Footsteps is a unique project and one in which we hope many people from across the world will participate. For millions of men and women during the Great War, Folkestone had a special significance. No other place in Britain echos with such history of those times. From here the guns in France and Belgium could be heard, and it was a sober thought that a man could have his breakfast in Folkestone and his lunch in the Trenches. It might have been where they spent their last moments on English soil before their journey to the Western Front. For some, wounded, on leave, or at the end of the War, the voyage into Folkestone harbour marked their return to Blighty.
Who were these men and women? Did they leave any record of their time in Folkestone? What were their feelings as they went off to war, or came home? What did they do while they were here?
With Your Help, our aim is to tell their stories. These pages will become a permanent living record and will enable us to develop a real understanding of those times. We will, literally, be able to walk in the footsteps of our forbears.
To start the ball rolling, we will be featuring stories from our own archives, and other collections, but we also want your stories.
Please do get in touch. Send any material which you would be happy to see featured here to:
There is very little surviving evidence describing events and atmosphere in Folkestone during the first hours after the declaration of war on 4 August 1914. A unique insight is provided by Edith in a lettercard sent by her to ‘Frank and Maggie’ in Manchester. About Edith, who seems to have been on holiday in the town, we know nothing more. Below are a few lines from her letter.
Folkestone August 5th 1914
Today we have been on the pier to see the French Reserves off. They sang the Marseillaise and cheered as they left in the boat. Boats are arriving from Belgium and French all the time, and we have some battle ships patrolling here to guard the shipping. One boat that came in this morning had been fired upon and damaged slightly, and as I was having my breakfast this morning an aeroplane passed over and shot nine shots to call out the reserves.
When we were at the pier the soldiers were guarding the lighthouse with drawn bayonets and all the coastguard men are armed. It is quite exciting. I like it fine.
The letter reveals things not previously known. For instance, the departure of French Reservists, men who had been working in Britain and flocked back to France to answer the call to arms. When German and Austrian Reservist tried to do the same, they were detained at Folkestone harbour and led off to detention camps under armed guard. Edith also tells us that Belgian and French refugees had started to arrive at this early date. What do we make of Edith’s description of the aeroplane firing nine shots? Almost certainly the ‘Blue Peter’ would have been signalled, but it more likely that it would have been from a land or ship based piece of artillery.
Below are images of Edith’s lettercard.
In October 2013 we received a poem from Don Filliston, MBE, of Sussex. Having read about the work of Step Short, Don has kindly given us the right to use the poem. Don, who served in the Royal Navy after WW2, had an uncle who died in the Great War.
We would like to dedicate the poem to Don’s uncle,
The Great War 1914 – 1918.
(Remembering how much they did for us.)
Sergeant Simms reporting Sir, in place of Lieutenant Hill.
The Troop rode out of Ypres, yesterday
And tethered horses up the road, by that old watermill;
Then towards the Hun on foot, thirty four men with a will,
To silence their machine guns, in our way.
We cut the wire and clambered through, midst sound of singing lead.
Our officer, pistol high, a great comrade.
We followed his example and all bravely charged ahead,
Then saw him drop like a stone, with a bullet in his head.
I was ready with my first hand grenade.
Chattering guns mowed us down, shells exploding all around.
Squelching mud and blood, on that treeless plain.
We wiped out their ‘nest’, just as they released gas; our lungs drowned.
We burst out from the billowing cloud and God’s fresh air, found;
Then our thin khaki line ‘closed up’ again.
In the darkness, we went back, for our lost forever dead
And gently placed ten troopers on our cart.
Then, when we returned to base, I made sure the men were fed
And looking at the state of ‘em, stood them down – ‘nough said.
Lieutenant Hill had a wish, close to his heart.
We know that you were friends, stretching back a fair old time.
We’ll miss him and our fallen mates, of course.
Here’s a letter for his Mother, his saddle, buffed to shine;
His trenchcoat and the cap he always wore up the ‘front line’.
Sir, most of all - would you take on his horse?
