Tag Archives: Herbert Brightman

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

October 1917 – more men who are recuperating at the Ampthill Command Depot have been awarded gallantry medals.

18257 Private Herbert W. FISH of the 7th Bedfords’ has been awarded the *Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Russian Cross of St. George. In 1916 near Mametz Private Fish’ prompt action helped to extricate 3 wounded officers who were buried alive after their dugout was blown in by a shell. In the July Private Fish saw action at Pomieres Redoubt. The British advance was held in open land while a barrage pounded the redoubt. A German machine gun opened up on the flank causing many casualties. Private Fish volunteered to help bomb the gun out of action, and was successful.


1917.10.05 BS
October 5, 1917

(* The official  Citation records Private Fish as being awarded the D.C.M. rather than M.M.)


D.C.M. Citation

13538 Serjeant Reginald SHELFORD  of the 11th Suffolk Regiment. Awarded the Military Medal for his leadership on April 9, 1917 when commanding a platoon during the British attack at Arras, and for his continuouse good work and devotion to duty. Wounded in May 1917 at Rouex and invalided back to Blighty.

325105 Serjeant Jack SHELTON of Whittlesey – 1st Cambridgeshire Regiment. On July 31, 1917 Serjeant Shelton was part of an attack at St. Julien. He took command of the company after senior officers were wounded and killed, and led his men to achieve all of their objectives. In August 1917 when in the trenches Serjeant Shelton was wounded, and sent to England.

Private CHAPPELL of the 7th Bedfordshire Regiment. During an attack on the vilage of Chrisy the battalion was held up by a strong enemy post on the left flank. Private Chappell took his Lewis gun and crawled from shell hole to shell hole, and suceeded in reaching a position from which he was able to enfilade the German post and force their retirement.

1917.10.12 BS a

October 12, 1917

News of the Canadians

The Wesleyan Church has welcomed the Canadian Forestry Corps by placing three rooms at their disposal, where the man can spend a quiet and sociable time in the evenings.

However, the Canadian’s developing relationship with Ampthill Urban District Council remains fractious. The Council thought that it had obtained an agreement to spare a belt of trees. By the time Mr Dawson of the Timber Supply Department attended the Council meeting the trees in question were already down, which the Members considered very discourteous.

Writing in the Ampthill Parish Magazine, the Rev D. May tried to set matters in context

“The ravaging of woods, by our own hands, needs to be thought of by contrast with the ravaging of hearths and homes by the enemy; then we gain a sense of proportion.”

On October 3 the laying of rail for a narrow gauge railway started from Ampthill Station towards Breakheart Hill (to the West of Fordfield Road in Ampthill).

News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

Five hundred and fifty Ampthill recruits have lost their lives since our brave volunteers completed their training from May 1915 to July 1916 and were drafted to the Front.

During October 1917 twenty nine Ampthill Recruits have been killed or have died of their wounds. One of the men is John AYLOTT (37) of Bedford who earlier in summer was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in bringing in wounded under fire.

18171 Aylott 1917

Twelve of these chaps fell on 30 October while serving with the Bedfords’ 4th Battalion near Ypres. The Bedfords attacked at dawn but were held up by very heavy and boggy ground surrounding the Paddebeek and a total advance of about 150-200 yards only was made. Eleven of the twelve have no known grave. Click – to read the war diary of October 30, 1917.

  • Casualties

20862 Private James W. TRIPLOW (27) of Stotfold Died of Wounds on October, 4
20650 Private Samuel RANDALL (34) of Houghton Regis Killed in Action on October, 6
23638 Private Sidney TAYLOR of Ramsey Killed in Action on October 7
28935 Private George W. DAWES (32) of Kettering Killed in Action on October 8
27349 Private Edwin HARRIS (28) of Bozeat Killed in Action on October, 8
17924 Private Albert SPURR (32) of Hemel Hempstead Killed in Action on October, 9
30902 Private Charles H. WILKINSON (21) of Cheshunt Killed in Action on October, 9
32610 Private Thomas STOKES (24) of Earith Killed in Action on October, 11
20782 Private Jack KINGSLEY (23) of Hitchin Killed in Action on October, 18
4626 Private Bertrand W. BLAND (26) of Meppershall Died of Wounds on October 21
18171 Private John AYLOTT M.M. (37) of Bedford Killed in Action on October, 23
23316 Private Herbert BRIGHTMAN of Dunstable Killed in Action on October, 25
23488 Private Bertie EKINS (24) of Riseley Killed in Action on October, 26
18309 Private Joseph BILCOCK (38) of Biggleswade Died of Wounds on October, 28
26509 Private Ernest H. JOHNSON (28) of Kettering Died of Wounds on October, 28
20279 Lance Corporal Frank ASHPOLE (19) of Wootton Died of Wounds on October, 29

23181 Private Oscar J. BOON (20) of Bedford Killed in Action on October, 30
26761 Private William C. CAKEBREAD (22) of Meppershall Killed in Action on October, 30
23647 Corporal George HORSLER (27) of Bramingham Killed in Action on October, 30
23335 Private Alfred H. LEONARD (21) of Guilden Morden Killed in Action on October, 30
18552 Private Joseph W. LISTER (28) of St. Ives Killed in Action on October, 30
23515 Private Frederick LITTLE (34) of Biggleswade Killed in Action on October, 30
23605 Private Wilmot LORTON (21) of Little Brickhill Killed in Action on October, 30
23720 Private Edgar MASSEY (23) of Wilbourn Sands Killed in Action on October, 30
23336 Private Albert J. MURRER (26) of Woburn Killed in Action on October, 30
26777 Private Alfred PAGE of Bozeat Killed in Action on October, 30
23429 Private Herbert PAINE of Gamlingay Killed in Action on October, 30
20589 Private Herbert WILLSHER (21) of Caldicote Killed in Action on October, 30
19848 Private Jesse WRIGHT (33) of Connington Fen Died of Wounds on October, 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

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 30 November 2017….

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 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-)