100 years of World War One

This November marks 100 years since the signing of the Armistice treaty, which brought the hostilities of WW1 to an end.

The previous four years of fighting had revolutionised warfare and cost the lives of around 16 million civilians and combatants across Europe.

English Heritage cares for over 400 sites across England, ranging from Hadrian’s Wall at the Roman frontier in the north of England, to the Tudor castles of Pendennis and St Mawes in Cornwall. Kent in particular has always been on the front line of England’s defences; with Dover being only 21 miles from mainland Europe, it is the shortest and easiest crossing for an invading force.

Dover Castle has long been described as the ‘Key to England’, and in the First World War the position of the castle overlooking the enormous Admiralty Harbour was used to full advantage.  A disused gun battery was converted into a combined Port War Signal Station (PWSS), and a Fire Command Post. The PWSS was part of a worldwide network the Royal Navy were developing to control entry and exit to the strategically important ports, while the Fire Command Post controlled the large artillery guns and searchlights that were responsible for the security of the coast. This prime positioning meant that the men stationed in that building had front row seats to the naval battles that took place in the Straights of Dover, and were able to send signals via flags and flashing lamps directly to the ships down below. They communicated with each other on the different floors of the building using speaking tubes; these have been recreated for visitors to try out today and to see the conditions that these men would have lived in while working in the building.

This area of the Castle has been represented as it would have been in 1914-18, and includes a gun compound outside the building that features a firing Anti-Aircraft Gun, which fires every weekend from July to November. The gun is the only one of its kind in the UK that is in working condition, and is looked after and fired by a dedicated team of costumed volunteers.  It was restored to working condition in 2015 by English Heritage and today is used to demonstrate the type of guns used to see off German Zeppelins and other aircraft, from 1916 onwards.

For this special anniversary, Dover Castle is marking the Armistice with a day of commemoration which will feature a bag piper at dawn and gun firing throughout the day.

Full details can be found on the English Heritage website: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/dover-castle/).

 Thanks to Keeley Wilson from the English Heritage for this article. It’s so important to remember this day and Dover Castle is an excellent example of History, it’s great to see that they are marking this anniversary with something special.