War beyond Shoreham Camp

The attached extract is from a book originally written by Fred Knight who was an ordinary soldier in the Canadian armed forces during WW1 and my grandfather. He was billeted close to Shoreham so his story compliments the information regarding the camp.

I had always been immensely proud of my grandfather who had fought bravely in WW1 and was therefore overjoyed when I was informed that a lost draft of his life story had been found and published by my cousin Graham. While I found reading about his adventurous life a real pleasure, I was completely surprised to discover that he was billeted in the camp at Shoreham where I have lived for the past 25 years. He had talked fondly of his time in the area prior to being sent to France and so I am very pleased to have extracts from his WW1 soldering experiences placed on the Shoreham history website close to the information about the camp.

Brian Knight 2021

The extract shown here is just of the 4 chapters that cover Fred’s travel to Shoreham Camp and his time serving and recovering during World War 1. The full published book can be found in bookshops or at Amazon.

You can find more articles about Shoreham during World War 1 here.

The Army Camp at Shoreham 1914 – 1918

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Following the commencement of hostilities Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of War and it was he that laid the format for the organisation of four separate armies. Shoreham with a railhead, seaport and airport in a strategic position on the south coast became the location for forming the 24th Division, part of Kitcheners Third Army or K3 as it was known..

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The sign of the 24th Division

Almost before the ink was dry on the recruiting posters men started arriving by rail at Shoreham and local territorial soldiers began creating a tented camp on the Oxen Field to the north of Mill Lane. The close proximity of the railway station to the field meant that heavy equipment could more easily be hauled there. Initially, there were no instructors to train the new recruits nor uniforms or small arms. The flood of men was so great that the churches and townsfolk were needed to assist with providing temporary housing and food for them. As new recruits continued to arrive it was not long before Buckingham Park was also being used as a tented army camp with a field kitchen and latrines dug to provide a modicum of hygiene. The local Territorial soldiers were engaged to set up the spacing for tentage and supervise raw recruits by organising swimming parties on the Beach and holding basic roll calls to keep unsworn trainees busy.

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Middle Road Secondary School

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– the new school photographs and plans in 1936 with reminiscences of former pupils from the 1940’s to 1990’s

Built in 1936 on a five-acre site in Middle Road, Kingston, where the recreation ground is now but then in land that had largely been used as fruit orchards and nurseries by the Cook’s Jam Factory in Dolphin Road. Initially opened as a boys’ senior elementary school for 360 pupils it included a number of unusual features (for those days) in both design and construction. It was built of reinforced concrete and flat roofs to allow for future extensions to be placed on top of the ground floor building and enabled wider spans for rooms that, with the large Crittall windows also installed gave pupils and teachers a bright and spacious environment.

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Ropetackle – the last 300 years

– a collection of images from the galleries and collections of shorehambysea.com illustrating the changes to the area since the 18th century.

What a wonderfully eccentric place it was! Besides a fascinating ropemaking and shipbuilding past there were, in Victorian times, ancient buildings still standing, quaint cottages, wharf houses, a gas works and, spookily, a mortuary alongside an incinerator! In the Little High Street there were peculiarly shaped houses and strange, shop-like windows.

It was never a fashionable area, being part industrial and part residential where the poorer, labouring families largely dwelt. In 1817 William Butler’s poor grammar  described it as being “the lower ‘hend’ of town” and goes on to mention a ‘pour new’ shop where he had ‘connections’ with Sarah Fillaps. Something of a mystery and perhaps a pawn shop (a corruption of the French ‘for us’) or as William’s escapades suggest one of the numerous brothels in Shoreham port then?

During the early part of the 19th century Ropetackle included wharf houses, sheds, a brickyard, coal yard, a bonding pond, Thomas Clayton’s deal yard, his cement factory, stables, a mixture of 17th to 19th century houses and even a mill pond. By the Victorian era there was also a sewage plant and of course the gasworks, flint-built ware houses, incinerator and mortuary. It all added to a certain air of eeriness and mystery to the area.

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A Fisherman’s Tale – the Maple Family

For centuries Shoreham folk have earned a living from the sea and one hundred years or so ago the fishing families of Ratcliffe, Page, Laker and Maple were prominent. Perhaps the best known of them were the Maples who sold their fish and oysters from their shop at the west end of the High Street in one of the ancient cottages that once stood alongside the King’s Head pub. Continue reading “A Fisherman’s Tale – the Maple Family”

Tragedy at Old Erringham

1942: 7 Canadian Soldiers die in accident on the river

The West Nova Scotia Regiment had been carrying out defensive and security duties at various places in the southeast of England before arriving at Worthing on the 22ndNovember 1941 from their previous posting at Newhaven. Here they took over responsibility for the area including Shoreham Airport from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The official strength of the Regiment at the time was 36 officers and 840 other ranks.

In the Shoreham area some billeting was arranged for the Canadians in local residents homes but others were also thought to have been housed at the Grammar School in Pond Road (the pupils had been evacuated) and more under canvas in the school’s playing fields, now the Greenacres housing estate, where a searchlight, anti aircraft gun and heavy machine gun emplacements were installed

Besides their day-to-day duties the men, like all soldiers from whatever regiment or country at the time, received ongoing training, route marches and exercises. The latter were necessarily made as realistic as possible to harden the men in readiness for what was anticipated to be an eventual return to the continent and renewed face-to-face conflict with the enemy.

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Shoreham’s Mystery Seaplane Base

 

A chance swop of postcards between collectors Neil De Ville and Alan Humphries revealed previously unnoticed buildings on Shoreham Beach. The image is of the old Norfolk Suspension Bridge and across the river below the bridge span two large shed-like structures can be made out.

Photo by permission of Neil De Ville and Alan Humphries

 

The image has been postitively dated as 1921 by local historians at the time when the Bridge was being prepared for demolition so what were the mysterious buildings for? Their location looked to be near Ferry Road and at first sight 1927 aerial photographs seemed to confirm this by showing their likely footprints on the beach, not just of the structures but also a concrete raft or apron on their seaward side. Continue reading “Shoreham’s Mystery Seaplane Base”

Albert Warren of the Northamptonshires

One of the regiments that carried out their training at Shoreham during WW1 was the Northamptonshire Regiment. Unusually despite wartime restrictions their stay there and at Southwick is comprehensively recorded in numerous photographs that were taken at the time.

One soldier who served with the Northamptonshires and trained at Shoreham was Albert Warren of whom we are lucky enough to know a little more through a magazine article in Albert’s home town and letters that he wrote home whilst serving his country.

Before the war Albert, or Bert to his friends and family, worked with his father at the local brickworks and at the outbreak of hostilities at the age of 21 enlisted with the 7thBattalion of the Northamptonshires.

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Swiss Gardens – The Early Years

In 1782 Shoreham shipbuilder John Edwards is shown as owning land called ‘David’s Marsh’ where today’s Swiss Gardens School now stands, together with, just below it, ‘a meadow embanked.’ This was later acquired by his son-in-law John Britten Balley, his partner in the ship building business. Hitherto, the area had been unsuitable, marsh-land saturated by the waters of the Northbourne Stream on its last stretch before it emptied into the River Adur. The stream’s embankment of 1782 largely cured all that providing Balley with an opportunity to develop the land.

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