Category Archives: Soldier Stories

31524 Private Ernest Rogers of Langford 

The Ampthill Camp Memorial names 707 men who trained at the Ampthill Camp and were killed in WWI. Examining the Roll of Honour for Langford I found an Ampthill recruit who isn’t named on the bronze plaques of the Ampthill Camp Memorial – Private Ernest Rogers of 12, Station Rd in Langford. Ernest’s Service Record is one of those that survived WWII German bombing in 1940 and confirms the link.

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(all images © Crown Copyright)

Ernest Rogers was a 19 year old farm labourer from Langford. On November 17, 1915 Ernest Rogers went to the Bedfordshire Training Depot and attested before Major Nelson (Adjutant). Dr Garner did the medical examination. Private 23344 Rogers trained at the Ampthill Camp until he was transferred on April 12, 1916 to the Machine Gun Corps, 8th Battalion and his Military Service Number changed to 31524.

On September 25 Ernest was posted to France where he joined the Machine Gun Corps, 89 Company.

On March 20, 1917 Private Rogers was wounded in action – a gunshot wound to the neck/shoulder. Ernest was brought back to the UK and spent some time being rehabilitated at the Alnwick Command Depot. In October 1917 he returned to the Front as a Machine Gunner where he served with the 5th Battalion. On April 23, 1918 Ernest was injured again – a shrapnel wound to the knee and a and leg fracture. Private Ernest Rogers died one week later at the 39th Stationary Hospital. He is buried in the Aire Communal Cemetery and remembered on the Memorial Clock Tower in Langford

Research has found five more Ampthill Park recruits who fell during the Great War and are not named on the Ampthill Camp Memorial. There may well be more. This no great surprise because men were transferred from the Bedfords’ to reinforce other regiments. News of those casualties may not have filtered back to the Ampthill Camp.

Source:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
Ancestry.co.uk
The National Archives

#IWMSTORIES

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

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

2nd Lieutenant Alfred K. Setchell

Alfred Knight SETCHELL was born on February 12, 1898 in Bedford. The only son of Mr & Mrs Arthur Setchell, Alfred attended Bedford Modern School where he served in the Officer Training Corps (O.T.C.).

On June 3, 1916, aged 18 years and 4 months, Alfred attested at Ampthill as 29967 Private Setchell and was posted to the Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Great Park. On July 25 he was appointed Lance Corporal and on October 28 posted to the Ampthill Command Depot, shortly after it opened.

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On May 5, 1917 Alfred was posted to undertake training at No.3 Officer Cadet Battalion in Bristol and then discharged (August 28) on being appointed to a command with the 9th Norfolks’ as a 2nd Lieutenant (temporary).

On March 21, 1918 2nd Lieutenant Setchell was wounded in action and recorded as ‘missing.’

Mr Arthur Setchell (father) was Secretary of the Discharged Prisoner’s Aid Society in Bedford. Mr Setchell refused to accept, without evidence, that ‘missing’ meant that his son was dead, and so he exchanged letters with the War Office up to and after the armistice. Mr Setchell’s persistence glimpsed the fate of his son – a witness account and sketch by a Captain William Arnott (R.A.M.C.) who recalled 2nd Lieutenant Setchell at the 18th Field Ambulance Advanced Dressing Station in the Cambrai region; Alfred was had a serious chest wound. Later that day German troops over ran the dugout and Captain Arnott handed the wounded officer into the care of a Prussian Guards Division’ Doctor, who took charge. Contact was lost with 2nd Lieutenant Setchell and two other British wounded who were left in the dugout.

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The War Office made efforts to locate 2nd Lieutenant Setchell, but his fate and resting place are unknown.

A December 23, 1919 War Office minute records that “No further information has been received [about 2nd Lieutenant A.K. Setchell], and in view of the lapse of time since he was reported as Missing, his death has been accepted for official purposes as having occurred on or since 21st March, 1918.

2nd Lieutenant Alfred K. SETCHELL is remembered at Arras, on the Duke of Bedford War Memorial in Ampthill Great Park and is named on the memorial stones at Bedford Modern School and Bedford St. Peters Church. 

Source:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
Ancestry.com
The National Archives

Www.bedfordshireregiment.co.uk
#IWMSTORIES

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

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

Private Walter L.J. Sawyer

Walter Leslie James Sawyer came from the Bedfordshire village of Little Barford. One of four children, Walter was a farm labourer.

