WWI – Ampthill Command Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, September 1917

The ‘Camp Diary’ provides an insight into the Bedfordshire Training Depot (1914-16) and No.9 Command Depot (1916-1919) that followed. Based on newspaper reports of the time.

September 1917 – on Thursday, 6th an audience of soldiers and civilians packed into the large and conduits Recreation Room at the Depot to be entertained by M Fred Hall’s party from Bedford. The concert opened with a pianoforte selection by Miss Lillie Lee. The boys of rank and file were not slow in taking up the choruses.

Two men – Private Jack Dougherty and Private Joe Galewski amused those assembled with a comic song and mystifying tricks. The singing of the National Anthem brought a very enjoyable evening to a close.

1917.09.07 BS

September 7, 1917

The Pines

The 126th Canadian Forestry Corps has erected a camp of tents on the Cooper’s Hill Plantation. A Captain Kenny is in charge. On September 5th reinforcements arrived in Ampthill which brings the Corps strength up to more than 180 men.

So great was the interest manifest in the operation on Cooper’s Hill that 4 policemen have be continually on the job to chase the people away from the falling trees.

The Corps has taken of the Bird in Hand pub on Park Hill which has bee untenanted for some 3 years. Work is underway to scrub and sweep this picturesque old inn.

News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

Eight Ampthill Camp recruits are among the casualties this month. Two of the boys – Private RALPH and Private ASHWELL – died in Turkey where they were serving with the 4th Battalion,  South Wales Borderers.

A further four were killed in action on September 20. We know that the 2nd Bedfords’ were in the trenches at Ypres. A party of fifty Bedfords took part in an early hours raid on the German line. The Commanding Officer’s report gives an account of what happened:

On the morning of 20th September 1917, Zero hour 5.40 a.m. the Battalion carried out 2 minor operations in conjunction with a general advance of the 2nd and 5th Armies. 

Captain William J. HOLBROOK MC and 2nd Lieutenant Thomas G. SEARLE MC were in command of a party consisting of 50 Other ranks, with orders to raid the Centre of Movement at O.12.c.25/70 for the purpose of collecting information, capturing Prisoners, Machine Guns and damaging Dug-outs. They were accompanied by a party of 8 Royal Engineers with blasting charges. The party on nearing their objective were fired on heavily both with Machine Guns and Rifles. This fire, so intense, and the wire discovered to be uncut, made further advance and return impossible. The party, among whom were several wounded, remained in shell-holes during the whole day and returned about 9 p.m. to our own line. Much valuable information was collected from this enterprise.” 

The Nominal Roll of Captain Holbrook names two Ampthill recruits – Private Charles ARNOTT and Private Alfred GREEN both of ‘A’ Company – who were killed during the raid.

Source: Bedfordshire Regiment, 2nd Battalion War Diary for September 20, 1917

  • Casualties

19714 Private Walter HUDSON (30) of Earith Killed in Action on September 14
12138 Private Victor J. RALPH of Christchurch Died in Turkey on September 16
12101 Private Walter ASHWELL (29) of Moggerhanger Died in Turkey on September 18
18932 Private Charles ARNOTT (24) of Hemel Hempstead Killed in Action on September 20
18721 Private Alfred GREEN (21) of Huntingdon Killed in Action on September 20
18024 Private Cecil R. HOLMES (24) of Bletsoe Killed in Action on September 20
23605 Private John R. NEWBURY (29) of Woburn Killed in Action on September 20
26786 Private Albert LANE (23) of Toddington Killed in Action on September 22

Source:

The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
The National Archives
Bedsatwar blog
Bedsathome blog

Report on the Activities of the 126 Company Canadian Forestry Corps. Ampthill 1917-18 (K.Fadden)
A Review of Activities with the 126th Company Canadian Forestry Corps while stationed at Ampthill, Bedfordshire, Eng. (Sgt H. Porter, 1918)

Www.bedfordshireregiment.co.uk

#IWMSTORIES

Next instalment to be published on 31 October 2017….

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

Care is taken to ensure accuracy – please accept my apologies if the content contains any errors.


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Proceeds will help to fund a book about the Ampthill Camp ~ profits to benefit the charity Combat Stress which was founded in 1919 to help WWI veterans deal with shell shock.

£6 (inc p&p). Please email hartleyhare135@gmail.com to order by PayPal or BACS transfer. The book is also available from Ampthill Town Council, The Hub and The Stationery Boutique in Ampthill while stocks last.

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