Tag Archives: Bedfordshire Standard

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

March 1919 – this month has been dominated by sale of the Ampthill Camp.

The influenza epidemic is still very bad and there are several cases of pneumonia in the town.

Over 500 ration books have been issued to demobilized soldiers by the Ampthill & Urban District Council.

The Committee of the Ampthill Detachment, 1st Volunteer Battalion (Bedfords’) has sent £11 5s to the St. Dunstan’s Homes for Blinded Soldiers.

There is a proposal to form a Cadet Corps in Ampthill.

Lieutenant Herman L. PORTER (Canadian Forestry Corps), who was in charge of the Y.M.C.A. on The Pines whilst the Canadians were in Ampthill, was in Town for the weekend at the end of March

It has not yet been ascertained to whom the living of Ampthill will be given when it is vacated by the Rev Walter D. May, but the popular opinion is in favour of the Rev.  C.R. Dickinson who has done such good service as Chaplain at the Ampthill Command Depot.

The Ampthill Camp

By coincidence three beds in a hut at the Ampthill Camp were recently occupied by soldiers bearing the names of Grief, Right and Pain.

During the week of 18th March Messrs Swaffield and Son of Ampthill handled the sale of all the camp buildings, equipment and furniture.

The Luton News & Bedfordshire Advertiser March 18th, 1919

The Luton News & Bedfordshire Advertiser      March 13, 1919

The sale lasted 5 days. High prices ruled and there was some spirited bidding. The 2,300 lots included the 35 huts of the camp, the large Olympia Hall, the Recreation Hut, officers’ and other huts, the massage hut, Remedial Treatment Hut, together with the whole of the furniture of the Officers Mess, etc.

Much interest was taken in the sale of the huts which all fetched high prices, between £200 and £400. The huge Olympia Hall was knocked down to Mr Revett, of Olney, for £975, and the Recreation Hut £450. The furniture also fetched good prices, with the exception of the beds, which only fetched a few shillings a piece. No purchases were made by either the County Council or the Luton Corporation, as had been anticipated.

By the month end good progress has been made with dismantling the huts at the Camp, which now looks quite dilapidated.

The Bedfordshire Standard has followed the Ampthill Camp from its establishment back in the October of 1914. The March 21st edition tells the resplendent story of the Camp’s rise and closure.

1919.3.21 BS camp summary

Bedfordshire Standard – March 21, 1919


War Memorial

Opinion is very strong in Ampthill that the greater portion of the amount required for the war memorial should be obtained from the tradespeople, who it is alleged, with the local rise in population have made ample profits during the war.

News of Ampthill Boys

A large number of Ampthill men have been demobilized lately, including:

Sergeant E.H. CHITTLEBURGH (Norfolks’)  recently instructor to the Ampthill Volunteers.
Airman William DELLER (R.A.F.) of Dunstable Street.
Sapper William PHILLIPS (6th Royal Engineers) of Park Hill.
Private James WARD (2nd Bedfords’) of Flitwick Road.
Airman Horace WHITE (R.A.F.) of Dunstable Street.

Sergeant Reginald COLES, son of Ampthill’s esteemed postmaster, Mr William Coles, son Signaller Section Royal Engineers attached to 40th Indian Brigade, has been awarded the D.C.M. for services in Palestine. Sergeant Coles was previously mentioned in despatches in connection with the second battle of Gaza. He has been serving since the outbreak of war, and went to the Dardanelles with the 1st/5th Bedfords’. Reginald was subsequently invalided in Egypt with dysentery, and transferred to the R.E. Signals. He has taken part through out the operations in Egypt and Palestine, and was educated at the Bedford Modern School.


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)



This is he final installment of The Camp Diary.

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

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

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 Armistice ~ as reported by the Bedfordshire Standard, Friday 15 November 1918

Rejoicings in Bedford and County
Solemn Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul’s Bedford

From time to time, during the whole course of the war, the Central News has telephoned to the offices of this paper, 103 High Street, the great happenings in the military and diplomatic fields, and many an historic message has been displayed on our windows. It has been a long campaign of varying fortune, of mighty deeds, which will pondered on and wondered at in the ages that lie before, and great hope and, at times, of great depression, but never a thought of anything except ultimate triumph for the cause of Right over Might. Generations unborn will thrill at the sublime self-sacrifice and heroism of British soldiers, sailors and aviators in the great fight that set mankind free from the most awful disaster that ever threatened humanity.

And now it is over. At 11 a.m. on Monday the “Cease Fire” sounded on all the battle-fronts, and heavy clouds which had darkened the world for four and a-half years were lifted and white-winged peace reined where war and black death so recently held sway. Immediately after the official announcement was made in London the news reached our office, and the message was posted in our window, reading:-

“Official message, by telephone. The Armistice was signed at 5 o’clock this morning, and firing ceased on all fronts at 11 a.m. to-day.”

