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.
June 1918 –
Ampthill Command Depot
About 65 large marquees and a number of small tents have been erected, and a large camp has formed at eastern end of the park to receive more convalescent troops who are expected to arrive any day.
The Command Depot cricket team scored an impressive victory on Saturday, June 1st by beating the Hydraulic Works team by 137 runs to 56. The low score of the Luton team was chiefly due to the excellent bowling of Private T. EDWARDS (late of Surrey 2nd XI). Lieutenant BOOTH (late captain of Bedford Alma) scored 52 for the Command Depot.
On Thursday, June 13th an excellent show was given by D.H. Evan’s No.1 Party at Olympia. The large hall was crowded with Tommies and their friends.
A draft of 50 men was escorted to the Station by the Depot’s Drum and Fife Band.
PC J. PEGG, formerly Sergeant Instructor of bayonet training who was very popular at the Training- and the Command Depot, has been discharged to join the Ampthill Police. Force.
The Ampthill Platoon marched over to Clophill and attended church parade at the Parish Church. The sermon was preached by the Rector, Rev Cecil L. MATTHEWS, who is home on short leave from the Front. Lieutenant F.W. BRADSHAW (O.C.), Sergeant E.J. MOORE (Platoon Sergeant), Corporals W.E. PARMITER and J. SMITH, and other N.C.Os were on parade. Major L.H. CHASE (Officer Commanding the 1st Battalion) inspected the Ampthill Platoon.
Canadian Forestry Corps
In early June the Portuguese Labour Corps remembered the first anniversary of the death of their comrade who was killed in an air raid in France. There was a series of village dances to the music of an improvised orchestra consisting of a concertina, mandolin, and a guitar. The dancing kept on to a late hour, when hats were removed, and the proceedings concluded with the singing of the Portuguese National Anthem.
The “Jesters” concert party from the Royal Engineers, Bedford provided an evening of entertainment at the Y.M.C.A. Hut in the Pines, and their programme was thoroughly enjoyed. The “Zig-Zag Concert Party and Bob Barry’s party from Luton have also been entertaining at the Y.M.C.A. On Thursday, the “Woodpeckers” Pierrot Troupe of the Canadian Forestry Corps made their debut, with an excellent programme of the latest songs.
A pretty wedding has taken place on June 3rd at St. Andrew’s between Canadian Forester Private E.J. PERRY and Miss Gertrude Gowers of Park Hill. The Canadian’s Chaplain, Rev. H.P. Pollard officiated.
A book by Sgt. Herman L. PORTER has been published. In a pleasant, breezy manner Sergt. Porter reviews the work of the Canadian Forestry Corps since the formation of the camp in August 1917. The book is published by the Beds. Times Publishing Co. Ltd and is on sale at Mr F. Harwood’s in the Market Place, and is priced at 2s 3d. The entire profits are being devoted to a fund for the providing of concerts at the Y.M.C.A Hut during the summer.
News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front
There is news that Sapper James T. WILDMAN has been badly gassed in the recent fighting in France, and is lying seriously ill in Queen Mary’s Military Hospital at Whalley.
We also hear that 2nd Lieutenant Walter E. GADSBY M.M. has been wounded again and is now at the 3rd London General Hospital in Wandsworth. Formerly a private footman to HRH Queen Mary, 17906 Private W.E. GADSBY enlisted in the early days of the war and left the Bedfordshire Training Depot in May 1915 with the first draft. Walter has the unique honour of being the first man from the Depot to win the Military Medal which he did in July 1916 at the infamous Somme ‘Trones Wood’ action, and was subsequently recommended for a commission which he took in August 1917 with 4th York & Lancaster Regiment.
26765 Private Arthur ROBINSON of Woburn Street, who trained at the Bedfordshire Depot, has been awarded the Military Medal. While serving as a runner with the Bedfords’ Private Robinson discovered part of the line unoccupied. At great personal risk and danger to himself Private Robinson brought up reinforcements and he saved the situation. His younger brother, 27359 Private Percy ROBINSON, died in France in April 1917 due to a serious head injury.
This month the war has claimed the lives of two 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
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 July 2018….
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.