BRITISH TRAINING CAMPS – WINTER QUARTERS IN 1915

Saturday, January 9, 1915

In Camp, Lark Hill, Salisbury Plains

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Hut inspection by Lt.-Col. Meighen in morning, lecture to officers in afternoon by Col. V.A.S. Williams.” [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “London, 27th November –  There are over 1,000,000 men undergoing military training in the United Kingdom, and this number is being added to daily by the enrolment of more recruits.  A number of these troops are billeted in various towns and villages, but the majority are to be found in the training camps which have been established throughout the country.  These camps are particularly numerous on Salisbury Plain and in the neighborhood of Aldershot.  When the men first went into camp they were placed in tents, but owing to the cold and dampness of the English winter it has been decided to erect wooden huts for them, as the majority of the new battalions which have been raised will not be sent to the front until the spring, which begins officially in March.  They will be kept in continuous training until they are regarded as fit for foreign service.

During the winter months reveille sounds at 6:30 a.m., breakfast is ready at 7 o’clock, and the first parade is held at 8:30.  The day’s work consists usually of a march of six or eight miles, skirmishing tactics over three miles of country, and the march home over a distance of about eight miles.  Camp is reached about 4:30 by which time it is almost dark, and the work for the day is done.  The men are also instructed in digging trenches in view of the great value of scientifically constructed entrenchments in the present war.  There have been a number of complaints in the newspapers by recruits in camp concerning the rations.  There is no doubt that the troops when they go to the front will often have to endure greater hardships in the way of inadequate supplies of food than they experience in camp, but it is questionable if the best way of turning the recruit into a hardy seasoned soldier is to work him hard in camp and feed him inadequately.  Not only is the food badly prepared in most of the camps, but there is little or no variety from day to day and from week to week.  The following is the menu at one of the Canadian regiments on Salisbury Plain:-  Breakfast: Boiled pork, dry bread, and tea without milk.  Dinner: Plain stewed beef and dry bread.  Supper: Bread, jam, cheese, and tea without milk.  Supper is served at 4:30 p.m. and the men get nothing to eat until breakfast at 7 o’clock the next morning.  The Canadians receive pay at the rate of 4/d a day and they spend a good deal of it in the purchase of food at the canteens.

The Soldiers’ Christian Association, which is the military branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association, is doing splendid work at the training camps.  Soldiers are not particularly religious as a rule, but there is scarcely a soldier at these camps who has not a word of praise for the Soldiers’ Christian Association.  At the tents of the association there are papers, magazines and books for the use of the troops, and materials to enable them to write letters or to play games.  They can purchase food of various kinds, tobacco, soap and other things at reasonable prices.  The association is appealing for funds to enable it to erect wooden sheds for the winter to take the place of their tents.  It hopes to be able to erect 200 of these sheds at the various training camps at a cost of £300 each.”   [2]

“British Training Camps – Winter Quarters,” The Age, London, England Saturday, January 9, 1915, pg. 12, col. 5.

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, Jan 9, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089686.jpg
[2]   “British Training Camps – Winter Quarters,” The Age, London, England Saturday, January 9, 1915, pg. 12, col. 5.

 

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