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Corsham,wiltshire in w.w.1


frogturn
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Hi ,everyone,i'm very interested in any information about w.w.1 activities in Corsham ,Wilts.I know from reading previous posts there are few other moonrakers out there .

Of particular interest,is the fact that Australian troops camped in Corsham park in 1915/16[they left graffiti behind in a local landmark!]

also there was a military hospital in the townInterestingly there is an area of scrubland still known as"the batters",a corruption of the batteries, where troops practised trench digging.I would be fascinated in any extra info anyone can give, many thanks.Paul

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Hi Paul. I've haven't come across very much about Corsham in the Great War, but I believe it was the Scots Guards who dug the trenches on the Batters - you've probably seen the town history reproducing a couple of postcards of them.

Australian troops didn't arrive in the UK in any numbers until 1916, and I could make all sorts of guesses as to what they were doing in Corsham; curiously I don't have many references to them training or camping under canvas very far from the hutted camps they occupied in southern Wiltshire.

Ridge Quarry was an explosives store connected by a tramway to the sidings at Corsham Station; you've probably read N J McCamley's Secret Underground Cities, which describes the store and all the other interesting quarries and underground installations of later date in the Corsham area.

A list of VAD hospitals of September 1915 includes the "Town Hall, Corsham", with 54 beds.

I have only two Corsham postcards: one of recruits to the armed services (including the navy), dated September 27, 1914; and another of "Hospital group No 5", dated 1915.

Moonraker

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Thanks Moonraker,

I do remember seeing a picture of the scots guards digging but it still begs the question,to paraphrase a well known film,"of all the earth to move in all the world,why did they pick Corsham?"

I find the fact the town hall was used very interesting,as a postcard i have of recuperating troops and nurses in a place we identified as the gardens behind the town hall.On the same subject were the nursing staff local or brought in?One of the "nurses" we believe is a relative of mine.Is there any list of nursing staff to be had?

I shall have to haul my self to the place in the park to see if i can come up with any names or regiments,in the near future,though i notice they are not as legible as they were when i was young.could be my aging eyesight though..........

thanks,paul

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Paul

The Town Hall Hospital was a Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital run by the local Volunteer Aid Detachment (VAD). Two of the senior staff were from Lord Methuen's family.

Dave

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Possibly an expert on the Scots Guards could shed some light on that regiment's presence in Corsham? Had it been very early in the war, the men could have been guarding the railway line (Box Tunnel being a vulnerable spot), but this would have been a questionable use of men of presumed quality.

My impression (no more than that) of staffing of VAD hospitals is that much of this was provided by local people, certainly in the early days, but as the war progressed there was greatly increased mobility of labour, so then some workers would have come from further afield.

One other snippet: in November 1917 a captain (and presumably some Other Ranks)of the Royal Defence Corps (whose duties included protecting sensitive sites) was allocated to Corsham. By comparison, a captain and two subalterns were based at Lark Hill, one captain was allocated to Chisledon and another to the ordnance depot at Tidworth. I suspect that the Corsham posting was in respect of the explosives store at Ridge Quarry.

Glancing through the local papers (Wiltshire Gazette? Wiltshire Times?) for the war years would yield a few more snippets, not so much about military activity (press coverage of which was very restricted from early 1915), but about recruitment in the first months, the VAD hospital, any court cases involving locally-based soldiers and, sadly, of course, deaths of "local boys" on active service. If you live in Corsham, your local branch library may have copies on microfilm; this failing, you're not too far from the new local studies library at Chippenham.

Moonraker

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Field Marshal Lord Methuen's family lived at Corsham Court; he had very close links with the Scots Guards, having become their colonel in 1904. His son served with the Scots Guards during the war. One guess might be that some of the regiment were invited to Corsham to put on a show for the local people, perhaps to encourage recruitment? (F-M Methuen himself was Governor of Malta during the war.)

Thanks to Dave for the clue he gave (unwittingly?) in his post, above.

Moonraker

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Thanks to Dave for the clue he gave (unwittingly?) in his post, above.

I must admit I had not made the Methuen-SG connection.

Somewhere in the plethora of notes that I have stored away I have some snippets on The Corsham TH Hospital. I will search for them.

Meantime I can say the the Commandant of the Corsham VAD was the FMs daughter Hon.Ethel Christian Methuen (1879-1932). She was familarly known by her second name.

Dave

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Thanks both of you for all that ,it helps to put together a picture.

My mother works for one of the Methuen family,i shall try to get her to pump them for info.

Also to me of interest,while looking up an old thread on vad hospitals in wiltshire,spurred by your replys ,i saw a mention of a vad hospital in Hilperton,which i can't help finding of interest as i live only a mile away-anyone now where it was?there is a suitable candidate ,of the right size and age,i can think of ,which is due to be knocked down for redevelopement so it would be nice to get some pic's.

many thanks,paul.

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  • 7 years later...

An old thread now but a few years on its still of interest and current as we look at Corsham's WW1 history - the hospital, the Scots Guards and the practice trenches at the Batters. Can anyone shed any light on the reference to a detachment of C Squadron of the Royal Wilts Yeomanry in Corsham. The Long Long Trail tells us that C Squadron was based in Chippenham but then makes specific mention of Corsham, Wootton Bassett, Malmesbury, Calne, Purton and Aston Keynes. Does that mean that they were locally based in these places? Interested as well in those photos of the hospital and recruits mentioned in the thread - i dont recognise themas ones we have from the descriptions.

Kevin

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Brigadier J R I Platt, A History of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, may, or may not, help.

AFAIK, a Squadron would have members from much the same locality, though Malmesbury and Purton do seem a bit far from Corsham.

I'll send you a private message re the postcards.

Moonraker

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Kevin

HQ of 'C' Squadron RWY was at Chippenham with the Troops & Half-troops (sometimes referred to as ‘detachments’) which made up the Squadron located at 'Drill Stations' nearby towns.

See here:

http://drillhalls.org

Follow the ‘Database’ hyperlink to ‘Wiltshire’ to find the locations within the county used by the RWY.

Dave

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