Immediately afterwards, flags were flying all over town, the church bells rang out merry peals, and most of the factories closed down. Soldiers were heartily cheered in the streets, and jubilant crowds marched through the principal thoroughfares. At 2.30 a military band paraded the High-street, playing inspiring music. Although the rejoicing was universal there was no attempt at maffiking, and the genera feeling was one of deep thankfulness that the bloodshed and the suffering had temporarily ceased.

As the day wore on the intensity of the general rejoicing became more and more manifest. In every avenue, road, and street flags of every description were flying from the windows, fluttering on the flagstaffs or lines were stretched across the roads, the Tricolour of France flew side by side with the Standard of England, the Stars and Stripes of America, the flags of Italy, Portugal, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, Serbia, Russia, and Roumania, and one wondered where all the banners which went to make up this kaleidoscopic display of colour and beauty came from. But one has only to recall the lines of the Bedford School song to realise it, and to remember that

O north and south, and east and west,
Where’er you roam o’er the worlds wide breast,
You’ll find the lads of the Eagle Crest
From Bedford by the river.

That is the explanation; Bedford’s sons have travelled the world o’er, and the flags that floated triumphantly in all parts of the borough have been brought from foreign lands, and rested in the halls and rooms of Bedford’s people ready to be brought out on the great day. The flags of the Dominions were displayed at 24, Ashburnham-road. Hanging on the front of the Conservative Club were the flags of all the Allies, and streamers were stretched across the road.

Large Streams of People.
From the suburbs poured large streams of people, towards the main thoroughfares, intent on keeping general holiday, and all seemed bent upon reading the glad tidings for themselves, so that hour after hour there was a packed throng round the message in the window of the “Bedfordshire Standard” Office. Deep into the public mind the great news sunk; the spirits of the people, at first subdued in realisation of the fact that the inevitable had happened, that they were standing on the threshold of the dawn of England’s greatest glory, gradually rose as the extent of the triumph revealed itself, and many gave way to rapturous delight, signing, cheering, waving flags, and wearing rosettes and other appropriate favours. The joy of the children, freed from school duties, knew no bounds, and with the miniature instruments of “music” were in great favour, and none stopped to question the quality of the “melodies.”

Band and Bells.
An excellent military band paraded the streets, another played martial airs near the Swan Hotel, and the bells from all the churches rang out merry peals. Freely interspersed with the crowds were khaki-clad British and Colonial soldiers, sturdy land lasses, and uniformed “Queen Mary” girls. The mast and gaff at the Queen’s Engineering Works was gaily decorated with large flags of all the allies, surmounted with a huge Union Jack, and the employees were addressed by Mr W.H. Allen, whose remarks were received with loud cheers. The Recreation Club at the Works had a “joy day” on Wednesday. There was a ladies’ football match on the private recreation ground in the morning, followed in the afternoon by a match by Works and Queen’s Park Rangers, and in the evening a social and dance was held in the ladies’ dining room at the Works.

Flags and Fireworks.
There were many amusing incident, and in the middle of the crowded High-street a party of Colonials swarmed onto the roof of a passing cab, and from that point of vantage waved flags and snag to their hearts’ content, whilst the crowds set up cheery cheers. As the evening drew on, the crowds became still more dense, and the lights of Bedford shone out in direct contrast to the subdued glimmer which had prevailed for three years. The shops were closed, of course, but the great electric arc lights illuminated a never-to-be-forgotten scene. The bang and flash of fireworks recalled a shadowy past, when every public celebration was accompanied by brilliant pyrotechnic displays, and although fireworks were somewhat limited on Monday evening there seemed no limit to these tokens of exuberant spirits on Tuesday night, when the celebrations were continued with more gusto than ever. The fine band of the Salvation Army stood on the Market-place, with the Union jack waving above it, and played grand old British airs, the crowds joining heartily in singing the words of several of these, whilst many in the crowd sang the Marseilles in French to a most admirable rendering by the band.

Thanksgiving Services.
To the various places the devout thronged in large numbers, and the Church of England and Free Church ministers had made special preparations for exceptionally big congregations, but even when the sacred buildings were taxed to their utmost capacity, and crowds, unable to gain admission, swarmed in the entrances and waited till the close, listening to the singing of hymns of thankfulness. All the entrances to St. Paul’s Church were crowded, the throngs reaching up the pathways to the very gates.
During Monday evening the main terms of the armistice were received at our office, and posted in the window. They were recognised as overwhelming evidence of the completeness of the Allie triumph, and the vindication of all for which our bravest and best have fought and died.

