“In a night, a dark and dirty night unfortunately, the invasion came which has transformed our quiet little town into a garrison town.”
Shoreham Parish Magazine, October 1914, No. 298. (Quote credit 1.)
‘What are we going to do for them?’ The Shoreham Parish magazine posed this question to the locals following the friendly invasion of hundreds, thousands, of volunteers for Kitchener’s 3rd Army who arrived in September 1914.
This sudden influx of men was a surprise to the area as the presence of a permanent Camp was in question right up until the last minute:
‘At 7pm on Wednesday September 9th the Major General i/c Administration Eastern Command informed the Chief Engineer [Major Sherrard] that no action need be taken as it had been decided not to establish a camp.
At 8pm the same evening a message was sent that a camp was to be got ready for 12,000 men (12 Battalions) on Saturday September 12th and for another 3 Battalions on Monday September 14th. This was at once telegraphed to Major Sherrard.
The task given him was almost impossible, but he did, with unremitting exertions, actually accomplish it. The camp, though of course by no means complete, was ready; water laid, ablution, cooking and latrine arrangements were made and the troops marched in on the Saturday afternoon.’
Letter from Eastern Command, 1917. (Quote Credit 5).
Despite Major Sherrard’s efforts the local paper reports some ‘temporary discontent’ amongst the thousands of recruits who arrived in pouring rain mostly due to a lack of supplies.
It wasn’t just food that was lacking, proper uniforms and equipment were scarce. The Worthing Gazette nicknamed the recruits the “hatless brigade”. Recruit Gilbert Frankau felt this lack of proper equipment made them a mockery on the public streets but young farmer, Arthur, felt differently.
“We sing all kinds of songs but ‘Tipperary’ is the favourite. The people cheer us when they pass and the women come out to the gates to look at us, I expect the people at Shoreham and round about feel as safe as can be…”
Arthur Goodchild, 24th Oct 1914. (Quote credit 2).
In those first few months, locals were called upon to supply magazines and games for the recreation tent and organised sports and entertainments for the troops. The press applauded local people who had offered accommodation and support to the brave young volunteers that had turned Shoreham into a ‘Garrison town’.
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. www.goodchilds.org courtesy of Henry Finch.