Tag Archives: Richards

WWI – Ampthill Command Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, February 1919

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.

Prisoners of War Dinner

On Tuesday, 4th February about 50 returned prisoners of war were entertained at the Volunteer Drill Hall in Dunstable Street. The guests came from Ampthill and the surrounding villages. Dinner was served at 1 o’clock and it was really quite a triumph in the days of rationing and food restrictions. Beer, minerals and port were kindly provided by Messrs Morris & Co, and concert party entertainment followed.

War Memorial Meeting

A public meeting to consider the provision of a war memorial for Ampthill was held at the County Court Hall on Thursday, 27th February. Mr J.W. Crisp took the chair, and was accompanied by eight members of the Ampthill Urban Council, with Mr F.W. Walker (Surveyor) and Mr W.L. Jones (Deputy Clark). The room was packed to its utmost capacity with townspeople.

Mr J.W. Crisp said that he hoped that what ever was done it would be something permanent and useful to the town for ever. It would be the wish of the men who had fallen that the memorial should take the form of something of use to the town. Mr John B. Hodge said that there was a suggestion abroad that it should take the form of a hall, which could be called the memorial hall. This might contain the roll of honour. Mr Andrew H. Tanqueray (Solicitor) said that a suitable site could be provided free of cost to the ratepayers, and the £2000 erection cost funded by subscription. Mr C.A. Jeffs suggested a public library to support education, with application to the Carnegie Fund for a grant. Mr Richards voiced support for a public hall which was ‘absolutely wanted in the town.’

The chairman then put the proposition that the memorial took the form of a public hall, and the details be arranged by a committee. The following gentlemen were appointed:-

Ampthill Urban & District Council
Messrs J.W. Crisp, T. Izzard, W.T. Sharpe, H.G. Smith, and H. Swaffield.

Messrs A.H. Wingfield JP, J.B. Hodge, T. Hardwicke, A. Pye Smith JP, and the Rev. Westlake.

On the proposition of Mr W.T. Sharpe, Mr A.H. Tanqueray was unanimously appointed on the committee. Mr F.W. Walker was appointed as Hon. Secretary, Mr W.L. Jones as Legal Adviser, Mr J.B. Hodge as Treasurer, and Miss Wingfield and Mm. Cosier were added to the committee.

War Trophy

The War Office writes that, on recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant, Mr Samuel H. Whitbread, the town has been granted a German Machine Gun (damaged) with ammunition box and belt. The offer has been accepted but it was decided to ask for a field gun as a more ‘worthy’ addition.

The Ampthill Camp

On February 17th His Grace, The Duke of Bedford announced the proposal to erect a memorial to the men who were trained at Ampthill and have lost their lives during the war. A list of 368 names* has been published in the Bedfordshire Standard, and relatives  invited to communicate any omissions to Major A. Nelson (Adjutant), for example men who were transferred to other regiments and whose casualty notifications were not sent to Ampthill.

*707 names were eventually gathered for inclusion on the Ampthill Camp Memorial.

There is also news of His Grace engaging Messrs Swaffield and Son of Bedford Street to sell by auction the whole of the camp buildings, and a large and varied assortment of camp equipment and furniture necessary for the accommodation of 1,000 men. Catalogues and conditions of sale are in preparation and may be obtained shortly. Public Notices has been placed in Bedfordshire newspapers and in the neighbouring counties. The sale is to start on Tuesday, 18th March and will likely take some period of days. 


Cambridge Independent Press – February 28. 1919

Colour Sergeant Major Instructor Joe SMITH, of the Gymnastics Staff has now left the Command Depot and is at Aldershot awaiting demobilisation.

V.A.D. Hospital closes

The V.A.D. Hospital at Clevedon House, Dunstable Street has closed down. Patients have been at Clevedon since the formation of the Ampthill Camp. The V.A.D. Hospital has done splendid work for some years in caring for the sick from the Command Depot.


Clevedon (later known as St. George’s)

News of Ampthill Boys

A large number have received their discharge from the forces recently, including –

Private Stanley NEGUS (Royal Signals) of Saunders Piece. 
Lieutenant Norman SHARPE (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) of Woburn Street. 
Private Edgar SKINNER (1st Herts) of Baker Street.
Corporal R. SMITH has arrived back from Egypt where he has been stationed since 1914.
Private Henry STANBRIDGE (52nd Rifles Brigade) of Park Street. 
Private Harry WILDMAN (North Staffs) of Baker Street. 

Death of an Airman

On Wednesday, 12th February 1919 2nd Lieutenant Eustace McGEE (RAF) of Rotherfield took off from an airfield to the north of Gas House Lane in Ampthill. For reasons unknown, his plane entered a spiral nose dive and it crashed near King’s Wood. Eustace (20) sustained a broken neck and died at the scene.

An inquest has been held at the Guard Room, Ampthill Park. Mr H.J. Webb (Deputy Coroner) presiding recorded a verdict of Accidental Death. Eustace’ coffin was borne on an R.A.F. motor, draped with a Union Jack, for burial at St. Andrew’s Church. A firing party of 22 RAF men was in attendance.



The Bedfordshire Standard; Bedfordshire Times. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.

Ampthill Parish Magazine

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

RBL Roll of Honour


The National Archives

British Newspaper Archive

Bedsatwar blog

Bedsathome blog

Red Cross

Ampthill’s Fallen – by John Hele (2014)



Next instalment to be published on 31 March 2019….

Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

Care is taken to ensure accuracy – please accept my apologies if the content contains any errors.

