Canterbury in the Great War

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

Canterbury was the garrison town for the Royal East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) before the First World War. When mobilisation occurred in early August 1914 the West Kent Yeomanry, Territorials and Kent Cyclists were sent to Canterbury as their Home Defence position.

During one of their regular patrols the Territorials came across a motorcyclist tapping the telegraph wire- the man was subsequently arrested and handed over to the authorities. Regiments from Sussex arrived mid August, having marched from Maidstone, bivouacking at Charing overnight en route.

Many recruits from East Kent would travel to Canterbury to enlist, for example the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles (Reserve) recruited at the Drill Hall in St Peters Lane (now The Westgate Hall).

In September 1914 St George’s Hall Canterbury was taken over by the YMCA to be used as a meeting place for troops stationed in the town, providing refreshments and free writing material.

In August 1914 the Kent VAD mobilised a hospital at St Augustine’s to receive casualties, this hospital was handed over to the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) in September 1914. Other local VAD hospitals included Abbots Barton lent by Francis Goldney (MP) and Dane John House. Dane John became a VAD hospital in September 1914 with 115 beds – male and female volunteers acted as nurses, cooks, needle women, cleaners, air raid wardens and orderlies.

Women also undertook other roles illustrated by Mabel Banks of 23 St Stephens Road Canterbury being a volunteer laboratory assistant. Women from Canterbury volunteered to assist in other Kent locations as well as becoming trained nurses. Some went on to serve overseas, on the ambulance trains or as ambulance drivers.

School children knitted socks, scarves and blankets which were distributed by the War Work Depot based at 26 St Margaret Street, the War Depot also collected and sold waster paper to raise funds for its work for those serving in the forces or prisoners of war.

There were numerous collections and fund raising efforts for example in 1914 a Blue Cross appeal to help horses at the Front raised £46, in 1916 a Flag Day for the VAD raised £152, and a concert by blind musicians raised funds for the work of St Dunstan’s for servicemen blinded in the Forces.

Attributed Canterbury Cathedral Archive, Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, Kent and Sussex Courier Folkestone, Sandgate, Hythe and Cheriton Herald, The Red Cross

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. The Crypt – Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral Crypt

July 4 1916

643can-the-crypt-canterbury-cathedral

The transcribed text reads:

‘Saw the soldier on Sunday and he was sent to Shornecliffe the next day. He was loaded with cake and fruit and we brought home to tea with us. Possibly he will write to you if not to this address. Best wishes L M Bolton’

To Mrs RW Allen,

‘Wrekin’, The Brent,

Dartford, Kent

This is an intriguing card with a very cryptic message. Given the date of the card and the destination of the soldier we are assuming that he was being sent to the Somme. The mention of bringing him home to tea is an example of the many acts of generosity shown to soldiers by the residents of Canterbury which the various regiments experienced when they were stationed in the town. There are various newspaper articles where regiments comment on the warm welcome they received in Canterbury.

2. Monastery Ruins Canterbury Cathedral

Monastery Ruins at Canterbury Cathedral

December 24 1915

642can-monstery-ruins-canterbury-cathedral

The transcribed text reads:

With best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Bright New Year from W & G at Chilham’

To Miss Fridd

South Street

Boughton Faversham

We don’t know anything about the sender or recipient of this card but it demonstrates the efficiency of the postal service with 8 deliveries a day that a card posted on Christmas Eve could be expected to be delivered by Christmas Day.

3. Christ Church Gate

Canterbury Cathedral - Christ Church Gate

February 22 1916

641can-christ-church-gate-canterbury

The transcribed text says:

R A Headquarters Canterbury

Dear Kathy Thank you very much for the toffee which was simply ripping. How are you going on, could you manage a walk round ?? to Jane now? Please remember me to all .Yours very sincerely Andy x

To Miss M Stackhouse

5 Penwortham Hill,

Penwortham,

Nr Preston, Lancs

We know that several Lancashire and Liverpool regiments did their training in Kent prior to being sent to France. Certainly the 3rd West Lancashire Brigade Royal Field Artillery were based in Canterbury before they were attached to the 2nd Canadian Division and crossed to France 31 Sep/Oct 1915. This card dates from 1916 so we are not certain if the sender was with the 3rd West Lancashire Brigade or not

 Additional information liverpoolremembrance.weebly.com/local-regiments.html

Image courtesy of Darrienne Price

4. Tudor House

25.01.15 11.45am

Canterbury

649can-tudor-house-canterbury-front 649can-tudor-house-canterbury-back

The transcribed text reads:

I wonder if you have seen this house. Expect you have. Hope you are keeping well. Tell Mrs S the Germans have not yet paid a visit to the Cathedral, but we have our orders if they attempted it. Wonder if A and R have been writing you in place of me.

