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.
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..
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.
During the First World War, the British Admiralty designed eight towers codenamed M-N that were to be built and positioned in the Straits of Dover to protect allied merchant shipping from German U-boats. Designed by civilian Guy Maunsell, the towers were to be linked together with steel nets and armed with two 4-inch guns with the idea of closing the English Channel to enemy ships.
However, by the end of the war in 1918 only one such tower had been completed, at the then-cost of one million pounds, and was located in Shoreham Harbour, awaiting deployment. While another part-built tower would eventually be dismantled in 1924, there remained the completed 92-foot-tall metal cylinder sitting on a raft of concrete.
In 1920 the completed tower was towed by two paddle-wheel tugs to the Nab rock, a rock in the deep-water approach to the eastern Solent and previously marked by a lightship. Buoyancy was provided by the honeycomb construction of the concrete base, creating 18 watertight compartments. When these were flooded, the structure sank and settled to rest at an angle of 3 degrees from vertical towards the northeast – a characteristic tilt which is obvious to this day.
The story of the construction of the two mystery towers:
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.
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.
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.
The names on this Roll of Honour have been collected from the memorials in Shoreham’s churches, cemeteries, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Soldiers Died in The Great War and includes many whose names are not shown on the town’s War Memorial. This record has been compiled independently of the Roll of Honour web site and includes more comprehensive information gleaned from Civil Registrations, Census Returns, Shipping Passenger Lists and some Service Records. Continue reading “Shoreham’s WW1 Fatalities”