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Folkestone Harbour Station under threat of demolition


Charles Fair
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Only just caught up with this.

Sad to see the station in such a sorry state, as I have used it myself on many visits to the battlefields in the old days. Surprised they haven't seen the possible media use? There are actually very few large period railway stations where you could film drama, docos etc. This could be one of them, and dressed up suitably to represent probably any railway station. Perhaps an angle to take?

Charles - looks like a working group needs to be formed to save it. Am sure our local WFA would help and perhaps I can lend some help from the new WW2 Society? As it certainly had a major role a generation later as well.

Did Harry Patch go out via Folkestone? If so, would be an interesting angle to take and useful to get the press on board.

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Thanks to all for ongoing contributions which are really getting me thinking.

In a letter to The Times (Thursday 1 April 1920, p 19 col D), The mayor of Folkestone RE Wood, representing the Folkestone war memorial committee, made the claim that “more than 11 million British soldiers passed through Folkestone on their way to and from the battlefields”. This is evidently soldier movements rather than individuals (it is double the number mobilised) but it is still an extraordinary statistic. In fact I don’t think I can believe it. It amounts to more than 7,000 per day, every day for the entire duration.

Yes, that does seem high - even if we assume that on average every man went home once either on leave or as a result of wounds. Of course, many men would have gone the Southampton - Le Havre route given the large number of base depots at Le Havre. Having said that, given that the max peak strength of the BEF was a little over 2 million, I would have no trouble believing say 4 million going through Folkestone.....

Clive, your post just triggered off a thought... I just checked my copy of Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire and I now see where the Mayor got his 11 million from. The Total Embarkation of Personnel from 1st day of embarkation, 9th August 1914 to midnight 1st/2nd April 1919 is given as follows: (p. 510)

Officers 772,196

O Ranks 10,121, 263

Nurses 41,996

which gives a total of 10,935,455.

Unfortunately, SMEBE doesn't break down any of the stats by port. However, of the above totals, it does give the total number of personnel going on leave between the same dates: (also p. 510)

Officers 398,538

O Ranks 3,582,465

Nurses 20,886

which gives a total of 4,001,889. I have always believed that Boulogne-Folkestone was the main (only?) route for men going on leave in which case most if not all would have come through Folkestone. (This was after all the quickest and most direct route from the BEF held sector of the W Front.)

Whatever the answer is, we are well into the millions which is excellent for PR purposes.... Thanks Clive!

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I was wondering if I could somehow help by placing these excellent photos online http://www.kentfallen.com

Neil - that would be very very helpful, thank you. I have these as higher res images which I can send when you are back. Thanks also for offering to look up the railway info - it's not my subject and I wouldn't know where to look.

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Surprised they haven't seen the possible media use? There are actually very few large period railway stations where you could film drama, docos etc. This could be one of them, and dressed up suitably to represent probably any railway station. Perhaps an angle to take?

Excellent idea. This might appeal to the owner of the harbour. Any case for saving the station needs to have a strong business case. I saw a presentation by Roger de Haan, the owner of the harbour, a few weeks ago on the Masterplan in which he said "come and see me if you have an idea" or words to that effect. I believe that the Masterplan is not all set in stone. However, I don't know what is negotiable. The MasterPlan is very popular around here. Apart from this one minor issue of the harbour station, I support it myself. It is just what the town needs, and is far better than the alternative.

We therefore have to pitch it just right if the case is to make an impact locally and on Mr de Haan himself. He is a bit of a local hero around here, and also has rather deep pockets. This is his entry on The Sunday Times Rich List 2007:

Roger and Peter De Haan

Ranking
: 78=
Worth
: £850m
Industry
: Travel and property

The man behind Folkestone's revival is Roger De Haan, 58. The former boss of the Saga holiday business, based in the Kent town, is trying to turn it into a new Barcelona with a harbour on a 14-acre site that De Haan bought for £11m. It will include a marina for 200 yachts. De Haan's late father developed Saga and Roger took it over before selling up in 2004 to a private equity business for £1.35 billion. Stripping out debt we allow at least £400m for tax. His brother, Peter, 55, who had been finance director, got £81m and now runs a wine and marketing business worth £120m. Roger continues his charitable work to establish a creative quarter in Folkestone; this regeneration project attracting the majority of his £7.75m philanthropic spending in the past year.

