The ‘Camp Diary’ provides an insight into the Bedfordshire Training Depot from 1914-16. Based on newspaper reports of the time.
July 1916 – Several drafts have left the Ampthill Training Depot this week for the East Coast. The band marched each draft to the Station, and His Grace was there to see the men entrained. A good many civilian friends gave them a cheery farewell. Recruits have arrived to take the place of those who have left.
News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front
A subdued letter has been received from Joseph Bilcock who trained at the Ampthill Camp. Joseph is now attached to the Royal Engineers, serving at the Front. He dreams of a decent meal, duck and green peas….. The uncertainty and conditions are taking their toll.
*18308 Private Bilcock would serve with the British Expeditionary Force for a further 15 months. Joseph was wounded and sadly on October 28, 1917 succumbed to his wounds…..
The Battles of the Somme
The ‘Big Push’ in the Somme Region has seen 520 Bedfords’ killed this month. Sixty-nine of these soldiers trained at the Ampthill Camp. Most of the deaths arose from four British attacks:
July 1st – First Day of The Somme
On 1 July 1916 the British Expeditionary Force commenced a major offensive at the Somme. Ampthill recruits in the Bedfords’ 7th Battalion (C & D Company) were in frontline trenches, and went over the top. 19,240 British soldiers were killed on that infamous day. Ninety-five Bedfords were among them – ten of these men trained at the Ampthill Camp:
- Killed in Action
20779 Lance Corporal Edward Walter ATKINS of St Albans
20097 Lance Corporal Henry George BROWN (29) of Stevenage
18200 Private Thomas Burgess CARR (38) of Toddington
29371 Private Peter DARRINGTON (28) of Roxton
22098 Private Herbert GRAVES (25) of Welwyn
20284 Private George LEGATE (19) of Clifton
20075 Private Albert William LOVATT (33) of Hitchin
20404 Private Bert PARTRIDGE (24) of Bozeat
19571 Private Charles Frederick PEACH (23) of Farcet
20400 Private Frederick WEST (28) of Emberton
- Died of Wounds on July 3, 1916
23335 Private Sidney Charles WHITE of Woburn Sands
Many more soldiers were wounded. The Bedfordshire Regiment 7th Battalion War Diary provides an account of what happened on 1 July 1916 –more.
July 11th – Trônes Wood
The Bedfords’ 2nd Battalion saw action on 11 July at Trones Wood – map. The war diary reports ‘unexpectedly encountering a trench complex and machine guns’ that were concealed by the heavy undergrowth.
Sixteen Ampthill recruits who were killed that day. A further two men died on 12 July of their wounds – more about the Bedfords’ in Trônes Wood:
- Killed in Action
18598 Private Joe BELSHAM (25) of Sapley
18012 Private Arthur William BLAND (21) of St Albans
19050 Lance Corporal Frederick William BROWN (21) of Langford
17652 Private Walter DEAMER (31) of Redbourn
18772 Private John DEELEY of Eaton Bray
18183 Private Arthur William DELLAR (27) of Dunton
19196 Lance Corporal William FREEMAN (20) of Heath & Reach
17976 Private Sidney Jesse GURNEY (26) of Tingrith
22173 Private Frank HANDSCOMBE (22) of Pirton
19020 Private Robert JONES (21) of Bedford
18693 Lance Corporal Thomas Perry LLOYD of Watford
22135 Private Percy POPE (20) of St Albans
18908 Private Percy William SANDERS (23) of Bedford
18774 Lance Corporal Sidney SARGENT of Turvey
18616 Private Sidney James SINFIELD of Stagsden
18720 Private Thomas WORBOY of Great Wymondley
- Died of Wounds on July 12, 1916
18325 Private Charles George COLLIS (29) of Baldock
17712 Lance Corporal Thomas ROGERS (34) of Steppingley
July 27th – Longueval
The 1st Bedfordshire supported the 1st Norfolks in attacking the village of Longueval – map. A 2 hour bombardment preceded ZERO HOUR (7.10 A.M).
The Report on Operations indicates that the Bedfords’ encountered significant resistance as they entered the village. This took the form of heavy machine gun fire and a German counter attack that halted the advance. Casualties were heavy. Ten Ampthill recruits were killed in the action.
