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Sittingbourne historians plan Peace Day parade through High Street

Historians need help to re-enact a parade that took place 100 years ago in Sittingbourne to mark Peace Day in 1919 after the First World War.

The march will set off with the annual Armed Forces Day parade, on Saturday, June 29, which commemorates servicemen and women.

They will leave from the car park behind St Michael’s Church, Sittingbourne, at 10am heading through the High Street and finishing at the memorial in Central Avenue where doves will be released.

A picture of the original Milton Regis Peace Day Parade. Picture: Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne
A picture of the original Milton Regis Peace Day Parade. Picture: Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne

People are needed to carry banners with the names of 1,150 people from each parish who died fighting, including those who do not appear on war memorials.

Although fighting in the Great War stopped on November 11, 1918, it would take seven months before a formal treaty was signed in June 1919.

The Peace Day was originally celebrated the following month on July 19 in towns and villages around the country.

It has been organised by the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne (HRGS), based in The Forum’s Heritage Hub.

Richard Emmett, chairman of the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne
Richard Emmett, chairman of the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne

HRGS chairman Richard Emmett said: “As well as individuals to carry the banners, we are looking for adult-led groups or families to participate by dressing up as local people did 100 years ago.

“Costumes could include historical figures, characters from Dickens or the nation’s allies.

“Alternatively, come along carrying flags from the different nations or bring a decorated cycle - something that was very popular in processions 100 years ago.

“We have researched as fully as we can the social side of the war and the lives of those who died, so we have got a fairly good picture of what life was like.

“We have been able to give these men the appropriate respect and recognition.” Everyone will get a unique Peace Day Celebrations Centenary badge.

'Costumes could include historical figures, characters from Dickens or the nation’s allies' - Richard Emmett

The march is being backed by the Diocese of Canterbury and Archdeacon of Maidstone Stephen Taylor said: “This walk of reflection will allow us to honour those local men and women who died during the First World War.”

There were two processions held in Sittingbourne in July 1919, according to the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne.

The main procession was led by the Sittingbourne Paper Mill’s band.

It was followed by Captain Hedley Peters in full firefighter uniform, council members and representatives from the church.

Pupils from Sittingbourne schools came afterwards with their teachers waving flags.

Nurses from the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance were then followed by a fire engine decked with flags and flowers, pulled by two horses.

'We have been able to give these men the appropriate respect and recognition' - Richard Emmett

Local industries also took part, as did the volunteers of the War Hospital Supply Depot.

A smaller march in Milton was mostly made up of school children in costumes representing allies.

A project by the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne to study the town’s war memorials and people listed on them has seen 783 pictures documented.

The group has also held 105 community research sessions, found and logged 1,418 historical newspaper cuttings and collated 8,822 lines of data. There are now also 312 pictures of soldiers who died during battles.

Since the Heritage Hub in The Forum opened in January 2015, it has attracted about 26,000 visitors and volunteers have contributed more than 38,000 hours on the First World War centenary research and events.

The group has been contacted by at least 156 relatives of those who lost their lives fighting.

All the information has been kept and stored on a tablet. People are invited to add to it, if they have information about a relative.

Visit www.tinyurl.com/PeaceParade to register for free.

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

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