Modern technology is helping us to reconnect with Tonbridge’s past

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A NEW mobile app is giving people the chance to turn back the clock in Tonbridge and take a guided tour around the town as it was a century ago.

Entitled 100 Miles for 100 Years, the app has been developed by Kent WW1 – a project that aims to tell the story of the people and towns of Kent during the global conflict.

But from the enthusiasm and fact-finding of local historian Pam Mills, Tonbridge was the first town to have its trail incorporated into the app, with it going live last week [Monday May 22].

Along with researcher Dave Swarbrick, she collected photographs and newspaper articles from 100 years ago to produce evidence of what Tonbridge was like during the war in which 3,000 men signed up to serve their country [a fifth of the town’s 15,000 strong population at the time].

There are 37 stops on the tour around the town including the site of the old Corn Exchange on Bank Street which became the Drill Hall where the men lined up to enlist in the Royal West Kent regiment in 1914.

Then head to Tonbridge School to discover that more than 2,000 alumni served in The Great War, with 415 killed in action.

One of these was Henry Webber, Britain’s oldest known combatant. Born in Tonbridge in 1849, Webber went into conflict at the age of 67 in 1915 after a series of official refusals due to him being more than 20 years over the age limit.

Eventually he joined the 7th South Lancs battalion where his comrades were unaware of his true age until his commanding officer reportedly discovered that his father had rowed with him at Oxford five decades earlier. He died on the front line near Mametz Wood at the Somme on July 21, 1916.

To hear more stories such as this, download the 100 Miles for 100 Years app on your mobile device and choose the Tonbridge trail.

Pam Mills said: “The WW1 route will take people back in time to learn about places and people 100 years ago so you can see what a fascinating and historic town Tonbridge is.”

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