On 4th August 2014, we marked the centenary of out break of the First World War when Prince Harry visited Folkestone to unveil the Step Short memorial arch. This is dedicated to the memory of all who served in that conflict, and in particular to the millions of soldiers from around the world, who made their journey through Folkestone, and down the Road of Remembrance, on to the trenches of the western front. On Sunday last week I joined the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Viscount De L’Isle, and Cllr Robert Bliss the Chairman of Sandgate Parish Council, for a moving service at St. Paul’s church in the village, in memory of an individual solider of the First World War, Lance Corporal William Cotter.
William Cotter lived in Sandgate and one hundred years ago, died from the wounds he received fighting on 6th March 1916, at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, near Bethune in northern France. He was 33 years old and became the second Allied solider of the war to be awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage fighting on the western front. Cotter’s citation for this honour noted his “most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. When his right leg had been blown off at the knee, and he had also been wounded in both arms, he made his way unaided for 50 yards to a crater, steadied the men who were holding it, controlled their fire, issued orders, and altered the dispositions of his men to meet a fresh counter-attack by the enemy. For two hours he held his position, and only allowed his wounds to be roughly dressed when the attack had quieted down. He could not be moved back for 14 hours, and during all this time had a cheery word for all who passed him. There is no doubt that his magnificent courage helped greatly to save a critical situation.” Cotter is buried at Lillers communal cemetery, seven miles north west of Bethune.
After the service at St Paul’s church, which was also attended by members of the Cotter family, the Lord Lieutenant unveiled a paving stone set next to the war memorial in Sandgate, dedicated to William Cotter’s memory. This is one of 480 paving stones, donated by the government, that are being unveiled around the country in the home communities of each of the British recipients of the Victoria Cross during the First World War. This is a fitting and lasting tribute to their sacrifices.
Last Sunday hundreds of young rugby players and their families descended on Ashford rugby club for the East Kent Festival. I would like to congratulate all those who took part and in particular thank the coaches who volunteer every weekend to support junior rugby across the county. Special congratulations are due though to the Folkestone under 7s team who were crowned as East Kent champions; in particular, their coach Tony Jones and the players who were part of the winning team during the tournament, Sammy Barnes, Hugo Collins, Tom Fraser, Rupert McQuillan, Charlie Osland and Drew Thornton.