Don Filliston MBE
We were about to feature some ‘Postcards Home’ of a soldier when we cam across details of a man of the same name and regiment on the Europeana web site. His name was Private Tom Clarkson of the 9th (service) Btn York & Lancaster Regiment. Below are images of several postcards he sent to his family in Chorley, Lancs whilst in training at Lyminge, a village just outside Folkestone. His mother’s name was Mrs P M Clarkson living at 28a Moor Road, Chorley. One of our postcards features a picture of Tom. On the Europeana site there is also a picture of Tom sporting a moustache and his sergeant’s stripes, and with an account of how he won the Military Medal in 1916. We believe it is the same person. What do you think?
A chance meeting with Captain Young’s grandson, Richard, at a meeting of the WFA East Kent Branch recently proved to be interesting and helpful to us both. Capt Young was the Deputy Town Commandant in Folkestone during WW1 and, as a result of us putting our heads together, the fascinating story on Capt Young and of his son, also Frank and the winner of a posthumous Victoria Cross, can be told here.
Click Capt Frank Young to read more (opens a PDF file)
When I answered a knock at the door, the man standing there asked if I was the person who had written an article in the local paper recently about the Canadian presence in and around Folkestone during WW1. I invited Paul in for a coffee and a chat. As we sat there, he delved into his pocket and brought out a grubby looking article . It was an earth encrusted circular metal disc, about the size of large coin; indeed I thought at first it was an old pre-decimal one penny piece.
Paul explained that he often walked in an area where I knew a main Canadian camp had been established in 1915. This article he found in a heavily wooded area, his attention drawn to it by the clink as his metal walking stick came in contact.
I carefully removed some of the loose earth to reveal some writing. I felt pretty sure that Paul had found a Canadian soldier’s identity disc. Later, I carefully removed more of the detritus and slowly the details of the disc revealed themselves.
Private 157082 George Frederick Hatch was with the 81st Infantry Battalion, and he presumably lost his ID ‘tag’ whilst training. There it lay for nearly 100 years until, following in the soldier’s foosteps, it was found by Paul. With the resources now available on the internet, we can add images of his attestation papers. Even more remarkable, we can also listen to George talk about his WW1 experiences. Just click on Canadian Veterans Affairs
Michael George, February 2013
Miss Mitchell was Unit Administrator of No 3 Rest Camp on The Leas in Folkestone. Her albums recently appeared on an online auction site. So important are they to the history of Folkestone during the Great War that we are featuring the albums, in the hope that the owner will contact us to share these unique resources.
Drop us an email to email@example.com
To see some of the images, click
Soldier makes his home in Folkestone
We are grateful to Roy Ingleton who has sent details of his WW1 relative, William Frederick Ingleton. Here is his story:
Born 28 May 1894 in Canterbury.
Around 1912, the young ‘Fred’ Ingleton enlisted as a regular soldier in the 1st Battalion of the Royal East Kent Regiment (The Buffs).
In August 1914, the battalion formed part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) who were the first British troops to land in France and to engage the enemy. The BEF, including Private Ingleton, were involved in the ‘Retreat to Mons’ and the bitter fighting around Ypres in 1914. At first Kaiser Wilhelm derided the comparatively small BEF as ‘this contemptible little army’ but was confounded by the professionalism of these regular soldiers, whose rate of fire with their Lee Enfield .303 rifles was so rapid that it is said that the Germans believed they were using machine guns. These early combatants of the period August to November 1914 became entitled to the 1914 Star, often referred to as the ‘Mons Star’ (and not to be confused with the almost identical 1914-15 Star) to which was later added the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Pte W F Ingleton (click for pic)
The Buffs One of The Buffs companies, probably at the regimental depot in Canterbury. Private Ingleton is fourth from the right in the second row (including the drummer). Circa 1912/13
‘Fred’ Ingleton was promoted through the non-commissioned ranks to the rank of Lance Sergeant and transferred to the Royal Sussex Regiment. Around the end of 1916 he was slightly wounded by shrapnel and returned to England for treatment where he married 18 year old Alice Barton.
On his return to the trenches he was again wounded, this time much more seriously, shrapnel having entered his back and some pieces lodging in his lungs. Although not expected to survive, L/Sgt. Ingleton was a fighter and lived until 1965, dying peacefully at home and having sired six children.
Invalided out of the army, ‘Fred’ Ingleton settled in Folkestone, living in Wood Avenue until 1924 where he was appointed the caretaker at the newly-opened Corporation Offices in Church Street, a post he held for over thirty years, moving to West Terrace when the Borough Corporation moved its offices there after the Second World War.
