Jump to content

Remembered Today:

Churn Camp, Oxfordshire/Berkshire


Moonraker
 Share

Recommended Posts

From time to time, I walk past the site of Churn Camp, five miles south of Didcot, which was served by a lonely halt on the Didcot-Newbury railway line and which was well supplied with rifle ranges (now race-horse gallops), said to have been used in both world wars and certainly before 1914.

It was only ever a camping-site, and on the outbreak of the Great War hosted "the mounted division" which George V inspected there on October 8. A search of the Forum suggests that this was the 2nd Mounted Division and that some soldiers enlisted there. On the outbreak of war, university members of the Officers Training Corps were camped there.

I can usually find info about "my" Wiltshire camps from Google or The Times, but for Churn nothing results from the former and there only six mentions for 1896-1930 in the latter.

At the time Churn was in Berkshire, which later lost its northern tracts, (just) including Churn, to Oxfordshire.

Local histories show postcard photographs prewar tented camps, but with little detail.

Have Pals any more information, please?

Moonraker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I live near Churn, and can remember the rifle range still being there in the early 1970s.

I too would be interested in any facts about the camp. I understand that as a tented camp, it only operated in the summer months for manoeuvres on the Downs. Regular "open days" were held when people from the neighbouring villages would visit for a day out. My grandfather was posted to Churn in about 1907 and met my grandmother on one of these occasions; I'm told her elder sister had also met her future husband at Churn, and they married in 1892.

When I started researching our war memorial, someone kindly provided a list of men from SDGW who enlisted at Churn (28 names). I'll post it again if it might be of interest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This view includes part of the site of the camp. The old railway line is marked by the line of trees running across the centre, and the camp was close to the railway, to the left of the picture.

various004.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My granddad was a Trooper in the Berkshire Yeomanry pre-First World War (hence my avatar) and used to talk about the exploits at Churn Camp. I've been trying to find out more about him and it's been suggested that I check the Newbury Weekly News as apparently they used to report on the camp every year. Am planning a trip to Newbury library in early December to try to get some more information.

I've also walked past the site many times myself, usually en route from Blewbury (have friends there) to somewhere like the Crown and Horns at East Ilsley. Would love to know what it looked like in its heyday (the camp that is, not the Crown).

We often repeat the story about the homesick young soldier at Churn, bemoaning the isolation of the place so far from home, when asked where he came from he replied 'East Hagbourne'!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:lol:

The NWN does indeed have reports on the manoeuvres at Churn. (Sadly it didn't carry photographs before the 1920s.) You might want to ring Newbury Library ahead of your visit and book a microfilm reader, as they only have two.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:lol:

The NWN does indeed have reports on the manoeuvres at Churn. (Sadly it didn't carry photographs before the 1920s.) You might want to ring Newbury Library ahead of your visit and book a microfilm reader, as they only have two.

Thanks for the reminder! I used to be a regular there before moving to Surrey a few years ago, a bit far to go and not get a film reader now....do you remember the film reader in the old library?

Interested to see you're engaged on village war memorial research - may I ask which village? I'm doing Welford & Wickham.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Charles,

Post an entry on Andrew's French's thread about Berkshire Yeomanry Database. He's one of the Trustees & Assistant Curator of the Berks Yeo Musuem. If he cant find your man, no one can

Regards

OY

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for these speedy replies. The location for the camp is a pleasant one in fine weather, but a bit bleak when it's wet and windy and unlike most the Salisbury Plain camps there was a good rail connection for off-duty relaxation - to Oxford and Newbury. (I don't think that Didcot would have offered very much.) And the countryside is great for horse-riding.

Moonraker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...Am planning a trip to Newbury library in early December to try to get some more information...

How far back are you planning to go, Charles? I've just checked The Times before 1896, and there are a number of references to Churn in September 1890, when there were large-scale manoeuvres in the area; the year before, The Times refers to a temporary platform on the railway line, though according to C W Judge in An Historical Survey of the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway, a permanent one was opened the year before. The track was then single-line, and there was only a short siding, so a troop train stopped there must have blocked the line for a while whilst men, horses and equipment were off-loaded. (A 1901 timetable shows only five trains each way each day, so there would have been plenty of time to offload the troop train.) The platform was very wide, like one at Ludgershall on Salisbury Plain, to allow the forming-up of troops.

