Tag Archives: Royal Engineers

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

November 1918 – the Armistice was signed at 5 o’clock on Monday, November 11th where after the news rippled through Bedfordshire that firing would cease on all fronts at 11am.

In Bedford, immediately afterwards flags were flying all over the town, the church bells rang merry peals, and schools and most of the factories closed down. Soldiers were heartily cheered in the streets and jubilant crowds marched through the principal thoroughfares. The welcome news rippled throughout the County and there were many relieved and joyous scenes – read more.

1918.11.15 BT Armistice

Bedfordshire Times – November 15, 1918


How Ampthill received the news

News of the signing of the Armistice reached Ampthill about 10.20 a.m. on Monday, and instantly the flags of bygone days made their appearance one by one, until the town presented a festive appearance. About the largest flag in town was a huge one of the British colours, which hung outside the White Hart Hotel. Workshops and places of business closed and gave their attendants a holiday, and others took it. Those who could not have a flag had bows and enterprising shopkeepers did a good trade. The soldiers from the Camp had leave, and many of them crowded into the centre of the town, singing patriotic songs and making merry. A brewery dray, making its way from Bedford Street, met with an enthusiastic reception from the soldiers, who started to tug at the barrels of beer. The drayman was forced to return for shelter to the brewery premises. The scholars paraded the streets waving flags, singing songs and making an immense salute of noise. The flag on the church tower was hoisted, and the bells pealed out one of the most welcome peals ever heard in Ampthill.

The good old town clock in the market place, which had been silent for some years, took upon itself to send out its familiar chimes at 11 o’clock, causing the ears of the towns people to tingle at the well-remembered sound which had been lacking so long.
At the Parish Church a united public thanksgiving was held at which all classes and conditions were represented, and the Rector led the service. A solemn Te Deum was sung by a large congregation including Lady Ampthill and the Hon. Miss Russell and special thanksgiving hymns and Psalms were sung. Later on the school boys paraded for hours, fondly thumping kettles, pans and drums, and carrying flags, singing patriotic songs. In fact there never was such a commotion in the town, and such a feeling of thankfulness. There were mixed feelings of joy and sorrow in many hearts, especially those who had lost loved ones, but at the same time one and all were thanking that further sacrifice of life was now not necessary. Up to late hours the festive crowd occupied the market place, and the streets were alive with people. Several windows threw out the almost forgotten light.

Ampthill Command Depot

On Tuesday a party of the Royal Engineers from Haynes Park on horseback, paraded the town making merriment. In the evening the drum and fife band of the Command Depot, assisted by a number of men from the Depot, held a torchlight tattoo through the town, and were loudly cheered wherever they went. All the main streets were paraded, whilst the band played lively airs and the torches threw a lurid glare over the whole scene. In conclusion the band, halted in the Market-place and played “He’s a jolly good fellow,” followed by “Rule Britannia” and, as a finale, “God save the King.”

On Sunday, 17th a special thanksgiving service for the victory of the Allies was held at St.Andrew’s Church, when a large congregation was present. Ampthill Urban and District Council, the V.A.D and the uniformed organisations were well-represented. The Rector, Rev Walter D. May, took the service. Afterwards the various bodies formed up outside the church, and marched off to their respective headquarters.

A month of welcome relief

The Ampthill & Urban District Council’s decision to have 30 lamps lit in the town was speedily carried into effect. The dark paint has been removed, and the town presents a cheerful appearance.

The Band of the Bedford Depot, from Kempston Barracks, arrived in Ampthill on the afternoon of  Friday 15th, in motor lorries. It is 36 strong, under Bandmaster BAXTER, and seems to be composed chiefly of lads under military age. They were stationed at “Foulislea” in Church Street, and appear to be quite comfortable in their new quarters. The Band were inspected by Colonel His Grace the Duke of Bedford, K.G., A.D.C.,

A farewell tea, followed by a musical evening, was given to about 30 work men and staff of the Food Production Department, No. 2 Unit, Ampthill by the Flitt Cycle Company, at the King’s Arms Hotel. The men spent a most enjoyable time, and the military section were sorry to have to return to barracks, owing the scheme closing  down for the winter. No. 2 Unit has ploughed, cultivated or cut approximately 3,600 acres of land. This is really good considering the men were quite inexperienced in that particular work.

The Rev. A. M. RICHIE M.A., of Leicester, took both services at the Union Chapel, on Sunday. He has seen active service on the Western Front with the Y.M.C.A.

There was a good supply of cattle at the Ampthill Emergency Market  on Tuesday 19th. Forty beast and 200 sheep were surplus, and were sent away for distribution to other centres.

That evening the Ampthill Boy Scouts arranged a concert in the Church Room. Mr A. H. Wingfield was in the chair, and the room was crowded out. Mrs Stearn and Miss Collins were the accompanists, and much of the success is due to them. The Troop Funds should benefit by about £9 as a result.

News of Ampthill Boys

Private George DENNIS (Rifle Brigade), Private Edward SINEY (Machine Gun Corps), Private A. CARDINAL (Army Service Corps), Private Charles IZZARD (3rd Buffs) and Lieutenant Thomas Vaughan (Royal Scots Fusiliers) have been home on leave. Private Arthur MOORE (16th Middlesex) is also home on leave recovering from a neck wound.

Lieutenant Alfred WALDRON (Royal Engineers Signals) is now in France and has been laid up with an attack of influenza. Private Robert SHUTLER (Army Veterinary Corps) has been discharged from the Army, and is now home again. He has been looking after wounded horses in France.

News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

The final month of this torrid war has claimed the lives of 7 men who trained at the Ampthill Camp.


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
Bedsatwar blog
Bedsathome blog
Red Cross
Ampthill’s Fallen – by John Hele (2014)




Next instalment to be published on 31 December 2018….

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, 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.

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-)