Civilian Service of
Remembrance and Thanksgiving - 2007

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Marilyn Stephenson-Knight

Maggie and BobGood morning, and welcome to the Dover War Memorial Project Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.

The Dover War Memorial Project remembers with love, honour, and respect, all Dovorians who fell in the two world wars. There are over 2,000 people commemorated on our internet Virtual Memorial.

This service for Civilians was inspired by a friendship beyond the grave - that of John Cork for his school hood friend, little Freddie Spinner. Freddie was killed in September 1944. That was just a couple of weeks before the Canadian First Army captured the guns on the Calais coast, and silenced them forever.

On our town memorial there are nearly 800 names. Some of them are Canadian. But none of them is a civilian. Civilians are a forgotten service - the soldiers of the Home Front.

By the last year of the Great War over five million women were working in munitions factories, on the land, and even in engineering. Men too old for active service guarded the roads, railways, and ports. Boy Scouts patrolled telegraph lines, ran messages, and helped with the horses. In Dover they were on duty at the Castle and the Grand Shaft. In August 1914 one Scout, Bob Ward, became the second Dovorian to die on service. He was 13.

Over a year before the Second World War began, ideas of the Home Front were regenerated. By June 1940 there were a million and a half volunteers in the Home Guard. Another million and a half were RP wardens, a million older ladies joined the Voluntary Service. Over four million people were working in munitions along. And who can forget the housewife at the Kitchen Front, with its Ration Books, Dig for Victory, and Make-Do-and-Mend?

Dover was the frontline town in both World Wars. Bombarded and battered we still saw thousands of refugees arrive. We saw our children leave, and our troops depart and return - in the evacuation of Dunkirk, over four and a half thousand were treated at our hospital. Very many here will remember the work of civilian Dr Gertrude Toland then. (To her I too am grateful, for without her I could not be here today.)

With its white cliffs Dover was an icon of home and the free world. Our safety and our futures - and our presence here today- depended on those brave people who went out and fought. But it depended too on those who, like our Dovorian civilians, stood firm at home.

Let us never forget all those we lost in the two world wars, nor our debt to all those who served, and who continue to serve today. We remember, and we give thanks.

photo: Simon Chambers

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Copyright 2008 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved