Tweedsmuir Camp 1942-1947 (1 of 5)

Role of Tweedsmuir Camp

The Canadian Army had to put into place the conditions needed for repatriating disabled troops; those who were medically or psychologically unfit. Such soldiers were referred to as "Category 'E' personnel", "Non-Effective personnel" and occasionally "Category personnel". Medical invalids suffered from ailments such as "pleurisy with effusion, diabetes mellitus, gastric ulcers, heart disease, tuberculosis, fractures of the scull and bomb fragment wounds." A few medically unfit troops were awaiting "plastic surgery" at a "hospital in Basingstoke", Hampshire, UK. Psychological cases were reported as enduring "schizophrenia" and "dementia."

Tweedsmuir Camp was set up as Number One Transit Depot for handling thousands of medical and psychological cases during WWII and was referred to as 1 Non-Effective Transit Depot, or 1 NETD for short; an abbreviation that transient personnel soon modified to pet names such as "Not Enough To Drink, Nothing Else To Do, No Empties To-day, Non Efficient Tourist Depot and North Elstead Tourist Depot." (The fact that Tweedsmuir Camp stood south of Elstead seemed to be insignificant.) The camp was also responsible for clearing miscellaneous troops such as those transferring to the Royal Canadian Air Force, under age personnel and those who sought transfer to the USA Army in the UK.

There were some 10,000 Americans who crossed the American-Canadian border in early 1939 to enlist in the Canadian Army to fight in a war that "was none of their business" as Mike Trow phrased it in his book The Wigwam Murder. The attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, however, had brought America into the Second World War. By 1942 Americans who were in the Canadian Army now requested transfers to the USA Army in the UK to fight along side their fellow compatriots, and several thousands of them were interviewed in Tweedsmuir Camp by US Army officers who were provided with living accommodation there. Interestingly, some transit men's wives were permitted to join them in the United Kingdom.

The average age of troops passing through Tweedsmuir was 33 years; the oldest being 58 and the youngest 15, of whom there were many. Presumably, the 15 year old 'soldiers' had lied about their age before enlisting and when this was discovered they were dispatched back to Canada.

From a 'long distance' interview with Sergeant Bernard Keegan (a WWII veteran who was stationed in Tweedsmuir Camp) it is clear that women were not quartered there. However, he did mention that "several women from Elstead used to come every day to bake in the kitchen and serve in the dry canteen." Sergeant Keegan also explained that while at work the women were required to wear "the NAFFI blue and white uniform."

(The term 'dry canteen' is a name given to an outlet that sells non-alcoholic items such as tea, cigarettes and chocolates. A 'wet canteen' is a name given to an outlet that sells alcoholic liquor and beer. The terms 'dry canteen' and 'wet canteen' are usually used by military personnel.)

Although Tweedsmuir Camp was built exclusively for men, occasionally personnel from the Canadian Women Army Corps were discharged through the unit. On the 24 August 1944 for example, "two members of the 'fairer sex' [...]" were released from their military duties. The diarist added the following thought provoking remark.

"The 'service plus' rendered to a female in the different offices when going through the procedure of being discharged (was) remarkable."

{1 Canadian Non-Effective Transit Depot / Lorne Scots War Diary / January to December 1944 - The National Archives (PRO)}

Notwithstanding Tweedsmuir's role during WWII, an entry in the 1 NETD War Diary for 1944 implies that the camp was to have served a secondary purpose. On Monday, 26 June 1944, Major-General, The Honourable PJ Montague, Senior Officer at Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ), paid a surprise visit to the camp. In a memo to his Adjutant, the camp's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Keene (later promoted to full Colonel), wrote,

"Major-General PJ Montague, who inspected the camp late on Monday and early Tuesday, was pleased with the appearance of Tweedsmuir, which the General told me he had built for himself in case CMHQ was bombed out of London."

{1 Canadian Non-Effective Transit Depot / Lorne Scots War Diary / January to December 1944 - The National Archives (PRO)}
(General Montague was one of the dignitaries present at a meeting dated 19 March 1941 to discuss the problem of accommodating Canadian troops in the United Kingdom.)

Lieut. Col. L. Keene

From a photograph of 1 Canadian Base Depot taken in 1940

Command and Administration

Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Keene was a highly esteemed commander and by far one of the most widely known officers in the Canadian Army. He was a World War One veteran, experienced and perceptive towards the needs of the men under his leadership.