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

August 1918 – news has been received that Private Edward KEECH (M.G.C) of Church Street who is a prisoner of war in Germany. Private KEECH is thankfully well.

Cadet W. ODELL (Mercantile Navy) has returned home from South America after being torpedoed for a second time. His ship managed to reach port without sinking.

Mrs P. Daniell of Austin’s Lane who’s eldest son Private William DANIELL (20), was killed in action on July 13th, has received a letter from the Corporal in charge of the battalion runners, in which he sends the deepest sympathy of all his comrades, in her loss.

Ampthill Command Depot

On Thursday, August 8th the Warwick Repertory Company, from London, concluded a successful week’s entertainment at the Ampthill Command Depot. Their on-e-act sketches received an enthusiastic reception from a large audience. During the intervals the Depot’s Bijou Orchestra ably entertained.

On August 19th prizes were presented to the successful competitors at the shooting competition. Miss Sheila McCarthy. The special prize given by the Duchess of Bedford was won by Sergeant Instructor CHICKLEBOROUGH.

An open-air canteen in Mr Wingfield’s grounds has been started by some energetic ladies from the Wesleyan Chapel, who are kept very busy every evening. This is well patronised by the troops. An added attraction is Mr Wingfield’s collection of foreign animals which, although depleted, is still interesting to the Tommies.

Canadian Forestry Corps

The Ampthill mill has finished cutting timber. Shipments this month of lumber totalled 187,816fbm which is an increase on July of 67,671fbm. These were principally despatched to Northampton on loco T.C.2596. During August 80,831 linear foot of pitwood was consigned from Ampthill Station.

After spending nearly a year in Ampthill the 126th Forestry Corps is about to leave for Thetford. During their Ampthill stay they have made many friends, and now they are sorry to lose these boys from their midst. The officers and men will always be remembered. Early each morning we have been awakened by the Reveille, and Last Post each night signalled the close of another day. Probably the centre of the social life has been the Y.M.C.A. hut, where we have been privileged to spend many a pleasant evening. Each week we have listened to a good concert or watched their pictures.

Sergeant Herman L. Porter, who has been in charge of the Y.M.C.A. has put in every effort to make the work a success, and to him is largely due the credit for the splendid work done for the men in the social way. Although he came here broken in health after being wounded and gassed in France, he never spared himself when anything was to be done for the men. Ably assisted by his corporal, V.G. Jones, his work has been a success. While there Sergeant Porter has written a book on the work of the company.

On August 8th a special farewell gathering was held at The Pines Y.M.C.A. which taxed the seating capacity of the hut to its utmost. During the interval speeches Commanding Officer Captain P.H.JORY, Lieutenant J.H. GARDNER and Sergeant H.L. Porter spoke of the good work of the Y.M.C.A. and sincerely thanked the Ampthill ladies who had done such good service in the Canteen and the social work of the “Y.” Parlour games and dancing kept the guests amused and interested until a successful evening was closed with “Auld Lang Syne.”

On Friday, August 16th a Farewell Entertainment was given to the Foresters at the British School. The Company Pierrot troupe, “The Woodpeckers,” entertained at the close of which Mrs Chivers (on behalf of the committee) presented Lieutenant Read with a mascot in the form of a large blue and yellow bird. Accepting the gift, Lieutenant Reed thanked the donors and assured them that the mascot would accompany the troupe on their journeys. A very pleasing incident was a presentation by Lieutenant Reed, on behalf of the boys, to the newly promoted Lieutenant H. Porter for his splendid work as sergeant in charge of the Y.M.C.A. That he was a great favourite with the boys was shown by the gift of a wristlet watch, engraved with the words “Presented to Sergt. H. Porter, by the Coy. of Canadian Forestry Corps, as a token of appreciation.

The Woodpeckers have been instrumental in raising sums for charity. The proceeds of their amusing and melodious entertainment has raised the following sums since the 126th Corps arrived in August 1917 –

The Prisoners’ of War Fund (Sandy & Biggleswade)  £84. 14. 8.
Flitwick War Memorial                                                    £28.
Sandy V.A.D. Hospital                                                       £16. 12. 10.

The sentiments of the townsfolk were ably expressed by Mr C. Richards who said “in the first place the Ampthill people did not want the Canadians and they were still consistent in that they did not want them – to go.” A very pleasant evening then ended by Mrs Chivers being called upon to sing “O, Canada,” followed by “Auld Lang Syne” and “God Save the King.”

It seems likely that when the Canadians depart the Command Depot will utilise the huts encampment which is on The Pines.

News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

This month the war has claimed the lives of 24 men who trained at the Ampthill Camp. Of these, 20 died in the actions from 20th August in offensive operations that were part of the Second Battles of the Somme.


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 30 September 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. Click here to download a copy of the programme.

As part of Ampthill Armistice100, the Zonita Ampthill Community Cinema is pleased to show a double-bill of films on the evening of Saturday, 10th November:

Film 1 ~ The Burying Party (12A; 60 mins)
For release on 4th November 2018 and being shown with special permission of the director. Wilfred Owen returns to the Somme against the advice of his mentor Siegfried Sassoon, determined to follow his subject ‘The Pity of War’ to the very end.
Watch the trailer

Film 2 ~ Journey’s End (12; 108 mins)
Set in a dugout in Aisne in 1918, a group of British officers, led by the mentally disintegrating young officer Stanhope, variously await their fate.
Watch the trailer

You can buy tickets on the door, or reserve tickets and tables (at no extra charge) by emailing info@zonita.org.uk. Fully licensed bar.


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Please email Stephen Hartley if you would like to know more about Ampthill Armistice100 or volunteer.
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