St. Paul’s Church, Bedford.
Long before the hour appointed – 8 o’clock – every seat was occupied in St. Paul’s Church, where a thanksgiving service had been arranged to be held on Monday evening. The service was deeply impressive, and it was evident from the demeanour of the people that a congregation with full hearts had assembled in their thankfulness for the termination of the war. As the Town Council and officials, together with the vicar (Canon Speck) and choir, processed up the nave, the National Anthem was sung, and the service opened with the hymn “Rejoice, the Lord is King,” and the heartiness of the singing by the crowded congregation was a marked feature of the service. The special Psalms were the 148th and 150th, and the General Thanksgiving was fervently recited by the whole congregation. The choir, with Dr. Harding at the organ, then gave a fine rendering of the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

The Vicar, the Rev. Canon Speck, who had read the service, then gave a short address from the chancel. His theme, that afternoon would be two words that were spoken in a London Law Court by a judge who, after reading out to the Court the fact that the armistice had been signed, said “Thank God.” Those two words inspired that service, and that congregation, and would, please God, inspire the people right through the days of reconstruction until the final terms of the peace had been arranged. Meanwhile they thanked God for the cessation of hostilities, for the prevention of further bloodshed and loss of life, for the indomitable men and heroic women who had written this glorious and tragic page in the annals of English tradition. They could thank God with the deepest reverence for those whose names were written on the Roll of Honour, who had fought their fight and made the great sacrifice for God and king and country. They thanked God that their prayers had been heard, that the organised forces of unrighteousness and hypocrisy had been laid low, and that the God of righteousness proclaimed His sovereign will among the nations. Day by day their prayers had been offered unceasingly for the restoration to home and fatherland of their dear ones, and they thanked God for answering that prayer. They would now endeavour to show forth their praise not only with their lips, but in their lives, by giving themselves to God’s service.
The choir then sang Te Deum with splendid effect, the setting being Huntley in B flat.
Bedford School Chapel.

A service of thanksgiving was held in the Bedford School Chapel on Tuesday morning, at which all the instructors and School servants, as well as the boys and masters, were present. After the boys were seated the choir entered by the west door, singing the hymn “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven,” to Goss’s tune, followed by the masters and the headmaster. The order of service was as follows; 1st lesson, Exodus xv., 1-18; psalms cxliv. And cl.; 2nd lesson, Romans viii, 23 and 31 to end; hymn, “Hail the Lord’s Anointed”: versicles and responses and prayers; hymn, “All people that on earth do dwell”; the Blessing; Te Deum Laudamus. The service was, what all services ought to be, and especially on such an occasion, of such a kind that the congregation could take their full share, the hymns being set to well-known tunes of moderate compass, and the Te Deum being sung to a familiar chant. The first lesson was read by the Vice-Master (Mr E.H. Dasent), and the second by the Headmaster. The service lasted a little over half an hour, and the rest of the day was observed as a holiday.

All Saint’s, Queen’s Park.
On Monday evening All Saint’s, Queen’s Park, Bedford was filled with a devout and thankful congregation, when a thanksgiving service was held. The Vicar (the Rev. Ramsey Murray) officiated. The services, which throughout was of an impressive nature, commenced with the rendering on the organ of “The Marseillaise” by Mr Slaughter, the organist, and the hearty singing of the National Anthem by the congregation. The service took the form of shortened evensong, and the hymns sung included the Old Hundredth and “Now thank we all our God.” At the conclusion of the prayers the Vicar read from the chancel steps the names of those on the Roll of Honour of the parish, including those who have made the supreme sacrifice. The service concluded with the signing of a solemn Te Deum.


The glad news of the cessation of hostilities came to Kempston on Monday morning, and very shortly afterwards flags were hoisted from public and private buildings. There was much hearty handshaking and congratulations, and the soldiers billeted in the district and civilians made merry.

Enthusiasm at the Barracks.
The fact that the armistice had been signed became known unofficially at Kempston Barracks between 9 and 10 a.m. Spontaneously the pent-up feelings of a couple of days’ duration on the part of many at the Depot broke loose in an uncertain manner, and some memorable scenes were enacted. Exactly at 11 o’clock a new Union Jack and the black and amber flag of the Bedfordshire Regt. (both of which had been acquired in readiness for the celebration of the event) were hoisted on the tower at the entrance to the Barracks and facing Bedford-road, to the accompaniment of cheers from hundreds of soldiers, the Royal Engineers being at that time on parade in the recreation ground adjoining the Barracks. The troops simultaneously surged onto the barrack square, and with members of the Depot staff continued vociferously cheering for some time, after which three buglers of the Bedf. Regt. Sounded the “Cease Fire, amid tense silence. The crowd then gave way to merriment in no half-hearted manner, and all work at the Depot was suspended. In the various institutions connected with the Barracks there were scenes of greatest rejoicing. Flags were displayed outside the military hospital, and the convalescent patients took their share in the celebration. The Depot band, under the conductorship of Bandmaster Baxter, played selections on the square, a popular sergeant attached to one of the Labour Corps proving himself an accomplished drummer. The troops and members of the N.A.C.B. and Q.M.A.A.C. located at the Barracks had their full share of the enjoyment in the joy of tripping the light fantastic on the square to the accompaniment of the band. Shortly after mid-day the Engineers left Barracks, not in matching style, but a jolly, happy and contented throng. Headed by an N.C.O. with a Union Jack, attached to his rifle and fixed bayonet, and a drummer and a bugler, they marched towards Bedford, singing patriotic songs, a large number of boys and girls, carrying Union Jacks, bringing up the rear. During the morning a large crowd assembled outside the Barrack gates watching the “frolics” of those inside. The pupils of the Garrison School were given a half-day’s holiday, which was greatly appreciated.

