HAMPSHIRE DURING THE WAR
in Mesopotamia, Palestine, Salonika and Aden, as well as providing garrison troops in India.
One of the more extraordinary postings was that of the 1/9th (Cyclist) Battalion Territorial Force, which was packed off to Siberia in October 1918, shortly before WW1 came to an end. The Russian Revolution of the previous year had seen the Russian army stop fighting. The 1/9th now found itself supporting the anti-Communist ‘White Army’ against the Bolshevik ‘Red Army’: it would be November 1919 before it sailed for home.
When WW1 commenced, Aldershot was the largest army camp in the country, with 20% of the home British Army based here. When war was declared, the 1st Corps of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) was made up of Aldershot units, so it was men based in Hampshire who spearheaded the British effort to try and halt the German juggernaut that had exploded through Belgium and France in the autumn of 1914. As the seasoned veterans headed out, thousands of new recruits swarmed into the huge training centre at Aldershot to replace them. The impact on the town was extreme. An accommodation crisis was exacerbated as the Army commandeered houses and schools to billet troops during training. The Army’s needs may have inconvenienced the locals, but there was no denying that Aldershot’s role was vital in the winning of the war: not only did it provide the nucleus of the 1914 BEF, it also guaranteed a ready supply of freshly trained recruits and treated the wounded as they limped back from the front.
The Cambridge Military Hospital (CMH) at Aldershot was the fifth military hospital established there but was the first to open a plastic surgery unit, which was quickly operating on soldiers who’d been wounded during the Battle of the Somme, some of them having suffered horrific facial gunshot and shrapnel injuries (the hospital closed in 1996). During
WW1, auxiliary hospitals and convalescent homes were created to treat the wounded, with large private estates transformed into hospitals, including Alresford Place. In Hampshire alone, there German POWs were seen in Hampshire during WW1, e.g. building roads in Aldershot.
Aldershot’s cavalry trained at Long Valley, which is today a protected Hampshire wildlife site.
The Defence of the Realm Act prevented communication about Aldershot during the conflict.
Wounded Indian soldiers were treated at Netley plus the likes of Brockenhurst and New - Milton.
Romsey Remount Depot, at Pauncefoot Hill, prepared over 120,000 horses for the war. A battleground where men trained for trenches was found at an MOD site in Gosport in 2014.
Winchester became a major transit location for troops destined for the Western Front.
Heavy rain saw 12,000 men evacuated from Morn Hill Camp, Winchester (winter 1914/15).
Winchester Prison held conscientious objectors, deserters and mutineers during the war.
Southampton was the British Army’s chief embarkation port during WW1.