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WW1 camp construction


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#1 Phil_B

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 11:34 AM

Quote:-
During World War I (1914-1918), the Henry Boot company built a British Army camp at Catterick in Yorkshire; RAF Manston Aerodrome near Ramsgate; the Calshot Seaplane Base at Calshot in Hampshire; Tees Naval Base; a U.S. Army Rest Camp and hospital at Southampton and Chepstow Military Hospital. The company also constructed over one thousand military buildings and over 50 miles of roads and sewers.


I had assumed that the REs did most of the building but apparently not. Would these have been wholly civil undertakings or would the army have been involved and supplied troops? Phil B

#2 mruk

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 01:30 PM

Hello Phil [B]

In September 1914 the General Purposes and Raising Committees of the Leeds City Council and Leeds City Battalion [Leeds Pals] met and agreed to send a hundred or so men for prepatory training in the Ure Valley at Colsterdale near Masham. This was convenient in a number of ways, as the land set aside for training was that occupied by the partially-built reservoir at Leighton, which was not only owned by the Waterworks Committee and Leeds Corporation, but had the additional benefits of a fully working light railway for the use of transportation, and a number of 'huts and dwellings' for accommodation. These huts had previously been used by 'navvies' employed in the construction of the Leighton and Roundhill Reservoirs, with any shortfalls being made up in the use of tents and temporary billets. I'm not sure to what extent big companies such as Henry Boots were actually involved in the later stages, but one of the many resolutions which the committees' in Leeds agreed upon was 'that the Waterworks Committee be instructed at once with the construction either by contract or direct labour, of all the neccessary buildings and works in accordance with the requirements of the War Office.' [Laurie Milner, 'Leeds Pals' p.27]. I think it's safe to assume though that a fair bit of backscratching and funny handshakes went on at the time.

Cheers,
Dave

#3 Phil_B

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 01:36 PM

Thanks, Dave. Had bungs been invented then? tongue.gif Phil B

#4 Simon R

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 01:41 PM

I do know that 12th KOYLI were encamped at Burton Leonard during 1915 and were 'preparing a camp for the arrival of other troops' - they were pioneers so this kind of work was right up their street.

The 12th moved here from Farnley Camp, an establishment that early 12th KOYLI contingents had helped build, following in the footsteps of local contractors whom, it appears, had great difficulty in building enough huts for nearly 1000 rough miners from Pontefract!

#5 mruk

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 02:20 PM

Hello Phil,
RE: 'Bungs'--The link between sport and combat features heavily in the histories of the First World War, and it could be said that those involved in the decision making process were the Kevin Bond and Sam Allerdyce of their day. Of course, I'm talking here of their flair for organization, and the decent management skills that each undoubtedly possessed--should anyone think otherwise.

Cheers,
Dave


PS: I seem to recall that the Barnsley Pals built their own billets, and I was wondering if someone would be kind enough to look up the account which Jon Cooksey offers in his study of the Yorks and Lancs. It seems that the Barnsley Lads didn't mind a bit of hard graft, and it was not for nothing, it seems, that the Leeds Pals were known locally as the 'Titty-Bottle' or 'Feather- Bed Battalion'. Incidently, the 'Barnsley Pals', as many are probably aware, were known as the 'Ragged-A**e' or 'Ragged-Trouser Battalion'.

#6 Moonraker

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 02:50 PM

Nearly all construction was by civilians. Belgian refugees helped with some camps, such as Rollestone.

From his farm near Salisbury A G Street noted the arrival in several south Wiltshire localities of cement, bricks, timber, window-panes, corrugated iron, drainpipes, electric- light plants, surveyors, navvies, bricklayers, carpent›ers, beer, bad language, and most other ingredients which went to the building of a camps.

At Larkhill 3,500 men, chiefly carpenters, were initially needed. But by mid-November 1914 the programme was behind schedule, because of poor weather and a lack of building. Canadian troops were taken off training to complete the huts.

In February 1915, some of the 15,000 or so workers employed by Sir John Jackson Ltd in the Warminster and Larkhill areas went on strike, wanting full pay when unable to work during wet weather, instead of the quarter-day's pay they received if they stood by until breakfast and were still unable to work. Sir John visited the camps and told his men to take it or leave it. Many chose to leave it and quit the district and were replaced, others returned to work.

One farmer told of two carpenters from Scotland who were heard to say that "England's a grand place. They give you all day to do an hour's work here, and you get a handful of money for doing it." A labourer remarked that the war was the best thing that ever happened and the Kaiser was the best friend they had. A farm hand disagreed with him and knocked him down. A number of unmarried youths hanging around an uncompleted hut were asked why they did not enlist. Their reply was, "Let the married men go and fight. They've got something to fight for and we haven't, and we're not going to chuck up good pay and an easy job.