Upon receiving the news at Cranfield on Monday at 11 a.m. that an armistice had been signed, the Union Jack was hoisted on the church tower, and the bells were kept ringing during the rest of the day.

News that hostilities were at an end reached the village of Ridgmont early on Monday, and many evidences of excitement and relief were prevalent everywhere.
At Elstow there was much rejoicing and thankfulness when the news of the signing of the armistice was known. Flags appears as if by magic. The flag was hoisted to the church tower, and merry peals were rung throughout the day. At the Parch Church a thanksgiving service was held at 6:30 p.m. The service commenced with the singing of the National Anthem and “Now thank we all our God.” The lesson was taken from the fourth chapter of Phillippians. The followed Te Deum, suitable prayers, and the hymn “Father of all.” The address was given by the vicar and the service was brought to a close by signing hymns “For all the saints who from their labours rest” and “All people who on earth do dwell.” For simplicity and unanimity, and as an expression of deep popular feeling – a people’s thanksgiving – it is impossible to speak too highly.

The first at Biggleswade to receive the news that the armistice had been signed was Colonel French, D.S.O., the O.C. of the local Signal Depot, and before 9:30 a.m. this as well known on Monday morning throughout the town. The good news was received with great joy and much enthusiasm. The Parish Church bells, the fire bell, and several hooters announced the fact, and the Fire Brigade members paraded the town with their steam engine, carrying the Boy Scouts bugle band, who gave the “All Clear” sound in all the streets of the town. A special thanksgiving service was held at 12 o’clock at the Parish Church, which was crowded for the happy occasion. The clergy taking part were the Rev. G.H. Strange, M.A., and the Rev. Douglas Hoole, C.F., and the Rev. R.S. Strong. The hymns included “The old hundredth,” and “O God our help in ages past,” and the National Anthem.

When the news arrived at Potton that the armistice had been signed and the fighting had ceased, people were at first silent with joy, and as the great fact began to dawn upon them and they realised that it was really true, great animation prevailed. Flags appeared from the windows of many houses, and the town soon presented a festive appearance. To instil into the minds of the rising generation the importance of the events which have happened, Mr F.W. Braybrooks J.P., lighted upon the happy idea of giving all the children a tea. No sooner was the idea thought of than it was put into operation, and with the help of a number of ladies the provisions were got together, and through the generosity of Mr and Mrs Braybrooks, all the school children were regaled with tea in the Central Hall. Mr Braybrooks afterwards spoke to the children of the importance of that day, explaining what the armistice meant, and what the great victory would mean to them in days to come. Cheers (such as only children can give) were given for the King and Government, and lastly for the kind and thoughtful host. The National Anthem was sung lastily before dispersing. At 7:30 the Free Churches held a united service in the Congregational Church, which was largely attended. The service was inspiring, and full of praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for all the mercies and goodness bestowed upon our land and our Allies during the four years of war, culminating in the greatest victory which was being celebrated that day. Touching tribute was also paid to all those who had fallen in the war, with special prayers for the bereaved. The Rev. J. Phelps, Pastor, presided over the service, Mr. Jones (Wesleyan) read the lessons, Captain Smith (Salvation Army), and Mr G. Woodman (Baptist) offered prayer, and the Rev. G. Whelpton (Wesleyan) and Mr F.W Braybrooks, J.P. (Congregational) gave addresses. Suitable hymns were heartily sung, finishing with “God bless our native land,” and the Benediction brought a memorable service to a close.

The joyful news of the signing of the armistice received a hearty welcome in the parish of Moggerhanger on Monday morning. The church and school bells were rung for half an hour, and in the evening a thanksgiving service was held in the Parish Church, which was largely attended. An appropriate sermon was approached by the Vicar.

The welcome news was received at Stevington with every manifestation of thankfulness and joy. The church bells rang merrily throughout Monday, and on Wednesday evening there was a largely attended service of thanksgiving at the Parish Church.

When the news became known a Campton work in most cases was suspended for the remainder of the day. Flags were displayed and favours worn. The church bells, silent since 1914, rang out a merry peal, and thankfulness was expressed on all sides.

Circumstantial rumours that the Germans had agreed to the Allies conditions for an armistice reached Leighton Buzzard about 11 o’clock on Monday morning, but in view of the premature rejoicings on Thursday, these were very calmly received. Flags began to appear at upper windows soon after, and when, about 11.45, official confirmation of the rumour was given by the postal authorities, there was quiet but genuine enthusiasm. The steam whistles of local munition works made the news widely known, and crowds of munition workers and school children soon thronged the High-street.

