Tag Archives: Frank Sloan

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Sources:

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-)

 

WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, August 1915

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

August 1915 – The struggle has now been going on for very nearly a year. Buildings continue to be put up in the Park and recruits flood in, which says volumes for the Camp.

Leave has been granted for a number of soldiers to help gather the harvest in their district. On Saturday, August 14th the men did a route march through Greenfield out to Wrest Park and then back through Maulden. The weather was very warm; villagers threw apples and plums which were eagerly caught. Bayonet exercises are throughly taught and some non-commissioned officers are getting good instruction in bomb throwing.

In late August the fourth draft left for the Front. At 6 o’clock one morning the whole company lined up from the Hill to the entrance of the Park and heartily cheered the draft as they marched past, led by the Regimental Band. Later that day Lieutenant F.A. Sloan and Second-Lieutenants A. Lang, J.B. Healing, K.L. Mallett, R.E. Oakley and H.A. Deacon left for Southampton to join the Expeditionary Force in France. The fifth, sixth and seventh drafts have been picked out.

The Camp has enjoyed a splendid record of freedom from crime but sadly this has been broken. One of the privates has been found guilty of stealing some money. On Saturday, August 21st he was sentenced to 56 days’ hard labour.

 

August 20, 1915

 

August 27, 1915

In the Ampthill Parish Magazine the Reverend Walter D. May writes ~

What became of the men who are mentioned in the Bedfordshire Standard?

As far as I can determine:

Lieutenant Frank Alan Sloan – trained recruits in Ampthill Park and then served with the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion in France. Lieutenant Sloan received regular mention in the Battalion war diary. Military Cross. He was wounded in July 1916 and again in March 1918, recovering on both occasions. Promoted to Captain and survived the war; he received the British War Medal, 1914-15 Star and the Victory Medal. Retired from the British Army as Major Sloan and died in 1951.

Second-Lieutenant Arthur Lang – early discharge due to varicose veins, and survived the war; he received the British War Medal, 1915 Star and the Victory Medal.

Second-Lieutenant John Burton Healing of Dunstable – formerly with the Canadian Cavalry Corps. Promoted to Lieutenant. Survived the war; he received the British War Medal, 1915 Star and the Victory Medal.

Second-Lieutenant Kenneth L. Mallett – trained recruits in Ampthill Park and then served with the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion. Survived the war; he received the British War Medal, 1914-15 Star and the Victory Medal.

Second-Lieutenant Robert Edwin Oakley of Luton – trained recruits in Ampthill Park and then served with the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion in France. Lieutenant Oakley received regular mention in the Battalion war diary. Awarded the Military Cross. In July 1917 he was wounded at Ypres. Promoted to Captain and survived the war; he received the British War Medal, 1914-15 Star and the Victory Medal.

Lieutenant Harold Augustus Deacon of Kempston Croft- served with the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion. In February 1916 he transferred to the 21st Brigade of the Machine Gin Corps. Survived the war; he received the British War Medal, 1915 Star and the Victory Medal.

Source:
The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Banner of Faith

Next installment to be published on 15 March 2016….
Text copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, December 1914

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

December 1914 – In the last month The London Gazette has published notice of the officers who will be at the Bedfordshire Training Depot.

Colonel Herbrand Russell, Duke of Bedford K.G. – Colonel Commanding
Major Frank A.D. Stevens – Major, Second in Command
Captain & Hon. Major Arthur Nelson – Adjutant
Lieutenant Rupert H. Gretton – temporary Captain
Serjeant Frank Sloan – temporary Lieutenant
J.C. Hooper – temporary Quartermaster and Hon. Lieutenant

sad news. The first death of an Ampthill lad. Private Sidney Thorogood (20) of Park Hill was killed at the front on October 26. His grandmother is distraught. There is also news of Fred Pepper who was killed on November 8 at the First Battle of Ypres.

A family of Belgian refugees is being made comfortable at Caxton House and convoy trains of the wounded continue to arrive at Ampthill Station. Mr Wingfield has generously accommodated a dozen or so injured soldiers at his home, Ampthill House. All of this brings Ampthill’s effort into sharp relief!

Over 300 recruits are under training at the camp; some of the men are necessarily billeted in town until more huts are complete. The soldiers look fit and well. The men attended Church Parade at St. Andrew’s Church, headed by a rousing brass band. Heads were bowed to honour the Ampthill fallen.

The 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment received the parcel of Ampthill socks. These were greatly appreciated by the men who are preparing for return to the trenches.

December, 5 1914

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December, 19 1914

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December, 26 1914

Source: Ampthill and District News. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.

More about Private 3/6995 Sidney Thorogood and 8200 Fred Pepper: Ampthill’s Fallen by John Hele (2014).

Next instalment to be published on 1 November 2015….

Text copyright S.Hartley (2015-)