The Friendly Army consists of six sited sculptures that trace the historical connections of the East Kent Railway to the First World War and mark the thresholds and crossings between the remaining line and its surrounding landscape. The sculptural pioneers guard and survey the tracks, visually re-establish the former links with the East Kent collieries, and guide visitors and passers-by along a sequence of selected stations and situations. Constructed out of materials found on site the sculptures were built together with the EKR volunteers. The Friendly Army was permanently placed at EKR Eythorne in spring 2016.
The sculpture is inspired by the war horses that were transported on the East Kent Railway line to Hammill (Woodnesborough) Colliery during World War 1. Shortly after the outbreak of the war the Hammill site was taken over by the Army for a cavalry remount unit, and horses were stabled in the colliery buildings before being deployed to the front. In total, more than one million British horses were sent overseas and just over 60,000 returned. Dragoon also alludes to the heraldic dragon of the Buffs Royall East Kent Regiment. Many of the fallen commemorated on the war memorials in the towns and villages in East Kent served with the Buffs in the First World War.
The sculpture translates the EKR crossing signs along the tracks into three-dimensional elements. Placed along Shepherdswell Road at the first farmers crossing after the Golgotha Tunnel, it alludes to wayside and conciliation crosses, and pays tribute to the war memorials in Shepherdswell, Eythorne and other villages in the Dover District.
The vertical form of the sculpture is derived from the chimneys and headgear structures of the collieries that were served by the East Kent Railway. During World War 1 miners were employed to tunnel and plant explosives beneath enemy lines. Tower is placed along the public footpath, which leads walkers along the remains of the collieries and mining villages of the East Kent Coalfield.
Owing to the strategically important connection to the London-Dover main line the East Kent Railway was taken over by the Army in both, the First and Second World War. Mounted at the farmers crossing in Eythorne, Organ recalls the muzzles of the Howitzer railway guns that were stationed at the sidings at Eythorne and Shepherdswell in World War 2.
The sculpture references the sound locators that preceded radar technology. Acoustic location was used from mid-WW1 to the early years of WW2 for the passive detection of enemy aircraft by picking up the noise of the engines. A few remaining concrete sound mirrors can still be found along the Kent coast. The two metal tubes of Receiver are EKR water pipes and date from the 1910s. They originally connected the water well to the storage tank in The Knees woods at Shepherdswell, and lead to the water towers along the tracks. The pipes now act as listening devices channelling the ambient soundscape at Eythorne Station.
The winged sculpture takes its inspiration from the German airplanes that flew via Shepherdswell to Dover during the last Moonlight Raid on England in the night of the 19th to the 20th of May 1918. The statue is placed on the surviving brick abutment of Wigmore Lane Bridge, which once continued to Tilmanstone Colliery. Pegasus marks the northern end of the remaining East Kent Railway line.