Army Camp, Wimbledon Common

During the First World War, a vast area of the Common was sealed off from the public and used to create a training ground for recruits to General Kitchener’s army. Hundreds of troops passed through the camp and the varied terrain was used to perfect their fighting skills. In addition to accommodation huts, stores and offices, the camp had practice trenches, bayoneting grounds where soldiers could practice hand to hand combat. The largest influx of troops arrived in 1916 - many of these men were destined to fight at major battles such as Messines Ridge and the Somme.

It was vital to maintain morale amongst the hundreds of troops billeted at the camp. Many were far from home, separated from family and friends and uncertain regarding the conflict ahead of them. The Y.M.C.A and the Church Army established large huts within the camp to provide hot food, home comforts and entertainment. This photo shows local women serving food in the canteen area. There was also a gramophone, snooker table, card games and a writing room where soldiers could send postcards and messages to their loved ones. A local photographer also took portrait pictures that could be sent home as mementoes to family members and sweethearts.