Judge says that Churn was the pre-Bisley national range. I haven't checked this, though certainly in the mid-1880s Newbury councillors, encouraged by Lord Wantage (a principal landowner), tried to get the National Rifle Association to make it a national range, but Bisley was favoured instead.

The only goods offloaded at the station were military. In 1943 the siding was removed, the platform shortened and the track doubled to facilitate wartime traffic from the Midlands to the Southampton, bypassing the bottleneck of Reading. (The line was lifted in the 1960s, since when Reading has remained a bottleneck, where north-south trains have to cross over the London-West of England and Wales line; a multi-million-pound rail flyover is planned to alleviate the problem.)

I've noticed a few bland postcards of tents at Churn in "military" boxes at fairs, and no doubt more are to be found under Berkshire and Oxfordshire. The camp was convenient (rather more so that many on Salisbury Plain) for photographers from Newbury and Oxford to visit by train, and perhaps J Soame of Oxford was one such, when he wasn't taking photographs of soldiers in Wiltshire.

Moonraker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Berkshire Yeomanry held their camp on Churn in 1900 for the first time for 4 weeks.

Thereafter in the Edwardian hayday of the Yeomanry their held their camp at Churn for two week.

in 1901-06 1908-09 and 1912.

The 2nd South Midland Mtd Bde (Berks Bucks & Oxons) part of the 2nd Mtd Div were based at Churn from the late August 1914 until the Autumn 1914 until their depeloyment to the East coast in mid November 1914.

"31st August Units arrived at Churn at 2 hour intervals after midnight. On arrival of the Brigade Headquarters it was found that no provision had been made for encampment of troops and men had to bivouac in open for the first few days. Luckily weather was fine. Second fortnight of training syllabus began. During the day canvas was received and erected.

No water was available but within a few days cast iron pipes had been laid to bring water to the camp from Blewbury, a short distance to the northeast. Churn lays on the Berkshire Downs, rolling grasslands south of Abingdon. For the Berkshire lads, this was a return to the home county, more especially so for those of D. Squadron which recruited from the area. The regiment was well acquainted with Churn, the majority of camps having been held there since 1900. "

Here is a photo some Berkshire Yeomen from circa 1900 enjoining themselves

I will post some more in due course

Regards

Andrew

post-7967-1196011967.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Churn... Well well well! I used to live in Compton and walk out on the Downs, and it took me a while in those pre-internet (at least in my lab...) days to find out why on earth there was a railway platform out in the middle of nowhere.

I have a book on the history of Compton - I'll dig it out and see what it says. Incidentally, there was an awful lot of junk left behind - when the village had its Millenium exhibition I had a poke round in the upcast from the rabbit holes in the hedge and found a healthy collection of spent .303 cases and a Staybrite cap badge.

Adrian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The reserve regiments of Berks Bucks and Oxon Yeo encamped at Churn from May 1915 until their deployment to East coast later that summer.

Here are a few notes about their doings

It was reported in the Reading Observer that the Regiment would move on the 10th or 11th of May for Churn.

The whole of the reigiment will be under canvas. The Yeomanry have now over 200 horses and will have the whole compliemnt (430) shortly after leaving Bearwood. Reading Observer 8th May 1915

"I joined the regiment in May 1915, at Bearwood, an enormous house near Reading, belonging to the Walter family who owned the Times. A few weeks later the regiment moved to Churn Camp, near Didcot, which was to be our training area throughout the summer. Most of the officers were extremely rich and had several hunters as their private chargers, but I had to make do with whatever horse was available. I was very young, very junior, very ignorant and completely lost, but found it all most exciting. There were six officers in my squadron including a major, a captain, and four subalterns, each of whom was in charge of a troop, and throughout the summer we went through an intensive course of training on those magnificent Berkshire Downs. When we were having squadron or regimental drill, we were all of us called on from time to time to take the parade, and it is, or rather was, quite something to find oneself in command of a whole regiment of cavalry comprising up to about five hundred men and horses and obliged under the eagle eye of the commanding officer to put them through a series of intricate manoeuvres, which involved getting exactly the right word of command at exactly the right time, otherwise one was liable to produce a state of indescribable chaos. The other regiment in the brigade were the Royal Bucks Hussars and the Oxfordshire Yeomanry." GHE Inchbald

