Tag Archives: Ampthill Camp Memorial

WWI – Ampthill Command Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, February 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.

Prisoners of War Dinner

On Tuesday, 4th February about 50 returned prisoners of war were entertained at the Volunteer Drill Hall in Dunstable Street. The guests came from Ampthill and the surrounding villages. Dinner was served at 1 o’clock and it was really quite a triumph in the days of rationing and food restrictions. Beer, minerals and port were kindly provided by Messrs Morris & Co, and concert party entertainment followed.

War Memorial Meeting

A public meeting to consider the provision of a war memorial for Ampthill was held at the County Court Hall on Thursday, 27th February. Mr J.W. Crisp took the chair, and was accompanied by eight members of the Ampthill Urban Council, with Mr F.W. Walker (Surveyor) and Mr W.L. Jones (Deputy Clark). The room was packed to its utmost capacity with townspeople.

Mr J.W. Crisp said that he hoped that what ever was done it would be something permanent and useful to the town for ever. It would be the wish of the men who had fallen that the memorial should take the form of something of use to the town. Mr John B. Hodge said that there was a suggestion abroad that it should take the form of a hall, which could be called the memorial hall. This might contain the roll of honour. Mr Andrew H. Tanqueray (Solicitor) said that a suitable site could be provided free of cost to the ratepayers, and the £2000 erection cost funded by subscription. Mr C.A. Jeffs suggested a public library to support education, with application to the Carnegie Fund for a grant. Mr Richards voiced support for a public hall which was ‘absolutely wanted in the town.’

The chairman then put the proposition that the memorial took the form of a public hall, and the details be arranged by a committee. The following gentlemen were appointed:-

Ampthill Urban & District Council
Messrs J.W. Crisp, T. Izzard, W.T. Sharpe, H.G. Smith, and H. Swaffield.

Messrs A.H. Wingfield JP, J.B. Hodge, T. Hardwicke, A. Pye Smith JP, and the Rev. Westlake.

On the proposition of Mr W.T. Sharpe, Mr A.H. Tanqueray was unanimously appointed on the committee. Mr F.W. Walker was appointed as Hon. Secretary, Mr W.L. Jones as Legal Adviser, Mr J.B. Hodge as Treasurer, and Miss Wingfield and Mm. Cosier were added to the committee.

War Trophy

The War Office writes that, on recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant, Mr Samuel H. Whitbread, the town has been granted a German Machine Gun (damaged) with ammunition box and belt. The offer has been accepted but it was decided to ask for a field gun as a more ‘worthy’ addition.

The Ampthill Camp

On February 17th His Grace, The Duke of Bedford announced the proposal to erect a memorial to the men who were trained at Ampthill and have lost their lives during the war. A list of 368 names* has been published in the Bedfordshire Standard, and relatives  invited to communicate any omissions to Major A. Nelson (Adjutant), for example men who were transferred to other regiments and whose casualty notifications were not sent to Ampthill.

*707 names were eventually gathered for inclusion on the Ampthill Camp Memorial.

There is also news of His Grace engaging Messrs Swaffield and Son of Bedford Street to sell by auction the whole of the camp buildings, and a large and varied assortment of camp equipment and furniture necessary for the accommodation of 1,000 men. Catalogues and conditions of sale are in preparation and may be obtained shortly. Public Notices has been placed in Bedfordshire newspapers and in the neighbouring counties. The sale is to start on Tuesday, 18th March and will likely take some period of days. 


Cambridge Independent Press – February 28. 1919

Colour Sergeant Major Instructor Joe SMITH, of the Gymnastics Staff has now left the Command Depot and is at Aldershot awaiting demobilisation.

V.A.D. Hospital closes

The V.A.D. Hospital at Clevedon House, Dunstable Street has closed down. Patients have been at Clevedon since the formation of the Ampthill Camp. The V.A.D. Hospital has done splendid work for some years in caring for the sick from the Command Depot.


