Early days at Witley

Rigorous training did not resume right away for the men at Witley Camp. They spent their first few days on route marches while they waited for “guns, harness, horses and equipment” (1), and they all had a six-day landing leave, though not all at once. (2)  When Archie Wills found he was not going in the first group to take leave, he consoled himself with the thought that there was “an easy time in store for us who are waiting for the second leave.” (2) Meanwhile they had opportunity to explore the environs.

Bertie told his mother about the Witley Tin Town:Tin Town

“About 500 yards away there is a little town for the camp and in that place a soldier can buy ANYTHING [sic] he requires. There’s a moving picture show and restaurant and about 10 stores.” (3)




Not everything a soldier requires can be found at a store:  sometimes he just wants a glimpse of civilian life, especially pretty girls. (We have already seen that Bertie had an eye for the latter.)

“Two miles away, there’s a town [Milford] of about 4000 people. We all went down last night… very pretty place and girls. Another town [Godalming] about 3 miles away also. These are all in bounds, requires no pass to go. That’s the beauty of it.” (3)

No letter home was complete without a comment on the weather:

“We are enjoying fine weather, but very cold nights. In other words I may say in all my 21 years, I’ve never been so pleased as I am with conditions of this place, experienced in the last 24 hours.” (3)

Of course, the shine would eventually wear off, but it was understandably a pleasant change from the last fortnight of travel.

(1) 60th C.F.A. Battery Book, 1916-1919. [1919] 20.
(2) Wills, Archie. Diary. 3: 51. September 29, 1916. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(3) Cox Bertram Howard. Letter to his mother, September 23, 2916. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project.

The postcards are from the site dedicated to the 202nd  (Sportsmen’s) Battalion from Edmonton , Alberta.


Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”



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