Tweedsmuir Camp 1942-1947 (2 of 5)

Fatigue Duties

Fatigue duties (or 'fatigues' as they are called in the Canadian War Diaries) were not used as sanctions for wrongdoing but as 'domestic' duties that included cleaning, and general tidying up of the site. It was customary practice to detail transit personnel for fatigue duties. But towards the end of 1946, a few months before the last Canadian soldier left Tweedsmuir for good, PE staff were required to carry out miscellaneous work as many of the "General Duty" (transit) personnel had been returned to Canada. On 13 August 1946, for example, the entire Pay Office was cleaned and painted by the bursary staff.

Transit personnel often complained that they were "incapable of doing work", thinking that once they arrived at Tweedsmuir "they just (sat) around until they (were) transported home." However, camp command appreciated that keeping the men occupied was important both for maintaining discipline and morale. In this respect, putting them on fatigues was crucial to the success of their short term residency. Various activities were used to occupy troops' minds and if they had a particular predisposition towards a skill they were encouraged to make use of it for the good of the unit. Gardening was one activity, working on local farms and encouraging men to make use of their artistic flair and building skills were others.

Of course there was a percentage of transit men who were genuinely unable to perform fatigue tasks. And so films, shows and other entertainment was "arranged as frequently as possible to fill their time." Subsequently, "writing materials, literature and various games for the reading and recreation room" were also provided for them (from 1 NETD War Diaries of Carburton Camp, Yorkshire - 1943).

Although it is impossible to visuali se today, in the 1940s small garden plots and lawns formed an intrinsic part of Tweedsmuir Camp. The green grass, flowers and trees in blossom gave the camp an "atmosphere of a 'country estate' rather than an army camp." Captain Feeney acted as 'head gardener'. During the summer months he organised fatigue parties to tend his nursery, tidy up gardens and cut lawns within the camp area. On one occasion (1 July 1943) Sir Bruce Thomas, who owned and lived in Dye House at the time, together with a Mr Harrison, helped to "cut the grass in front of the Officers' Mess to make it playable for golf practice."

Example of a rustic fence in Tweedsmuir Camp. To the left of the picture, between two parallel timber bars, is the camp notice board Portion from a photograph provided by Sgt. B Keegan (Tweedsmuir Camp veteran)

From a photograph of 1 Canadian Base Depot taken in 1940

The gardens, lawns and the camp's main road were edged by wooden rustic fences (see image to the right), which were erected by a fatigue party under the supervision of Sergeant Pritchard. While the work occupied transient personnel during their stay at Tweedsmuir, the erected fences created visual order for both visitors and PE staff alike. In 1946, however, the rustic fences were "replaced with a 1/2 inch" (sic) single strand of wire fixed to timber posts.

In his 177th Report, Colonel Stacey (Historical Officer, CMHQ) commented that troops awaiting transportation to Canada were often put to work on farms in close proximity to their transit depots. And, indeed, this was true with respect to a few transient personnel in Tweedsmuir. On 24 March 1943, for example, the same day that the ladies of the Thursley village agreed to make curtains for the camp's reading and quiet room, "twelve men were planting potatoes for Mr Ranson, a local farmer of the district."

One of the more interesting entries in the 1 NETD Diaries describes the stage design in Tweedsmuir Camp's theatre that included a backdrop painted by one of the category 'E' men.

"We are rather proud of our stage setting here and concert parties have remarked on the good facilities provided. The stage is of good size and well lit - includes footlights and spot lighting. The background is of painted canvas done by one of the Transit Category men, and is reminiscent of the cool, placid lakes of British Columbia. Above the stage the canvas is frilled and draped, giving it quite the professional touch. The front curtain is bright red and directly above it, below the ceiling, is painted the ensignia of the Lorne Scots. On each wall, flanking the stage, is painted two life size female figures in an attractively sparse wardrobe. Is it any wonder that with this setting, coupled with a packed receptive audience, the ENSA parties shine so well."

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

(ENSA is an abbreviation for "Entertainments National Service Association". It was a British organisation providing entertainment for armed forces during World War Two.)

In the late hours of 7 November 1942, "a large number" of incendiary and high explosive bombs "fell all over the camp". The NAAFI, sewage system, fresh water supply and Officers' Mess were all damaged. Six officers were seriously injured and taken to No. 2 Canadian General Hospital. The following morning, 8 November, an emergency telephone call was made to Bill Arrow (Clerk of Works), notifying him that the unit required assistance in erecting "ablution tables and latrines for 1,000 men."

It took eleven months for the bomb damage to be repaired. The restoration of the Officers' Mess included a new fire place, which was built by two McMillan brothers who were part of the Lorne Scots Unit in Tweedsmuir Camp. On 23 September 1943 the fire place was described as "a very sturdy and attractive" construction. However, all was not well because an entry in the War Diary for 29 September of that year reads as follows.

The above photograph is of a railway line we found in Tweedsmuir Camp. Its length is just under six feet and we are of no doubt that this is the fire gong referred to in the 1943 War Diary

"Camp Commandant Lieutenant Denman (later promoted to Captain) was seen going round in circles and pulling at his now white hair. On questioning him the diarist found out the cause of the trouble. A fire gong that had been hanging on its hanger was gone and no one seemed to know just where. The fire gong was a piece of railway line, about six feet long. Later, as Mr Denman was inspecting the new fire place in the Officers' Mess, he let out a roar at the men working on it, and said, "where in heaven's name did you get that steel brace from?" One of the boys answered in a sly manner, "Sir, we just scrounged it." As the gong had now been in cement and bricks for about an hour, it was quite solid. So poor Mr Denman had to scrounge a new fire gong, much to his dislike."

