Construction (Page 2 of 3)

Details of Construction

In the summer of 2003 we made a transection of the camp, which started at the very peak of Beansides Wood, continued across the parade ground, and finished at the edge of the the stream; an activity that provided some extremely interesting information. Besides filling in some 20% to 25% of the 19th Century canal (see 'Site Before World War Two' section of this website), it is obvious that the RCEs terraced much of the mid portion of the site, creating an environment that lent itself to the erection of wooden huts and brick outbuildings, and the laying of a parade ground and a simple road network system.

There are many military camp sites in the area surrounding Thursley. Heading south along the A3, for example, just before the turn off for Thursley village, are the remains of Witley Camp, comprising Algonquin, Laurentide and Jasper. Interestingly, however, none of them have a road structure such as that found in Tweedsmuir Camp.

Like the nineteenth century canal we describe in our rendition of the site's appearance before Tweedsmuir Camp was built, the layout of the road system seems to have been dictated by a terrain that followed the land's natural contours. For instance, from Dye House Road to the south of the camp, the road was made to head northwards in a straight line then bend north-west along a ridge 76 meters (250 feet) above sea level and more or less parallel to the canal, which is shown on maps published before, and up to, 1941 (click the small map for a larger image).

Road Construction in Tweedsmuir was driven by expediency, providing easy access to, for example, the maintenance garage, parade ground, fuel pumps and parking for military vehicles. Incorporated into the road design were features such as kerbs, expansion gaps and drainage; features one does not necessarily expect to see in a build that was to have been of a temporary nature {2}. Once the land for the road system was levelled it would appear that a bed of flint stones, on average 50 mm in diameter, was first rolled flat onto which was poured aggregate cement to complete the road network. Unlike roads found in most cities, which often include gently sweeping curves, Tweedsmuir Camp roadways comprised sharp, unpretentious corners; pragmatism seems to have been the watchword when the camp was designed.

To the left of the camp's main road, as one walks southwards towards Dye House, is a meadow that we have described in the 'Site Before World War Two' section of this website (click here for a reminder). At first glance it seems to have nothing to do with the camp but next to the road kerb in this field are foundations which we shall show in due course as being the remains of the Officers' Mess (No. 24 on our sketch map). Immediately north of these foundations stands a brick structure that was almost certainly a bunker. To the western elevation of the bunker are the remains of a small spetic tank (No. 20 on our sketch map) that was once dedicated to the removal of grease and other waste material from washing-up water disposed of by chefs working in the Officers' Mess.

Positioned strategically in the meadow is a structure that has interested us for as long as we can remember; a one roomed, brick building, which was once furnished with a cold water tap and a coal burning stove; features that suggest the building was used 24 hours a day (No. 22 on our sketch map). Although we have been unable to ascertain its purpose for quite some time past, following a conversation in July 2007 with Major (Retired) M Jones, Commander of a CCF unit in London, we have agreed that the brick building was most likely a range wardens' security post. The evidence for this conclusion is as follows.

On the eastern perimeter of the meadow is an austere, corrugated sheet steel structure (No. 25 on our sketch map) that resembles a shed. Indeed just after the Second World War, in the 1950s, it was used to house cattle by a local farmer. From observation, however, and an entry in the Canadian War Diary for 10 August 1942, we have evidence that the 'shed' was in fact an indoor firing range used for revolver practice. Adjacent, and arguably the most easiest of the remaining structures in the derelict camp to interpret, is an outdoor rifle range (No. 26 on our sketch map). The one roomed brick building is situated immediately north west of both the indoor firing range and the rifle range. From the aerial photograph provided to us by British Heritage (see 'Aerial Photograph of Tweedsmuir Camp' section of this website) there is evidence that the brick building, or range warden's security post, once formed part of a cordon that isolated the two firing ranges from the other parts of the camp. The only way in or out of the area would have been through the doors of the security post.

Major Jones has also informed us that from his experience present day range wardens are usually civilian officials hired by the Ministry of Defence. This is because continued security cannot be guaranteed by army personnel who are on short notice to be drafted elsewhere. From this it is safe to assume that the range wardens who manned Tweedsmuir Camp's security post would have been civilians from the local area.

