As Chairman of the Step Short project I believe it is important that we keep in touch with our history and particularly of such momentous events as that war. Folkestone played a pivotal role as the major port of embarkation for troops to the Western Front, and it is possible that most people in Britain have an ancestor who was here at some point at that time. My hope is that through events like those planned for this weekend we will raise awareness of our history and also for the objectives of the Step Short project to create a new memorial along the Road of Remembrance and information points for visitors and residents by the time of the centenary of the outbreak of the war in 2014.
Twenty years ago, when I was studying for my GCSE’s, I went on one of the First World War battle field tours with my school. These trips are increasingly popular and mine certainly left a lasting impression. But whilst I was there in the autumn of 1989, interested to learn more about a major event in European history, another was building up to its climax. Over the next few weeks we will see the 20th anniversaries of the revolutions in Eastern Europe that brought the end of communist government.
We now take for granted the fact that we can travel freely across Europe, and take the short walk through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, which was previously closed with the Wall, guards and barbed wire. Those former communist countries are now members of the European Union, but I think it is important that we remember at this time that the EU is not an end in itself, but just a tool that has been created by the nations of Europe to promote peace and improve their mutual prosperity.
As we have learned from history, all organisations need to adapt if they are to survive and the EU is the same. It must become less bureaucratic, detail obsessed and inward looking. It must also become more open to the people and the scrutiny that comes from honest debate. That is why it was wrong for the Government to cancel the referendum they promised on the new European Treaty that effectively creates a constitution for the EU. We should all say no to no say. I would also say no to this Treaty which centres too much power in Brussels away from national governments and the people they serve.Next weekend, the 3rd and 4th October, the Step Short project will be organising a programme of talks, walks, and events all marking the role Folkestone played during the First World War. These activities will be based around the University Centre and Quarterhouse in Folkestone and you can find out more details on the Go Folkestone website www.gofolkestone.org.uk