Ashford in the Great War

Welcome to the town page for Ashford. Explore your town map to discover people who lived in your town during the First World War.

Ashford was an important town especially because of the railway works situated in New Town. The strategic importance of these meant that it was a target for German air raids by Zeppelin and aeroplanes. There were several raids and loss of life leading to local organisations such as Ashford County School having air raid procedures for the pupils to take shelter in the basement during a raid. There were VAD volunteer ambulance drivers on duty during the air raids to assist the Special Constables with any casualties. Lighting restrictions were brought in and the papers report people being fined for breaches- the fines ranged from 10s.

Immediately War was declared, 800 men from the railway works , who were in the reserve or territorial’s, were called up, leading to shortage of labour at the works and the opportunity for women to take on roles which they would not had had access to prior to the War.

As the men from Ashford were called up other troops began arriving for transit and training camps such as one located at the Godington Estate where there were 6,000 men camped at one time.

The town’s people supported the War Effort in many ways not just by volunteering but also by attending events such as the Band Concert for Kentish Flag Day in the High Street in 1915. The town was presented with a tank at the end of the War in recognition of fund raising efforts.

Auxiliary hospitals were situated at the Technical Institute, the Congregational Schools and Swanton House and staffed by local volunteers.

In Great Chart a group of volunteers was brought together by Elizabeth Quentin Strouts to make sure that all those who were serving received a regular letter and parcel from the village. The recipients wrote letters of thanks which Mrs Quentin Strouts kept and annotated if men were killed these letters are now held in the Maidstone Archive.

Wye became the site of an aerodrome for the RFC from 1916, with the pilots being billeted locally as they trained- 15 of the pilots lost their lives and are commemorated locally. Wye College trained an increasing number of women for agricultural work.

In Appledore the Royal Military Canal was used to transport wounded soldiers to the VAD Hospital at 8 The Street.

Sources: Kentish Advertiser, Kent and Sussex Courier, Kentish Gazette

Please add information to your town page by clicking Upload Your Story. Tell those important stories about your relatives – share their experiences to help build a picture of your community during this period. Don’t forget to check out your local clubs and societies, and whilst you are exploring our site take a look at the other towns around the coast to discover more about Kent’s rich history during the First World War.

1. Ashford Grammar School

Ashford Grammar School

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8pm

29 May 1916

The trasncribed text reads:

Dear Mother

How are you all going on and is Ede home yet. Should have gone to the station to meet her, but have been so busy. One visitor went away on Friday and one this morning so have only the Capt with us now. I am having a day soon so am in hopes of seeing you. Went out for a short time yesterday and sat down in the shade all the time so am feeling a bit rested today. Nearly all the troops have gone from here seems so quiet now. Was the anniversary yesterday. Good bye much love Nell

 Miss R Jarvis

Jotney Cottage

Ashford Rd

Bethersden

Kent

The date of the card is 29 May 1916 which would have been the period during which troops were shipped to the Western Front in preparation for the first day of the Battle of the Somme on the 1st of July. Ashford was a collection centre for troops, for example, there were 5,000 troops under canvas at Goddington Park and many others billeted around the town and on other large estates locally.

Unfortunately, the building in the picture does not exist any more.

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

2. The Fountain in Victoria Park

The Fountain in Victoria Park, Ashford

270ash-victoria-park-ashford-front270ash-victoria-park-ashford-back 24 December 1914

Ashford

The transcribed text reads:

19 Goddington Road Ashford

Have you received the letter and parcel both posted Monday night. Might ... letter safely had a litre of brandy and a from Mercy’s fellow servant a 6 and 2 from her aunt from Sevenoaks and a lot of smokes. Write to Bromley. We leave here too, to get home Sunday night. Mercy is coming Monday to Tuesday.

Much love from ...

Mrs Faulkner

3 park Cresent

Cumchard

Chard

Somerset

 

 

3. Elwick Road

Elwick Road, Ashford

30 June 1917

3.30pm

Ashford

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The transcribed text reads:

Ashford

Late Noon

Dear K

Couldn't get here to Dover for this afternoon. I had an awful job this morning getting one for Canterbury. As I had no word from Chiseldon shall be in Canterbury till Monday afternoon. Come up if you can tomorrow

Yours Joel

 Miss Kathleen Bashford

C.R.E. Office

Archcliffe Fort

Dover

 

During the War there was a VAD hospital in Elwick Road. Mr George Back of 16, Albemarle Road was a VAD orderly at Elwick Road. Mr Richard Baldock, of 109 New Town also served as a VAD orderly at the hospital in Elwick Road.

