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Beacons being lit in Newington and across Kent to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War

By KentOnline reporter
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By Ismail Khwaja

Dozens of beacons will be lit across Kent to commemorate 100 years since the guns fell silent and the First World War ended.

Hundreds of other councils, communities and other organisations throughout the UK will also be lighting beacons at 7pm today.

One of the Kent events will be in Newington – where an inland defence line was constructed by the Army in 1915 to halt an invading German army advancing on London.

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A specialist beacon has been commissioned for the village of Newington
A specialist beacon has been commissioned for the village of Newington

Sue Flipping from the Newington History Group, which is organising the 'Battles Over' tribute event in the village, said: “Newington was at the heart of inland defences during the First World War.

“Newington was absolutely central to that because it was on the A2, which was likely to be the road that would have been taken if the Germans did invade.

“Most people have seen pictures of the Somme. What people don’t realise is that it’s very similar to how Newington would have looked during the First World War with mile upon mile of deep trenches and barbed wire.

“It’s the only area in the country, we believe, where trenches were built for defensive purposes rather than purely for training. So it makes it very different.

“The beacon we’ll be lighting will be on one of the gunning placements on that in a ring of defences.”

The use of beacons refers to the words spoken by Britain’s former Foreign Minister, Sir Edward Grey, on 3rd August 1914.

It was dusk and he was looking out of his office window when the gas lights were being lit along London’s Mall, leading to Buckingham Palace, when he remarked to a friend, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Newington’s beacon has been specially commissioned, which is “larger than most and is of a fairly traditional design”.

Ms Flipping added: “The point about the beacon is that not that we as part of this community can see it, but that other people in other communities can see it.

“When we light it, it will be shining right across the Isle of Sheppey and other surrounding villages just to show people we are commemorating all those who fought and died in the First World War.”

For Newington, the community event starts at 6pm at St Mary’s Church and will include contributions by Newington School pupils, a WWI exhibition, music and a special churchyard light display.

The Royal Engineers, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Paul Auston and Swale's deputy mayor Cllr Ken Ingleton will be all be in attendance.

Other commemoration events taking place will include a service at Tenterden recreation ground at 6.40pm, which will be followed by the lighting of a beacon by the freeman of the town and founding member of the Tenterden Lions, Roger Champion – he’ll be assisted by freeman Dr Raymond Crawfurd, Mayor Cllr Pam Smith and Tenterden Lions president Mike Caridia.

Deputy Lieutenant Jacques Arnold will give a speech of remembrance at 6.45pm on the Tonbridge Castle lawn with commemorations concluding with the lighting of a beacon.

There will also be a quarter-peal at All Saints Church around 7pm aligning with the Staplehurst village beacon being lit.

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