Wimbledon Army Camp
Used as training base for first recruits to Kitchener’s Army before arrival of conscripts in latter half of war. Varied terrain used for training incl mock trenches and bayoneting grounds. ( Packing shed for army kit and weaponry. ) Parts of Royal Wimbledon Golf Course also dug up to create practice trenches.
“During the 1914-18 war a vast hutted Army Training Camp was set up on the Common but little could be seen of it from the roads and paths and the area it occupied was of course out of bounds to the public. One entrance was near Springwell Cottage where I remember much coming and going of troops and vehicles ( still mostly horse-drawn. )
( P Fawcett )
“all that northern area of the Common was out of bounds to the public so one never really knew how big the Camp was. Thousands must have been training there over the years, draft after draft, though we only really saw them in any numbers when they came out on route marches. I remember hearing the band…and rushing out to the corner to watch the long khaki clad column go off down Copse Hill.” ( Patrick Fawcett )
Writing room c.1916
Written word provided mosr accessible form of contact between troops and family.
During the war millions of letters exchanged hands and Forces postal service v efficient. Even letters posted in war torn France delivered in a matter of days. YMCA provided own postal service for troops stationed on Wim Common.
“ at one time the Camp could not provide living quarters for all the men in training so billeting took place all over Wimbledon and for some months we had two men billeted with is. We didn’t see much of them as they went off to Camp after an early breakfast each morning, returning for a meal about six o clock in the evening. I remember them as very pleasant quiet men who found army life very different from what they’d been used to…and I’m sure hey appreciated their stay at our home, very much better than life in a wooden hut on the Common in winter, especially the one who got flue and had it in comparative comfort.” (* P Fawcett )
In addition to standard forms of recreation, local organisations provided troops with a changing programme of entertainment, often based in church halls, or private homes.
Many religious organisations competed for honour of providing entertainment and moral guidance to the troops. However non sectarian YMCA proved most enduring. In addition to Camp hut, club rooms were available at the YMCA Worple Rd and the Victoria Institute.
Club rooms at Camp hut held range of comforts - books and papers, billiards, bagatelle, gramophone and refreshments. Also – camp photographer – pics for family and sweethearts.
Merton & Morden Volunteers – ultimately attached to East Surrey Regt.