Tag Archives: National School

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

July 1918 – the Ampthill Volunteers had an interesting lecture on ‘Outpost Duties’ by C.S.M. Simpson of the Ampthill Command Depot.

On Tuesday, 30th July a concert was given by children of the National School in aid of the Blind Soldiers Children Fund. There was a good attendance which included Lady Ampthill, the Hon. Constance and Romola Russell. A good programme of songs, recitations, and drills had been arranged, and was admirably carried out by the children, for which Mr W. Searle (Headmaster) and the teachers are to be congratulated.

Ampthill Command Depot

On the afternoon of Tuesday, 2 July the Command Depot Sports were held before a large attendance. The sports were held in a large roped-in enclosure just off the Woburn-road (by kind permission of Colonel His Grace the Duke of Bedford, K.G., A.D.C.).

Whilst the sports were in progress an excellent programme of music was rendered by the Northants Regimental Band, from the Depot at Northampton, and by the Command Depot Drum and Fife Band. Lieutenant Deacon, C.S.M.I Smith, C.S.M.I. Bruce, and Sergeant Easter made excellent clowns.

Sergeant W. Allen was the Hon. Secretary of the Sports Committee, and the various officials were as follows: –

President of Sports Committee – Rev.  C.R. Dickinson (C.F.C.);
Course stewards –  Lieutenant Forbes, Sergeants Green and Traylen;
Starter – Colour Sergeant Parker;
Timekeeper – Lieutenant Mallet;
Clerk of the course – Regimental Sergeant Major Clarke;
Recording clerk – Private Richards;
Referee-  Captain Durrant;
Stewards – the Gymnasium Staff;
Judges – the officers of the Command Depot, with Lance Corporal Asker and Privates Butcher, Holdsworth and Thompson.

The visitors included Lady Ampthill, the Hon. Constance Russell, the Misses Wingfield, the Rev. C.R. Dickinson (Chaplain), Major & Mrs A. Nelson, Major Holmes (Senior Medical Officer), Captain the Hon. Moubray St. John, the officers of the Command Depot,  Miss M. Osborne, Mrs E. Cosler, Miss Newman, and Dr R. Ambler.

1918.7.5 BS (4) .jpg

Her Grace the Duchess of Bedford attended to present the prizes to the successful competitors, and she was accompanied on the platform by Colonel His Grace the Duke of Bedford K.G., A.D.C., Lady Ampthill, Major G.B. Young (President of the Regimental Institute), Major A. Nelson (Adjutant), Major Holmes, Captain the Hon. M. St. John, and the officers of the Command Depot, with the Rev C.R. Dickinson (President of the  Sports Committee), and Sergeant W.J.C. Allen (Hon. Secretary).

Drowned in Ampthill Reservoir – 41278 Private Francis T. BULL, formerly of the Sherwood Foresters, was serving with the Suffolks’ 2nd Battalion and recuperating at the Command Depot. On Wednesday, 31st July 1918 Francis (26) was in the Rezzy training for the swimming sports which was to be held the next today. An eye witness recalls Private Bull ‘entered the water all right, but got into difficulty and sank before they could reach him.’ The Command Depot Sports Day was postponed as a mark of respect. An inquest is to be held.


Canadian Forestry Corps

The total production for July was 513,704 f.b.m. made from 641 logs which was principally hardwood, oak and chestnut from the Flitwick Plantation. 120,145 f.b.m. of sawn timber has been shipped which more than twice the previous month. The shipments were principally to Northampton and consisted of 2″ and 3″ plank.

The number of men parading sick this month averaged between eleven and twelve per day but reached as high as 33 which is 15% of the detachment. This large number was largely due to the epidemic of Spanish influenza at the start of the month.

No.2 Flitwick detachment is nearly at the end of its task and will shortly be withdrawn.

Work is underway to transfer the main operation to No.3 Brandon in Thetford Forest where work is underway where work is underway to clear the right of way for the narrow gauge railway and prepare the proposed mill site.

On Saturday, 27th July Miss Annie Dennis, of Brewery Lane, was married to Private Arthur Cotton (126th C.F.C.) at the Wesleyan Chapel. The bride was attired in a pretty cream dress with matching hat, and was given away by her farther, Mr T. Dennis, with Private J. O’Dell (Bedfords’) as the best man. The happy couple are spending their honeymoon in Rushden.

News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

This month the war has claimed the lives of 6 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 August 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

November 2018 – it will be one hundred years since news of The Armistice rippled through Bedfordshire, and was welcomed with thankful relief. Hostilities ceased but the war continued to shaped Ampthill in ways which have passed out of living memory.

Ampthill Town Council is leading preparations to build on Tommy’s Footprints and mark the Armistice centenary.

The focal point is Ampthill Armistice100 – a programme of events that build to and align with the nation’s tribute of Battle’s Over which is on Remembrance Sunday, 11th November.

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Click here to download a copy of the programme.

Please email Stephen Hartley if you would like to know more about Ampthill Armistice100 or volunteer.
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WWI – Ampthill Command Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, February 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.

February 1917 – a detachment of the Royal Engineers Signals Company is presently stationed in Ampthill. A successful whist drive and concert has taken place at the National School in Bedford Street, with several of the prizes kindly given by people in the town.


Bedfordshire Standard – February 2, 1917

News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front 

This month 36 Ampthill Recruits have been killed – 34 of them on the Western Front. The main action – map –  happened on February 11 at Miraumont near the River Ancre in Northern France. Two companies were engaged to attack the German positions. At Zero Hour 9pm the allied artillery laid down a barrage lifting gradually until 9:30pm. The Bedfords’ then advanced but were temporarily held up on the left flank by barbed wire and heavy machine gun fire. This was dealt with and by early hours of February 12 the objective gained, line straightened out and posts consolidated. Source: 4th Battalion War Diary

Two Ampthill recruits – Private West and Pateman – have been killed in Iraq where they were serving with Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. On June 26, 1916 these men were transferred from the Camp with 50 others to serve with the South Wales Borderers, and issued with new Service Number.


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


Next installment to be published on 31 March 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.

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-)