The first intimation that the armistice dad been duly signed was received at Turvey about 10.30 on Monday morning, when a telephone message was received at “Chantry House” by Mrs Higgins from her son Brig-General T.C. Higgins, from his headquarters. The news was quickly dispatched the Rectory and was soon spread all over the village. The schools were at once informed, and the children sung lustily the National Anthem and cheers were given for the King. The children were at once dismissed for a holiday. Several of the elder children went with the Rector to the belfry of the Parish Church and began to ring the bells as best they could, but soon the usual ringers arrived and enlivened the village with merry peals throughout the day, the fine peal of eight bells being never more appreciated. Nearly every house in the village displayed its flags, and at the Chantry House and the Laws House there were brilliant displays. During the afternoon little Miss Susan (the eight-year-old daughter of Colonel and Mrs. Lannowe) rode through the village on small Welsh pony, which was decked with garlands of flowers, accompanied by collectors to give the Turvey soldiers a special present on their return home, the sum of £5 18s. 3d. being realised. In the evening a special service of praise and thanksgiving was held in the Parish Church, conducted by the Rector, and consisted of the singing of the Doxology, the 118th and 130th Psalms, the Te Deum, and the National Anthem, with some short prayers and the general thanksgiving. There was a large congregation of all denominations. The church clock, which had been silent for three years, was again set free to tell out the passing hours.

After holding a premature praise service in the Parish Church, Husborne Crawley, on Friday, the news of the signing of the armistice on Monday morning was received with great joy. Flags appeared at numerous cottage windows, and the Vicar soon had the large flag flying from the church tower. In the evening the church bells rang out merrily for a couple of hours. On Tuesday the Council Schools were closed for the afternoon for the honour of the event.

The news of the signing of the armistice was made known at Henlow by an official telegram exhibited at the Post Office window, and glad tidings quickly spread through the village. Very quickly spread through the village. Very quickly the houses were decorated with flags, giving a suspicion that these had been kept in readiness for some time past. A service of thanksgiving was held at the Parish Church in the evening, preceded by the joyous peals from the bells.

A large congregation attended to join in thankfulness for the close of the Great War. The Vicar officiated at the service and preached from the words “If the Lord Himself had been on our side,” recalling the many occasions during the war on which we had specials reasons for gratitude. Great excitement prevailed throughout the village of Riseley on Monday, when it became known that the armistice had been signed and hostilities had ceased. The flags were hoisted, the church bells rang, and the children marched through the streets with drums, bells, etc. At 7 o’clock a thanksgiving service was held at the Parish Church.

The glad tidings reached Silsoe soon after noon on Monday. Munition workers set free for a couple of days’ rest hurried out with the news, which seemed to take most people by surprise. The Union Jack and other flags soon appeared from the windows of cottages, and workmen from Wrest Park and elsewhere were quickly homeward bound for the rest of the day. The school front was soon made gay with bunting suspended from the flag staff, and much cheering was indulged in. As soon as ringers could be procured the church bells rang out with a merry peal, the first since the autumn of 1914. In the evening some ventured to show bright lights, and youngsters paraded the streets with bugles and gave tattoos on metal trays. A special service of thanksgiving will be held on Sunday next.

The news of the signing of the armistice was received with great delight in Stagsden, the church bells rang out merry peals in the evening, and the boys organised a tin kettle band and paraded the streets with great glee.

The news of the signing of the armistice and the cessation of hostilities were received with much gladness at Aspley Guise, and a good assortment of flags was soon displayed from windows and flagstaffs. The church bells rang out merrily in the evening. A service was held on Wednesday evening and was largely attended.

The welcome news of the cessation of hostilities was first announced at Goldington by the ringing of school bells, the church bells being afterwards chimed. The school children sang the National Anthem and gave ringing cheers. A thanksgiving service was held in the Bunyan Meeting.

At Ampthill – the church bells were rung on Monday afternoon and Tuesday evening in honour of the Allied victory. The town was plentifully bestrewed with flags, several streets having quite a fine display. About the largest flag in town was a huge one of the British colours, which hung outside the White Hart Hotel. On Tuesday 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.”

At Sherington, to celebrate the signing of the armistice, the school children were dismissed for a half-holiday after singing the National Anthem. A large Union Jack was flying from The Knoll, and various other flags appeared in the village. A united service of thanksgiving was held in the Parish Church on Tuesday evening.

The church bells rang merrily on Monday afternoon and evening at Renhold to celebrate the fact that hostilities had come to an end, and many flags were hoisted.

On Monday evening a merry peal was rung on the Maulden church bells when it became known that the hostilities had ceased.

One of the most impressive services ever held in Shillington Church took place on Monday evening to give thanks for the conclusion of hostilities. The ancient screen was draped with the flags of the Allies, and the church was ablaze with the light of lamps and candles, and joyous peals rang out from the belfry. In spite of influenza raging in the village, the church was filled with worshipers, who joined reverently and heartily in the thanksgivings and hymns of praise. The Vicar (Rev. Lagdale H. Postgate) gave a short address, in which he ascribed the great deliverance of the glorious tricolour – the red and the thin line of, our brave soldiers, the brave old British bull-dog breed, of which we were so proud; the blue, the gallant Navy; and the white the company of angels who stemmed the tide at Mons. Some time ago he was asked when the war would end, and he replied that end would come when our men met at Mons once more the guardian angels of Victory, and so it was. They thanked God from the bottom of their hearts, and those who made the supreme sacrifice. They were also extremely grateful for the wonderful way in which womanhood of the nation had risen to the occasion. Towards the close of the service the Te Deum was solemnly sung before the altar, and was followed by the National Anthem, during which the children of the congregation waved flags. The collection, amounting to £3 1s. 6d., was for the restoration of the south chapel in memory of the fallen. The service will long be remembered.