Much love M C H

 

To: Miss Day

26 Stade Street

Hythe

 

5. Canterbury Cathedral

24.05.1916 10pm

Canterbury

648can-selection-canterbury-front 648can-selection-canterbury-back

The transcribed text reads:

Dear F

Just a P.C. to tell you that we will leave for camp tomorrow what will be about 6 miles from C. Any letters addressed to number 9 will be forwarded to me O.K! I am keeping A1. Trust you and all at home are quite well - will write first opportunity – cheer OK! Au ‘revoir’ with kindest regards to all and C J

 

To: Miss F N Joye

6 West Park

Whitchurch

Tavistock

Devon

 

6. High Street

May 12, 1915, 11.30 am

647can-high-street-canterbury-front647can-high-street-canterbury-back 

The transcribed text reads:

Miss D Halfere

Heatherdene

The Grove

Slough

Bucks

7. St George’s Street

September 20, 1918, 7.30pm

646can-st-georges-street-canterbury-front646can-st-georges-street-canterbury-back 

The transcribed text reads:

Friday

Received your Pc. We will send in to Herne as requested. Surprised to hear your parcel got pilfered especially in England. We dispatched one last night and sincerely hope you’ll get it intact. You should get it Saturday.

 

Keep smiling old ...?

Will write again soon to you

Love Lena

To: Norman G Holman

“Wireless operator”

RAF

LZ5793 Auxiliary Military Airfield

Ashton Hays

Chestershire

 

8. Macawber’s Little Inn

Dated June 30, 1915, 10pm

645can-macawbers-little-inn-canterbury-front645can-macawbers-little-inn-canterbury-back 

The transcribed text reads:

Dear Lil,

I am having a fine. Will tell you all when I return

I am going to London for the weekend. With best love remain to all at Breaside

 

Your loving friend Donald

 

To: Miss L Marigold

Breaside

Ashley Road

Upper Park Stowe

Dorset

9. The Crypt, Canterbury Cathedral

643can-the-crypt-canterbury-cathedral

643CAN- The Crypt Canterbury Cathedral

Postmark July 4 1916

Transcription

‘Saw the soldier on Sunday and he was sent to Shornecliffe the next day. He was loaded with cake and fruit and we brought home to tea with us. Possibly he will write to you if not to this address. Best wishes L M Bolton’

 

To Mrs RW Allen, ‘Wrekin’, The Brent, Dartford, Kent

 

This is an intriguing card with a very cryptic message. Given the date of the card and the destination of the soldier we are assuming that he was being sent to the Somme. The mention of bringing him home to tea is an example of the many acts of generosity shown to soldiers by the residents of Canterbury which the various regiments experienced when they were stationed in the town. There are various newspaper articles where regiments comment on the warm welcome they received in Canterbury.

10. Monastery Ruins, Canterbury Cathedral

642-monstery-ruins-canterbury-cathedral

642CAN – Monastery Ruins Canterbury Cathedral

Postmark Dec 24 1915

Transcription

With best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Bright New Year from W & G at Chilham’

 

To Miss Fridd South Street Boughton Faversham

 

We don’t know anything about the sender or recipient of this card but it demonstrates the efficiency of the postal service with 8 deliveries a day that a card posted on Christmas Eve could be expected to be delivered by Christmas Day.

11. Christ Church Gate

641can-christ-church-gate-canterbury

641CAN – Christ Church Gate

 

Postmark February 22 1916

Transcription

R A Headquarters Canterbury

 

Dear Kathy Thank you very much for the toffee which was simply ripping. How are you going on, could you manage a walk round ?? to Jane now? Please remember me to all .Yours very sincerely Andy x

 

To Miss M Stackhouse 5 Penwortham Hill ,Penwortham, Nr Preston, Lancs

 

 

We know that several Lancashire and Liverpool regiments did their training in Kent prior to being sent to France. Certainly the 3rd West Lancashire Brigade Royal Field Artillery were based in Canterbury before they were attached to the 2nd Canadian Division and crossed to France 31 Sep/Oct 1915. This card dates from 1916 so we are not certain if the sender was with the 3rd West Lancashire Brigade or not

 Additional information: liverpoolremembrance.weebly.com/local-regiments

12. The Parade Canterbury

 

640CAN The Parade Canterbury

Postmark Mar 1917

597can-the-parade-canterbury-front-back

Transcription

Dearest Elsie

I thought I would just send this card before I leave Canterbury. I am writing it in the Cathedral. After I rang you up dear I had quite a long talk with Mr Sheppard and afterwards had some dinner there 1s/3d and actually ate some butter beans. I think I told you all the news so I have not much to write about just now. Please tell Dad particulars. I will write to you as soon as possible. Well dearest I must finish now. With fondest love from your affectionate hubby Les

To Mrs EJ Hutchinson , 10 Marine Terrace, Margate

 

We have not be able to discover to which regiment Les Hutchinson was attached . The shop of Marchant and Tubb, which was a tailors, hatters ,hosiers, glovers and shirtmakers was at 5 The Parade according to Kellys Canterbury Directory of the period.

 

Location: 5 The Parade Canterbury CT1 2JL