Given that he is working with Lord Norman Foster (himself at no. 249 on the list with £295 m!) the aesthetic/practical case needs to be well thought out. Given that he is known for 'bold, innovative architectural statements'* he may not want the elegant sweep of the 'wave' building that is supposed to curl round the western and southern sides of the harbour to be spoiled by a Victorian station.

* Dragon - I am borrowing your words here, thank you.

Charles - looks like a working group needs to be formed to save it. Am sure our local WFA would help and perhaps I can lend some help from the new WW2 Society? As it certainly had a major role a generation later as well.

My thoughts exactly. The PR strategy at local/national level needs to be well thought out. There is also the matter of the local planning. If we can get some kind of listing that would help. According to the Masterplan the station is not listed.

I was planning to bring this up at the next WFA meeting on 6 Nov. Will talk to Hazel first.

The WW2 angle is a good point. Some of the evacuation in 1940 (e.g. of 20 Guards Bde from Boulogne) might have come through. I had better pop into the WW2 forum...

Did Harry Patch go out via Folkestone? If so, would be an interesting angle to take and useful to get the press on board.

Good point. If he ever went home on leave then he probably would have done.

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I find that in a later report (The Times, Monday 4 December 1922, page 9, column B ), this time on the unveiling of Folkestone war memorial, the figure has been revised downwards to “over eight millions of Allied troops”. I don’t think I believe that figure either, but a million-plus soldier transits seems very likely.

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I have always believed that Boulogne-Folkestone was the main (only?) route for men going on leave in which case most if not all would have come through Folkestone. (This was after all the quickest and most direct route from the BEF held sector of the W Front.)

Charles,

A War Diary entry for the 1/8th Royal Scots in Spring 1916,when discussing leave,records that Men now going on Leave go via Boulogne rather than Havre.

Presumably up to this time Southampton was the main port of entry.

I can understand the elation the entry brought,assuming the entry port was Folkestone,due to the shortened journey times to Scotland.

George

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on the the 13th of july 1915 my granddad left romsey in hampshire on a train with the 6th dorsets for the port of folkestone .on the 14th of july at 3 am in the morning he landed in boulogne so it was a night crossing to avoid u boats .but did he stop at all in folkestone ?was there a rest camp or canteen in the port for soldiers or did they go staight on the troopships (st cecelia) thanks tom

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A non doubt unscholarly answer, but I am under the impression that it was a case of off the troop train and onto the troopship.

Of course there may have been much standing around between the two, but I would not expect the troops to be allowed to wander off around the town at their leisure!

Ian

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Tom,

Just to supplement Ian's non-scholarly reply.

It is likely your Grandfather would not have been allowed to "go for a wander" unless he had a "Pass".If he did not have correct paperwork he would have likely been arrested as adrift,AWOL or worse. :blink:

George

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I am trying to remember the book, possibly Williamson's 'Patriots Progress' - it describes the troops arrival at Folkestone and the lining up at the harbour at night, under the glare of sodium ark lamps waiting to board their ship, and then the sailing for France, with the froth of water at the stern of the escorting destroyer, getting under way as they leave port. Great stuff and easy to imagine oneself being there.

Looking at the near-wreck of the station today it is hard to believe such events ever happened....

Ian

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thanks for your post pals now i am looking for photos of folkestone with troops or troopships in the harbour in the great war .anyone know were to look .tom

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Quick update:

I had a very useful useful conversation earlier today at the Folkestone People's History Centre, and it appears that the prospects for forming an Action Group to try to save the station are good. There is interest locally, but as yet there has been little publicity locally, and none nationally or internationally. No connections have been made with WFA, GWF, railway history societies etc. I feel like I have now met the right people to start the ball rolling.