CHURN CAMP

16th May

Today Saturday, sudden and definite orders were received for the move to Churn. The Brigade were now to concentrate at Churn Camp under canvas, with the 2/1st Buckinghamshire Yeomanry who moving from Buckingham, and the 2/1st Oxfordshire Yeomanry likewise from Chatsworth.

17th May

At 6.00am a Mounted advance party of the 2/1 Berks Yeo left Bearwood for Churn Camp, (Depot war diary says 16th) the other following later. They were moving to enable the Brigade to carry out training of a more advanced nature. The whole Regiment now being under canvas. The Reading Observer reporting that the Regiment had 200 horses when it left Bearwood and expected to be brought up to the establishment of 430 shortly after arriving at Churn.

"At Churn I remember one awful occasion when I was ordered to carry out some troop drill in a vast field in one corner of which a squadron of Bucks were dismounted and our CO was having a chat and probably some refreshment with his opposite number. After a bit, I thought it would be fun to have a charge in their direction, just to show them what a fine lot of chaps we were. So I ordered the chaps to draw their swords, placed myself in front of them, drew my own sword with a flourish, and we proceeded to advance with increasing tempo in the general direction of the Bucks. By the half way stage we were at full gallop and at that moment my horse put its foot in a rabbit hole, and I went over his head, losing grip of my sword in the process. Neither my horse or I were hurt, but on sitting up I was appalled by the sight of my troop going full blast, despite valiant efforts by the troop sergeant, and it became obvious, as their reins got longer and longer, that they were completely out of control and a collision was inevitable.

The impact was terrific and had it been against an enemy, I'm sure it would have been a most successful charge. Still sitting on the ground, feeling a little dazed, I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer. When I opened them I saw a single figure detach himself from one corner of the swirling mass of men and horses and canter slowly but purposefully in my direction. After collecting my horse, which was quietly grazing a few yards away, he came up to me, saluted and said, "The Colonel wishes to see you, sir," which seemed to be quite understandable in the circumstances. I recovered my sword, remounted and prepared to meet my doom. I have forgotten what it was but by the grace of God no serious harm had been done, and I am sure my punishment was mild compared to what it might have been." Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Inchbald.

"As the weather improved we moved to Churn Camp where we began to assume a more soldierly outlook. We were under canvas, the horses had arrived, and by the end of the summer we were ready to take our place at the front; fit tough and well officered." RW Wilson.

9th June

Extended operations were carried out against the 10th (Irish) Infantry Division in the neighbourhood of Aldermaston. plus those units at Aldermaston [3rd Line TF units of Royal BErks, Berks Yeo RHA and ASC. Did rest of Brigade take part? - - it seems probable

"Swords or should I say sabres were a bit of a trial but, of course, we were cavalry in the real sense and not simply mounted infantry, and they were worn by officers and men alike though the latter also carried rifles as well, which were slung in heavy leather buckets attached to the saddle, Later in the war the cavalry, which included most of the yeomanry regiments as well as regular units drawn from Britain and all over the Empire, were to do tremendous execution against the Turks in Palestine under the inspired leadership of Allenby, the greatest of cavalry soldiers. For reasons which I will explain later I never took part in any of these particular encounters, but I cannot imagine anything more thrilling or, for the enemy, more terrifying." GHE Inchbald

post-7967-1196012468.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is some details for Camp at Churn in 1912

We have an album of photos taken by Elliot and Fry. The group photo of the Band is posted at the end of this entry

Yesterday (Friday morning) [24th May] the members of the various squadrons of the Berkshire Yeomanry Regiment left their respective headquarters and marched into Churn about 400 strong. The B Squadron under Major Karslake left Yeomanry House at 10 o’clock and went by road direct to Churn

An advance party under Major W Lewis Rose (Quartermaster) with RSM Henson, left Reading for Churn, on Monday to prepare for the main body.

