1913 War Games in Castlethorpe

War Games troops going over the bridge by the station in Castlethorpe

Some of the manoeuvres in the villages and country side around included practising night attacks and making pontoons to carry troops and guns over the River Ouse.

The Wolverton Express on 5th September 1913 reported the friendly invasion of the 9th Division of the British Army, under the command of General Snow.

The army was camped in the district to carry out training prior to full scale manoeuvres in the South of the country in late September.
War Games troops going over the bridge by the station in Castlethorpe

The Wolverton Express 5th September 1913



Friday last will long be remembered in Wolverton as one of the most lively days in the history of the town. From so early an hour as 3 o’clock in the morning until practically midnight, Wolverton was aglow with excitement, and crowds of interested spectators could be seen everywhere. This was on account of the large incoming of the troops to occupy the camps at Stacey Hill and Warren Farm. Trains steamed in full of troops at short intervals throughout the day, while companies of Engineers and the Royal Field Artillery, with their wagons, came in by road. A thick for overhung the whole country during the morning, but this did not affect the arrival of the trains, the first of which came in before the scheduled time. The first train to arrive contained the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers at 3 a.m., numbering two hundred men. At 4.10 a.m. nearly 400 men of the 1st Royal Warwicks came in followed as by the second regiment of the 2nd Lancaster Fusiliers illeg..ae Headquarters Section Signal Company. By the time many of the men who are employed at the Railway Carriage Works were in the streets.

Ladies in Station Rd. watching the soldiers who are playing War Games in 1913
Ladies in Station Rd. Castlethorpe,
watching the manoeuvres
Keen anticipation was centred in the arrival of the first batch of the Seaforth Highlanders, comprising 200 men, at 6.10 a.m. Not only did the men turn out early on their way to work, but there were hundreds of women and children in the streets. A tribute must be paid to the officers and men who arrived by the early trains, for the quiet way with which they marched through the town. There was no unnecessary talking, and the services of the bands were dispensed with en route, so as not to waken the inhabitants.

As soon as the men arrived at the camps they hastily set to work to have a necessary and refreshing wash. The canteen had been prepared for their arrival hours earlier, and as soon as the men were ready they were served with hot tea and coffee, while there was bread and cheese, etc. Though some of the men had had very fatiguing journeys they looked remarkably well, and marched briskly through the streets. The most lively party to arrive was the Seaforth Highlanders, and the train which conveyed the first portion of the regiment, timed to arrive at 6.10. steamed into the siding as the last whistle at the Works sounded. The attraction of the Highland Regiment was too much for many of the workmen, and they lost a “quarter” in order to see their departure for the Camp. The Pipers wore the traditional kilt, but some of the men were attired in plaid trousers. The scene was a fascinating one, and as the Highlanders moved off to the merry tunes of the pipers, a hearty cheer was given by the spectators. The second portion of the Regiment came in shortly after eight, the 1st Berkshires having arrived meanwhile. A detachment of Royal Field Artillery came in by road with guns about 12.30. they having been billeted for the night at Dunstable. Shortly afterwards a detachment of the East Lancashire Regiment arrived. These were only ones that had to march from the Station in the rain. The afternoon turned out fine shortly after they had reached their quarters. At 1.55 a train arrived with the remainder of the regiment and also 250 men of the East Durham Regiment playing popular airs. Many men employed at the Carriage Works took half a day to witness the arrival of the troops, and the country people who came to Stony Stratford for the market also displayed great interest in the events of the day.

Wolverton practically lost its identity on Friday night, and looked more like a garrison town on the occasion of a Bank Holiday crush. Swarms of people flocked into the town from the neighbourhood, and the scene was a very animated one, and it was early evident, as the people began to mass along the thoroughfares, that the Gordon Highlanders were in for a great reception. Their train was scheduled to arrive at 8.35, but it was after nine o’clock before they marched out of the goods yard. The people could be counted in thousands, and the press was tremendous. The pipers chose a merry Highland tune for their march to the Stony Stratford camp. Many people present, owing to the immense crowd, were unable to see but little beyond the glengarries of the men, the majority of whom wore their traditional kilts.

On entering the Stratford Road there were scenes of unparalleled enthusiasm. Cheer upon cheer rent the air as they stepped briskly, along the road to Stratford, which was thickly lined with people for about half a mile. Opposite the Wolverton Social Club there was a vociferous demonstration of cheering and welcoming of the men, who presented a smart appearance. It seemed as if there could be nothing to damp the enthusiasm of the crowd. A fine rain was falling, and the conditions underfoot were miserable; but the people cared little. For a long time after the Highlanders had disappeared the streets bore the appearance of holiday making. Soldiers in squads walked about the town singing snatches of songs and rag-times. There not many present to witness the arrival of the second contingent of the Gordon Highlanders, who came in with the 1st Rifle Brigade just before midnight.

