Tag Archives: Fred Woodcraft

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

December 1917 – at the Command Depot a cinema has opened for use by the troops. A good show now takes place nearly every night in ‘Olympia.’ Lieutenant HANKINSON operates and Sergeant ALLEN is the engineer.

Three men at the Ampthill Command Depot have been awarded the Military Medal for their gallant actions:

8717 Corporal Frank AVELING (2nd Bedfords’) of Bromley has seen action since 1914. On August 1, 1917 in the Ypres Sector he was in the trenches and received news that several British bombers had been wounded raiding the German line – read war diary. Corporal  Aveling went out alone and rescued nine wounded under heavy fire – the London Gazette.

16359 Private George W. CATLING (7th Bedfords’)  – on May 3, 1917 the British advance was held up by heavy machine gun fire. Private Catling remained with his Lewis gun to cover his comrades during the retreat – the London Gazette.

15115 Sergeant Samuel IMPEY (7th Bedfords’) of Luton – on July 1, 1916 was involved in storming Pomiers Redoubt on the first day of The Somme. With all officers wounded, Sergeant Impey took command of the company, led and succeeded in taking the redoubt, and was wounded – read war diary. The London Gazette announced the award 12 months ago.

1917.12.7 BSa

Bedfordshire Standard – December 7, 1917

The Ampthill Platoon of the 1st Bedfordshire Volunteers had a field day on Sunday, December 5th near Bedford. They were joined by the Bedford Volunteers and the Bedford & Modern Schools O.T.C.’s. The Ampthill men formed the third line of attack in a general scheme of operations. Captain SCOTT (Adjutant, 1st Bedfords’) addressed the Volunteers and Cadets, who then re-formed and marched back into Bedford, via Bromham. The Ampthill Platoon returned on the 6.48 train and marched up to Headquarters, where they were finally dismissed by Lieutenant BRADSHAW.



Bedfordshire Standard – December 7, 1917

News of the Canadians

The Forestry Corps detachment is now accommodated in a rustic, hutted camp which has been constructed in a clearing on the Cooper’s Hill Plantation.

Captain SHELLEY, Chaplain to six Canadian lumbering-camps, including Ampthill and the 125th Corps at Woburn, preached at the Union Chapel in Ampthill. Sergeant J.G. GARDEN read the lessons.

Sergeant Garden, with support of the Wesleyan Chapel, has also been making arrangements for placing the Canadian men in Ampthill homes to give them a home-like Christmas.


December 21, 1917


News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

A number of Ampthill boys are home on leave –
60675 Private Walter BARTRAM (Northamptonshire Regiment)
122644 Sergeant Sidney JEFFS (Devonshire Regiment)
37076 Private Arthur PRESSLAND (Bedfords’)
718277 Private George SHOTBOLT (Post Office Rifles)
21756 Private Fred WILCOX (Royal Sussex)
40941 Private James WOOLF (Essex Regiment)
522285 Sapper Fred WOODCRAFT (Royal Engineers)

25873 Private John COPPERWHEAT (Bedfords’) is in the King George Hospital, London recovering from a wound to the lower back. 37175 Lance Corporal Ernest WOODLAND (Bedfords’) is hospitalised in Stockport where he is recovering from five wounds.

Ten Ampthill Camp recruits have been killed in action or have died of wounds this month.

There is tragic news that on 30 December the troop ship S.S. Aragon was torpedoed while entering the Port of Alexandra in Egypt, and sank with the loss of 380 officers and men. Twenty-five Bedfords were among them of which two – Private BEESLEY and Private MINNIS – trained at the Ampthill Camp.

  • Casualties

20603 Private Samuel KING (27) of Coppingford Killed in Action on December 7
18602 Private Harry TITMUS (40) of Sundon Killed in Action on December 9
26665 Private George H. WARREN of Great Berkhamsted Died of Wounds on December 12 and buried in Northolt
23722 Private Charles F. WRIGHT of Stagsden Killed in Action on December 13
203151 Private Alfred STANBRIDGE (38) of Maulden Died of Dysentry on December 14
20150 Private Bert SHERWOOD (33) of Baldock Died of Wounds on December 16
23397 Private Edward G. BEESLEY  (21) of Ramsey Drowned at Sea on December 30
30901 Private Arthur W. MINNIS (27) of Hitchin Drowned at Sea on December 30
23675 Lance Corporal Frederick G. COVINGTON (22) of Guilden Morden Killed in Action on December 31
30064 Private Stewart W. HILL (28) of Ampthill Died of Wounds on December 31


The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.

