The Harbour Canteen, which stood on the harbour during the First World War, served refreshments to the troops on their way out to France. For many of those about to board ship, the cafe would have offered a welcome final cuppa before the journey to foreign lands.
What makes the canteen so special from a historical perspective is that an estimated 42,000 of the soldiers who stopped at the canteen signed visitors’ books that were rediscovered a few years ago by local historian Charles Fair.
Step Short has now scanned all eight of the books and is in the process of transcribing every single entry, throwing up some fascinating material in the process. The books are due to be put on line and made available to historians and family researchers within the next few months and will form a fascinating and unique record of those times. Access to the books will be free, but there will be a small charge to use an indexing facility that will make it easier for researchers to make the best use this superb resource.