The people of Harrold on hearing that the armistice had been signed expressed great gratification in many ways. The church bells rang out merrily (the first time for years), and flags seemed to fly out of every window. Children paraded the streets with flags and a few old guns, dressed in soldiers’ old coats, etc. The village blacksmith brought out the old cannon, but could not manage to fire it off: it was, however, dragged around the village. A thanksgiving service was held in the Parish Church on Tuesday evening, when there was a large congregation. The Vicar, the Rev. Percy Leakey, conducted the service.
On Monday morning the glorious news arrived at Sandy that the armistice had been signed. There was no shouting; all that many could say, with full hearts, was “Thank God it is all over, and we have won.” Gradually one after another flags began to peep out of the upper storey windows and from the public buildings, until there was quite a brave display in the town From the church tower the flags of our Allies were hoisted, surmounted by a handsome new Union Just presented to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Ebenezer Marshall, of Manor Farm. The children coming home from school were the first to do the shouting, and they made the air ring with their merry singing and shouting. The bells rang joyfully to summon the people to come and offer thanks to God at a service in the evening, which was conducted by the Rector.

A united service of thanksgiving was held in St. Neots Church on Wednesday evening.

Source: The Bedfordshire Standard, Friday 15 November 1918 (retyped to ease reading)

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

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

EXT038_18 Ampthill Armistice 1x3m PRESS.pdf






WWI – Ampthill Command Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, April 1917

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.

April 1917 – News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

Mr and Mrs William have received tragic confirmation that one of their sons has been killed. In the Somme region on August 9, last 26703 Private Thomas J. Money was reported as missing in action.


Bedfordshire Standard – April 20, 1917

After a quiet Spring the Bedfords’ have seen action in the allied offensive at Arras in France. Eighty-four Ampthill Recruits have been killed – 35 of the boys fell in the April 23rd attack at La Coulotte. One of these chaps – 26708 Private William J. SMITH of Dunstable – was awarded the Military Medal for his galant actions.


Source: The National Archives at Kew

Lieutenant Geoffrey de Cateret Millais survived the action and has been recommended to receive the Military Cross for “cool courage at LA COULOTTE on the 23rd inst. Though lying out in a shell hole all day a short distance from German wire when he was continually fired at with M.G. and Minnenwerfen which became intense and his retiring a problem, he despatched [?] later despite the fact that he knew this would draw attention to his position. One of the men with him was wounded. He also sent back two messages by power buzzer and was unable to withdraw until night” – war diary.

On April 29 ten Ampthill recruits were killed in action with the 4th Bedfords’ at the Battle of Oppywood. The Battalion attacked at dawn & captured its objective, was counter attacked and driven out and recaptured trench and consolidated it about 11.0 A.M. The trench was shelled heavily by German artillery all day – war diary.

Fifty-nine of these 83 Ampthill recruits have no known grave.


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


Next installment to be published on 31 May 2017….

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 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 while stocks last.

WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, September 1916

The ‘Camp Diary’ provides an insight into the Bedfordshire Training Depot from 1914-16. Based on newspaper reports of the time.

September 1916 – Another draft of men have left the Camp to join the British Expedition Force. The Ampthill Camp is starting to feel decidedly empty.

On Thursday, 7th September Major-General Pilcher made an inspection of the camp and watched the cadets go through physical drill and bayonet practice. A number of men back from France, following wounds or illness, are engaged in light duties. This includes agricultural work in fields near the Camp.


September 8, 1916


September 15, 1916

Wrest Park Military Hospital

Since the outbreak of war Wrest Park has played a major part in treating the wounded. On Thursday, 14th a convoy train of wounded soldiers were met at Ampthill Station and conveyed to Woburn and Wrest Park Hospitals. Later that day a major fire developed in the East Wing of Wrest Park. Some 160 soldiers were there convalescing at the time. Twice during the night the Ampthill Camp bugle sounded ‘parade at the double.’ The first order of the evening was for all men who had cycles or other ways of getting to Wrest Park quickly, to start off and assist with the fire. The second call came nearer midnight for the men to assist with arrangements for making comfortable about 50 wounded soldiers removed from Wrest House to Woburn Abbey Hospital and to empty huts in the Camp. The recruits also helped with salvaging valuable furniture and paintings.

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The House survived the fire but some parts were gutted. The damage is estimated at £20,000. Thankfully there was no loss of life – read the full newspaper report.

By converting this fine country house into a hospital for wounded soldiers and practically maintaining it for two years at great personal expense, Lord Lucas has rendered great national service, and during the whole time his sister, the Hon. Miss Herbert, devoted herself with loving care and attention to the work of the hospital as Matron. Very few people, indeed, are aware of the great work that has been done at Wrest House, for our wounded heroes brought home from the battlefields.