The meadow, or field, has always been somewhat of an enigma. An apparent lack of soldierly activity in it, on a scale noticeable in other parts of the camp, has presented many questions none more teasing than what purpose did the field serve during the camp's occupation by Canadian Forces in WWII? Having read reports written by senior Canadian Officers of the time, which clearly illustrate the rigourous training programmes Canadian troops were expected to complete (click the small image to the right for a larger example of one such report), and taking into consideration the existence therein of two firing ranges, it is tempting to suggest that the meadow was used for a wide variety of training exercises such as instruction in the use of firearms, drill to develop bayonet and camouflage skills, and activities such as field levelling and tying knots and lashings. However, given the nature of the camp (a transit depot for non-effective personnel), this is highly unlikey. It is more probable that the meadow served the less exciting function of a lawn. Two enteries in the 1 Non-Effective Transit Depot War Diaries support this thesis. The first records that on 1 July 1943 Sir Bruce Thomas, who owned and lived in Dye House at the time, helped to "cut the grass in front of the Officers' Mess to make it playable for golf practice." The second, made on 20 August 1944, catalogues a Garden Tea Dance, which was held in the Officers' Mess and marquees specially erected for the occasion "on the lawn." Over 100 guests were present who danced in the Mess to the music of an orchestra and afterwards served tea in the marquees. Having lived in the camp for nine years we cannot place any other venue there, which would have lent itself to either practising golf swings or erecting tents large enough for entertaining over 100 people.

In the now deserted camp are the remains of an elaborate water system. Running along an imaginary centre line through the camp site are three filter beds (No. 5 on our sketch map) and on the western boundary, in Beansides Wood, stands a water tower (No. 18 on our sketch map). Hidden from view, in the southern most corner of a field situated on the eastern side of the stream, is evidence of an extensive sewage disposal system. In addition of course are the remains of stand pipes, some of which we have already referred to above.

When we lived in the camp as children of parents who were part of the Polish Resettlement Corps, we remember a cast iron sewer pipe with a diameter of about 460 mm, which ran along the eastern boundary parallel to the stream (No. 12 on our sketch map). Although we are uncertain of the starting and terminating points of the sewer pipe, it is likely to have routed soiled water from a juncture in the north east of the camp to the septic tanks in the south east.

A water hydrant, located at the camp's southern entrance, suggests that drinking water was once delivered to Tweedsmuir from a mains supply under Dye House Road. From information we have to hand the water supply seems to have followed a path parallel to the camp's main road that branched off at strategic points in straight lines, delivering water to taps some of which were fixed to stand pipes. The mains supply probably served the water tower from where water was routed on to latrines and washing facilities, and made to pass via boilers installed in outhouses to supply hot water; a system which at the time was preferred, and continues to be used in many suburban houses, directing mains water to the kitchen tap (for drinking), storage tank in the loft, and from the storage tank to the lavatory, wash basin, bath and heat exchanger (cylinder, boiler and the like) for hot water.

Although the water system structures have now been severed from each other, and the filter beds filled in with lumps of concrete, their state of isolation and disrepair does not mask the fact that they were once an integral part of the camp. From our observations of the site and current research into the camp's water sub-systems, we provide an outline sketch of how the whole water system may have functioned when Tweedsmuir was in use.

Since the land at the north end of the camp is lower than in the south, and the 19th Century canal filled in when Tweedsmuir was constructed, there was an increased likelyhood of ground at the north end becoming sodden particularly during wet, winter months. As we explained in the 'Site Before World War Two' section of this website, today the very northern tip of the camp site is always under water; the very circumstance, we believe, the canal was designed and built to prevent (click here for a reminder). To overcome the problem of the northern parts of the camp becoming a quagmire, at the start of November 1941, the month construction of Tweedsmuir Camp was finished, cinder paths were laid, which provided a firmer foundation to walk on. By removing a few millimeters of soil it is still possible to find remains of the cinder paths under which is a layer of very fine silt deposited by rain water.

Notwithstanding the rationale for laying the cinder paths, Canadian War Diaries for 1942 - 1947 report many instances of serious flooding in the camp during periods of heavy rain. For 26 July 1946, for example, the diary reads,

"Weather hot and close in the morning with extremely heavy rain, accompanied by lightening and thunder in the afternoon. This storm lasted for about an hour, washed large quantities of sand and earth into hollows and along the concrete road. Several offices, particularly the MIR (Medical Inspection Room) were flooded. The pump for the sewer was badly clogged with sand but the camp engineer was able to start it pumping again in the early evening."

{1 Canadian Non-Effective Transit Depot / Lorne Scots War Diary / January to December 1945 - The National Archives (PRO)}

Such accounts suggest that the problems the site's topography presented was either knowingly ignored for pragmatic reasons or inadvertently omitted in the original construction plans.