Late autumn 1916 and the Canadian Expeditionary Force, now numbering over 100,000 in the UK, sent a group of their soldiers to the Camp at Shoreham.
Amongst the Canadian recruits were two of three brothers Fred and James Bowes who wrote many letters home to their family about the British trains, the local girls and the daily routine in Camp.
Read about their impressions of Shoreham in 1916-1917 as published in the Legion Magazine with permission of the family.
By July 1917 there were so many in the area that Shoreham put on a special event at the local Church to help them celebrate one of their national events – Canada Day.
‘The jubilee of the Federation of the great dominion of Canada, happening to occur when a large contingent of Canadians are encamped on Shoreham downs, naturally suggested that the occasion should be marked in St Mary’s church as a day of welcome to our brothers from across the seas.’
Shoreham Parish Magazine, No. 332. August 1917. (Quote Credit 1)
As the war progressed the Canadians began sending convalescents, soldiers recovering from injury, to the Camp. Amongst them was Alexander Young Jackson who became one of Canada’s famous War Artists. His impression of Shoreham was poor and he could not wait to get away from the bad weather and military police who kept a tight rein on the Canadian soldiers. Whilst Jackson was at Shoreham he witnessed and was an unwitting part of a ‘mutiny’ when his detachment refused to go on parade until they were guaranteed better conditions, in particular better food.
The Canadians were joined in the later years of the war by South African troops. Their presence at the Camp has been all but forgotten today but a ‘large contingent’ was reported present in the camp in April 1918 during the King’s visit.
Did you chance to hear the wild war whoop of the South African soldiers who were lined up for the arrival of the Royal visitor?
Worthing Gazette, 3rd April 1918. (Quote credit 3).
Later that year a young South African soldier, Stephanus Cronje, was awarded the Military Medal at the Camp by Major-General Graham. Cronje had joined the Intelligence Unit in South Africa in 1914 and fought in conflicts in East Africa and Germany. As well as the Military Medal he was twice Mentioned in Dispatches and received the Military Cross. A Captain in the 1st South African Rifles he was a Rhodes Scholar and the son of a Boer War General. Other South African soldiers are reported in the Camp in 1918-1919 awaiting demobilisation and final return to South Africa.
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Key Sources: West Sussex County Times, West Sussex Gazette, Worthing Gazette and Horsham Times. Accessed at Worthing Library, Courtesy of West Sussex County Council Library Service www.westsussexpast.org.uk Shoreham Parish Magazine, reproduced from documents held at West Sussex Record Office, by kind permission of the Parish of St Mary de Haura, New Shoreham. Jackson, A. Y. 1958 A Painter's Country . The South African Department of Defence Archives.