In 1940/41 Keene was in the UK commanding 1 Canadian Base Depot which performed a function similar to the one it discharged at Tweedsmuir Camp before the cessation of World War Two, namely the repatriation of Canadian non-effective personnel (see 'Lorne Scots' Arrival' section of this website). At this time Tweedsmuir Camp was still being constructed by Royal Canadian Engineers who were billeted under canvas on the site (see 'Construction of Tweedsmuir Camp' section of this website). By the end of November 1941 the camp was ready for habitation. On 10 December Colonel Keene and his detachment of Lorne Scots moved in as administrators of Tweedsmuir Camp and the unit's title redesignated as 1 Non-Effective Transit Depot.

When Keene was on leave, or attending to other duties as ordered by CMHQ, camp command was passed down to the next most senior officer. In February 1943 Keene was promoted to full Colonel, commanding 'F' Group Base Units, Headquarters at Bordon, Hampshire, UK, at which point command of the depot fell briefly onto the shoulders of Lieutenant-Colonel Roy Lent. By the summer of 1944 Keene had returned to Tweedsmuir Camp as commanding officer but was admitted to 22 Canadian General Hospital towards the end of that year, leaving his Adjutant, Lieutenant BM MacIntyre, in command. By 1945 MacIntyre had risen to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and assumed the position of Officer Commanding Tweedsmuir Camp (or "1 Wing 1 Repatriation Depot" as the camp was known by then).

Regimental administrative duties were supervised by Regimental Sergeant Major WT Palmer who had an office in the same barracks as the orderly room and the CO's office. The barracks was located to the west of Tweedsmuir Camp's main road just before the north western entrance. Important notices and daily orders were posted on the camp's notice board, which was positioned next to the orderly room. The process of returning Canadian army personnel to Canada and clearing miscellaneous troops was discharged by the Lorne Scots on permanent establishment (PE personnel). PE staff had exclusive use of administration offices located on the western edge of the parade ground as shown on the map above. They frequently worked into the early hours of the morning at their typewriters, completing the necessary forms.

Tweedsmuir Camp's maintenance was the responsibility of two civilians, Mr William (Bill) Arrow (the Clerk of Works) and his handyman, both of whom were employed by the War Office (WO). Civilians were usually assigned this type of task because their employment secured continuity of support for the smooth running of a military camp. Arrow and his staff had an office and workshop close to the motor transport garage. As they lived away from the site, Arrow turned up for work each morning in his car and his handyman arrived on a bicycle. When specialist jobs had to be done, such as mending frozen or burst water pipes, Arrow would call for outside assistance.

By the start of 1945 it was becoming clear to the Allies that Nazi Germany was all but defeated. Having completed its duty as a transit depot, Tweedsmuir Camp was renamed 1 Wing, 1 Repatriation Depot. The reorganisation also ordered Camps Superior, Huron and Ontario (designated 2 Wing, 3 Wing and 4 Wing respectively) to be attached to 1 Canadian Repatriation Depot. Colonel M Gordon became overall Commanding Officer of 1 Canadian Repatriation Depot, second in charge was the newly promoted Lieutenant-Colonel JR Barber while Lieutenant-Colonel MacIntyre became commander of 1 Wing, ie Tweedsmuir Camp. Together, Gordon, Barber and MacIntyre supervised the closure of Tweedsmuir Camp as a Canadian Army depot.

Camp Routine

Upon their arrival at Tweedsmuir, Canadian troops were required to follow procedures that enabled PE personnel to record each soldier's profile before repatriation or transfer. To begin with, personnel for transfer reported to the Records Office where their names, addresses of next-of-kin in Canada and whether they were in receipt of "trades pay" were recorded. At this point, if necessary, arrangements were made for the return to Canada of their wives. If their draft for repatriation or transfer was not imminent, transient personnel were passed for leave. After being cleared at Records and the Quartermasters Stores the men were addressed by their respective "Padres" (Catholic or Anglican), followed by a talk on security, the geography of the camp and the surrounding area by the Regimental Officer who also issued leave particulars. The Educational Officer then explained in detail conditions in Canada at that time, outlining the 'Reconstruction Order', 'Post Re-establishment Order' and the 'Veteran Land Act', all of which were designed to help Canadian soldiers return to "civvy" street. At the end of this programme the troops were issued with a questionnaire to ascertain what they intended to do upon their return to Canada. In July 1944, for example, 40% indicated their desire to return to farming, 20% were inclined towards a trade, 10% wanted to become students, 5% desired to be civil servants and the remainder were recorded as "undecided".

Thoughtful regard had to be, and was, given to most aspects of the troops' well-being. For example, on 2 September 1942, nine months into the life of Tweedsmuir, saw the arrival of a civilian barber who was "employed one day each week to look after the camp barbering." It is not clear from the 1 NETD War Diaries, however, whether or not an army barber was engaged prior to this date.