Ampthill Parish Magazine
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
The National Archives
Bedsatwar blog
Bedsathome blog
Ampthill’s Fallen – by John Hele (2014)

Report on the Activities of the 126 Company Canadian Forestry Corps. Ampthill 1917-18 (K.Fadden)
A Review of Activities with the 126th Company Canadian Forestry Corps while stationed at Ampthill, Bedfordshire, Eng. (Sgt H. Porter, 1918)



Next instalment to be published on 31 January 2018….

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.

To remember that amazing day and the memories it went onto craft, here is a free copy of the book “Stencilling Tommy’s Footprints” – click to download.



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

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

September 1915 – Four drafts have already been sent from the Training Depot, numbering 356. The men at the Camp now total almost 1000. Recruits continue to come in and the men have been informed that to encourage personal recruiting the Duke of Bedford will give an extra fee for each fresh recruit procured. The open-air gymnasium has opened and more huts are being put up. Drafts 5, 6 and 7, totalling a further 200 men, are ready for despatch to the Front.

On Thursday, September 2, Major-General E.F. Dixon paid an official inspection to the Ampthill training camp. The General first inspected the recruits’ musketry on the range and a party of men engaged in rapid firing from a trench.

1915.10.8 BT - trench rapid firing

Recruits practice rapid firing

The inspecting officer then went to the trenching ground in Woburn Road. There General Dixon inspected the trenches and observed the relief carried out in a capital time of 35 minutes. Next he observed bomb fighting in the trenches, carried out in accordance to a scheme drawn up by Lieutenant Collisson.

No.6 draft, under Major Young, was exercised in extended order and firing discipline, and also in close order formation. The General also went to see the signalling class, under Sergeant Freemantle, and rapid loading in a trench followed by a bayonet attack in the final assault.

The Cadet Platoon came in for special notice by the General who witnessed the men tackle the obstacle course which has been newly installed to a plan sent from the Royal Engineers Office, Bedford. The General was delighted with all he saw and expressed his satisfaction to the Commanding Officer.

A Colt machine gun and a dummy Maxim have been purchased. Future drafts going to the Front will include detachments trained in the use of these guns.

His Grace has added a hut to the house in Dunstable Street, Ampthill that is rented for use as a V.A.D. Hospital. This new hospital enables men of the Depot to be medically treated without the usual deduction of 7d per dieum for hospital stoppages from their pay.

On Tuesday, September 21, Captain the Hon. Moubray St.John kindly showed our reporter around the trenching ground and minutely explained their construction and uses – read more. The trenches are similar in all respects to the British and German trenches at Ypres.


September 23, 1915

In the Ampthill Parish Magazine the Reverend Walter D. May writes ~
Lady Smith Dorrien has appealed for generous funds to enable the many of the National Service Leave to make Hospital Bags for wounded soldier’s personal effects.

The Headmaster, Mr Searle, has painted a large wooden tablet on the outside of the National School in Bedford Road and written thereon the names of 64 old boys who have joined His Majesty’s Forces. A second tablet names a further 12 former members of the night school.



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The Wooden Tablets erected outside the National School (1918-) Source: Andrew Underwood (1988) “Ampthill in Old Picture Postcards, Volume 1”

What became of the men mentioned in the Bedfordshire Standard?

Second-Lieutenant Evelyn Ernest Arnold Collisson – of Gravenhurst. Joined the 2nd Battalion in the field on the November 24, 1915. On February 23, 1916 after only a few months in the trenches Second-Lieutenant Collisson was killed during a “very quiet”, cold, snowy day. He was originally buried in the Maricourt cemetery but appears to have been moved in the 1920’s and now lies in the Cerisy-Gailly Military cemetery. Evelyn is remembered in Gravenhurst Parish Church where his father was the rector. More about Second-Lieutenant Collison: Bedsatwar

The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Banner of Faith
Andrew Underwood (1988) “Ampthill in Old Picture Postcards, Volume 1”

Next installment to be published on 1 April 2016….

Text copyright S.Hartley (2015-)