The Regiment in sunder command of Lieut-Col Sir EA Barry Bt and the other officers in camp are

RHQ

CO … Lieut-Col Sir EA Barry Bt

2ic … Major JPB Karslake

Adjt … Captain EF Twist

QM … Major W Lewis Rose

MO Lieut DG Kennard RAMC & Lt O Teichman (former MO)

RSM WO1 A Henson

RQMS G Tyer

Bandmaster Wilcox

“A” (Windsor) Squadron

Major ES Gooch

Capt Marquis of Downshire

Lieut GM Wilder

2nd Lieut EB Henderson

SSM H Treble (PS)

SSM H Haines (Yeo)

[sQMS HA Radnor]

Farrier Sergt W Barry (follwing promotion)

“B” (Reading) Squadron

Major JT Wigan

Captain EM Slaughter

Lieut FG Strange

2nd Lieut HA Benyon

2nd Lieut CB Krabbe

SSM E Seal (PS)

SSM W Froom (Yeo)

[sQMS G Bradbury]

Farrier Sergt

“C” (Newbury) Squadron

Major JL Nickisson

Captain R Hughes

Lieut CJGT Walmesley

2nd Lieut GE Portal

2nd Lieut HB Bingham

SSM A Callow (PS)

SSM Harris (Yeo)

[sQMS FA Andrews]

Farrier Sergt

“D” (Wantage) Squadron

Major HG Henderson MP

Captain CC Stone

Lieut AT West

Lieut WEG Niven

2nd Lieut PMN Wroughton

2nd Lieut HP Crosland

SSM TJ Leicester (PS)

[sSM ST Austin (Yeo)]

[sQMS J Greenaway]

Farrier Sergt HP Print (following promotion)

Supernumary

Lieut RL Pearson

Reading Mercury 25th May 1912

THE CAMP

CHURCH PARADE

On Sunday morning church parade was held at the camp, the service being conducted by The Vicar of Blewbury. Previous to the service the various troops were inspected by the commanding officer, Lieut-Colonel

Barry.

A TWO DAY FIGHT

PROMOTIONS

In orders issued on Monday [27th June] 1912 the following promotions were notified

A SQUADRON

Corporal H Watts (A3) to be Sergeant

Lance Sergeant H Biggs (A4) to be Sergeant

Shoeing Smith Corporal W Barry to be Farrier-Sergeant

***

Lance Corporal LM Hawes (A2) to be Corporal

Lance Corporal C Spencer (A3) to be Corporal

Lance Corporal J Ottrey (A3) to be Corporal

***

Trooper WE Baldwin to be Lance Corporal

Trooper Couldrey to be Lance Corporal

Trooper G Andrews to be Lance Corporal

Trooper J Roberts to be Lance Corporal

Trooper R Jeeves to be Lance Corporal

Trooper A Wilder to be Lance Corporal

Trooper R Kington to be Lance Corporal

Trooper C Jones to be Lance Corporal

B SQUADRON

Shoeing Smith T Climo to be Corporal Shoeing Smith

***

Lance Sergeant A Goodall to be Sergeant

Lance Sergeant SG Kerry to be Sergeant

***

Corporal SJ Pinker to be Lance Sergeant

Corporal LJN Blyde to be Lance Sergeant

***

Lance Corporal HC Blyde to be Corporal

Lance Corporal A Sopp to be Corporal

***

Trooper A Seward to be Lance Corporal

Trooper M Bennett to be Lance Corporal

Trooper W Bond to be Lance Corporal

Trooper HJ Hall to be Lance Corporal

Trooper R Dean to be Lance Corporal

Trooper J Healey to be Lance Corporal

Trooper E Evans [sCE?] to be Lance Corporal

Trooper J Burnham to be Lance Corporal

Trooper S Alder to be Lance Corporal

Trooper F Woodcock to be Lance Corporal [signaller]

Trooper F Davis to be Lance Corporal [signaller]

