WWI – Ampthill Command Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, January 1919

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.

January 1919 – A number of Ampthill girls have received their discharge from the Luton Munitions Works and quite a number have returned to their former employment as machinists. More are out of work and report daily to the local Labour Exchange and receive each week the Government allowance of 25′. The general opinion is that the girls will not return to service.

Corporal J. SMITH has ably organized a social in aid of the 1st Battalion, Beds Volunteer Regiment, Ampthill Detachment at the Drill Hall. Dancing commenced at 8pm and the evening closed at 1.30am. The music was provided by Mr. Norman Walker (violin) and Miss Walker (sister), piano. Further attractions were games and musical items. During the interval Lieutenant F.W. BRADSHAW made reference to Captain Howard SPENSLEY (of Westoning Manor) who was seriously injured on Thursday, January 16th when cycling to Ampthill and struck by a oncoming motor car, and everyone expressed hopes of his early recovery. Most of the Volunteers were present in full uniform.

On Monday, 27th the Volunteers were disbanded and all of their equipment was called in.

Rumours are current in town that it is contemplated shortly to form a German prisoner of war camp on the site of the Pine Woods. At the month end we clarified that the prisoners are to be held at the Bird in Hand Pub on Park Hill as the Canadian Camp has been taken over by the Board of Trade

Ampthill Command Depot

We understand that in all probability men at the Command Depot for treatment will be leaving at the end of the month. The staff will be staying on for a while, but there is no doubt that the end of the Command Depot is in sight, and the camp will soon be broken up. Allied to that, it has been requested that all accounts due by the Ampthill Command Depot be sent at once to the President of the Regimental Institutes, Ampthill Command Depot. It will not be long before a man in khaki will be quite a rare avis in Ampthill.

On the afternoon of Saturday, 4th January the Command Depot Football Team played ‘C’ Depot, Royal Engineers from Bedford. Corporal H. SMITH, Corporal WILKINSON and Private CHAPMAN all scored for the home side. The Royal Engineers also scored twice, and the whistle went leaving the Ampthill team the winners by 3 goals to 2. The Command Depot Football Team is now second down the league list.

On Thursday, 23rd the Command Depot Concert gave its last show. All concerts are now to be held in the Recreation Room instead of the Olympia Hall which is much too large for the small number of men who are still at the Depot. There are only about 60 men left at the Depot now.

News of Ampthill Boys 

Bandmaster T.M. TUNBRIDGE, son-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. A. Stanbridge of Melvern Villa in Ampthill, writes from Cambrai that he is well, and states that recently he took a walk amidst the ruins some miles from the town when he encountered an English nurse. By a strange coincidence it happened to be Nurse Mabel GASCOMBE, of Ampthill, who has for some years been engaged as a nurse in France. She was stationed at a military hospital in the neighbourhood.

Private A. BASS (Middlesex Regiment) who was in charge of the Drill Hall for some years during the existence of the Ampthill Training Depot, has had an eventful career. Joining up at the commencement of the war, he served for some time at the Ampthill Camp, and went out to France with an early draft. He came home wounded and was then transferred to the Middlesex Regiment. He was sent to India on board the transport “Tyndareus,” which was torpedoed off the East of Africa, and has been cited as a parallel to the historic “Birkenhead.” After some months service at Singapore, he was sent to Russia, and we now have news of him as part of Colonel John Ward‘s propaganda battalion in Russia

Private Claude FOSSEY (Middlesex Regiment) of Saunders Piece is home from Germany where he has been held as a prisoner of war for some time. Claude is one of five brothers serving with the forces, and has been wounded in action.

Private Arthur OSBORNE (King’s Rifles) of Saunders Piece is home after being kept as a prisoner-of-war. His 22 year old brother, Lance Corporal Leonard OSBORNE (London Regiment) has been missing since March 1918.

Private Sidney STAPLETON (Sherwood Foresters) of Woburn Street is home on leave recovering from a wound.

Private James UNDERWOOD (Machine Gun Corps) of Park Hill, who was formerly a member of the Ampthill Training Depot band and went to France in February 1918, has been appointed to the bagpipe band of the 2nd Battery M.G.C., now on the Rhine.

Lance Corporal Ernest WOODLAND (Bedfordshire Regiment) of Dunstable Street, who has been stationed at the Command Depot for some time, has received his discharged from the Army and is now at home. He went through the Dardanelles Campaign with the 1/5th Bedfords’ and was badly wounded in France. He has been playing in the Command Depot Olympia Hall Cinema Bijon Orchestra.

The following Ampthill boys have been discharged from the army:

  • Private Sydney H. LAKE (R.A.M.C.) of Park Street
  • Private Thomas A. LAMBERT (Bedfordshire Regiment)
  • Private Arthur G. ROBINSON M.M. (Hertfordshire Regiment) of Oliver Street
  • Private William A. STANBRIDGE (Bedfordshire Regiment) of Park Street
  • Private Charles P. STAPLES (Suffolk Regiment) of Arthur Street 

Source:

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

Ampthill Parish Magazine

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
Ancestry.com
The National Archives
British Newspaper Archive
Bedsatwar blog
Bedsathome blog

Ampthill’s Fallen – by John Hele (2014)

Www.bedfordshireregiment.co.uk

#IWMSTORIES

Next instalment to be published on 28 February 2019….

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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