Saturday saw the remainder of the troops arrive and take up their headquarters under canvas. Of the troops that came in during the early hours, the Rifle Brigade, who had been timed for 12.30 a.m., did not reach camp until after one o’clock their band playing the inspiring strains of “Under the Double Eagle.” But the bulk of the inhabitants, after an exciting day, were asleep, and only a wakeful few noticed their arrival. Saturday special trains, like those of the previous day, were either prompt to time or before time, the first of these being the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, who came in at 3 a.m. These were followed an hour later by the South Wales Borderers. The second contingent of the Irishmen and the 1st King’s Own were watched by a crowd of carriage workers, whilst the girls employed at Messrs. McCorquodale’s Printing Works turned out in force for the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers, whose band played for the whole of the distance to the Stratford camp- the first part of the march with ragtimes, and the Regimental march just before entering the camping ground. The band of the King’s Own, who have a variety of brass instruments, including flugel horns, saxophones, etc., did not play through the town, much to the disappointment of those who lined the streets.

The railway authorities accomplished the detraining of the troops during the weekend without a hitch of any sort. Amongst the officials present were Mr. L. W. Horne (Assistant Superintendent of the Line) and Mr. G. M. Ford (District Superintendent), Mr. Bradford (Assistant Superintendent, Euston), and Mr. Fisher (Assistant Superintendent, Crewe). There were also a large staff of Inspectors, including Inspectors Anderson and Bailey (Rugby), and Burdett (Euston), with Mr. Medcalfe and Mr. Skinner (Northampton). A word of praise is also due to Mr. Williams, who has charge of the goods traffic at Wolverton, and Mr. W. Brinklow, the Stationmaster.

On Sunday thousands of people visited the camps. The one at Warren Hill, near Stony Stratford, proved the chief attraction on account of the Highland regiments. The camp was thrown open for the day, and the various bands, including the Seaforths and the Gordons, discoursed music from the bagpipes to the delight of the visitors.

At the Stacey Hill camp civilians were not admitted until after the drumhead services. Here the band which drew the majority of the people was the King’s Own. Their first selection in the morning was “The Girl on the Film,” and a delightful rendering was heartily applauded. Then came “The Lost Chord,” magnificently played, the concluding item being a military two-step. The bands of the various regiments also played in the afternoon, and visitors thronged the camps until 9.30.

With the arrival of Monday came the serious work of the Brigade training. Rain fell unceasingly throughout the day, and the troops in their work found roads extremely heavy. The whole of the 10th and 11th Brigades with Artillery, marched out from Stratford, the route being the London road to Bletchley. A large crowd watched the departure of the troops, with the bands playing. From the Stacey Hill camp the 12th Infantry Brigade with Artillery (with exception of the 7th Co. R. E.) left at 8.30.

Foot soldiers by the Chestnuts in Castlethorpe
Foot soldiers by the Chestnuts
in Castlethorpe
With the Brigadier, General H. F. M. Wilson, CB, the Brigadier Major, Captain C. M. Davies, and Staff Captain, Captain North marched to Castlethorpe. A synopsis of the training being as follows. Attack in close country carried out as a drill. The Brigade deployed, advanced across country in preparatory formation, and attacked the pursued. There were one or two casualties of a slight nature, which were attended to by the medical officer, and afterwards given over to the R.A.M.C. attached to the Brigade. One was a private of the South Wales Borderers, who in running on the wet grass, slipped and dislocated his knee. An Artilleryman was thrown off the limber through the gun skidding, whilst the third happened to a rider, whose horse slipped, the man spraining his ankle through the fall.

The operations ceased about 3 o’clock, and the Brigade marched back to camp. Evidence of the soaking effects of the rain was noticed on the khaki uniforms, but the men presented a cheery appearance after the hard day’s work.

The 10th and 11th Brigades with the Artillery and 9th Co. R.E., continued Brigade training on Tuesday, despite the heavy rain. The men, as on the previous day, were provided with waterproof capes. The Brigades left camp at &.30 a.m., returning at 3.0 (Infantry) and 4.0 (Artillery) in the afternoon. The entrance and exit of the camping ground, especially those used by the Artillery, were little better than a quagmire.

The parade of the 12th Brigade was cancelled by the General Officer Commanding, the troops, who had had no protection from the elements on the previous day, being given a chance of drying their rain-soaked clothing. Better facilities in this respect are provided at the Stratford Camp.

Improved weather was in evidence for the Wednesday’s operations. The troops left at seven and eight o’clock. The last to leave camp at 8.30 were the battalions of infantry, headed by the drum and fife band of the Royal Berks., which played Alexander’s Ragtime Band through the streets, which were thronged with carriage workers proceeding home for the breakfast interval.

The operations with the Infantry took place in the vicinity of Newport Pagnell and Sherington, while the Artillery were engaged in the direction of Whaddon.

The 11th Brigade, including the Gordons and the 7th Co. Royal Engineers, proceeded to Grafton Regis for a sham fight. The 10th Brigade were in the vicinity of Cosgrove. The soldiers returned to the Stacey Hill camp after a hard day’s work, late in the afternoon. The last section to arrive came about 5.30. Training was resumed again on Thursday, the troops taking an early departure from the camp.

Troops by Hanslope Park Troops gathered by Hanslope Park
Troops by Hanslope Park
Troops gathered by Hanslope Park