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Folkestone Harbour Railway Ltd

Authors, Poets and Spies

The Secret Intelligence Service was organised into two offices under GHQ, London and what is now Eversley College, Folkestone under Major A. C. Cameron.   Belgian and French organisations were also established in Folkestone.

Folkestone was chosen because of its nationally important role for troop and freight movements.

Throughout the Great War South Eastern kept operating its regular scheduled services as events in the Channel allowed and in December 1915 the infamous spy Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (“Mata Hari”) was stopped from boarding a ship to France by a Captain S Dillon of the Secret Intelligence Service which had been established at what is now Eversley College.

Another example is Henry Williamson, author of The Chronicles of Ancient Sunlight and most famously Tarka the Otter. Williamson spent several months based in Folkestone in 1919 as Adjutant of a unit for soldiers returning from the Western Front and was responsible for demobbing those who had finished their service. He would have been on the Station/Pier complex on a daily basis. One passage in his novel The Patriot’s Progress is believed to be a description of the Outer Pier.

Rupert Brooke’s – “A Channel Passage” was written about a stormy crossing from Folkestone.

Edgar Wilfred Owen, Britain’s greatest war poet, observed the comings and goings of the harbour station before also crossing to Boulogne on the 6th August 1916. Later, after embarkation leave, he wrote a letter from the Metropole Hotel before passing through on the 29th December 1916 on service during which he wrote "The Sentry", "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and “Dulce et Decorum Est”.   He also passed through the station on the last occasion he left England on 31 August 1918.