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.
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.
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-)