Witley Camp 2

Witley Camp was constructed in 1915, rows of wooden huts on a stretch of Witley Common outside Milford. “The camp was singularly unattractive,” writes a later historian, “a sprawl of wooden huts … erected in great haste.” (1)  “Sprawl” doesn’t seem quite the right word for the serried ranks of identical huts.

Witley Camp 1916 4 in 1

Looking back at it from 1919, one of those who were there described it in more favourable — or at least, more circumspect — terms:

Witley Camp was one of the large temporary Camps put up by the Imperial authorities at the beginning of the War to house the millions of citizen soldiers who rushed to the defence of their homeland. It was considered by experts to be the finest of its kind in England, and was specially designed to accommodate a complete Division of all arms—a total of some twenty thousand men. (2)

“Considered by experts” is a phrase that allows for the possibility that those who had to live there might have a different opinion. They were built to standard guidelines, forty huts to house a battalion, together with all the necessary other buildings: officers’ mess and quarters, sergeants’ mess, dining rooms and cookhouse, a drying room, all close to the hunts housing the ORs (Other Ranks), not to mention shelters for horses, stores for harness, for hay and for equipment, as well as a guard room.(3)

(1) Grout, Derek. Thunder in the Skies. A Canadian Gunner in the Great War. Toronto, 2015. 234
(2) 60th C.F.A. Battery Book, 1916-1919.[1919]. 20.
(3) Evans, David. “Army Camps: History and Development, 1858-2000.” 6. in John Schofield. English Army Camps.  York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] (doi:10.5284/1000269). Evans  draws from R. Hunter’s article on  “Barracks” in the 13th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1926.

The postcard is from a collection on a site dedicated to the 202nd (Sportsmen’s) Battalion, CEF, from Edmonton, Alberta. The lettering at the bottom reads “Passed by Press Bureau 17th October 1916.” There was nothing in those images to compromise the war effort, should the card fall into the wrong hands.

Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”

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