He joined the Old Contemptibles Association – a body restricted to holders of the 1914 Star, a replica of which they wore as their lapel badge – and became the secretary of the Folkestone branch.
Like most old soldiers, William Frederick Ingleton rarely spoke of his wartime experiences but was intensely proud of his association with The Buffs and with the Old Contemptibles. In addition to his three daughters he had three sons, all of whom went on to serve in the Armed Forces, the two elder boys as warrant officers in the RAF, one as the coxwain of an Air-Sea rescue launch and the other a pilot, while the youngest boy, too young to serve in the Second World War, fought with the ‘Glorious Glosters’ in Korea.
News from Canada
We receive many emails from people worldwide with stories of forebears who were in Folkestone during the Great War. In time, most of these will be featured on this site. Judy Scott from Ontario, Canada, sent us some information about the 36th Battalion of the CEF, including a fascinating and unique Dinner Menu from 1916, whilst stationed at Sandling Camp. Click here to read more.
(Added August 2012)
As men waited at Folkestone for their turn to board the troopships, many took the opportunity to pen a few words on a hastily purchased postcard to send to their loved ones. These postcards offer a haunting reminder of the emotions of men who were about to enter the abyss of war.
Messages were brief; some were sanguine, others stoical. All contained hidden messages of love, fear and uncertainty. Here we feature a selection of cards. Who knows, you might find one from a relative…..
Unfortunately, the soldier who went to see this saucy comedy in 1915 did not leave us his name.
The next soldier has left us many more clues. Kenneth Carter sent this card to his brother on Christmas Eve 1915. He was in the Canadian Field Artillery then training at Shorncliffe.
Our next postcard offers even greater opportunities for the military or family historian. With a picture of Folkestone’s (Old) High Street, it was sent to Mrs G B Chisholm in Oakville Ontario by ‘your loving grandson G B Chisholm” He tells his grandmother of 21 mile route marches, digging trenches and bayonet practice. The card was posted from Folkestone on 15th July 1915.
The full name of this soldier was George Brock Chisholm. He enlisted as a private, was commissioned in the Field, and won the MC and bar.
George Chisholm went on to a distinguished medical career, and became the first Director-General of the World Health Organisation. Click here to read more.
Click to view Private Booth’s Photo Album
Private Clarence Dove Booth‘s postcard to his brother is typical of many. He was in the Canadian army and, with tens of thousands of others, he arrived in Folkestone before deployment to the Western Front. What makes his story so compelling is that he was a local lad. He was also a keen photographer and we are privileged to be able to feature his photo album here. It is a record of this young man’s emigration to Canada, his volunteering to return home to fight and much more. Most of the pictures in the album have no captions, and not all are in chronological order, but we can trace his remarkable journey with ease. A truly unique record.
Private Alfred George Warnes enlisted in the Canadian Army on 25th March 1916 and was assigned to the 195th Overseas battalion. As with tens of thousands of Canadian troops, upon arrival in the UK he came to Folkestone for final training before proceeding to the Western Front. His postcard to ‘Annie’ was sent from one the many camps which sprung up around the town to accommodate the men, East Sandling camp in this case.
Several reels of interviews from 1990-2 give a detailed account of this soldier’s experiences. In Reel 8 he tells of his journey to Folkestone and seeing the gun flashes from the Front, and then of the sea crossing to Boulogne. In Reel 18 he describes a period working at Passport Control in Folkestone in 1919 and his meeting with Lloyd George who was returning from the Peace Conference in France. A fascinating insight into the war. Click here to listen.
was a canteen assistant with the Salvation Army during the War. His work took him to Shorncliffe Camp in Folkestone, and he recounts his time there, including details of the behaviour of British and Canadian troops.[Reel 4 & 5]. Click here to listen.
Ada May Kyle lived in Folkestone during WWI and in 1986 her account of the Great Air Raid of 1917 was recorde by the Imperial War Museum. Click here to listen to Ada‘s story.
