WWI – Ampthill Command Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, August 1918

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.

August 1918 – news has been received that Private Edward KEECH (M.G.C) of Church Street who is a prisoner of war in Germany. Private KEECH is thankfully well.

Cadet W. ODELL (Mercantile Navy) has returned home from South America after being torpedoed for a second time. His ship managed to reach port without sinking.

Mrs P. Daniell of Austin’s Lane who’s eldest son Private William DANIELL (20), was killed in action on July 13th, has received a letter from the Corporal in charge of the battalion runners, in which he sends the deepest sympathy of all his comrades, in her loss.

Ampthill Command Depot

On Thursday, August 8th the Warwick Repertory Company, from London, concluded a successful week’s entertainment at the Ampthill Command Depot. Their on-e-act sketches received an enthusiastic reception from a large audience. During the intervals the Depot’s Bijou Orchestra ably entertained.

On August 19th prizes were presented to the successful competitors at the shooting competition. Miss Sheila McCarthy. The special prize given by the Duchess of Bedford was won by Sergeant Instructor CHICKLEBOROUGH.

An open-air canteen in Mr Wingfield’s grounds has been started by some energetic ladies from the Wesleyan Chapel, who are kept very busy every evening. This is well patronised by the troops. An added attraction is Mr Wingfield’s collection of foreign animals which, although depleted, is still interesting to the Tommies.

Canadian Forestry Corps

The Ampthill mill has finished cutting timber. Shipments this month of lumber totalled 187,816fbm which is an increase on July of 67,671fbm. These were principally despatched to Northampton on loco T.C.2596. During August 80,831 linear foot of pitwood was consigned from Ampthill Station.

After spending nearly a year in Ampthill the 126th Forestry Corps is about to leave for Thetford. During their Ampthill stay they have made many friends, and now they are sorry to lose these boys from their midst. The officers and men will always be remembered. Early each morning we have been awakened by the Reveille, and Last Post each night signalled the close of another day. Probably the centre of the social life has been the Y.M.C.A. hut, where we have been privileged to spend many a pleasant evening. Each week we have listened to a good concert or watched their pictures.

Sergeant Herman L. Porter, who has been in charge of the Y.M.C.A. has put in every effort to make the work a success, and to him is largely due the credit for the splendid work done for the men in the social way. Although he came here broken in health after being wounded and gassed in France, he never spared himself when anything was to be done for the men. Ably assisted by his corporal, V.G. Jones, his work has been a success. While there Sergeant Porter has written a book on the work of the company.

On August 8th a special farewell gathering was held at The Pines Y.M.C.A. which taxed the seating capacity of the hut to its utmost. During the interval speeches Commanding Officer Captain P.H.JORY, Lieutenant J.H. GARDNER and Sergeant H.L. Porter spoke of the good work of the Y.M.C.A. and sincerely thanked the Ampthill ladies who had done such good service in the Canteen and the social work of the “Y.” Parlour games and dancing kept the guests amused and interested until a successful evening was closed with “Auld Lang Syne.”

On Friday, August 16th a Farewell Entertainment was given to the Foresters at the British School. The Company Pierrot troupe, “The Woodpeckers,” entertained at the close of which Mrs Chivers (on behalf of the committee) presented Lieutenant Read with a mascot in the form of a large blue and yellow bird. Accepting the gift, Lieutenant Reed thanked the donors and assured them that the mascot would accompany the troupe on their journeys. A very pleasing incident was a presentation by Lieutenant Reed, on behalf of the boys, to the newly promoted Lieutenant H. Porter for his splendid work as sergeant in charge of the Y.M.C.A. That he was a great favourite with the boys was shown by the gift of a wristlet watch, engraved with the words “Presented to Sergt. H. Porter, by the Coy. of Canadian Forestry Corps, as a token of appreciation.

The Woodpeckers have been instrumental in raising sums for charity. The proceeds of their amusing and melodious entertainment has raised the following sums since the 126th Corps arrived in August 1917 –

The Prisoners’ of War Fund (Sandy & Biggleswade)  £84. 14. 8.
Flitwick War Memorial                                                    £28.
Sandy V.A.D. Hospital                                                       £16. 12. 10.

The sentiments of the townsfolk were ably expressed by Mr C. Richards who said “in the first place the Ampthill people did not want the Canadians and they were still consistent in that they did not want them – to go.” A very pleasant evening then ended by Mrs Chivers being called upon to sing “O, Canada,” followed by “Auld Lang Syne” and “God Save the King.”

It seems likely that when the Canadians depart the Command Depot will utilise the huts encampment which is on The Pines.

News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

This month the war has claimed the lives of 24 men who trained at the Ampthill Camp. Of these, 20 died in the actions from 20th August in offensive operations that were part of the Second Battles of the Somme.


The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.

Ampthill Parish Magazine
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
The National Archives
Bedsatwar blog
Bedsathome blog
Red Cross
Ampthill’s Fallen – by John Hele (2014)

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)



Next instalment to be published on 30 September 2018….

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

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

Ampthill Armistice100

November 2018 – it will be one hundred years since news of The Armistice rippled through Bedfordshire, and was welcomed with thankful relief. Hostilities ceased but the war continued to shaped Ampthill in ways which have passed out of living memory.

Ampthill Town Council is leading preparations to build on Tommy’s Footprints and mark the Armistice centenary. Click here to download a copy of the programme.

As part of Ampthill Armistice100, the Zonita Ampthill Community Cinema is pleased to show a double-bill of films on the evening of Saturday, 10th November:

Film 1 ~ The Burying Party (12A; 60 mins)
For release on 4th November 2018 and being shown with special permission of the director. Wilfred Owen returns to the Somme against the advice of his mentor Siegfried Sassoon, determined to follow his subject ‘The Pity of War’ to the very end.
Watch the trailer

Film 2 ~ Journey’s End (12; 108 mins)
Set in a dugout in Aisne in 1918, a group of British officers, led by the mentally disintegrating young officer Stanhope, variously await their fate.
Watch the trailer

You can buy tickets on the door, or reserve tickets and tables (at no extra charge) by emailing info@zonita.org.uk. Fully licensed bar.


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Please email Stephen Hartley if you would like to know more about Ampthill Armistice100 or volunteer.


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