There were occasions when Tweedsmuir Camp was so busy clearing transient personnel that it became "a perfect madhouse" for administrators. Camp accommodation was often very limited particularly when incoming drafts for discharge to the American Army were being processed, necessitating "hut floor space to be used for sleeping arrangements." In such circumstances Canadian officers in transit were usually re-routed to Jasper Camp, Witley. By 1944 efforts were made to ease the accommodation problem. On 10 May of that year Colonel Keene viewed a site for a new "overflow camp of 1 NETD" located at Carburton, Yorkshire (now in Nottinghamshire). Within two weeks, on 24 May, the overflow camp was established.

Routine Orders posted on Saturday, 16 January 1943

Routine orders, which enabled Tweedsmuir Camp to run smoothly within an effective framework, were posted daily on the camp notice board and had to be observed by all personnel. For example, the routine for Saturday, 16 January 1943, is shown in the graphic to the right. (Click the graphic for a larger image.)

During the PE and Attached Parade, Staff Parade and Sick Parade one of the commanding officers or the Regimental Sergeant Major would clarify instructions to personnel. This would also be the occasion when orders received too late for publication on the notice board would be given. However, not all parades involving transient personnel conformed to army regulations. On 18 May 1944, for example, the following entry was made in the War Diary.

"Regimental Sergeant Major Palmer, WT was justifiably annoyed today. In all his long service as an RSM (some 25 years) he had never seen what he saw this morning. The parade was formed up in neat rows on the square. RSM Palmer, who is a "stickler" for exactness, gazed over his flock with approving eyes but what was that? No, it couldn't be - it must be the misty morning air!! With alacrity he decided to investigate and, in seconds, the ground between the front and rear platoons was 'burnt up'. The men in the rear platoon stood with expressions of bland indifference - all except one. He was SMOKING!!! Wreaths of tobacco smoke curled lazily upwards. Stupification (sic) was only momentarily supreme - with a roar that would do credit to a newly erupting Vesuvius the RSM dispersed both smoke and soldier with a wave of oral annihilation."

{1 Canadian Non-Effective Transit Depot / Lorne Scots War Diary / January to December 1944 - The National Archives (PRO)}

A wide range of standing orders was implemented to ensure that troops were aware of their obligations regarding the appearance of huts and camp grounds. Presented in the form of a list, the standing orders had to be "rigidly adhered to in the interests of sanitation, cleanliness and discipline, and (were) the direct responsibility of Hut Duty NCOs." The list included the following items:

Kit Layout Diagram issued on 2 February 1943

Occasionally standing orders were reinforced with diagrams that were "distributed throughout the camp." For instance, a diagram illustrating the presentation of kit for inspection, issued on 2 February 1943, also reinforced item five in the standing orders. (Click the graphic to the right for a larger image of kit inspection diagram.)

On Sundays (depending on events in the camp) a church parade was held for the troops at St. Michael's in Thursley village. Leaving the camp through the southern entrance, the Lorne Scots Unit marched down Dye House Road and, having reached the valley immediately below the camp complex, proceeded between two quaint, nineteenth century cottages. From there a steep, winding hill awaited them as they proceeded towards Thursley. With the cricket pitch behind them the troops advanced along The Street and into Highfield Lane where the village church would welcome them to the service. On occasions photographs of the church parades were taken.

Not all ecclesiastical services took place in St Michael's church. One bright, frosty morning, on 31 December 1944, for example, the Padre held two Communion Services for the troops in Tweedsmuir. And then at the end of the day, a "Watch-night service was held by the Padre [...] for those wishing to greet the New Year in quiet thought." In the summer of 1946, on 14 July, "protestant and RC services were held in the respective chapels."

It is a known fact that during WWII there was a raised awareness of the necessity to salvage waste materials; an activity that was routinely observed in Tweedsmuir Camp. As an example, for the month ending 29 February 1944 the following quantities of waste material had been recovered.

  • Rags
  • .............................. 227.3 Kgs
  • Paper
  • .............................. 142 Kgs
  • Tins
  • .............................. 1,527.3 Kgs
  • Scrap Metal
  • .............................. 102 Kgs
  • Bottles
  • .............................. 30 dozen

    The statistic for recycled tins (equivalent to approximately 19 men weighing 80 Kgs. each) provides a very important clue about the diet enjoyed by transient personnel in the camp, suggesting that meals appear to have consisted largely of canned produce. Notwithstanding the shortages of food in Britain at that time, camp personnel may typically have consumed fruit, meat, fish and vegetables.

    String and waste rubber were two other materials recycled for the war effort. Lieutenant-Colonel. Keene had instructed that "receptacles be placed in strategic places" and encouraged the men to use them for this purpose.