THE  DOVER WAR MEMORIAL  PROJECT

 

War Memorial at Dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper

South Eastern and Chatham Railway Memorial

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NOTES ON THE UNVEILING

The Memorial was unveiled on 22 October 1922 by Mr H Cosmo Bonsor, Chairman of the Managing Committee of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway.

Some 700 relatives of the commemorated came to the station by special and ordinary trains. Whilst they arrived, the band of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway Ashford Works played.

The service opened with the hymn "Jesu, Lover of my Soul", and Mr Bonsor then said, "On occasions like this we are one united family ... We railwaymen and women have much to be proud of. We are citizens of the British Empire; we are apt at times to disparage ourselves. Let us for a few minutes recall the dismal days commencing August 1914. While other of the belligerent nations were calling up the different classes of their conscript soldiers, our citizens were voluntarily joining the Navy, the Army, or the Air Service, to fight for King and country.

"Five thousand, two hundred, and twenty-two South Eastern and Chatham men, just one-quarter of our total staff, actually joined His Majesty's Forces. Husbands were leaving devoted wives, young men were leaving their homes and giving up those ambitions which all possess, for what? Simply because they considered it their honourable duty; the spirit of patriotism which is the heritage of every British citizen was in them and could not be denied.

"Our railwaymen who could not be spared from their duties here did their share and proved their devotion; they should not be forgotten today. We carried 26 millions of HM Forces by rail, we ran from this station 7,781 ambulance trains, and carried, without accident or casualty, 1,260,000 patients to hospitals all over the country.

"Field Marshal Lord Haig, in a letter to me dated 23 December 1918, wrote,

"The army in France owes much to all connected with the control of our railway companies in the United Kingdom, and indeed, in the Empire. But we have been more closely associated with the South Eastern and Chatham Railway than any other. The bulk of our ammunition and stores required for the maintenance of our Armies, as well as several millions of men as reinforcements and on leave, have passed over their system. Their sphere of duty, too, has been nearest to the shores of France and Belgium, and consequently more open to hostile attacks by air and fears of invasion by sea. Undisturbed by any alarms, the traffic of the Armies of France has never ceased to flow ... This reflects the greatest credit on all concerned with the company."

"Our thoughts and sympathies today are with the relatives of those 556 men who fought and lost their lives. I am certain that there is nobody in this assembly who did not lose some one very dear to them; we have all suffered and mourned; we have the consolation of knowing that those valuable lives were given for the cause of truth and for our homes. This Memorial is a record for  all time of the sacrifice of those brave railwaymen and will, I hope, remind future generations of the British sprit of patriotism which won the war and saved our country."

The Memorial was then unveiled.


The Bishop of Dover dedicating the Memorial

The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Dover gave the dedication prayers, followed by the Lord's Prayer. he then said that the position of the Memorial was singularly appropriate. "All railway companies, " he continued, " had some special characteristic. For example, the North Eastern Railway Company was associated in my mind with the mineral traffic of Northumberland and Durham, whilst it was the Continental traffic which specially characterised the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, Dover being the centre of that traffic. In times of war it was a still more vitally important point in the system, and they had been told by the Chairman of the wonderful work accomplished in the transport of men and munitions. It was, therefore, most appropriate that the South Eastern and Chatham War Memorial should be at Dover, which during the war was never out of the sound of the guns, and subject to many raids.

Although we will never forget our individual losses, it was a fact that even here the impression of the war was growing dim. It seems singularly appropriate that the day selected for the unveiling of the War Memorial was the Saints' day of St Simon and St Jude. That might make little appeal to some people as they were two of our lesser known apostles who had spent their lives in service and self-sacrifice, little being known of the details of their work; but they were typical representative sof the countless hosts whose loss they mourned that day, and in whose memory the Memorial had been erected."

The address was followed by the hymn "For all the Saints who from their Labours Rest", and wreaths were laid on the Memorial. The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers sounded the Last Post and the Reveillé. Following the Benediction, the service ended with the National Anthem.

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