Last November the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne teamed up Swale Community Rail Partnership, and Kent Community Rail Partnership with volunteers and re-enactors to stage an ambitious Swale-wide event to remember the unsung volunteer heroes and-forgotten ambulance train service of the Great War.
The ambulance trains were used to transport wounded servicemen to hospitals across the UK, as far as Scotland.
Last week, at the 13th Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) awards ceremony, held in The Roundhouse in Derby, it was announced that the Ambulance Event had come first in its category for ‘ACoRP Best Community Engagement Award’. Richard Emmett, chair of HRGS, attended along with representatives from the Kent Community Rail Partnership.
The Ambulance Train event began on a bitterly cold morning in November 2016 at Queenborough harbour where a dedicated group of volunteers dressed as nurses and wounded service personnel, supported by the team from Big Fish Arts re-enacted scenes of casualties being brought ashore prior to boarding an specially chartered high speed train supplied by Southeast trains to Sittingbourne.
There they were joined by "The Tommies of Mons" Living History Group and the Swale Marching Band who subsequently paraded their way to the Forum Shopping Centre.
Local shoppers and visitors in The Forum shopping centre were greeted by stalls, with exhibits from Military Groups, heritage groups, re-enactors and a film about the Trains.
The Train then went back to Sheerness and a remembrance service at the Sheerness War Memorial.
It was an incredible day and well attended by local people.
Richard Emmett said “it is great news for Swale to win a national award and we would like to congratulate and thank our partners, volunteers and visitors for putting Swale on the map so well, for turning out in such numbers on an atrocious day and remembering these unsung heroes in the Great War. HRGS was delighted to be a part of the event and responded to a request by Kent Community Rail Partnership for information and supplied the research and agreed to coordinate The Forum displays and the Sittingbourne end of the project, whilst providing additional expertise where needed.”
Linda Brinklow. the then chair of Swale Rail Community Rail Partnership, co-ordinated events on the Isle of Sheppey.
The Kent Community Rail Partnership (KCRP) were given a glass crystal award and a framed certificate.
Sue Murray, chair of KCRP, was “absolutely delighted” with the result, “as it provided a thought provoking event which highlighted the role that railways and ambulance trains specifically, played during WW1.”