C SQUADRON

Lance Sergeant J Allee to be Sergeant

Lance Sergeant A Witts to be Sergeant

***

Lance Corporal JF Haines to be Corporal and appointed Lance Sergeant

Lance Corporal WJ Horneto be Corporal

Lance Corporal W Brazier to be Corporal

Trooper H Batten to be Lance Corporal

Trooper AE Haddrell to be Lance Corporal

D SQUADRON

Corporal Shoeing Smith HP Print to be Farrier Sergeant

Shoeing Smith W Wallin to be Corporal Shoeing Smith

Lance Corporal WF Oakey to be Corporal

Trooper CJ Hirons to be Lance Corporal

Trooper RG Quelch to be Shoeing Smith

Reading Mercury 1st June 1912

THE LOYD-LINDSAY CUP

In the afternoon there was an event of considerable interest to every yeoman in the regiment. This was the Loyd-Lindsay Cup, which is open to competition every year, the particular points being shooting and riding. Two teams represented the A B and D Squadrons, the other [C] Squadron being represented by one team. The competing teams has to gallop over a three-quarters of a mile course over four jumps and then fire in pairs at ranges of 800 and 500 yards. This year the B Squadron (Reading) were the winners, scoring 62 points for shooting and 25 for style - a total of 87 points.

Sergt Goodall (Captain), Lance Sergt [LJN] Blyde, Corpl [HC] Blyde and Sergt Kerry composed the team.

A Squadron (Windsor) won the second prize with 73 points the team being 5 points better than B in style, but 12 points behind at shooting. Other scores were C - 62 points, A2 - 56 points, D2 - 55 points, D1 - 55 points, and B2 - disqualified.

SIGNALLING AWARDS

As a result of examinations held last Easter, the following prizes have been warded for signalling:-

Lance Sgt Bastin. L/Corporal McInnes, L/Corporal Woodcock, L/Corporal Davis, Private Atkins, Private T Morely: £2 each as first-class signaller. L/Corporal Wilder, L/Corporal Rumbold; £1.10s. Private Best, Private Lawrence, Private Sumpster, Private Holdsworth, Private[ F]Wilson, Private Long; 15s each as supernumeries.

COLVIN CUP

Another annual competition open to squadrons is the Colvin Cup, which is offered for the smartest squadron. The winners this year were B Squadron, with 135 points, the other squadrons following: D 106 points, C 103 points, A 98 points.

BEST SECTION

In the "Best Section" competitions Lance-Corporal Lay's section [D?] was first, winning the prize of £2, and the sections of Lance Corporal Batten [C], Lance Corporal Bond and Lance Corporal Waller [A].

THE ANNUAL SPORTS

Best Turned-out Yeoman in the Regiment

Trained Soldier Cpl AG Long B Sqdn

Recruits Tpr Arnock A Sqdn

Individual Jumping:

1st Cpl L Hawes A Sqdn

2nd Sergt Dimond A[sic] Sqdn should be B Sqn

3rd Tpr Mason A Sqdn

Section Jumping:

1st D Squadron

2nd B Sqdn

Tug-of-War (Dismounted):

1st A Squadron

2nd B Squadron

Tug-of-War (Mounted):

1st C Squadron

2nd B Squadron

Wrestling on Horseback:

1st D Squadron

2nd B Squadron

Individual Tent Pegging (Open):

1st Sergt H Stevens (D)

2nd Sergt Green (A)

3rd SSM W Froom (B)

Section Tent Pegging:

1st D Squadron

2nd C Squadron

Victoria Cross Race:

1st Lce Corpl PE Long (D)

2nd Sergt TEA Stevens (D)

3rd Sergt-Maj W Froom (B)

Band Race:

1st Bandsman Hodges

2nd Bandsman Hall

3rd Sergeant Riley

Reading Mercury 15th June 1912

I hope members find the above of interest

regards

Andrew

post-7967-1196015033.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks very much, Andrew, really interesting stuff and great pictures.

(I wonder if someone (mods?) could do something to resize the pics and make this all easier to read)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Checked in the Compton book, and there is nothing that hasn't already been covered here. Sorry! Must have been thinking of the millenium exhibition...

