- Emma, the Editor of Come Step Back in Time, reads ‘A Letter From Folkestone by Miss Moneypenny’, written in August 1914 and reprinted in the Sydney Morning Herald (30.9.1914) – A snapshot of life on the home front in Folkestone, at the beginning of World War One.
Monday 4th August, 2014, marked the Centenary of the outbreak of World War One. A hundred years ago the coastal town of Folkestone became one of Britain’s most important front-line locations. A gateway to France and the Western Front, eight million troops passing through there during the war.
In undying memory of the many million officers and other ranks, both men and women forming The Naval, Military, Air and Red Cross Services of the King’s Imperial and Colonial Forces who crossed the seas in 1914-1919 to defend The Freedom of The World (dedication taken from the Harbour Canteen books).
(Inscription on one of the memorial plaques close to Folkestone’s Memorial Arch)
I visited Folkestone on Monday to witness the day’s commemorative events which had been organised by Folkestone-based educational charity, Step Short. His Royal Highness Prince Harry unveiled a steel Memorial Arch on The Leas, alongside Folkestone’s seafront, as well as laying a wreath at the nearby war memorial.
WW1 At Home Remembers: World War One At Home – BBC (2014)
In the car park of Folkestone Harbour, a tented complex formed part of BBC World War One At Home’s Live Event. For more information about this BBC initiative, which is currently touring the UK until the end of September, CLICK HERE. I took the opportunity of visiting the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) cabin which is also part of this BBC heritage pop-up. The IWM’s ‘Lives of The First World War’ project is an excellent idea, allowing members of the public to research life stories of those who served in Britain and the Commonwealth on both the home and fighting fronts. These individual stories can be from your own family or somebody you wish to research and be remembered. The researcher then has the opportunity to contribute their findings to the project’s vast on-line public database.
My great grandfather was a Corporal in the Royal Engineers during World War One and I had hit a bit of a block with my research. On Monday, access to public records was free to search in the IWM’s mobile exhibit and I was able to view my ancestor’s medal record as well as obtain his correct service number. I am looking forward to moving my research to the next level. For more information about this interactive IWM project, CLICK HERE.
On Monday, I also met-up with Kent director, Samuel Supple, whose World War One experimental documentary, Time Bleeds (2013), was filmed on location in and around Folkestone using a cast of local people. The film was shown on giant screens throughout the town as part of the day’s events.
Samuel also participated in a series of live panel Q & A’s organised by BBC Radio Kent in conjunction with BBC World War One At Home. Afterwards he took me on a tour of Folkestone pointing out various locations that had provided him with inspiration to create Time Bleeds. Mr Supple certainly knows his World War One local history!
During World War One, the above property situated on The Leas, Folkestone and now private flats, was Manor House Hospital. Samuel told me that it was a chance conversation with a librarian about a former VAD at Manor House, that begin his creative journey to Time Bleeds. An extraordinary diary/scrapbook belonging to VAD, Dorothy Earnshaw, has survived and can be viewed on-line HERE.
When Samuel looked at the album, several years ago, he was struck by the level of detail contained in the document. This artefact provides us with an insight into the intense emotional bond that exists between carer and patient as well as being a snapshot of life in a home front hospital during wartime. Samuel remarked: ‘The album reminded me of how we use Facebook and social media today to record our daily lives, leaving comments for our friends and loved ones. Documenting our thoughts, hopes and activities. There is a convergence of time and in that moment the idea came to me for Time Bleeds.’
Time Bleeds is an experimental documentary inspired by real-life wartime events in Folkestone and the aim of the project was to reconnect its participants with their own World War One heritage. Samuel also drew inspiration from contemporary works such as ‘The War Game’ (1965) by Peter Watkins and ‘Self Made’ (2010) by Gillian Wearing. Time Bleeds is a collection of interwoven stories drawn from either personal archives or local public records and explores the questions: “What if we forget?”; “What happens if these stories are lost forever?” and “What would happen if 1914 Folkestone became Folkestone in 2013 – would time bleed?”
Time certainly did appear to ‘bleed’ on Monday in Folkestone. Khaki clad living history groups mingled with royalty, civic dignitaries, war veterans and members of the general public wearing rain coats and clutching umbrellas. A heady mix of uniforms and casual attire, time had merged, for just one historic, but important, day.
- Time Bleeds (Viola Films, 2013), by Kent-based writer Director, Samuel Supple. Released on Monday 4th August as part of the Centenary events.
- Listen to Director, Samuel Supple, discussing Time Bleeds in 2013, with BBC Radio Kent host, Dominic King.
I have myself become very interested in Folkestone’s many fascinating home front and military World War One stories. Regular readers may remember an article I wrote earlier this year about the infamous White Feather Campaign (featured in Time Bleeds) which began in Folkestone. A notorious and controversial wartime Campaign, the brainchild of conscriptionist Admiral Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald (1841-1921). On 30th August, 1914, Penrose-Fitzgerald galvanized into action thirty women in Folkestone, many of whom were holidaying there, encouraging them to hand-out white feathers to men not in uniform.
