Sto­ries of sol­diers re­told in ex­hi­bi­tion

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION - by Mike Ben­nett

STO­RIES be­hind the names of men from the Ash­ford area who were killed in the First World War were vividly bought to life at an ex­hi­bi­tion at Cen­tre­piece Church.

On dis­play on Satur­day, were pho­to­graphs, let­ters, news­pa­per re­ports and facts about many of the sol­diers and sailors from Ash­ford Rail­way Works, Ken­ning­ton, Kingsnorth, Mo­lash and Holling­bourne whose names ap­pear on lo­cal war memo­ri­als.

De­tails of where they lived and went to school, their in­ter­ests and how they died were re­searched by stu­dents who at­tended a course en­ti­tled Not Just A Name, run by the Work­ers’ Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, in Ash­ford.

There were poignant sto­ries of brav­ery and courage shown by young men who rushed to join up, only to find them­selves thrown into the hor­rors of trench war­fare.

Some were buried where they fell, and many have no known graves.

More than 80 men from Ash­ford Rail­way Works died in the Great War. Familiar names in­cluded, Mum­mery, Hills, Lance­field and Laker.

Many had strong links with New­town, Willes­bor­ough and the parish of Christchurch, South Ash­ford. Ge­orge Smail, a black­smith’s mate who lived on Beaver Road and served in the Royal Navy was 22 years when he was killed in 1917.

Alex Jen­nings, of Ken­ning­ton Hall, was at univer­sity in Zurich when war broke out and was des­per­ate to re­turn home and en­list.

His fa­ther per­suaded him to take his fi­nal exam, and an hour af­ter it ended he was on a train back to Eng­land.

He wrote a fas­ci­nat­ing ac­count of his jour­ney from Eng­land to Gal­lipoli where he was struck down by ty­phoid. While re­cov­er­ing at home, he took private fly­ing lessons and joined the Royal Fly­ing Corps, but was killed age 22.

The memo­ri­als were re­searched by Gina Baines (Rail­way Works); Robin and Jill Britcher (Ken­ning­ton); Ken Dun­stan (Kingsnorth); Eric Good­win (Mo­lash) and Rita Moon and Alan Wil­liams (Holling­bourne).

Lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties re­sponded to ap­peals for in­for­ma­tion and loaned pho­tos and orig­i­nal doc­u­ments, as well as shar­ing mem­o­ries that have been passed down through their fam­i­lies.

Vis­i­tors to the ex­hi­bi­tion pro­vided new in­for­ma­tion, which will be fol­lowed up to help com­plete the pic­ture of each man.

Re­searchers and vis­i­tors to an ex­hi­bi­tion re­mem­ber­ing sol­diers who died in the First World War

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