Last Sunday I attended a special service at the Hythe war memorial to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. The Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lord De L’Isle, along with the Town Mayor of Hythe, Cllr Paul Peacock, and Major Dennis Bradley DL, led the unveiling of a new largescale poppy design, set as the centre piece of a re-laid floor at the base of the memorial. The poppy is a tribute to the sacrifices made by the 154 servicemen from Hythe who gave their lives in the First World War and will be a focal point for the town’s services of remembrance for many years to come. I would like to thank Dennis Bradley and his committee who raised the funds for this project and worked so hard to make sure that it was delivered on time.
On Friday last week I also chaired the annual general meeting of Step Short, Folkestone’s First World War centenary charity. Since it was created ten years ago, Step Short has worked to mark the vital role played by Folkestone during the war, when it was the major place of embarkation for servicemen leaving for the trenches in France and Belgium. There were over ten million movements of soldiers through the town during the war, and the Step Short arch on the Leas, which was opened by Prince Harry in August 2014, stands in their memory. The name ‘Step Short’ comes from the command given to soldiers as they marched down the Road of Remembrance, then known as the Slope Road, on their way to the harbour. Although the construction of the arch, the only new memorial in this country created for the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, has been the largest single project undertaken by Step Short, the charity has also been responsible for organising the Mole Café on the harbour arm. The Café is a recreation of one that existed during the war, when it was run by Florence and Margaret Jeffrey, and Mrs Napier-Sturt, and cups of tea and pieces of cake were given to the soldiers as they embarked for France. Over the last four years, led by Cllr Ann Berry, Step Short volunteers have raised money for the charity by running the Mole Café, and it has become a feature at weekends on the restored harbour arm. I would like to thank them for all their hard work.
Remembrance Sunday this year falls appropriately on armistice day, 11th November, when at 11am we will remember the centenary end of the fighting in the First World War. I will be attending the service in Folkestone which starts with the procession along the Leas towards the war memorial at 10.45am. Before then, I will be visiting the portrait of the soldier and poet Wilfred Owen which is being created on the Sunny Sands Beach under the supervision of the film director Danny Boyle, as part of an artwork commissioned by 14-18-Now, entitled, ‘Pages of the Sea’. Folkestone is one of twenty eight locations around the coast of the United Kingdom, where similar beach portraits are being created. Each image in turn, will be claimed by the sea as the tide comes in, and we say our final goodbye to the life of an individual serviceman of the war, that it commemorates.