Walter enlisted in St.Neots and arrived at Ampthill Training Camp on the May 21,
1915. He was assigned 20643 Private W.L.J. Sawyer and posted to No.1 Company at the training camp. On August, 25 Walter transferred to No.2 Company. In the October Walter and Ada J. Norman married in St.Neots.

Private Sawyer was drafted to join the 6th Bedfordshire Regiment. On July 15, 1916 Walter (23) was killed in action at The Somme, possibly at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge. The Bedfordshire Regiment War Diary for that day states:

15 Jul 1916 – Attack on POZIERES by 112th Bde. from trenches S. of CONTALMAISON, Bde. held up by hostile machine guns, established itself about 100 yds from the lisiere [comment; 200 yards south of the Pozieres village boundary] & dug in. Casualties (3 Offs Killed, 32 O.R. Killed) (25 missing) (9 Offrs. Wounded, 174 O.R. Wounded). 

Records show that the battalion sustained 330 casualties that day, once the final reckoning was concluded. Source: Bedfordshire  Regiment War Diary

Walter had been married for barely nine months and much of this would have been spent abroad.

Walter was awarded three campaign medals: the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.

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WWI Campaign Medals (typical)

20643 Private W.L.J. Sawyer is buried at the Pozieres British Cemetery in the Somme Region of France. Walter is also remembered at St. Deny’s Church, Little Barford. The Parish Roll shows that twenty-nine men served in the Great War; seven did not return.

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Walter’s family received a memorial bronze plate. In November 2016 I happened on the memorial plate which came with its original cardboard box and letter from the King.

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Source:

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

Www.bedfordshireregiment.co.uk

©S.Hartley (2016-)


BUY: Stencilling Tommy’s Footprints

This 48 page book tells the story of how Tommy’s Footprints came about and notes the many people who have contributed and connected. There are just 150 individually numbered books. A unique Christmas gift.

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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.

 

WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – the Redmans of Gravenhurst

Stephen T. and Charles Redman were cousins who worked as farm labourers; their families lived in Upper Gravenhurst. Both enlisted at Bedford to volunteer their service for King and  Country. The Redman boys had consecutive service numbers which means that they attested together.

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Source: The National Archive

On October 23, 1915 Stephen and Charles arrived at the Bedfordshire Training Depot, Ampthill and were assigned to No.3 Company.

Private 22790 Stephen Redman joined the 4th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment and was later promoted to Lance Corporal.

Private 22791 Charles Redman was drafted on July 10, 1916 to join the 8th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment and rose to the rank of Corporal. He was wounded in action and died on December 5, 1916 aged 23 years. Charles was laid to rest at the Gorre Cemetery in France.

Two months later on February 8, 1917 his cousin Stephen (20) was killed in action. He is remembered on the war memorial at Thiepval in the Somme region of France.

Stephen and Charles both received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

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Stephen and Charles Redman are remembered on the war memorial at St. Giles’ Church, Upper Gravenhurst.

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St Giles’ Churchyard

 


4022 Private W.G. Redman

A third Redman is remembered on the war memorial at St. Giles Church. Walter George Redman is the older cousin of Charles and Stephen Redman. We know that Walter didn’t train at the Ampthill Camp. On January 14, 1915 he was draft the East Surrey Regiment in Belgium. On Monday, February 14th – exactly one month later – Walter (30) went missing in action. Walter was awarded the 1915 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres.

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Source:

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

Www.bedfordshireregiment.co.uk

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

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


BUY: Stencilling Tommy’s Footprints

This 48 page book tells the story of how Tommy’s Footprints came about and notes the many people who have contributed and connected. There are just 150 individually numbered books. A unique Christmas gift.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – The Steppingley boys

Steppingley is a small, quiet village surrounded by farmland which is part of the Duke of Bedford’ Woburn Estate. In 1914 the Duke established the Bedfordshire Training Depot in nearby Ampthill Park. Steppingley boys heeded the call and were among the first enlist.

Six men are named on the brass WWI Memorial Plaque in St.Lawrence’s Church, Steppingley. Four of these trained at the Ampthill Camp. Most of the boys lived in the Duke’s Cottages along Rectory Road.

