Tag Archives: Nelson

Wrest Park Military Hospital

In WWI the mansion at Wrest Park, Silsoe was used as a military hospital. On Thursday, September 14, 1916 a major fire developed in the East Wing of Wrest Park. The seriousness of the fire is evident from the fact that no fewer than ten fire brigades were engaged in quelling it.

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About 160 wounded soldiers were in residence at the time. The majority were convalescent, but many of the latest arrivals had been operated upon and recent amputations were fairly numerous. Within a short space of time the wards were cleared without injury or loss of life.

Twice during the night the Ampthill Camp bugle sounded ‘parade at the double.’ The first order of the evening was for all men who had cycles or other ways of getting to Wrest Park quickly, to start off and assist with the fire. Royal Engineers from Haynes Park also atttended. The second call came nearer midnight for the men to assist with arrangements for making comfortable about 50 wounded soldiers removed from Wrest House to Woburn Abbey Hospital and to empty huts at the Ampthill Camp. The Ampthill recruits also helped with salvaging valuable furniture and paintings.

The House survived the fire but sustained significant heat, smoke and water damage, then estimated at £20,000.

By converting this fine country house into a hospital for wounded soldiers and practically maintaining it for two years at great personal expense, Lord Lucas rendered a great national service, and during the whole time his sister, the Hon. Miss Herbert, devoted herself with loving care and attention to the work of the hospital as Matron.

After the fire the authorities decided that Wrest Park would no longer be used as a military hospital. In October 1916 this decision paved the way for the Ampthill Camp to be converted into the Ampthill Command Depot and refitted for the treatment of convalescent soldiers (1916-1919). Non-commissioned officers and men of the following units were under treatment:- the Bedfordshire- , Essex-, Northampton-, Suffolk-, and the Hertfordshire Regiments.

This is how the Bedfordshire Standard reported the fire:




September 22, 1916


Bedfordshire & Luton Archive Service
The Bedfordshire Standard
English Heritage

©S.Hartley (2015-)


WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – 2nd Lieutenant Collisson

Evelyn E. A. Collisson (1893-1916) was born in the village of Haynes in Bedfordshire. In 1896 the family moved to The Rectory in Gravenhurst. His father, Cambridge University scholar the Rev. Thomas Collisson, was Rector of St. Mary’s Church, Lower Gravenhurst and Vicar of St. Giles’ Church, Upper Gravenhurst.


The Collisson Family (1905)

After being educated at the Boxgrove School, Guildford and at Aldenham School Evelyn chose to enter business life over University. He joined the firm of Gibbs & Sons and was sent to Valparais in Chile. Evelyn had been a Sergeant in the Army Officer Training Corps. On the outbreak of war he volunteered for service and made his way by mule back across the Andes to Buenos Aires. From there Evelyn travelled home aboard the Nelson Line’ Highland Rover. The steamer docked on December 28th, 1914 at the Port of London.

On February 13, 1915 Evelyn joined the Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park as a 2nd Lieutenant where he trained with the recruits.


In November 1915 2nd Lieutenant Collisson was posted to join the 2nd Bedfords’ at the Front. He was to receive a Headquarters Staff appointment.

Evelyn served with ‘A’ Company in the Somme region near Maricourt. Wednesday, February 23rd 1916 was a cold, snowy day. At 12:15pm he was killed in action by a single sniper round to the head, and died instantly. Evelyn (22) was buried in the Maricourt in France, the officiating priest being the Rev. G.R. Vallings, Chaplain of the 1/7th Gordon Highlanders. His resting place was marked with an iron cross with a Bedfords’ badge attached to it. Here is the list of personal effects:

E.Collisson telegram



Peronal Effects

On the afternoon of Friday, March 10th the Rev. C. Dickenson, Chaplain to the Duke of Bedford’s Ampthill Camp, led a memorial service at St. Giles’ Church. The mourners included the Rev. T. and Mrs. Collisson, family, friends and parishioners. The Duke of Bedford, twenty of the officers including Majors Nelson, Stevens and Young, Dr Garner, ten non-commissioned officers, and men from the Ampthill Camp attended to pay their respects. The Union Jack flew at half-mast from the Church tower, and a muffled peal on the bells was rung at the close of the service.


March 17, 1916

The impact and strain on the Rev. and Mrs. Collisson are unimaginable. How to support parishioners in difficult times when their son had been killed by the very same? In July 1916 the Collisson family moved to the village of Swyre, much of which was owned by the Duke of Bedford – more.

Lieutenant Collisson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

On August 10, 1917 Evelyn’s fellow officers and friends gathered to unveil and dedicate a memorial window and a brass plate at St. Mary’s Church, Lower Gravenhurst. The window which is a fine piece of art representing “War and Peace” is the work of Messrs. Hall and Sons of St.Pancras in London. Evelyn is also remembered in Upper Gravenhurst on the War Memorial in St. Giles’ Churchyard. Evelyn’s grave was consolidated to the Cerisy-Gailly Military cemetery.


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The Rev. Thomas Collisson (1852-1921) died in the Dorset village of Swyre, where he is buried. Evelyn’s mother Florence (1856-1942) and his sister each returned to Bedfordshire. Winifred (1900-1993) is buried in St. Mary’s graveyard.


St. Mary’s Church, Lower Gravenhurst
The Bedfordshire Standard
Bedfordshire & Luton Archive Service
National Archive
Bedsatwar blog
Bedsathome blog
bedfordshire regiment

© S.Hartley (2015-)