“We deserve to be treated well, we have given up good homes for our country.”
Arthur Goodchild, 15th October 1914. (Quote credit 2).
In August 1914, Field Marshall Kitchener put out the call for volunteer recruits to join a new British army. Shoreham Camp began as one of the training grounds for these new soldiers.
From farming lads to Eton College graduates the volunteer recruits who came to Shoreham all started out living on the bare floors of bell tents set up on Slonk Hill. The recruits that first gathered at Shoreham consisted of the 71st, 72nd and 73rd Brigades- the majority of the 24th Division of the Army. Each of these brigades had four battalions of infantry and one battery of artillery.
The Goodchild brothers, Arthur and Edmund (Ned) joined the 9th Suffolks and reached Shoreham only a few days after the Camp was set up in early September. They describe life in the bell tents on Slonk Hill with up to 16 men in a tent – extra blankets and floor boards for the tents did not arrive until October.
The recruits began unprepared with no uniforms and no equipment – they apparently had to borrow rifles from the students at Lancing College. In October ‘Kitchener’s Blues’, temporary uniforms, were issued but they would have to wait until spring 1915 to get their Khaki. Their daily activities included drill, parade and early lessons in trench digging and aiming the old rifles.
‘We went trench digging last Wednesday and have been again today. It takes a long time to dig a trench here, for when we get down a foot we come to solid chalk, and we have to pick it up.’
Arthur Goodchild, 13th November 1914. (Quote credit 2).
By December 1914 a new ‘hutment’ Camp made of shed-like structures was being built but bad weather forced the military to send the soldiers to stay with locals in the Shoreham, Worthing and Brighton area. For young farming lad Arthur Goodchild this move was a great improvement on the tents and he enjoyed the ‘comforts of Brighton’ very much – and it turned out the company of a young lady named Dolly. The men continued drill and training in public areas near their billets – the 7th Northamptonshire Regiment used Southwick Green. Some men were sent to work on the roads for the Camp but it was not until March 1915 that they were all returned to the improved huts.
“We shall be alright in huts when they are finished. They are match-boarded inside and a tortoise stove in the centre, and pegs to hang our clothes up…”
Edmund Goodchild, 1st December 1914. (Quote credit 2).
The huts were shared by up to 25 men with separate beds and were supported by buildings for ablutions, cookhouses, stables, offices, stores and recreation. Training continued with an increase in lengthy route marches and trench digging. New activities were introduced such as bridge-building and barbed wire entanglements.
Gilbert Frankau, another recruit, transferred from the infantry into the Royal Field Artillery as a commissioned officer whilst at Shoreham. His daily activities included inspections of his men and office administration. His position also allowed him perks such as a ‘batman’ – a lower ranking soldier to act as a servant.
The health of the troops was cared for by the army Medical Officer and in the early month many recruits were sent home deemed unfit for service on health grounds. Recruits who remained were offered inoculation against enteric fever (typhoid and paratyphoid) although several had bad reactions to the vaccine with badly swollen arms and days of sickness. There was still the occasional accidental death, as discovered in Coroner’s reports held at the Keep archive, Falmer, which revealed young 29 year old Douglas McNicol who sadly died from acute gastro-enteritis in October 1914.
The recruits were disciplined for misdemeanours in Camp by methods such as confining them to barracks, restricting their ability to leave Camp and regular reporting to the police tent. More serious offences, like being absent without leave would be brought up in the local courts along with any criminal actions.
Life in Camp was made more appealing by the YMCA and the Salvation Army. The YMCA had two huts in the camp providing recreation and serving thousands of cups of tea a day. There was even a Post Office set up in the Camp for soldiers to send their letters and postcards home. As well as entertainments put on especially for the troops the young soldiers went out in the towns to places of amusement like the cinema or the Aquarium at Brighton. Closer to the Camp they could watch or, if they were brave, take a ride in the airplanes flying out of Shoreham Aerodrome.
In June 1915 the first recruits were marched to other Camps like Blackdown at Farnborough then sent overseas to the Front Line. Recruits and later conscripts continued to be sent to Shoreham throughout the war.
Find out more:
Watch a film created by Worthing College Students about the start of the Camp.
Watch a film created by Worthing College Students about Death in Camp.
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. Frankau, G. 1920 Peter Jackson, cigar merchant : a romance of married life London: Hutchinson. www.goodchilds.org courtesy of Henry Finch Audio interviews and private papers courtesy of the Imperial War Museum