The authorities have come to the decision that Wrest Park will no longer be used as a military hospital.

Ampthill Camp – more departures

On Friday, 22nd a small group of N.C.O.’s left the camp to join another battalion. Captain Tanqueray who has been heavily engaged with Cadet training, has rejoined the Royal West Sussex Regiment. The following officers have proceeded to France to join the Bedfordshire Regiment: Lieutenants Millars and Blanchard, and 2nd Lieutenants Matson, Sharpen, G.C. Scott, Forbes, Stanton, Piercey, Deacon, Hyde, Hope, Woodford, Hickman, Fletcher, Kingdom, and Booth.


September 22, 1916


September 29, 1916


News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

News has been received of two promising Maulden lads, and flags were flown at half mast.

17743 Private Charles Newman has been missing since the Battle of Loo in September last. The War Office has written to his mother intimating that sadly, death must be assumed.

Mr. and Mrs. Northwood have been notified that on September 3rd their only son, Charles, was killed in an attack on the German trenches. Lieutenant D’Airgdor writes that 17843 Private Newman was “hit by a shell.” There is news that on  July 19th a similar fate befell 22523 Private William J.Shambrook of Ware who was with the 54th Mortar Battery.


Four hundred and six Bedfords’ have been killed during September. Sixty-two of these men trained at the Ampthill – the Camp’s worst month by a country mile. Most of the Ampthill men were killed in the actions of 15th and 25th September.

September 15th – The Battle of Flers-Courcelette

A grim day for the Bedfords’ – the men were part of the British attack at The Battle of Flers-Courcelette in the Somme region. The 8th Battalion had three waves of infantry in position ready to attack from shell holes. At 06:00 artillery started to lay down a heavy barrage – however, the munitions fell short causing many British casualties. At ZERO Hour [06:20] the companies pushed forwards with support. Depleted in number, the Bedfords’ failed to take their objective. Survivors returned to hold the original trenches and were then relieved. 

One hundred and twenty-four Bedfords’ were killed in the action that day. Thirty-nine of these soldiers trained at the Ampthill Camp.

Casualties – September 15
22674 Private Horace AMBRIDGE (27) of Barton Killed in Action
22673 Private Albert ASHBY of Barton Killed in Action
17774 Private John ATKINSON (43) of Barford Killed in Action
22269 Private Daniel AUSTIN of Harrowden Killed in Action
20779 Private Horace BATCHELOR (27) of Flamsted Killed in Action
20527 Private Ernest BODSWORTH (25) of Woburn Killed in Action
20619 Private Archibald BONESS of Biggleswade Killed in Action
20896 Private Albert Edward BRIDGES of Hitchin Killed in Action
23247 Private William Charles BUCKINGHAM of Toddington Killed in Action
22917 Private William CAMFIELD (22) of Walsworth Killed in Action
19895 Private Fredrick COOK (22) of Tilbrook Killed in Action
20910 Private William Arthur Leonard DEVEREAUX (24) of Campton Killed in Action
18801 Private James Charles FEARY (39) of St. Ives Killed in Action
18485 Private Arthur Henry FOSTER (44) of Godmanchester Killed in Action
20667 Private William GILKS of Woburn Killed in Action
23599 Private William GODFREY (21) of Hexton Killed in Action
20969 Private William HAILEY (35) of Walsworth Killed in Action
20483 Private Herbert HARE of Old Warden Killed in Action
19546 Private Walter HENMAN of Breachwood Green Killed in Action
20397 Private Edward HORSLER (33) of Streatley Killed in Action
20941 Private Frank IRONS (18) of Wilstead Killed in Action
19498 Private George JACKSON (42) of Dunton Killed in Action
22457 Private William JACKSON (26) of Stevenage Killed in Action
20744 Private Arthur JANES (31) of Hemel Hempstead Missing (presumed dead)
20345 Private John JELLIS (33) of Upper Sundon Killed in Action
20316 Private Richard John LISTER (32) of Needingworth Killed in Action
22504 Private Robert LOVETT (20) of Biggleswade Killed in Action
23270 Private George MARTIN of Barton Killed in Action
20339 Private Alfred C. MILLWARD (40) of Olney Killed in Action
18128 Private Fredrerick PAXTON of Woburn Sands Killed in Action
22395 Private Christopher PERRY (47) of Luton Killed in Action
22746 Private Cyril Albert Bernard PINNOCK (20) of Bedford Killed in Action
20599 Private George Benjamin POULTER (18) of Killed in Action
20298 Private Henry J RANDALL (40) of Marston Church End Killed in Action
22435 Private Ernest William STEVENS (29) of Flamstead Killed in Action
22080 Private Frederick TAYLOR (34) of Hemel Hempstead Killed in Action
22850 Private Herbert WHITTINGTON (21) of Marston Shelton Killed in Action
23234 Private Charles Henry WILSON (23) of Earith Killed in Action
19593 Lance Corporal Thomas YOUNG of Kempston Killed in Action

