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.
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.
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
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.
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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.
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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.