Folkestone beach is a place of particular significance on Armistice Day. It’s the closest geographical point between France and the UK, and it’s where approximately ten million British men and women left Britain to cross the channel to fight and serve in the First World War. “This was the artery through which millions of service personnel left to serve,” the Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle said at the onset of his public art project Pages of the Sea.
The war poet Wilfred Owen left Folkestone beach for the war. The day before he departed, he swam in the sea there. He would lose his life at the age of 25 on 4 November 1918, exactly one week before the official end of the war. The beach, therefore, was his last memory of the country for which he fought and, ultimately, gave his life.
Hours before sunrise on the morning of 11 November 2018, 100 years to the minute since the First World War finally came to an end, scores of volunteers gathered on Sunny Sands at Folkestone beach. At the exact same time, hundreds of other volunteers took to other beaches across the British Isles. The timing corresponded to the signing of the Armistice of Compiègne at 6am, 100 years earlier.