Read the war diary for September 15, 1916: http://www.bedfordregiment.org.uk/8thbn/8thbtn1916diary.html

September 25th – The Battle of Morval 

The Bedfords’ took part in an attack on German lines between Morval and Les Boeuff. The attack commenced at 12.35.p.m. and the 8th Battalion moved up to original front line when second objective had been taken about 2.35 p.m. Casualties from the enemy barrage very slight. The British attack succeded and many prisoners were taken. At night the 8th Bedfords’ furnished carrying parties to resupply the front line battalion with ammunition and water. C Platoon were detached to 1st London Company of the Royal Engineers as a working party in captured German trenches. C Company suffered very heavily from enemy shell fire.

Casualties – September 25
22594 Private Frederick CHANCE of Toddington Killed in Action
20403 Private William CHATER (22) of Olney Killed in Action
20554 Lance Corporal Arthur HANCOCK (38) of Melchbourne Killed in Action
18874 Lance Corporal Joseph LAW (21) of Sharnbrook Killed in Action
22807 Private Arthur William ODELL (24) of Marston Shelton Killed in Action

Read the war diary for September 25, 1916: http://www.bedfordregiment.org.uk/8thbn/8thbtn1916diary.html

Other September Casualties

September 3
17834 Private Charles William NORTHWOOD (21) of Maulden Killed in Action
23256 Private Harry PAGE (23) of Woburn Sands Died of Wounds
18462 Private William WARNER of Biggleswade Died of Wounds

September 4
19846 Private George William HARRIS (28) of Wootton Killed in Action
26270 Private Harold George SAWFORD (23) of Sharnbrook Died of Wounds
20059 Sergeant Walter Frederick SURRIDGE (28) of Bedford Killed in Action

September 5
18957 Private Albert Lewis CATLIN (32) of Stevenage Killed in Action
20704 Private Ernest CLARIDGE (26) of Hemel Hempstead Killed in Action
20890 Lance Corporal Reginald MANNING (24) of Toseland Killed in Action

September 6
18206 Private Walter Henry COX (27) of Renhold Died of Wounds

September 18
12101 Private Walter ASHWELL (29) of Moggerhanger Died – formerly 27646 Bedfords’

September 22
20266 Private William COOPER  (21) of Luton Died of Wounds
20373 Private George CRANFIELD
(29) of Flitwick Killed in Action on September 22

September 25
29460 Private Harry FINDING (19) of Raunds Killed in Action
29452 Private Christopher Francis SMITH (35) of Ridgmont Killed in Action
19220 Private Walter THOMAS (25) of Wellington Killed in Action

September 26
19477 Private Arthur GILLETT
(32) of Flitwick Killed in Action

September 27
22810 Lance Corporal Charles William CANHAM
(21) of Kettering Killed in Action

September 28
20817 Private Edward HILL of Barton Died of Wounds


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
A history of Silsoe (Roger Bradshaw, 2011
English Heritage

Next instalment to be published on 31 October 2016….
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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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-)


Wrest Park Military Hospital

In WWI the mansion at Wrest Park, Silsoe was used as a military hospital. On Thursday, September 14, 1916 a major fire developed in the East Wing of Wrest Park. The seriousness of the fire is evident from the fact that no fewer than ten fire brigades were engaged in quelling it.

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About 160 wounded soldiers were in residence at the time. The majority were convalescent, but many of the latest arrivals had been operated upon and recent amputations were fairly numerous. Within a short space of time the wards were cleared without injury or loss of life.

Twice during the night the Ampthill Camp bugle sounded ‘parade at the double.’ The first order of the evening was for all men who had cycles or other ways of getting to Wrest Park quickly, to start off and assist with the fire. Royal Engineers from Haynes Park also atttended. The second call came nearer midnight for the men to assist with arrangements for making comfortable about 50 wounded soldiers removed from Wrest House to Woburn Abbey Hospital and to empty huts at the Ampthill Camp. The Ampthill recruits also helped with salvaging valuable furniture and paintings.

The House survived the fire but sustained significant heat, smoke and water damage, then estimated at £20,000.

By converting this fine country house into a hospital for wounded soldiers and practically maintaining it for two years at great personal expense, Lord Lucas rendered a great national service, and during the whole time his sister, the Hon. Miss Herbert, devoted herself with loving care and attention to the work of the hospital as Matron.

After the fire the authorities decided that Wrest Park would no longer be used as a military hospital. In October 1916 this decision paved the way for the Ampthill Camp to be converted into the Ampthill Command Depot and refitted for the treatment of convalescent soldiers (1916-1919). Non-commissioned officers and men of the following units were under treatment:- the Bedfordshire- , Essex-, Northampton-, Suffolk-, and the Hertfordshire Regiments.

This is how the Bedfordshire Standard reported the fire:




September 22, 1916


Bedfordshire & Luton Archive Service
The Bedfordshire Standard
English Heritage

©S.Hartley (2015-)