Clevedon (later known as St. George’s)

News of Ampthill Boys

A large number have received their discharge from the forces recently, including –

Private Stanley NEGUS (Royal Signals) of Saunders Piece. 
Lieutenant Norman SHARPE (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) of Woburn Street. 
Private Edgar SKINNER (1st Herts) of Baker Street.
Corporal R. SMITH has arrived back from Egypt where he has been stationed since 1914.
Private Henry STANBRIDGE (52nd Rifles Brigade) of Park Street. 
Private Harry WILDMAN (North Staffs) of Baker Street. 

Death of an Airman

On Wednesday, 12th February 1919 2nd Lieutenant Eustace McGEE (RAF) of Rotherfield took off from an airfield to the north of Gas House Lane in Ampthill. For reasons unknown, his plane entered a spiral nose dive and it crashed near King’s Wood. Eustace (20) sustained a broken neck and died at the scene.

An inquest has been held at the Guard Room, Ampthill Park. Mr H.J. Webb (Deputy Coroner) presiding recorded a verdict of Accidental Death. Eustace’ coffin was borne on an R.A.F. motor, draped with a Union Jack, for burial at St. Andrew’s Church. A firing party of 22 RAF men was in attendance.



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

British Newspaper Archive

Bedsatwar blog

Bedsathome blog

Red Cross

Ampthill’s Fallen – by John Hele (2014)



Next instalment to be published on 31 March 2019….

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

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

The Ampthill Camp Memorial

February 1919 – the Duke of Bedford announced the proposal to erect a memorial to the men who trained at Ampthill and lost their lives during the Great War. Woburn published a list of 368 names in the Bedfordshire Standard, and relatives were invited to communicate any omissions to Major A. Nelson (Adjutant), for example men who were transferred to other regiments and whose casualty notification did not reach Ampthill.

At the time 707 names were eventually gathered for remembering on The Ampthill Camp War Memorial but we now know of at least five more.

Cecil G. Hare (Architect), J. Corby & Son, and John P. White & Sons Ltd of the Pyghtle Works in Bedford were engaged to work on the memorial for Ampthill Great Park. William Stephens of J.P. White supervised the stonemasonry.

Bronze plaques were commissioned to tell the story of the Ampthill Camp, and the crusader sword in Temple Church in London likely provided inspiration for the top of the memorial. In June 1920 The Ampthill Camp Memorial Cross was unveiled, remembering the 2,235 soldiers who trained at the Ampthill Camp, those who were destined not to return, and the Ampthill Command Depot that treated 8,369 injured soldiers.

707 officers and men are remembered on the war memorial. Most of these were killed or died of wounds in France and Flanders. Roughly half (363) have no known grave and are remembered on memorials such as The Menin Gate in Ypres. Twenty-eight recruits were brought back to British soil where they succumbed to their battle wounds and are buried in local graveyards. Eight of the Ampthill Camp recruits came from Ampthill and so are also remembered on the other war memorials in Town: The Cenotaph, St. Andrew’s Church and Ampthill Methodist Church.

1920.6.18 BS

The Bedfordshire Standard, June 18 1920

On 17th May 1921 Queen Victoria’s daughter, HRH The Princess Beatrice, visited Ampthill to unveil The Cenotaph.

At the conclusion of the service HRH asked to see The Ampthill Camp Memorial.

Ampthill Camp War Memorial

Thursday, 26th March 1970 – thirteen bronze plaques were riven from The Ampthill Camp Memorial and stolen. It was 2006 before the master list of 707 names was discovered in the Woburn Archive.

On Saturday, 21st September 2013, thanks to the dedication of Ian Church and others, the plaques were replaced and the memorial re-dedicated – video of the Service thanks to Ampthill TV. Lord James Russell, whose Great Great Grandfather built the training camp and the memorial, attended on behalf of The Woburn Estate.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ampthill’s Fallen (John Hele, 2014)
Ampthill Town Council
Ampthill TV
Bedfordshire Archive
The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War
British Newspaper Archive
Stencilling Tommy’s Footprints – free download (Stephen Hartley, 2016)
Walking in Tommy’s Footsteps (Ian Church, 2008)

Content & photographs copyright Stephen Hartley (2015-)

Interpretation Board, Ampthill Great Park (Unveiled 2018)