Read the Bedfordshire Regiment 1st Battalion War Diary
- Killed in Action
18484 Private George Henry BONESS (39) of Biggleswade
19451 Private Thomas CHESSUM (29) of Girtford
18042 Private Albert CURRINGTON (21) of Yelling
19384 Private William CURRINGTON (22) of Megre
18825 Private Charles James GOLDSMITH (27) of Stagsden
19448 Private George HAGGAR (20) of Stevenage
20083 Private Alfred Joseph PRICE of Woburn – Died of Wounds
20479 Private Tom Cecil TEBBS (25) of Fenstanton
17597 Private Edward UNWIN of Thaxted
18717 Private Walter WALDOCK (25) of Great Wymondley
July 30th – Maltz Horn Farm
The 2nd Battalion was engaged in an attack at Maltz Horn Farm – map. At ZERO HOUR 3:30am “A” Company attacked in two extended lines, capturing the farm and trench. 70-80 Germans were killed in the Maltz Horn German Trench and one prisoner taken. The Farm itself was found not to be held. “A” Company rejoined the Battalion in its original front line and suffered about 30 Casualties in the whole operation.
The Battalion was to move up into their positions in the Trenches just South of Trones Wood. The attack was severely hampered by a dense fog that caused the attacking Battalions to lose touch. Orders were given for “B” and “C” Companies to move up in support and reinforce the 19th and 20th Kings Liverpool Regiment. Thwarted by communication difficulties the companies dug in and excavated a new trench 300 yards long. The whole position was heavily shelled throughout the day.
Nine Ampthill recruits were killed in the operation.
Read the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion War Diary
- Killed in Action
17831 Lance Corporal Alfred John COVINGTON (24) of Roxton
17523 Private Alfred FORDER (30) of Stevenage
20907 James Hnery HEATHFIELD (26) of Campton
19073 Private Lawrence William HUCKLE -Died of Wounds
26683 Private Arthur Benjamin NICHOLLS (20) of Lidlington
22266 Private Albert William OSGOOD (20) of Bishop Stortford
20818 Private Sidney SHARP (31) of Preston
17746 Private William Alfred THODY (27) of Cotton End
20968 Private William WALDOCK (32) of Great Wymondley
July 1916 – other Ampthill recruits who were killed or died
19447 Private Frederick CAIN (26) of Hitchin – Killed accidentally on July 2
22501 Private William WALDOCK of St Albans – Died of Wounds on July 3
20973 Private Walter DAWSON (19) of Stow – Died of Wounds on July 4
22385 Private Frederick CHASE of Hockliffe – Killed in Action on July 10
20859 Private William REYNOLDS of Stotfold Killed in Action on July 10
19108 Lance Corporal Frank THORNTON (27) of Ascott-under-Wychwood – Died of Wounds on July 10
22170 Private Ernest Edward AMBROSE (19) of Wallington – Died of Wounds on July 13 – more
22940 Private Cecil Sydney ROE (19) of Huntingdon – Field accident on July 14
20528 Private Charles Henry LUDGATE (20) of Woburn – Killed in Action on July 15 – more
22178 Private Robert POINTER (39) of St Albans – Killed in Action on July 15 – more
20643 Private Walter Leslie James SAWYER (23) of Little Barford – Killed in Action on July 15 – more
18510 Private Joseph PAYNE – Died of Wounds on July 16
18294 Corporal Walter James BIRD (37) of Baldock – Died of Wounds on July 17
22523 Private William Joseph SHAMBROOK of Sharnbook – Killed in Action on July 19
18526 Lance Corporal John RAINSDEN (33) of St Albans – Died of Wounds on July 22
27407 Private John William GREEN of Wymington – Killed in Action on July 23
20056 Private Harry Edward HARPER (21) of Leighton Buzzard – Died of Wounds on July 23
19449 Private John W. HILLYARD (40) of Westoning – Killed in Action on July 24
22051 Private Charles BUSHBY (29) of Harlington – Killed in Action on July 28
18182 Private Rufus Ernest BOWYER (18) of New Harrowden – Died of Wounds on July 30
20228 Private Ernest John ENDERSBY (36) of Sandy – Killed in Action on July 31
The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
Daily Mail Online
Next installment to be published on 31 August 2016….
Text copyright S.Hartley (2015-)
Care is taken to ensure accuracy – please accept my apologies if the content contains any errors.
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