Adrian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks very much, Andrew, really interesting stuff and great pictures.

(I wonder if someone (mods?) could do something to resize the pics and make this all easier to read)

I dont know how to resize these within forum, but if you put the mouse cursor over the picture you can right click to copy them into "my pictures" where they will be much easier to view.

Andrew.

PS

Have You a particular year or squadron you want details of ??

A Windsor Sqn

B Reading Sqn

C Newbury Sqn

D Wantage Sqn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another gorgeous day today took me up on to the Downs and to the site of Churn Station. Not much to see, apart from a couple of wooden gate posts where the station entrance was, concrete boundary posts (though which wire was once strung) and a gradient post (showing the gradient of the railway line in both directions). The large military platform has completely disappeared.

About a mile away, up on the Ridgeway, is a memorial stone to, I think, a lieutenant who was killed in a tank exercise in 1947 (??). I tried, unsuccessfully, to check these details out in a 1976 book on the Ridgeway. This reproduced sections of a 2 1/2" map surveyed after the railway line closure in 1964, and this showed the Churn rifle ranges and "danger areas" incongruously fitted in between race-horse gallops.

Moonraker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...

Moonraker, in case you're still looking for info on Churn Camp, here are a few snippets from Jackson's Oxford Journal about the early days of the camp.

JOJ 29 Sept 1888 reports a meeting held at Newbury ‘in support of the claims of the Berkshire Downs as a site for the future meetings of the National Rifle Association.’ ‘...The meeting would further express the hope that, as the permanent advantages of the Berkshire Downs at Churn for shooting competitions, and also as a training ground for troops, have been acknowledged and pointed out by most competent authorities, the site will be selected by the Council.’

JOJ, 20 April 1889

‘The Home Counties Brigade, of which Brigadier Lord Wantage, V.C., is the commanding officer, will have in August next a brigade camp on the Berkshire Downs at Churn. The following Volunteer regiments will be present:- Berks, Bucks, 2nd Oxon, 1st Bedford, and 3rd Bedford.’

JOJ, 17 August 1889

post-55353-071760700 1279473680.jpg

I can send more later if this is the kind of thing you need.

P.S. Trust me, I'm a local historian! ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...

Hello - I am doing some research on the Yeomanry. Can anyone tell me where Churn Camp is located exactly (Grid ref or Google earth ref). I have studied the OS map and have an idea of where it is roughly - SSW of Blewbury - and I can see a Churn Farm. I understand it was close to what is now the disused railway and (I think) had its own station (now disued)....so I am close, but if anyone knows where the Camp was located exactly I would be grateful.... Thanks MG.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a map from the 1920s that shows the railway line and Churn Station, located approx. 1mile SE of Churn Farm and immediately next to Lower Churn Farm. As you say this is SSW of Blewbury, about 3 miles. Unfortunately the map has no grid references. I imagine the camp was on the open ground NE of the station.Are you interested only in the Derbyshire Yeomanry? The Oxfordshire Yeomanry (Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars) was in camp and training at Churn from 30th August to 19th September 1914 (when they were posted to France) as part of the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Martin,

Not having on OS to hand, or a PC with GE on, I cannot give you a direct reference. However, if you find where the Ridgeway crosses the disused railway line, the station platform was perhaps a hundred yards north of the bridge there.

I've found the aerial view on Google Maps - go to Compton, find the railway line (straight feature, not flagged as a road, that the "Walingford Road" goes up to) running North out of the village, and follow that. The "road" it crosses about a mile to the North is the Ridgeway. Where the narrow railway line opens out, and there are a number of trees, is the site of the station - the width is beacuse the remains of the platform are still there.

If you look to the NE of that, you'll see a grassed area with a road leading to it, a bit of hardstanding, and a building roof. I think that is the range hut, cunningly rebuilt a year before they closed it! I believe that the range itself was up the hill beyond that, so the camp presumably was by the railway line.

Does that help?

Adrian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Further to my earlier post, from Google earth I believe the station was located at:

51deg 32' 22" N and 1deg 15' 21" W.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...