The ‘Camp Diary’ provides an insight into the Bedfordshire Training Depot from 1914-16. Based on newspaper reports of the time.
May 1916 – On Friday, April 29 a draft of 130 men left camp for the Front to reinforce the Bedfordshire Regiment, 6th and 8th Battalions. The Duke of Bedford addressed the men that morning and, with the Duchess, saw them off at night. The men were marched to the Station and enjoyed the usual big send-off.
A further draft of 130 men left on Friday, May 5 to join the 6th Bedfords’. Having wished them well the Duke went on to inspect the entire Camp; upwards of a thousand recruits turned out. Rumours were rife that the bulk of the soldiers in Camp would be sent away to finish their training and so make room for Derby recruits.
On Friday 19th a draft of 50 smart young fellows left Camp to join the 8th Bedfords’ in France. The Duke and Duchess were present to wish them farewell. In late May a fair number of married man have come to the Camp through joining up before their group calls.
News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front
There have been more letters from men of the Bedfords’ 8th Battalion who were involved in the big scrap on 19/20 April at the Ijser Canal Bank near Ypres.
Thursday 4th May 1916: Private W. Horley, a bomb thrower in the 8th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, is home convalescing. His is another hair-raising story resultant from the attack on the battalion on 19th April. He was in the trenches at Ypres when his trench was bombarded by the Germans and nearly demolished, a dug-out was shattered and several of his mates were buried. Horley, with others, removed the debris with their hands and got them out. One of them, a sergeant, was badly hurt, and as it was cold, Horley returned to the ruins to fetch his overcoat. At that moment a shell came over and finished the destruction of the dug-out and he was buried, pinned by the legs and wounded in the neck by shrapnel. The Germans took the trench and held it for two days, until it was retaken by then Bedfordshire Regiment and Shropshire Light Infantry. He endured this tomb for seven days when he was fortunate enough to attract the attention of a sergeant of the Buffs, who had him released. He was removed to the base hospital in a very exhausted condition and from thence brought to Saint John’s Wood Hospital, where he remained for four weeks. He is at home at Hockliffe on ten days’ leave and will then return to his regiment, with the hope of “getting his own back”. His confinement was really his salvation. Had he been in the trench when it fell he would have shared the fate of his comrades, who were either killed or taken prisoners.
Source: Bedfordshire Standard June 16, 1916 (as republished by Bedsatwar blog)
Private Dick Bryant writes from Herne Bay Hospital. Bryant was formerly an Ampthill Camp recruit and in the big scrap on April 19th he sustained 13 wounds and narrowly escaped with his life, a Bible and a tobacco box in his breast pocket being much damaged. He says: “I am lucky to be alive. Sometimes out there you wish anything, but I have wished ever so many times they had not hit me, for it has been a very queer two or three days. I began to think my leg was going the wrong way, but I am going on alright today. It is lovely weather here and I long to get out in the air. I asked the doctor if I could go out and they are going to wheel me out this afternoon. I have got to be operated on, a bit of bone has to come out. He said if he did not do it I shall be six or seven months and then not right.”
Source: Biggleswade Chronicle June 26, 1916 (as republished by Bedsatwar blog)
- Killed in Action (2nd Battalion)
May 14, 1916
18754 Frederick George KING of Turvey – killed by a German rifle grenade
- Died of Wounds
May 4, 1916
20700 Charles William HOBBS of Boxmoor
- Killed in Action (8th Battalion)
May 19, 1916
23112 Private Samuel CLARK (35) of Sandon
May 20, 1916
20239 Private Charles LEE (35) of Marston Moretaine
May 30, 1916
20672 Private Thomas BALDWIN of Farnham
Visit the Bedfordshire Regiment website to read the war diary of each Battalion.
The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
RBL Roll of Honour
Next installment to be published on 1 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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