Step Short

For the last ten years, Step Short, Folkestone’s First World War
centenary charity, has worked to commemorate the sacrifices of all the
men and women who were part of that terrible conflict, either on
active service, or as vital support personnel. These acts of
remembrance are important for every community in this country, but
have particular resonance here, as Folkestone was the main port of
embarkation to the Western Front from 1915 until the end of the war.
It was reported at the time, that there were approximately 10 million
movements of soldiers through the town during that period, many of
them would have made what would have been their last journey from
home, marching from The Leas, down the Road of Remembrance, and to the
ships in the harbour waiting to take them to France.

On 4th August 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World
War, Prince Harry visited Folkestone to dedicate the Step Short arch
on The Leas, close to the top of the Road of Remembrance, and standing
over the route that so many soldiers took to the war. This was the
only new memorial created in this country to mark the centenary of the
war. Last Sunday, at a special service led by the Mayor of Folkestone,
and Vice Chair of Step Short, Cllr Ann Berry, the Lord Lieutenant of
Kent, and Lord Boyce, the Admiral of the Fleet and Lord Warden of the
Cinque Ports, we remembered the final months of that war. By the end
of July 1918, victory for the Allies on the western front was finally
in sight. The great German offensive of that year had been defeated,
and the British counter offensive that would render their opposing
forces immobile was underway.

As we have done in previous years, we retraced the footsteps of the
soldiers, from The Leas to the harbour. The Mole Café, which is run
every weekend by Ann Berry and her dedicated team of Step Short
volunteers, on the harbour arm during the months when it is open,
marks the place where many of the soldiers would have embarked onto
the troop ships. As now, it was then run by volunteers, providing a
welcome cup of tea and piece of cake. The presentation of the café
today, is a recreation of how it would have appeared during the war.

Much can happen in four years. We can certainly look to many positive
steps in the regeneration of Folkestone since 2014, not least in the
harbour area. Yet four years can seldom have seen so long as it did
for those that lived through the First World War. Since 2014 we have
commemorated in Folkestone, at the Step Short arch, the centenaries of
the outbreak of the war, the Gallipoli campaign, the Somme, and the
great and terrible offensive at Passchendaele in 1917. Last year we
also marked the air raid that killed so many civilians in Folkestone,
particularly on Tontine Street. These acts of remembrance are
important in themselves, both to mark the personal loss of the
soldiers to their loved ones, and the sacrifices they made for our
country. Yet each year when we walk down the Road of Remembrance, we
ask ourselves, not why we follow in their footsteps, but how we can
best follow their example.

Copyright 2019 Damian Collins. All rights reserved

Promoted by Russell Tillson for and on behalf of Damian Collins, both of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association both at 4 West Cliff Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SP


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