Harry Blunt, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry and the Machine Gun Corps, gives us a graphic account of his crossing from Folkestone in 1916. Perhaps unwisely, he was persuaded to buy fish and chips before embarkation on what he described as a ‘cattle boat’. What happened next can be heard on Reel 1 at 20 minutes from the start! Click here to listen to Harry.
The story of Fusilier Billy Poile is typical of so many of the young men of his generation. Hurriedly recruited, trained and sent to the front to replace the millions who had gone before him. Billy was Folkestone born and bred and you can read about him here
Some of the people who found themselves in Folkestone were, or became, household names. JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit was a Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He received orders to report at Folkestone to join the 11th (Service) Battalion. Whilst many of those who sailed from Folkestone looked back with longing at the receding shore, Tolkien embodied the experience in a poem, The Lonely Isle, composed even as he sailed for the Western Front on 4th June 1916
THE LONELY ISLE
O glimmering island set sea-giirdled and alone -
A gleam of white rock through a sunny haze ;
O all ye hoary caverns ringing with the moan
Of long green waters in the southern bays ;
Ye murmurous never-ceasing voices of the tide ;
Ye plumèd foams wherein the shore and spirits ride ;
Ye white birds flying from the whispering coast
And wailing conclaves of the silver shore,
Sea-voiced, sea-wingèd, lamentable host
Who cry about unharboured beaches evermore,
Who sadly whistling skim these waters grey
And wheel about my lonely outward way -
For me for ever they forbidden marge appears
A gleam of white rock over sundering seas,
And thou art crowned in glory through a mist of tears,
Thy shores all full of music, and thy lands of ease -
Old haunts of many children robed in flowers,
Until the sun pace down his arch of hours,
When in the silence fairies with a wistful heart
Dance to soft airs their harps and viols weave.
Down the great wastes and in gloom apart
I long for thee and thy fair citadel.
Where echoing through the lighted elms at eve
In a high inland tower there peals a bell :
O lonely, sparkling isle, farewell !
“The transport steamed into the roadstead of Plymouth Sound, which was receiving back younger generations of forbears who, a century before, had sailed from it. Romance was developing rapidly in the lives of these young grandsons of the Motherland. On July 29th the Regiment disembarked and entrained for Shorncliffe. The interest of the men was absorbed in the new and strange things which confronted them at every turn; the trains, the railway carriages, the hedges, the green fields and winding lanes.
The troops detrained that night and marched into tent billets at Dibgate Hill. Training recommenced; route marches were made along the macadam roads of Kent; manoeuvres were carried out on the beautiful green downs overlooking the English Channel; musketry was practised at Hythe, where the regiment made the highest average of all Canadian regiments that shot there. This intensive training was punctuated with the inevitable leave” to London. Recreation was found in regimental sports and concerts, or in the much frequented canteens.
Sept. 23 1915, After two months at Dibgate the Regiment, on September 23rd, moved to Caesar s Camp. Here the men received their Webb equipment, ammunition and all the essentials of actual warfare. Probably nothing was so significant in all these young soldiers preparation as receiving their identification discs. Not even the field dressing or the rifle and its bayonet had the same sobering effect or was so indicative of the seriousness of the conflict in which they were about to participate as the reception of these little metal discs.
The last days of final preparation were calm and serious days, camouflaged under a veneer of cheery conviviality. Thus, after three very full months spent in England, the Regiment found itself on the eve of departure fit and ready for active service. On Sunday evening, the 24th of October, 1915, the men, in full marching order, proceeded to Folkestone on their way to France. A band played them along the road over which thousands had already tramped. The cheery songs, the witty quips and jocular drollery lightened the bulging packs and heavy equip ment. The church bells were ringing in the channel port. The people from the roadside offered encouraging fare wells and cheered them until they disappeared along the quay and crowded on board the waiting packet-boat. Another great moment had arrived. The long months since enlistment were forgotten in the excitement of embarkation. The endless labyrinth of thoughts that crowded the minds of these men were confused by their strong emotions; memories of families, sweethearts and old associations were mingled with efforts to visualize the uncertain future; cheerful optimism was disturbed by solemn reflections; Spartan-like stoicism was blended with philosophical fatalism.
In the waning light of this October Sunday evening the ship, with its living cargo, slipped away from the gull- swept jetty into the swell of the channel, and sped for the chalky cliffs of France.”
To read Bennett’s book, click here