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On November 9, 1914 Thomas Rogers (Rabbit Warrener) and John Battams (Stockman) enlisted together with John’s younger brother, Walter Battams (Farm Labourer). They were given consecutive service numbers.

17710 Private John William Battams
17711 Private Walter Battams
17712 Private Thomas Rogers

Harry Gibbons (Farm Labourer) enlisted the very next day and was assigned 17743.

The four Steppingley boys would have known each other well. They joined the Ampthill Camp when it first opened and would have used the Warren Woods entrenching ground. In June 1915 the soldiers were drafted to the Front.

Arthur Norris (Railway Porter) joined in January 1916 and was assigned the service number 27675. The 1911 Census shows Arthur residing in Lower Stondon where he had gone for work.

The boys served with the Bedfords’. However, little is known of the specifics because 30 years later many of the British Army service records were destroyed in the Blitz.


17710 Private John William Battams
John Battams trained with No.1 Company at the Ampthill Camp. We know that Private John Battams saw action on September 25, 1915 with the 2nd Bedfords’ at the Battle of Loos. This was the first time that the British Artillery used gas. Sadly, on the first day of battle John (22) was killed by a shell during the British attack on Hulluch. In November 1915 the Battams family attended a memorial at St.Lawrence’s Church. The flag flew at half-mast. John is remembered in Steppingley Church and on the Loos Memorial.

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17711 Private Walter Battams
Walter Battams trained with No.1 Company at the Ampthill Camp. Following training was posted to 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment.

Walter was injured at least twice and gassed. On June 14, 1916 Walter sustained an injury  to the tissue of left hand and was admitted to 1st Service Hospital Rouen – discharged to base depot at Harfleur on June 28, 1916. In May 1918 he was gassed and then on August 7th Walter was shot in the neck.

Walter’s conduct record shows that he was a gallant fellow who was brought to notice on a number occasions. On June 7, 1917 Walter was awarded the Military Medal his brave actions during the taking of Messines Ridge, and in August 1918 was awarded a Bar to the Military Medal. To place Walter’s actions in context only seven of 707 men named on the Duke of Bedford War Memorial were decorated with the Military Medal.

Thankfully, Walter survived the Great War and was demobilized in April 1919, returning to Steppingley. In September 1921 he married Kate Oliver. Kate (52) died in 1950 and is buried in St.Lawrence’s graveyard. In 1983 Walter (88) was buried alongside.

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17712 Lance Corporal Thomas Rogers

Thomas Rogers was raised to Lance Corporal on February 9, 1915. Posted on June, 22 1915 with the Bedfords’ 2nd Battalion. In Autumn 1915 Thomas was wounded – an ugly gunshot wound to the neck. On July 11, 1916 Thomas saw action with the Bedfords’ at Trone Wood in the Somme region. The wood become the scene of a violent and costly struggle. The war diary reports ‘unexpectedly encountering a trench complex and machine guns.’

Captain Frank Sloan MC, one of the training staff at the Ampthill Training Depot, was also posted to the 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment. He was present at the battle for Trones Wood and later wrote to the Duke of Bedford describing aspects of the battle.

‘We had a terrific struggle in the Bois de Trones. I saw no mention of it in the papers. One reads glowing accounts of the 7th Royal West Kents in the wood. Our battalion reached the north end of the wood three days before at a time when there wasn’t a British position or a British soldier in the wood. 1100yds long our battalion attacked the wood alone on the morning of the 10th in four waves and we held it until we were relieved 48 hours after. We suffered heavily, 376 men and 5 officers. We were the first to get to a 9.2 howitzer gun in the north of the wood and the name of the regiment is carved on it, we may get it for the town.”

As published by Woburn Abbey (February 2014)

Sixteen Ampthill recruits who were killed that day – more. Thomas (34) was one of the casualties. He left a wife, Fanny, and three young children, Mabel, Horace and Ruby. After Thomas was killed the family wore black for 6 weeks to mourn his death. Thomas is buried in the Dive Copse Cemetery and remembered in Steppingley Church.

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Photographs used with kind permission of A.T. Rogers (Grandson)


25675 Serjeant Arthur Frederick Owen Norris

In 1914 Arthur Norris was living away in Lower Stondon. On January  26, 1916 Arthur joined the Ampthill Camp and was posted to No.3 Company. On completion of training he was drafted to join the 4th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment. We know that in April 1917 Arthur sustained gun shot wounds to the left leg and was admitted to hospital in St Omer. Arthur recovered and was returned to active service.

