Tag Archives: Harry Gibbons

WWI – Ampthill Command Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, September 1918

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.

September 1918 – a war aims meeting was held when a large crowd listened to speeches by several speakers on the Allies’ war aims. Mr A.H. Wingfield presided.

Private Herbert FOSSEY (Middlesex Regiment) has been wounded again in France, and is now in hospital at the base.

Miss Dorothy Long of Avenue House has been home on leave. She is a member of the Ampthill V.A.D., and has been working in one of the Rouen Hospitals for the last two years. Another member, Miss Olive Smith of Chandos Road, has been working in Salonika Hospital for over a year.

The death in action of the Bedfords’ 48016 Private John LANCASTER (30) of Oliver Street has been reported. John was or some years employed by the Midland Railway Co., and he joined up with the Bedfords in the early years of the war, and after a short training was sent to France with his battalion, afterwards being moved to Italy. After some months fighting in the mountains he was sent back to France again, where he was killed in severe fighting late last month.

Ampthill Command Depot

Private Robert H. PACK of Dunstable Street has been promoted to Corporal, whilst serving at the Command Depot with the R.A.M.C.

C.S.M. George BASS, of Saunder’s Piece, has been home on sick leave. He has just been transferred to the Essex Regiment, after over 18 years service with the Bedfords’, with whom he served during the South African War. For some time he was R.S.M. at the Depot, and after some months’ service in France, is now at the V.A.D. Hospital in Bedford.

Lieutenant T.E.P. BOOTH, late of the Bedford Alma team, has been appointed secretary to the Depot Sports Committee for the ensuing season. Sergeant H. HUBBARD, a returned prisoner of war, is acting as captain.

C.S.M. CHITTLEBOROUGH, of the Command Depot, has been detailed from the Eastern Command to act as instructor to the Ampthill Volunteers. C.S.M. CHITTLEBOROUGH belongs to the Norfolk Regiment, and has been wounded three times in action. He also wears the ribbon of the 1914 star.

The Ampthill detachment of the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment have moved their headquarters from the Drill Hall, Market Place, to the Old Territorial Drill Hall in Dunstable Street. A Hotchkiss Gun Section is being formed in connection with the detachment. The new Drill Hall has been occupied by men of the Command Depot until recently, as sleeping quarters.

43419 Private Arthur W. HIPWELL of Ramsey St. Mary who is at Command Depot recuperating from a gunshot wound to the back, has received a postcard from relatives in Blackpool.



Canadian Forestry Corps

The Mill at Ampthill Station has been run for nearly 3 days to clear up odd logs from the bush and construction, and cut 26,302 f.b.m.

On Saturday, 28th September a quiet and pretty wedding was held at St. Peter’s Church, Tempsford, where Private Charles A. Boyce of the Canadian Foresters was married to Miss Ellen M. Smith, a teacher at the Ampthill National Schools. The bride was given away by her father and attended by her sister Miss Florence Smith. Private D. Gillespie acted as best man. The bride was attired in white , with a veil and orange blossom, and carried a bouquet of carnations, roses and sweet peas.

News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

This month the war has claimed the lives of 16 men who trained at the Ampthill Camp.


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
Red Cross
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 October 2018….

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

Care is taken to ensure accuracy – please accept my apologies if the content contains any errors.

Ampthill Armistice100

As part of Ampthill Armistice100 join us on 12th or 13th October for the WWI Living History Encampment in Ampthill Great Park.


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Click here to download a copy of the Ampthill Armistice100 programme.

Please email Stephen Hartley if you would like to know more about Ampthill Armistice100 or volunteer.
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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.


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.


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.


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.




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, July 1915

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

This issue contrasts genteel Camp cricket with conditions at the Front where the first draft are sleeping rough within sight of the big guns; there have been casualties.

July 1915 – An open-air gymnasium has been added to the Camp near the bayonet practice area (between the West Car Park and Westminster Pond). Cricket in the evening after drills is very popular. In mid July a week of heavy wind and rain played havoc so tents have been abandoned – the recreation hut has become a large hostel at night time.

The third draft have been warned to be in readiness to depart for the Front. On Saturday, July 24th there was a 12 mile route march in full kit and ready for active service.

On Monday, July 26th the Chaplain Rev. Dickinson conducted a special service. Next day a large company of civilians gave the draft of 60 men a hearty send-off. The Regimental Band played inspiring music as the men marched briskly to be entrained at Ampthill Midland Station.

News from the Front – letters are being received from men who left the Camp last month. Corporal Hart is the first of the draft to get wounded [June 16]. He writes of being shot in the first engagement, charging the German line. Platoon commander Lieutenant Turnbull was killed in a crater alongside. His body has not been found.

George Willsher says that he is billeted with Thomas ‘Tot’ White and Harry Gibbons in the orchard of an empty farm which is within sight of the Front. The big guns flash when they are fired. Some of his pals have been in the trenches for three days, and have also taken part in a bayonet charge. One Ampthill boy is missing.

July 23, 1915


July 30, 1915

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

And in the Illustrated War News ~

BTD NCO July 1915 001.jpg




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


Private 17875 William Hart of Leighton Buzzard – was shot on 16 June 1915 attacking a German trench. He recovered but was injured again in 1916 fighting with the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion and died from his wounds on 15 October. His grave is in Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbe. Private Hart is remembered on the War Memorial in Ampthill Park.

Second Lieutenant Laurence Turnbull – was killed on 16 June 1915 as his platoon [inc Private Hart] attacked the German line. The death was recorded on 18 June in the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion Diary. Lieutenant Turnbull has no known grave but is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial to the missing and on the War Memorial in Ampthill Park.

Private 17743 Harry Gibbons of Steppingley – was killed in action on 27 September 1918 fighting with Bedfordshire Regiment 4th Battalion. The 4th Battalion Diary entry for 28 September indicates that Corporal Gibbons was engaged with the objective of capturing the Hiddenburg Support Line. His grave is in Moeuvres Communal Cemetery in France. Corporal Gibbons is remembered on the War Memorial in Ampthill Park and on a plaque in the church of St. Lawrence, Steppingley. Woburn Abbey has published more about the story of Harry Gibbons.


The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Banner of Faith (which contains the Parish Magazines for 1915).
The Illustrated War News.
The Commonwealth war Graves Commission.
The Bedfordshire Regiment.


Next installment to be published on 1 March 2016….
Text copyright S.Hartley (2015-)