The House of Commons was told how an officer had asked a ganger at Warminster how many men he had: "fifty-five" was the reply, but only thirty-one could be found. In April 1915 two men appeared in court accused of defraud›ing the Government by claim›ing wages for absent or non-existent workers at Codford. They were acquitted, though not before the prosecution had cited a series of stories of fiddling the books.

By August 1916 24.5 million had been spent on hutting for troops, hospital patients and horses in the United Kingdom. That same month the Public Accounts Committee reported critically on the building of the camps, particularly on one company which it did not name. However its comments pointed to the firm owned by Sir John Jackson, who had offered to build three camps outside Wiltshire for no profit with, it was alleged, the aim of securing other well-paid work. The company had gone on to win contracts for the massive Larkhill and Codford hutments, for which it received a 5 per cent commission on the actual cost. The War Office had tried "cost plus percentage" in 1902-03 and had found it too expensive, but had not put the wartime work out to tender, presumably due to the need to build a great many camps as quickly as possible.

The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners also claimed that as much as 130 each had been paid for huts costing not more than 70 or 80 to build. "We were inundated with letters from workmen calling attention to both the bad quality of the work put into some of these jobs, and the frightful expense incurred through men being employed who knew nothing about joinery," it stated, adding that London rates of pay had been requested because the men had London homes to keep. (Yet many came from elsewhere.)

Sir John was sufficiently offended by the Public Accounts Committee's remarks to ask for ajudicial inquiry. A Royal Commission was convened and sat in January 1917. Lawyers for Sir John said he had written to Lord Kitchener on August 7, 1914, offering to build three camps without profit, and these were duly erected. For the Wiltshire camps, the firm had charged cost plus 5 per cent, with 1 1/2 per cent being added for establishment charges. Directors' services had been given free. Sir John claimed that normally the added-on profit would have been 10 per cent; in normal times less was never accepted and except for war work the company would ask for 15.

Sir John told the Commission that his Salisbury Plain labourers' pay had started at 6d an hour, carpenters' at 8 1/2. He had refused the trade union leaders' demand for London rates because this would have cost the Government 150,000 to 205,000 more. Eventually Sir John's company had spent 3.75 million on building various camps, carrying out work that at one time had been estimated at 1.5 million.

The Commission reported in April 1917. It exonerated Sir John's company from all imputations, including that of bringing about a state of affairs in which it could, and did, extort exorbitant terms, but added that a state of things had arisen which enabled him practically to dictate his own terms. The amount he was entitled to under the agreement for the Salisbury Plain camps was greatly excessive and the agreement was unreasonable. The Commission felt that the wages paid were fair, being less than the London rates but more than those hitherto paid locally. Some lazy and incompetent men had been hired, but this the Committee attributed to the need for the huts to be erected as quickly as possible. There was no evidence of excessive prices being charged for materials bought through Sir John's company, indeed they were lower than those paid direct by the War Office.

Sir John's immediate reaction to the report was to write to the War Office reducing his added-on profit claim to 4 per cent, surrendering 30,140. He had made this offer the previous July, but had withdrawn it when the Public Accounts Committee had made its criticism and until the Royal Commission had announced its findings.

(Sir John had a bad war: when the seaside hamlet of Hallsands in Devon was partly washed away in a storm in 1917 (I think), theblame was put on his company removing offshore shingle in the 1900s to enlarge Devonport Dockyard.)

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#7 LST_164

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 10:49 PM

WW1 wooden Army Huts...
How many of these still exist? (Sorry if there's already been an existing thread on this subject)

At Bettisfield Park in Flintshire (as was) the 2nd Reserve Brigade RFA had a hutted camp. After the War the huts were just so much surplus, and one was bought to serve as the Parish Hall in the nearby village of Hanmer, until the local landowner declined to make further repairs in the 1950s and demolished it.
A second hut was also acquired for the village of Penley further west - no further details of its fate at present.

Maybe there are lots of survivals - just wondered...
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#8 Moonraker

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 01:44 AM

QUOTE (LST_164 @ Sep 23 2006, 11:49 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
WW1 wooden Army Huts...
How many of these still exist? (Sorry if there's already been an existing thread on this subject)

Maybe there are lots of survivals - just wondered...
LST-164



See this recently-revitalised thread which refers to wooden huts as well as buildings made of other materials

http://1914-1918.inv...p;hl=Winchester

There are also said to be a couple of ex-WWI wooden huts in the Fovant and Sutton Mandeville area of Wiltshire, but I haven't checked these out.

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#9 mamck

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Posted 03 December 2006 - 02:45 PM

I have checked out the exArmy huts in Fovant and Sutton. There are two and a half - one is a farm shed and has some interesting drawings and names still to be seen on the walls, another was turned into a house so has been redecorated inside but is interesting to see how they were changed after the war to civilian use. The half is a domestic garage and shed. mamck