Serjeant Arthur Norris (23) served with in the 4th Bedfords’ at the Second Battle of Ypres and on October 30, 1917 was killed in action. Arthur made Battlefield Will leaving his money in the Post Office Savings Bank and all of his possessions to his mother, Kate Norris, of Flitwick Lodge. Arthur is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, in St.Lawrence’s Church and on the Flitwick War Memorial.

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Flitwick War Memorial


17743 Corporal Harry Gibbons

We know that Private 76192 Harry Gibbons was with the Middlesex Regiment before he joined the Bedfords’. Harry was given a new service number, 17743, and was at the Training Depot for nearly seven months, assigned to No.1 Company. On June 9, 1915 he was posted to the 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment in France. Whilst with this Battalion he was admitted to hospital twice. The first time Harry was suffering with bronchitis. On September 3, 1916 he then received a gunshot wound to the back.

On his return from hospital in Bologne Harry  transferred to the 4th Battalion. Harry went into battle at Moeuvres, France, during the Hundred Day Offensive in 1918. On September 27th the Allied Forces advanced towards the Hindenburg support Line – the last major defensive position taken up by the German Army in the war. In capturing their objective Corporal Harry Gibbons (23) was killed. He is buried at Moeuvres Cemeterymore.


Two other Steppingley boys are named on the memorial plate in St.Lawrence’s Church.

G/60786 Private Herbert Brightman

Herbert Brightman lived at No. 57 Duke’s Cottages, Steppingley. His trade was a Hatblocker. Herbert attested on May 11, 1916 and joined the Royal Fusiliers (London Regiment). We know that a H.Brightman trained at the Ampthill Camp but this is a different soldier – 23316 Private Herbert Brightman – who came from Dunstable.

Private Herbert Brightman (29) was killed in action on March 28, 1918. Herbert is buried in  the Mesnil Communal Cemetry, France.

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242223 Private Hector Stanley Warner

Stanley Warner lived at No.31 Duke’s Cottages, Steppingley.  He was a farm labourer. Hector attested on September 27, 1916 and joined the Sherwood Foresters (Nottingham & Derby) Regiment. We know that Hector served with the 24th Battalion.

Private Hector Warner (20) was killed in action on October, 17 1918 just three weeks before the Armistice. Hector is buried in the Busigny Communal Cemetry, France.

 

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Sources:

The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
Bedsatwar blog
Bedsathome blog
Bedfordshire Regiment
Flitwick: A story of Two World Wars (Phillip Thompson, 2014)
Thank you to Angela & Terry Hughes, Tony & Joan Rogers, Ian Church, Steve Fuller and Nicola Evans.

©S.Hartley (2016-)

 

WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – 2nd Lieutenant Collisson

Evelyn E. A. Collisson (1893-1916) was born in the village of Haynes in Bedfordshire. In 1896 the family moved to The Rectory in Gravenhurst. His father, Cambridge University scholar the Rev. Thomas Collisson, was Rector of St. Mary’s Church, Lower Gravenhurst and Vicar of St. Giles’ Church, Upper Gravenhurst.

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The Collisson Family (1905)

After being educated at the Boxgrove School, Guildford and at Aldenham School Evelyn chose to enter business life over University. He joined the firm of Gibbs & Sons and was sent to Valparais in Chile. Evelyn had been a Sergeant in the Army Officer Training Corps. On the outbreak of war he volunteered for service and made his way by mule back across the Andes to Buenos Aires. From there Evelyn travelled home aboard the Nelson Line’ Highland Rover. The steamer docked on December 28th, 1914 at the Port of London.

On February 13, 1915 Evelyn joined the Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park as a 2nd Lieutenant where he trained with the recruits.

 

In November 1915 2nd Lieutenant Collisson was posted to join the 2nd Bedfords’ at the Front. He was to receive a Headquarters Staff appointment.

