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Prince Harry unveils Step Short memorial arch to commemorate the start of the First World War and Kent's fallen heroes

By Matt Leclere

Thousands of people lined the streets in Folkestone today honouring the millions of men who sacrificed their lives as Britain marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

During one of the most significant and poignant days in Folkestone’s history, Prince Harry, wearing the No 1 Dress of the Blues and Royals, arrived at 11.30am to officially open the new memorial arch at the top of The Leas.

Prince Harry at the WW1 centenary commemoration at Folkestone harbour last year

A parade of 1,000 military personnel led by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas and civilians behind the Folkestone Pipers and Drummers marched along The Leas from The Grand to the new arch ahead of a short commemoration service with Prince Harry laying a wreath at the war memorial.

He then took the salute before joining the parade down the Road of Remembrance to the harbour - a route which millions of men took before departing from Folkestone harbour on their way to the Western Front - meeting members of the public and chatting to spectators with some trying to grab the perfect opportunity for a selfie.

Veterans at the WW1 centenary commemoration

Kelisha Marsh, six, from Folkestone, who goes to Morehall Primary School was one of the lucky few he stopped to talk topic. She said “it was a bit scary but really nice” to talk to the prince. Other spectators commented on how friendly he was and took an interest in what the children said to him.

He then spoke with military personnel from the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force as well as cadets at the harbour including veterans.

Among them was Stanley Hodge, 88, president of the Normandy Veterans Association who was, for the first tine, undertaking the march in a wheelchair.

He said: “I have always walked it but this year thought it would be a bit too much.”

Mr Hodge, who was in The Dorset Regiment and in the first wave of landings on Gold Beach in 1944, said Harry was “eyeing up” his impressive range of medals.

“It was an honour to meet him,” he added.

The Prince observed as 600 balloons each with a poppy and the name of a casualty inscribed on them were released from the harbour drifting out to sea towards Belgium, where thousands of troops ended up fighting.

For full coverage and a special 10-page report on the commemorations see this week's Folkestone & Hythe Express.

Follow our live coverage as it happened (starting from the bottom):

Prince Harry in uniform earlier this year Picture: Arthur Edwards/The Sun

13.12: Well that's it - we'll leave you with pictures of balloons being released over Folkestone to mark the WW1 anniversary

Balloons are released to mark the anniversary of the outbreak of WWI

12.44: Prince Harry meets a veteran during his visit to Folkestone

Prince Harry meets a veteran

12.16: Here's how Whitstable's been marking the anniversary of the start of the First World War

11.56: Here's a picture of the Prince arriving

Prince Harry arriving ahead of the ceremony

11.55: The two-minutes' silence is under way

11.46: Damian Collins MP - "This site is very special. Folkestone was the port from which millions of servicemen made their journey to the harbour; to France; to the trenches of the Western Front. Many would have marched through this site."

11.39: Prince Harry has now officially unveiled the arch

11.36: Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins is addressing the gathered dignitaries and forces personnel

11.35: Prince Harry's inspecting the troops now - he's wearing the number one dress of the Blues and Royals

11.35: In total, 1,000 marchers have been taking part

11.34: Around 800 veterans and civilians - led by Folkestone Pipes and Drums - are taking part in today's proceedings

11.30: Prince Harry's arrived!

11.29: Service personnel take part in the commemoration

Uniformed officers taking part in the commemoration

11.28: The military parade has been led by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas, and includes members of the three uniformed services.

11.20:Here's the war memorial where Prince Harry will be laying the wreath

The war memorial at Folkestone ahead of Prince Harry's visit

11.04: Don't forget to follow our coverage - we've got reporters and photographers on the scene throughout the commemoration

11.00: Here's the parade making its way to the new memorial

The parade makes its way through Folkestone

10.54: If you missed it earlier, here's what today's all about

10.53: The march is under way!

10.53: We're hearing 600 balloons with poppies on them will be released later

10.50: A very thought-provoking image of the Road of Remembrance this morning

Poppies line the Road of Remembrance leading up to the memorial arch. Picture: Kent Police Roads

10.45 - In case we forget, here's what today's visit's all about

10.40: Here's how the excitement's already building ahead of today's royal visit:

kmfm's Jo Earle speaks to those gathering ahead of the royal visit

10.35: We've taken this first picture of the memorial arch in all its glory today

The arch ahead of the royal visit by Prince Harry to mark the start of the First World War

10.30: Kent's set to mark the start of the First World War with a unique visit by Prince Harry - and the crowds are already starting to arrive.

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