The London Gunners Come to Town

A book by Bertha and Chris Reynolds

 

Berkhamsted

 

Appendix F

The Inns of Court OTC at Berkhamsted


Detail from postcard (No 3137)
The back of the card carried the following texts:
B Company Inns of Court O.T.C., 9th November 1917, James is amongst them
On the way to the trenches, Northchurch Common

Over much of West Hertfordshire the pattern of troop movements were similar to those in Hemel Hempstead, with units being billeted in the areas for several months for training, and then moving on to other areas, or being sent overseas. In Berkhamsted the situation was very different. Shortly after the outbreak of war about 3,000 men of the Northumberland Fusiliers moved to Berkhamsted, but they only stayed a couple of weeks before moving to Halton. On 28th September, 1914, the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps moved to the town and remained throughout the war. 12,000 officers were trained, and the memorial on Berkhamsted Common remembers the 2,000 who trained at Berkhamsted and never returned from the war. The official history of the Corps [E.R.L. Errington, The Inns of Court Officers Training Corp during the Great War] gives details: 

The situation of our camp at Berkhamsted was ideal, pitched in the field on the north side of the station and sloping gently up to Berkhamsted Place. The Squadron, both men and horses, were in the Brewery. Lord Brownlow placed at our disposal his private waiting-room at the station and also a covered-in shelter, both of which were used for Quartermaster's office and stores. The proximity of the station did away with all transport difficulties. On the west side, we had ample room for expansion, and on the east side another large field, subsequently given the name of "Kitchener's Field", made an admirable drill ground. 

The surrounding country was the best imaginable for training, being so varied ... To the north lay the big common, later intersected by some 13,000 yards of trenches, then Ashridge Park, undulating and beautifully timbered, placed entirely at our disposal by Lord Brownlow, and so away to the open downland of the Chiltern Hills. To the south, hilly and enclosed land leading to Hawridge and Cholesbury Commons. To the east, farms and enclosures admirably adapted for night operations; and to the west the private grounds of Rossway and Champneys, always open to us; with woods, farms and enclosures to and beyond Tring. We went where we liked, and did what we liked. The big landowner, the small landowner, and the farmer were all equally ready to help. If there was any trouble, Major Mead at once got on his horse, rode over, and smoothed things out.. 

For the squadron, long treks without touching a road, wide movements, distant reconnaissance; for the infantry, wood fighting, canal crossings, river crossings, big fights on the open commons and downs, local fighting among the enclosures, every form of open training was available. In the neighbouring villages, Nettleden, Little Gaddesden, Aldbury, Ashley Green, Bovingdon, the awakened villager turned to sleep again with greater security when he realised that the outburst of firing, and the swift rush of feet through the village street, betokened nothing more than a night raid of the Devil's Own. ...

As soon as we moved into billets the Rector, Mr Hart Davies, placed the Court House at our disposal for an Orderly Room ... 

Through the kindness of Lady Brownlow we were able to begin by using her hospital at Ashridge.


Trench Digging on the Common
(postcard numbered 3140)

Damian Loughran (damian.loughran @t cendanteurope.com) writes: I have been spending some time discovering the extensive ranges of trenches dug on Berkhamsted and Northchurch Commons during WW1. Have also had a look in the Berkhamsted archive at the records they have relating to this dramatic but not well documented part of Berkhamsted's history. I personally think more should be done to preserve at least one of the trench systems for posterity.

If you are interested Damian would love to hear from you.

 

No 11 Platoon

Inns of Court

Berkhamsted

1916

 

J. T. Newman, Photo. Berkhamsted

No 1000

 

Posted 15th April, 1916

  No 11 Platoon, Inns of Court, Berkhamsted, 1916
 

Mr & Mrs Bond, Bute Court,

 Torquay, Devon.

15 - 4 - 16

This is the famous no. 11 Platoon with which I have drilled, grubbed, marched and slept for the last four months. Yesterday I heard that I had been put in a senior section and platoon - No 1 Sec. & No. 9 Plt. so on Monday I shall be with a fresh set of fellows providing I don't receive the blue form back by tomorrow.  If I don't receive it by Tuesday I shall be delayed at least a month from obtaining my commission so please return it as soon as poss. woud you?

Best Love    J. 

 

Post card numbered 3489 showing and Inns of Court unit including Charles William Bowell.

Possibly early 1918.

[Please Note that the above postcards do not appear in the book. The first two were from a collection of photographs owned by a nurse and auctioned on ebay in 2005. They have been added here for interest.]

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Bowell card added