There also was a Drill Hall in Elwick Road, which, we believe, was demolished to give way to the new International Train Station Terminal.

Have you got a picture of the Drill Hall? Can you share it with us?

 

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

4. Chart Road

Chart Road, Ashford

19 July 1915

11.45am

Ashford

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The transcribed text reads:

19-7-15

 Dear Ruth

 Just another for your collection. Hope you are in the best of health. Kind thoughts George

 Miss R. M. Backhouse,

Craigow

Cambridge

Tasmania

 

Chart Road leads to the village of Great Chart. During the War Elizabeth Quentin Strouts formed a group of volunteers The Friends of Great Chart & The Great Chart Sailors' & Soldiers' War Fund to ensure all the men from the village who were serving received regular letters and parcels from home.

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

 

5. High Street and St Mary’s Church

High Street & St Mary's Church

15 July 1915

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Dear Mum and Dad,

Thanks very much for the peas they are very pleased with them. I got back in nice time. Did you think to give him those photo books Kathleen forgot them last night. I enjoyed myself very much last night & wish I was coming again today but never mind must hustle into work again now. With best love from Ernie. I saw Dad up Park Rd by could not make him look.

 

Mr & Mrs Driver

51 Shaftesbury Ave

Cheriton

Folkestone

6. High Street and Middle Row

High Street & Middle Row

11 August 1916

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The transcribed text says:

My Dear Wife I am going to Billericay By Monday you can write to me there. We have had it rough this week. We have been working 22 hours out of 24. Hope you are quite well Dear. Write more next time from your ever loving Husband Jack xxxx

 

Mrs J L Jones

Myrtle Court

Barton Street

Tewkesbury

Gloucestershire

 

7. Kentish Flag Day

Ashford received its tank as recognition for the fund raising by the town throughout the War. One example is this Kent Flag Day concert held in the High Street in 1915. Funds raised supported local hospitals and prisoners of war.

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Image courtesy of D Price

8. Ashford

Immediately War was declared, 800 men from the railway works, who were in the reserve or territorials, were called up. A shortage of labour at the works gave women the opportunity to take on roles such as engine cleaning for the first time.

At the railway Station women became porters and ticket collectors.

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The transcribed text reads:

8 July 1915

 Dear E,

Glad to hear you have arrived. If your having no company Sunday G & I will come down in the afternoon.

Love to all A.S.

 

Miss Heffin

C/6 Mrs Ames

Spring Cottage

Brabourne

(Nr Ashford) ...

 Image courtesy of D Price

9. Canterbury Road Ashford

Canterbury Road Ashford

In 1915 at 10 Canterbury Road Ashford there was a ‘High Class’ registry office for domestic servants advertising in the Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald

Emily Bailey of 9 Canterbury Road Ashford was an assistant cook at the Ashford VAD Hospital for 3 hours per week from 1914 to 1917

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629ash-canterbury-road-ashford-back

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

10. High Street

High Street Ashford

This card to Maidstone would have been sent by one of the many men who were called up at the start of the War as territorials or from the reserve. We believe that Mr F Wordsworth was among 800 Territorials and Reservists who had been called up from the Ashford Railway Works. If so, he might have been sent to France with the 1st Buffs on September 8. They arrived there on September 10, 1914 and the battalion then traveled eastwards to join the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front.

Source: Kent Messenger dd 08/08/1914 and “Steady the Buffs!” by M. Connelly

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The transcribed text reads:

7 September 1914

Dear Mr Gould

Just getting used to it. Expect to go away sometime during the week. Kindest regards. F Wordsworth

 

Mr W J Gould

Manor Cottages

Langley

Maidstone

 

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

11. Albemarle Road, Willesborough

Mr George Back of 16, Albemarle Road was also a VAD orderly at Elwick Road. A serviceman from London was billeted in Albemarle Road in November 1916.

Courtesy of the Red Cross

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286ash-willesborough-back

The transcribed text reads:

Ashford

9/11/16

Dear Annie,

Arrived back safely on Monday night. This is a photo of the Road where I am billeted. Hoping all are well.

With love to all, ...

 

Mrs Paim

16 Stratford St

Blackfriars,

London

S.E.

 Image courtesy of D Price