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.
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.
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.
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
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.