The importance of Folkestone as a centre of military intelligence in World War One is another topic that has dominated my reading this year. I assisted with research on BBC Inside Out documentary, The Spies Who Loved Folkestone presented by writer Anthony Horowitz whose Alex Rider series of spy novels have captivated a whole generation. This drama documentary was Produced by Samuel Supple.
Because of its location, Folkestone was an ideal target for German spies. The town provided a point of entry and departure to Britain. Not long after war was declared in 1914, Germany lost its entire network of spies in Britain and was keen to re-establish its espionage infrastructure. If you were caught and convicted of spying, death by bullet in The Tower of London was the most likely outcome.
Spy-mania in Folkestone, as well as across the rest of Britain, was rife. Local newspapers were full of stories of suspected spies. Local Kent hoteliers, Mr and Mrs Wampach, (proprietors of Wampach Hotel, 33, Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone), were victims of persecution. Their hotel was requisitioned for war service between 1914 and 1918 and the couple were subsequently treated unjustly by the authorities. The Wampachs were actually from Luxemburg and had themselves lost a son (Cyril Constant Julian) in the war. The distrust of non-British subjects was not just a national obsession, it became one’s patriotic duty to ‘weed-out the aliens’, otherwise you could find yourself the subject of suspicion.
Security, particularly in ports such as Folkestone, was extremely tight. The area was populated with Civil Police, custom officers, Aliens officers, Embarkation officers and Military Police. If you travelled by car from Folkestone to London in 1914, you would liable to be stopped by Special Constables no less than twenty-four times during your seventy mile journey. The arteries of subterfuge were well and truly blocked (or so the authorities thought!).
The British Intelligence Services were established in 1909. During World War One, Folkestone was full of British counter-intelligence officers. The town became HQ of a tripartite bureau, including French and Belgian intelligence officers and was under the control of Colonel George Kynaston Cockerill (1867-1957). The British section was based at 9, Marine Parade, and headed-up by the notorious renegade spy, Captain (later Major) Cecil Aylmer Cameron (1883-1924).
Spy-mania found a fertile soil in unbalanced brains. A girl of sixteen would confess to her mistress that she had fallen into the toils of a master-spy, who would beckon to her through the kitchen window with gestures that could not be disobeyed, and she would go out for the night, returning with a wonder story of gags and blindfolding, of a black motor-car and a locked room in a distant suburb, and the discovery of a soldier’s gloves in her box, did nothing to shake her story.
(‘Truth About German Spies: How They Came To England’, The World’s News, 12.7.1919)
- BBC Radio 4’s major new drama series, Home Front, began transmission on Monday 4th August, 12 noon. This is by far BBC radio’s most ambitious production to date. The show’s Editor is Jessica Dromgoole. There are six hundred episodes, across fifteen seasons and these will continue to air until 2018. Although the stories are fictional, they are rooted in historical truth. The first season is set in World War One Folkestone. CLICK HERE;
- For more information about Folkestone in World War One, see Step Short’s website;
- For more information about Viola Films, CLICK HERE;
- For more information about BBC’s World War One At Home initiative, CLICK HERE.
By Henry Chappell
YOU boasted the Day, and you toasted the Day,
And now the Day has come.
Blasphemer, braggart and coward all,
Little you reck of the numbing ball,
The blasting shell, or the “white arm’s” fall,
As they speed poor humans home.
You spied for the Day, you lied for the Day,
And woke the Day’s red spleen.
Monster, who asked God’s aid Divine,
Then strewed His seas with the ghastly mine;
Not all the waters of the Rhine
Can wash thy foul hands clean.
You dreamed for the Day, you schemed for the Day;
Watch how the Day will go,
Slayer of age and youth and prime,
(Defenceless slain for never a crime),
Thou art steeped in blood as a hog in slime,
False friend and cowardly foe.
You have sown for the Day, you have grown for the Day;
Yours is the harvest red.
Can you hear the groans and the awful cries?
Can you see the heap of slain that lies,
And sightless turned to the flame-split skies
The glassy eyes of the dead?
You have wronged for the Day, you have longed for the Day
That lit the awful flame.
‘Tis nothing to you that hill and plain
Yield sheaves of dead men amid the grain;
That widows mourn for their loved ones slain,
And mothers curse thy name.
But after the Day there’s a price to pay
For the sleepers under the sod,
And He you have mocked for many a day —
Listen, and hear what He has to say:
“VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.”
What can you say to God?
- Henry Chappell (1874-1937), known as the ‘Bath Railway Poet’, found fame after the above propaganda poem, about suspected German atrocities during the war, was published in the Daily Express, 22nd August, 1914. The poem was subsequently published in an anthology of his work in 1918, The Day and Other Poems.