Evelyn served with ‘A’ Company in the Somme region near Maricourt. Wednesday, February 23rd 1916 was a cold, snowy day. At 12:15pm he was killed in action by a single sniper round to the head, and died instantly. Evelyn (22) was buried in the Maricourt in France, the officiating priest being the Rev. G.R. Vallings, Chaplain of the 1/7th Gordon Highlanders. His resting place was marked with an iron cross with a Bedfords’ badge attached to it. Here is the list of personal effects:

E.Collisson telegram

Telegram

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Peronal Effects

On the afternoon of Friday, March 10th the Rev. C. Dickenson, Chaplain to the Duke of Bedford’s Ampthill Camp, led a memorial service at St. Giles’ Church. The mourners included the Rev. T. and Mrs. Collisson, family, friends and parishioners. The Duke of Bedford, twenty of the officers including Majors Nelson, Stevens and Young, Dr Garner, ten non-commissioned officers, and men from the Ampthill Camp attended to pay their respects. The Union Jack flew at half-mast from the Church tower, and a muffled peal on the bells was rung at the close of the service.

e-collisson-obituary

March 17, 1916

The impact and strain on the Rev. and Mrs. Collisson are unimaginable. How to support parishioners in difficult times when their son had been killed by the very same? In July 1916 the Collisson family moved to the village of Swyre, much of which was owned by the Duke of Bedford – more.

Lieutenant Collisson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

On August 10, 1917 Evelyn’s fellow officers and friends gathered to unveil and dedicate a memorial window and a brass plate at St. Mary’s Church, Lower Gravenhurst. The window which is a fine piece of art representing “War and Peace” is the work of Messrs. Hall and Sons of St.Pancras in London. Evelyn is also remembered in Upper Gravenhurst on the War Memorial in St. Giles’ Churchyard. Evelyn’s grave was consolidated to the Cerisy-Gailly Military cemetery.

 

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The Rev. Thomas Collisson (1852-1921) died in the Dorset village of Swyre, where he is buried. Evelyn’s mother Florence (1856-1942) and his sister each returned to Bedfordshire. Winifred (1900-1993) is buried in St. Mary’s graveyard.

Sources:

St. Mary’s Church, Lower Gravenhurst
The Bedfordshire Standard
Bedfordshire & Luton Archive Service
National Archive
Bedsatwar blog
Bedsathome blog
ancestry.com
CWGC
bedfordshire regiment

© S.Hartley (2015-)

 

 

 

 

 

WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – the Burr boys

Stanley Burr came from the village of Holwell which is a couple of miles north of Hitchin. He was one of seven children. Each of the six Burr boys served in WWI, three of them with the Bedfords.

Stanley (22017) and his younger brother Hedley (22013) both enlisted at Bedford, probably on the same day. The boys trained at the Bedfordshire Training Depot and were drafted to reinforce the Bedfords’ 8th Battalion at the Front.

On April 15, 1916 at Ypres the company took their turn in the trenches of Yser Canal Bank between bridges No.2 and 4 – map. On the night of 19/20 April, after 2 hours of heavy bombardment, the German infantry attacked with bomb and bayonet, and gained a footing in the British front-line trenches. The Bedfords resisted but sustained heavy casualties and lost ground. The two brothers were reported as ‘missing.’ With all six sons serving with the British Army their parents George and Sarah’s wait for news doesn’t bear thinking about.

Records show that at least twenty-one Ampthill Park recruits were killed at Ypres that night. Stanley Burr (20) was one of them – he has no known grave.

Stanley is remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial where 40,500 British soldiers are named. Hedley Burr survived the action but little is known about what happened to him. Hedley (21) died on 14 November 2018 a few days after the Armistice. He is buried in Cologne. The timing and location of Hedley’s death suggest he was a prisoner-of-war. Four of the brothers – Herbert, Arthur, Sidney, and Alfred Burr – survived the Great War.

Stanley and Hedley Burr are remembered in St.Peter’s Church, Holwell and on the Duke of Bedford War Memorial in Ampthill Great Park.

Source:

The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Bedsatwar blog
Bedsathome blog
Bedfordshire Regiment: 8th Battalion War Diary
Ancestry.com

Text copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

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


BUY: Ampthill Camp WWI Centenary Postcard

This special postcard commemorates the centenary of the WWI Bedfordshire Training Depot (1914-16). Limited edition: 500

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.

£2 (inc p&p). Please email hartleyhare135@gmail.com to order by PayPal or BACS transfer.

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