The ‘Camp Diary’ provides an insight into the Bedfordshire Training Depot from 1914-16. Based on newspaper reports of the time.
July 1916 – Several drafts have left the Ampthill Training Depot this week for the East Coast. The band marched each draft to the Station, and His Grace was there to see the men entrained. A good many civilian friends gave them a cheery farewell. Recruits have arrived to take the place of those who have left.
July 14, 1916
News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front
A subdued letter has been received from Joseph Bilcock who trained at the Ampthill Camp. Joseph is now attached to the Royal Engineers, serving at the Front. He dreams of a decent meal, duck and green peas….. The uncertainty and conditions are taking their toll.
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*18308 Private Bilcock would serve with the British Expeditionary Force for a further 15 months. Joseph was wounded and sadly on October 28, 1917 succumbed to his wounds…..
The Battles of the Somme
The ‘Big Push’ in the Somme Region has seen 520 Bedfords’ killed this month. Sixty-nine of these soldiers trained at the Ampthill Camp. Most of the deaths arose from four British attacks:
July 1916 – Ampthill recruits killed or who died of wounds
July 1st – First Day of The Somme
On 1 July 1916 the British Expeditionary Force commenced a major offensive at the Somme. Ampthill recruits in the Bedfords’ 7th Battalion (C & D Company) were in frontline trenches, and went over the top. 19,240 British soldiers were killed on that infamous day. Ninety-five Bedfords were among them – ten of these men trained at the Ampthill Camp:
Many more soldiers were wounded. The Bedfordshire Regiment 7th Battalion War Diary provides an account of what happened on 1 July 1916 –more.
July 11th – Trônes Wood
The Bedfords’ 2nd Battalion saw action on 11 July at Trones Wood – map. The war diary reports ‘unexpectedly encountering a trench complex and machine guns’ that were concealed by the heavy undergrowth.
Bedfordshire Standard – July 21, 1916
Sixteen Ampthill recruits who were killed that day. A further two men died on 12 July of their wounds – more about the Bedfords’ in Trônes Wood:
July 27th – Longueval
The 1st Bedfordshire supported the 1st Norfolks in attacking the village of Longueval – map. A 2 hour bombardment preceded ZERO HOUR (7.10 A.M).
The Report on Operations indicates that the Bedfords’ encountered significant resistance as they entered the village. This took the form of heavy machine gun fire and a German counter attack that halted the advance. Casualties were heavy. Ten Ampthill recruits were killed in the action.
Read the Bedfordshire Regiment 1st Battalion War Diary
July 30th – Maltz Horn Farm
The 2nd Battalion was engaged in an attack at Maltz Horn Farm – map. At ZERO HOUR 3:30am “A” Company attacked in two extended lines, capturing the farm and trench. 70-80 Germans were killed in the Maltz Horn German Trench and one prisoner taken. The Farm itself was found not to be held. “A” Company rejoined the Battalion in its original front line and suffered about 30 Casualties in the whole operation.
The Battalion was to move up into their positions in the Trenches just South of Trones Wood. The attack was severely hampered by a dense fog that caused the attacking Battalions to lose touch. Orders were given for “B” and “C” Companies to move up in support and reinforce the 19th and 20th Kings Liverpool Regiment. Thwarted by communication difficulties the companies dug in and excavated a new trench 300 yards long. The whole position was heavily shelled throughout the day.
Nine Ampthill recruits were killed in the operation.
Read the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion War Diary
July 1916 – other Ampthill recruits who were killed or died
19447 Private Frederick CAIN (26) of Hitchin – Killed accidentally on July 2
22501 Private William WALDOCK of St Albans – Died of Wounds on July 3
20973 Private Walter DAWSON (19) of Stow – Died of Wounds on July 4
22385 Private Frederick CHASE of Hockliffe – Killed in Action on July 10
20859 Private William REYNOLDS of Stotfold Killed in Action on July 10
19108 Lance Corporal Frank THORNTON (27) of Ascott-under-Wychwood – Died of Wounds on July 10
22170 Private Ernest Edward AMBROSE (19) of Wallington – Died of Wounds on July 13 – more
22940 Private Cecil Sydney ROE (19) of Huntingdon – Field accident on July 14
20528 Private Charles Henry LUDGATE (20) of Woburn – Killed in Action on July 15 – more
22178 Private Robert POINTER (39) of St Albans – Killed in Action on July 15 – more
20643 Private Walter Leslie James SAWYER (23) of Little Barford – Killed in Action on July 15 – more
18510 Private Joseph PAYNE – Died of Wounds on July 16
18294 Corporal Walter James BIRD (37) of Baldock – Died of Wounds on July 17
22523 Private William Joseph SHAMBROOK of Sharnbook – Killed in Action on July 19
18526 Lance Corporal John RAINSDEN (33) of St Albans – Died of Wounds on July 22
27407 Private John William GREEN of Wymington – Killed in Action on July 23
20056 Private Harry Edward HARPER (21) of Leighton Buzzard – Died of Wounds on July 23
19449 Private John W. HILLYARD (40) of Westoning – Killed in Action on July 24
22051 Private Charles BUSHBY (29) of Harlington – Killed in Action on July 28
18182 Private Rufus Ernest BOWYER (18) of New Harrowden – Died of Wounds on July 30
20228 Private Ernest John ENDERSBY (36) of Sandy – Killed in Action on July 31
The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
Daily Mail Online
Next installment to be published on 31 August 2016….
Text copyright S.Hartley (2015-)
Care is taken to ensure accuracy – please accept my apologies if the content contains any errors.
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