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Jon Gater, of Sandwich, to go on sponsored walk from Folkestone for ancestor, Somme soldier Ernest Holwell.

By Sam Lennon

A descendant of a Battle of the Somme soldier is taking part in a sponsored walk to commemorate the battle’s centenary.

Ernest Holwell survived the fighting, and his great-grandson, Jon Gater , will now do the British Red Cross walk.

It was the Red Cross that had helped Pte Holwell when he was a prisoner of war.

Somme soldier Pte Ernest Holwell , an ancestor or Jon Gater.

Mr Gater, 33, said: “I’m donating all the money I raise to the Red Cross. Their International Family Tracing service is bringing together families separated by war today, just as they helped my family 100 years ago.”

Mr Gater’s walk begins at the Step Short Memorial Arch on The Leas.

He will walk with a group of friends all over Kent, taking a single step for every soldier killed or wounded in the battle.

Between them that will be 1 million steps or 400 miles.

Jon Gater - on a sponsored walk from the Folkestone Memorial Arch to commemorate the Somme.

Mr Gater said: “It’s going to be a challenge but I wanted to take part in an act of commemoration that would really help me to understand the scale of this loss of life.”
He will do the first leg of the walk next Tuesday, leaving at 9.30am, and will do further stints over the next four months.

Other members of his group will join him at different stages. Walkers will do one to four legs of 10 miles each until they have covered 400 miles.

Not all the routes are planned but most will be around the Kent coast.

Mr Gater is a part-time firefighter based at Wingham, and a training manager with the Red Cross.

The British Red Cross Walk to Remember the Battle of the Somme starts today, the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle.

Different groups will take part at different times during the battle’s four-month anniversary period.

People can choose how far to walk, where and when.

n For more information about the walk, visit redcross.org.uk, go to the website’s Get Involved section and choose “challenges and social events” and then “walks and treks”

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