Apparently an application has been made for listed status, but a reply hasnt yet come back from Englsih Heritage. More to come when I know more....

Tom, I should be able to track down some photos. More info to come.

------------------------

You may also be interested to know of two events happening at the Harbour Station over the forthcoming remembrance weekend:

Sat 10 Nov – at 12 noon a steam train will be arriving at the station – this is likely to be one of the last times that this will happen (and probably the last). This should be very evocative.

Sun 11 Nov – all day – weather permitting, there will be a commemorative art installation by a Folkestone based artist, Ruth Parkinson. The art is teasingly called “Chalk on Wood”, and I understand is based on the experiences of soldiers who passed through the station in the Great War. Ruth is passionate about saving the Station.

If anyone can make it to these that would be great.

-------------------------

More to come when I have a little more time.....

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Would be interested to know - but I doubt there are any WW1 vintage steam locos in main line running condition. These locos tend to be 1940's/last years of steam loco building. Maybe pre WW2 (I think Lord Nelson class presently in main line condition

is 1920's/1930's vintage).

Ian

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I imagine it would be one of the later steam locos, but as I cannot tell one train from another I cannot say. I will post some photos though.

Tom, here is a wonderful photo to whet your appetite, courtesy of the artist Ruth Parkinson. The harbour wall is on the right - the hand rail and the guttering to the left still survive. You can see how far along the harbour wall the trains could go.

More to come in due course....

post-892-1193791279.jpg

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well done charles thats just the sort of thing i am looking for .just think my granddad with the 6th dorsets would have stood in the dark somewhere on that dockside in 1915 and boarded the troopship st cecilia for boulogne escorted by two destroyres .the 6th dorsets were part of the 17th div .in the photo it looks like a ship has just sailed and another is getting up a head of steam .and on the dockside you can see the gangways for boarding the troops. great photo.thanks again charles .tom

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Centre No. 3 Rest Camp which was on on near the Leas in Folkestone. The building nearest the camera has 'Dry Canteen' written on the corner.

post-892-1194132518.jpg

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Troops arriving No 3 Rest Camp. The 1/2 timbered mock tudor building in the middle distance looks familiar... I think this could be either Earls Avenue or Castle Hill Avenue.

post-892-1194132796.jpg

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this is self explanatory. Possibly taken at Folkestone, if not then probably at Chatham or Dover. SECR = SOUTH EASTERN & CHATHAM RAILWAYS.

post-892-1194132997.jpg

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Marvellous view of the Harbour Station from the air. Note the column of troops filing into the station. The square building almost dead centre is the harbour master's house. The swing bridge over the harbour is clearleey seen top centre.

I will find a copy of the 1906 OS map which shows the layout of the tracks and platforms over a rather wider area than this picture.

post-892-1194134276.jpg

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Quick update - more to come later.

1) an article will appear in this week's Kent Messenger

2) KMFM will be running an interview with local artist Ruth Parkinson this week on the subject of this station. (I am not quite sure when it is being broadcast at this stage.)

3) most importantly, I have met Bruce Simpson, WFA Chairman who says that the WFA will support this campaign. More to come when I had further discussions.

I am hopeful of an article in one of the national dailies this week as well.

Mick, it was good to meet you and Broomers at the WFA meeting.

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Mick, it was good to meet you and Broomers at the WFA meeting.

Likewise, Charles, and very good to hear that the groundswell of interest and support for saving the station is growing so quickly.

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i would like to see a who's who's on service men that passed through folkestone in the great war did harry patch and wilfred owen .and how many others famous men and woman passed that way in he war.tom

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The steam train scheduled for this Saturday 10 Nov has been postponed until 5 April 2008. (Which therefore looks like being the last one.)

Another steam train is scheduled for 1 December, approx arrival at 12 noon.

Apparently these visits will last about 1 hour and include a special extra run up and down the line. The loco is the Battle of Britain Class 34067 'Tangmere'

This website seems helpful for updated info: UK Steam website

(This is the website of the tour operator with more details: Steam Rail Tours. Please note that I have no connection with them.)

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