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Article by Neill Barston | 22nd October 2018

A Century of WWI Remembered

A striking display of an early British tank, cavalry demonstrations and a vintage singalong were just some of the highlights from the recent Tonbridge Castle First World War Commemoration Weekend.

Crowds gathered to take part in the community event, which marked a century since the end of the Great War, which saw thousands of young men from across West Kent serve their country.

One of its organisers, Carl Lewis, of the Royal British Legion’s Tonbridge Poppy Appeal, felt the occasion was especially poignant, and offered a moment to respectfully mark the sacrifices of past generations.

Visitors to the event took in a host of displays, which spanned everything from parade ground re-enactments and stalls with soldiers offering a flavour of life in the trenches, through to a display of military vehicles, including a mark IV tank, of the kind that was previously donated to the town for its wartime services. There was also music from Tom Carradine, leading a cockney singalong of traditional wartime tunes popular with communities and servicemen, which further recreated the spirit of the era.

Carl said: “This has been a very humbling experience helping organise the event. It has been 100 years since the end of the First World War, which has seen a number of people research their own family history and understand their how their relatives served their country.

“It has been possible to trace army records, and the pictures and medals from that time give people a physical link to the past, and all those who served, including the 887,000 British and Commonwealth troops who lost their lives,” explained the appeal organiser, who said there had been close co-operation with the Royal British Legion, Tonbridge Lions and Tonbridge Historical Society in staging the event.

“I think it’s been important educationally, as children have taken part, by being in the assault course, and experiencing what it would have been like going to enlist in the army, as well as learning about the women’s suffrage movement of that time. I think even if they only take away some small amount of knowledge, then it will have been worthwhile.”

He praised fellow organiser Pam Mills for her work with volunteers in preparing a display of service records for the event, enabling families to trace their connections to the conflict – in which more than 300 local men lost their lives. They are commemorated on the town centre war memorial.

Pam Mills added: “With the 100th anniversary of the RAF, and the WI marking its 100th anniversary as well, we wanted to stage something to commemorate that, together with it being the end of the war.

“I hope that it has been able to help people better understand those times, as well as prove educational. It’s been a real family event.”

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