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.
November 1918 – the Armistice was signed at 5 o’clock on Monday, November 11th where after the news rippled through Bedfordshire that firing would cease on all fronts at 11am.
In Bedford, immediately afterwards flags were flying all over the town, the church bells rang merry peals, and schools and most of the factories closed down. Soldiers were heartily cheered in the streets and jubilant crowds marched through the principal thoroughfares. The welcome news rippled throughout the County and there were many relieved and joyous scenes – read more.
How Ampthill received the news
News of the signing of the Armistice reached Ampthill about 10.20 a.m. on Monday, and instantly the flags of bygone days made their appearance one by one, until the town presented a festive appearance. About the largest flag in town was a huge one of the British colours, which hung outside the White Hart Hotel. Workshops and places of business closed and gave their attendants a holiday, and others took it. Those who could not have a flag had bows and enterprising shopkeepers did a good trade. The soldiers from the Camp had leave, and many of them crowded into the centre of the town, singing patriotic songs and making merry. A brewery dray, making its way from Bedford Street, met with an enthusiastic reception from the soldiers, who started to tug at the barrels of beer. The drayman was forced to return for shelter to the brewery premises. The scholars paraded the streets waving flags, singing songs and making an immense salute of noise. The flag on the church tower was hoisted, and the bells pealed out one of the most welcome peals ever heard in Ampthill.
The good old town clock in the market place, which had been silent for some years, took upon itself to send out its familiar chimes at 11 o’clock, causing the ears of the towns people to tingle at the well-remembered sound which had been lacking so long.
At the Parish Church a united public thanksgiving was held at which all classes and conditions were represented, and the Rector led the service. A solemn Te Deum was sung by a large congregation including Lady Ampthill and the Hon. Miss Russell and special thanksgiving hymns and Psalms were sung. Later on the school boys paraded for hours, fondly thumping kettles, pans and drums, and carrying flags, singing patriotic songs. In fact there never was such a commotion in the town, and such a feeling of thankfulness. There were mixed feelings of joy and sorrow in many hearts, especially those who had lost loved ones, but at the same time one and all were thanking that further sacrifice of life was now not necessary. Up to late hours the festive crowd occupied the market place, and the streets were alive with people. Several windows threw out the almost forgotten light.
Ampthill Command Depot
On Tuesday a party of the Royal Engineers from Haynes Park on horseback, paraded the town making merriment. In the evening the drum and fife band of the Command Depot, assisted by a number of men from the Depot, held a torchlight tattoo through the town, and were loudly cheered wherever they went. All the main streets were paraded, whilst the band played lively airs and the torches threw a lurid glare over the whole scene. In conclusion the band, halted in the Market-place and played “He’s a jolly good fellow,” followed by “Rule Britannia” and, as a finale, “God save the King.”
On Sunday, 17th a special thanksgiving service for the victory of the Allies was held at St.Andrew’s Church, when a large congregation was present. Ampthill Urban and District Council, the V.A.D and the uniformed organisations were well-represented. The Rector, Rev Walter D. May, took the service. Afterwards the various bodies formed up outside the church, and marched off to their respective headquarters.
A month of welcome relief
The Ampthill & Urban District Council’s decision to have 30 lamps lit in the town was speedily carried into effect. The dark paint has been removed, and the town presents a cheerful appearance.
The Band of the Bedford Depot, from Kempston Barracks, arrived in Ampthill on the afternoon of Friday 15th, in motor lorries. It is 36 strong, under Bandmaster BAXTER, and seems to be composed chiefly of lads under military age. They were stationed at “Foulislea” in Church Street, and appear to be quite comfortable in their new quarters. The Band were inspected by Colonel His Grace the Duke of Bedford, K.G., A.D.C.,
A farewell tea, followed by a musical evening, was given to about 30 work men and staff of the Food Production Department, No. 2 Unit, Ampthill by the Flitt Cycle Company, at the King’s Arms Hotel. The men spent a most enjoyable time, and the military section were sorry to have to return to barracks, owing the scheme closing down for the winter. No. 2 Unit has ploughed, cultivated or cut approximately 3,600 acres of land. This is really good considering the men were quite inexperienced in that particular work.
The Rev. A. M. RICHIE M.A., of Leicester, took both services at the Union Chapel, on Sunday. He has seen active service on the Western Front with the Y.M.C.A.
There was a good supply of cattle at the Ampthill Emergency Market on Tuesday 19th. Forty beast and 200 sheep were surplus, and were sent away for distribution to other centres.
That evening the Ampthill Boy Scouts arranged a concert in the Church Room. Mr A. H. Wingfield was in the chair, and the room was crowded out. Mrs Stearn and Miss Collins were the accompanists, and much of the success is due to them. The Troop Funds should benefit by about £9 as a result.
News of Ampthill Boys
Private George DENNIS (Rifle Brigade), Private Edward SINEY (Machine Gun Corps), Private A. CARDINAL (Army Service Corps), Private Charles IZZARD (3rd Buffs) and Lieutenant Thomas Vaughan (Royal Scots Fusiliers) have been home on leave. Private Arthur MOORE (16th Middlesex) is also home on leave recovering from a neck wound.
Lieutenant Alfred WALDRON (Royal Engineers Signals) is now in France and has been laid up with an attack of influenza. Private Robert SHUTLER (Army Veterinary Corps) has been discharged from the Army, and is now home again. He has been looking after wounded horses in France.
News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front
The final month of this torrid war has claimed the lives of 7 men who trained at the Ampthill Camp.
20341 Lance Corporal Robert H. WIGGINS M.M. (24) of Felmersham Died of Wounds on November 5
20740 Private Albert FORTUNE (19) of Bassingbourne Died of Wounds at Home on November 6
20675 Lance Corporal Harry MARKHAM (22) of Milton Keynes Killed in Action on November 9
22900 Private Richard FULLER (20) of Bedford Killed in Action on November 13
22013 Private Hedley BURR (21) of Holwell Died on November 14
18678 Private William JENKINS (23) of Preston Died of Wounds on November 20
23652 Private Frederick GARNER (28) of Biggleswade Killed in Action on November 21
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
The National Archives
Ampthill’s Fallen – by John Hele (2014)
Next instalment to be published on 31 December 2018….
Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)
Care is taken to ensure accuracy – please accept my apologies if the content contains any errors.