Tag Archives: William Hart

WWI – Ampthill Command Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, October 1916

-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.

October 1916 –The Bedfordshire Training Depot has now, after 2 years, been converted into a Command Depot. The original object of the camp was to allow men, under the voluntary system of enlistment, to do their training in their own county until they were fit to join friends and relatives fighting in the Regular and Service Battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment in France.

The camp commenced with 140 men. The men and Camp rapidly rapidly increased until at one moment over 1,600 men were accommodated. Over 2,000 men, all of whom joined under the voluntary system, have been trained at Ampthill, and have proceeded overseas.

Two of the men have received the Military Medal for distinguished and gallant service in the field. The casualties have been heavy, four officers and 155 men having been killed in action.

Bedfordshire Command Depot

The Ampthill Camp has been converted to fulfil a new role, with the Duke of Bedford and his senior staff continuing in command.


Major Stevens                             Major Nelson

Combatant Staff Officers

  • Duke of Bedford K.G. A.D.C. – Commanding Officer
  • Major Frank A.D. Stevens – Second in Command
  • Major Arthur Nelson – Adjutant

Medical Officers

  • Lieut Holmes – Royal Army Medical Corps
  • Dr. William Garner (of The Limes, Ampthill)

The Command Depot at Ampthill will be for the non-commissioned officers and men of No.9 Group Regimental District, which comprises eight counties, and for officers who have trained at Ampthill and returned home wounded or invalided from the Front.

Men on discharge from hospital proceed on ten days’ furlough, and the rejoin a Command Depot, the objective of which is to restore wounded and invalided men to a state of military and physical efficiency by a careful system of physical and military training. At a Command Depot the men lead the ordinary life of a soldier in barracks or in huts – route marching, drill, bombing, musketry, physical drill, and trench warfare all being part of the course. In addition there is a special establishment for those requiring massage and electrical treatment, which will be under the supervision of the medical staff attached to the Command Depot.

October 27, 1916

News of Ampthill Park recruits at the Front

Twenty-eight Ampthill recruits have been killed in the Somme region this month. Eleven of these men fell on October 12 when the Bedfords’ 2nd Battalion attacked the German frontline at the Battle of Le Transloy. The weather and ground conditions were atrocious. Few yards were gained for the British lives lost.

Read the war diary for October 12, 1916: http://www.bedfordregiment.org.uk/2ndbn/2ndbtn1916diary.html


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
Bedfordshire Regiment

Next installment to be published on 30 November 2016….
Text copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

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

BUY: Ampthill Camp WWI Centenary Postcard

This special postcard commemorates the centenary of the WWI Bedfordshire Training Depot (1914-16). Limited edition: 500

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.

£2 (inc p&p). Please email hartleyhare135@gmail.com to order by PayPal or BACS transfer.


WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, July 1915

The ‘Camp Diary’ provides an insight into the Bedfordshire Training Depot from 1914-16. Based on newspaper reports of the time.

This issue contrasts genteel Camp cricket with conditions at the Front where the first draft are sleeping rough within sight of the big guns; there have been casualties.

July 1915 – An open-air gymnasium has been added to the Camp near the bayonet practice area (between the West Car Park and Westminster Pond). Cricket in the evening after drills is very popular. In mid July a week of heavy wind and rain played havoc so tents have been abandoned – the recreation hut has become a large hostel at night time.

The third draft have been warned to be in readiness to depart for the Front. On Saturday, July 24th there was a 12 mile route march in full kit and ready for active service.

On Monday, July 26th the Chaplain Rev. Dickinson conducted a special service. Next day a large company of civilians gave the draft of 60 men a hearty send-off. The Regimental Band played inspiring music as the men marched briskly to be entrained at Ampthill Midland Station.

News from the Front – letters are being received from men who left the Camp last month. Corporal Hart is the first of the draft to get wounded [June 16]. He writes of being shot in the first engagement, charging the German line. Platoon commander Lieutenant Turnbull was killed in a crater alongside. His body has not been found.

George Willsher says that he is billeted with Thomas ‘Tot’ White and Harry Gibbons in the orchard of an empty farm which is within sight of the Front. The big guns flash when they are fired. Some of his pals have been in the trenches for three days, and have also taken part in a bayonet charge. One Ampthill boy is missing.

July 23, 1915


July 30, 1915

In the Ampthill Parish Magazine the Reverend Walter D. May writes ~

And in the Illustrated War News ~

BTD NCO July 1915 001.jpg




What became of the men who are named in the Bedfordshire Standard?


Private 17875 William Hart of Leighton Buzzard – was shot on 16 June 1915 attacking a German trench. He recovered but was injured again in 1916 fighting with the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion and died from his wounds on 15 October. His grave is in Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbe. Private Hart is remembered on the War Memorial in Ampthill Park.

Second Lieutenant Laurence Turnbull – was killed on 16 June 1915 as his platoon [inc Private Hart] attacked the German line. The death was recorded on 18 June in the Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion Diary. Lieutenant Turnbull has no known grave but is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial to the missing and on the War Memorial in Ampthill Park.

Private 17743 Harry Gibbons of Steppingley – was killed in action on 27 September 1918 fighting with Bedfordshire Regiment 4th Battalion. The 4th Battalion Diary entry for 28 September indicates that Corporal Gibbons was engaged with the objective of capturing the Hiddenburg Support Line. His grave is in Moeuvres Communal Cemetery in France. Corporal Gibbons is remembered on the War Memorial in Ampthill Park and on a plaque in the church of St. Lawrence, Steppingley. Woburn Abbey has published more about the story of Harry Gibbons.


The Bedfordshire Standard. The original broadsheet is part of the Bedfordshire & Luton Archive.
Banner of Faith (which contains the Parish Magazines for 1915).
The Illustrated War News.
The Commonwealth war Graves Commission.
The Bedfordshire Regiment.


Next installment to be published on 1 March 2016….
Text copyright S.Hartley (2015-)