02/04/14 Touch Wud – a 100 year-old charm brought to life

The fascinating tale of a First World War good luck charm will be brought to life by Folkestone educational charity Step Short later this month. 

Touch Wud was a silver charm given by some sweethearts to soldiers who were leaving for war during the 1914-18 conflict. The charms had arms that could be made to touch their wooden heads – which led to the “Touch Wood” superstition still in use today. 

Step Short’s Nikki Emden has taken the story of the charm and created a life-sized cartoon character, Private TW Sweetheart, who will be used to teach local youngsters about the war and its connections with Folkestone. 

He will be unveiled at a First World War-themed event at Sainsbury’s in Park Farm, Folkestone, over the weekend of 26 and 27 April. 

“Step Short wants to help youngsters understand a little more about the important part Folkestone played in the First World War and Private TW Sweetheart is one way in which we want to engage them,” explained Trustee Mark Simmons.

Children will be able to dress up as nurses or First World War “Tommies” and have their picture taken with Private TW Sweetheart. 

Pupils from Folkestone Girls School will set up a First World War nursing station, where youngsters will be able to learn how casualties were looked after, and the launch event will also feature a wartime ambulance.  

Other re-enactors and music from the period will help to set the scene and there will be a small display of historic items, as well as a book signing, a balloon race and 100 giveaways on both days. 

The children will also be invited to enter a competition designed to inspire them to think about the part Folkestone played in the First World War and talk to their grandparents and great-grandparents about those times. 

Depending on their age, children will be invited to colour or draw a picture or write a story. To help inspire them, they will be encouraged to think about some of the people who passed through the harbour at Folkestone on their way to or from the Western Front between 1915 and 1919.  

The names of more than 43,500 soldiers, nurses, politicians and others who passed through the port has recently been uploaded to the website at www.stepshort.co.uk. More local news at the Kent newsdesk.