great number of women both stationed in Folkestone, and who made the crossing to France from here. Most of them were members of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). Their story has never been told in any detail. Until now……..go to Our WWI History pages to find out more.

Nearly 100 years on, Folkestone’s Step Short project is honouring those brave men through a range of projects focused on 2014 that will highlight the heroism of the men who fought and the part the town played in the fight against tyranny.

Step Short was set up in 2008 when members of the Go Folkestone Action Group decided Folkestone should improve the setting of the historic Road of Remembrance in time for the 100th anniversary of the First World War in 2014.

It is run by a small group of local people who care about the history of Folkestone and the memory of the soldiers who marched so proudly through the town on their way to the Western Front.

There are five working groups and an executive committee all undertaking various tasks to move the project forward.

The project is delighted that the following people are Patrons of Step Short:

The RT Hon William, Ninth Earl of Radnor
Admiral the Lord Boyce CCB OBE DL
Roger De Haan CBE DL

Step Short is in national partnership with the Imperial War Museum and is grateful for the support of the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust and Shepway District Council.

We are a Registered Charity number 1143305, and depend on the time given, entirely voluntarily, by members and volunteers. We welcome new members and supporters and, even if you cannot provide practical help, you may be able to make a donation. To do so, please go to our Membership page.

A message from the leader of Shepway District Council:

“Shepway District Council is delighted to have supported the Step Short project by contributing £2,000 towards the creation of this website.

“The role Folkestone played in the First World War is well known to local people. Now, through the pages of this website, I hope many more will learn of the town’s importance as the embarkation point for 10 million soldiers as they went off to fight in the ‘war to end all wars.’

“Soldiers came from all over Britain and the British Empire to make their way through the town, down the Road of Remembrance and onto waiting ships. For many, sadly, it was their last chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of home.

“I wish Step-Short all the luck in the world as it plans a series of events and projects that will not only mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014 but also look to the future and assist with the regeneration of Folkestone.

“I am sure this website will play a vital part in that ambition by spreading the word and by opening up Folkestone’s history and aspirations to a world-wide audience.”

Cllr Robert Bliss – Leader of Shepway District Council


waac-ethel-saunders-in-folkestone austrian-nationals_s Chinese Labour Corps graves in Folkestone - photo via Michael George steps1 Belgian Cycle Corps in the Fire Station yard, Dover Road - Photo via Alan Taylor 63_1_b
The Step Short team is concentrating on four main projects: