This page will contain more detail about the unique part that Folkestone, just a short Channel crossing away from the battlefields of mainland Europe, played in the Great War. Just click on the subjects below to read more.
Little has been written about the relationships between men and women during WW1. The subject has been variously as taboo, non-existent and even humourous. Click HERE to read about how even the leaders of our armies had problems getting to grips with the subject.
Before the advent of TV and Radio, the newspapers were the principal source of news and information about the War. Local papers were avidly read. Here is a selection of pages from those circulating in Folkestone. Simply click on an image to open a readable version.
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.
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.
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
Click here to watch a film clip of King George V and Lord Kitchener inspecting Canadian troops at Folkestone in September 1915 (right click and open in Windows Media Player for best view)
Feeding the Front Line
One of the most remarkable facts about Folkestone during the Great War is the number of men 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:
|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|
|? July||7th Btn The Buffs(East Kent) Regiment|
|15 July||12th (Service) Btn Manchester Regiment|
|18 July||5th Btn Canadian Infantry(Saskatchewan)|
|25 July||8th(Service)Btn Norfolk Regiment||997 men and 34 officers|
|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||Part 55th Infantry Brigade|
|29 July||7th Btn Leicester Regiment||Part of the 110th Brigade|
|31 July||8th(Service)Btn East Lancashire Regiment|
|31 July||5th Canadian Siege Battery||After training at Lydd|
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.
Coming soon – The WAACs – Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.
In the meantime, click here to watch a contemporary piece of IWM film showing WAACs ‘in action’. Much of it was filmed in Folkestone.