{1 Canadian Non-Effective Transit Depot / Lorne Scots War Diary / January to December 1943 - The National Archives (PRO)}

The above photograph is of a railway line we found in Tweedsmuir Camp. Its length is just under six feet and we are of no doubt that this is the fire gong referred to in the 1943 War Diary

Between 9 November 1942 and 13 January 1943 a road was laid "between the officers' huts" reported as "fulfilling a long felt want." The white lines on either side of the camp road in the photographic portion to the right indicate the extent of this work. It was constructed from rubble procured from the Liphook Labour Unit. The rubble would have provided a firm footing in an area that was liable to rapid flooding from rain water cascading down from Beensides Wood (see 'Site Before World War Two' section of this website). Again, Sergeant Pritchard steered a fatigue party of transient personnel to complete the work. Major Satchwell was acknowledged in the 1 NETD War Diary (1943) as being "largely responsible for procuring the foundation stone" for the road.

Improving the Facilities

The slit trenches ran along the left hand side of Thursley Road as viewed in the above photograph

During the first few months of 1941, Tweedsmuir Camp command noted that personnel had no protection facilities in the event of an air raid. They subsequently informed CMHQ who in turn authorised that "slit trenches" be established as required. Within a short space of time a working party from 'A' Group Reinforcement Unit were billeted at the camp excavating the trenches "in and around the camp"; by 13 February 1942, 716.3 metres of trenches were completed by the unit. One such trench was located 6 metres inside the whole length of Houndown Firs, running to the west of, and parallel to, the grass verge (red arrow) of Thursley Road, which is shown in the photograph to the right. The trenches have since been filled in on health and safety grounds.

In the top right corner of the same photograph is shown the remains of the northwest entrance to Tweedsmuir Camp. Immediately behind the earth mound (yellow arrow) stood a brick guard house, which was built in the summer of 1943. The original guard house, a timber barracks that stood across the road from the new construction on the opposite corner of the northwest entrance (blue arrow), proved ineffective and too small for the provost's needs. When the new guard house was completed, the old one served as a prisoners' kit storage facility. (Click here to read more about the two guard houses.)

A brief entry in the War Diary for 21 December 1942, which reads "the Officers' Mess kitchen staff can now boast of an enlarged kitchen and a potato peeler", suggests that cooking facilities in the Officers' Mess kitchen had been upgraded. It is not clear, however, whether or not the standard of the officers' meals improved as a consequence or who completed the work.

As the war in Europe was coming to an end thousands of Canadian troops were returning from theatres of war, passing through Tweedsmuir Camp on their way to Canada. In April 1945 sunshine warmed the county of Surrey and sunbathing took "on a great popularity." There were

"times when walking through the outlying lines, one would be tempted to think that a nudist colony was in the making. However, it must be a great relaxation and tonic for the boys who have just come out of hell and grime of battle."

{1 Canadian Non-Effective Transit Depot / Lorne Scots War Diary / January to December 1945/46 - The National Archives (PRO)}

To help lift the spirits of battle weary troops, camp command agreed to a small financial investment for the laying out a tennis court on the western edge of the parade ground. The project was started in July 1945 and completed by August of that year. In 1946 tennis was portrayed by diarists as being a dominant pastime, particularly for those troops who had seen action in mainland Europe and were returning to Canada.

Recreation and Entertainment

Despite being detailed for fatigue duties and having to behave in a soldierly manner, transit personnel were always treated with cordial civility by the Lorne Scots officers. In the evenings, for example, soldiers had recreational periods that included film shows, dances, "sing-songs", concerts, bingo, and sporting events such as softball, football, basketball, snooker, table tennis and darts. There were even boxing and wrestling tournaments, the first of which was held on 4 November 1943 "in the gymnasium; a large crowd attended who enjoyed three hours of keen competition."

Sporting activities tended to be light-hearted fixtures arranged on an ad-hoc basis because priority for Tweedsmuir administrators was always the return to Canada of category personnel. However, when circumstances permitted, matches were organised either between teams from within 1 NETD or teams from other units (Canadian or otherwise) stationed in Surrey.

Two sporting events involving teams from 1 NETD are particularly noteworthy as they illustrate the cheerful nature of such fixtures. The first was a game of softball held on 5 May 1942 that saw the PE staff defeat a team of Category 'E' personnel. "Although the game was won by quite a margin, all participants enjoyed themselves and so did the onlookers." The second occurred on the morning of 9 September 1943 between officers and ordinary ranks of 1 NETD, and was recorded in the War Diary as follows.

"A very exciting and amusing game of baseball [...], which resulted in a win for the ordinary ranks by a margin of 13 runs. The performance displayed by the officers was quite amusing (from the spectators' point of view) because they (the officers) were as graceful as elephants on roller skates."

{1 Canadian Non-Effective Transit Depot / Lorne Scots War Diary / January to December 1943 - The National Archives (PRO)}

Although football (soccer) is not usually associated with Canada, on 13 September 1942 a match was played between a team from 1 NETD and a team from the Royal Marines who were billeted under canvas in Houndown Camp at the time. The game was played on Elstead sports field amid a large crowd of spectators who saw the game ending 13 - 0 in favour of the Marines. Despite the result, there were "no complaints" from 1 NETD personnel. This event, as well as the fact that in October of the same year eighty Marines were given refuge in Tweedsmuir due to Houndown Camp being "thoroughly washed out", is evidence of the special friendship that had been struck between the personnel from the two camps.

From Colonel Stacey's reports, troops enjoyed 3 film titles per week. These were not second rate, or so called 'B' titles, but some of the more popular films of the day such as 'The Crystal Ball' with Ray Milland and Paulette Godard, Abbott and Costello's 'Hit the Ice' and 'Pardon my Sarong', 'The Corn is Green' with Bette Davis, 'Sentimental Journey' with John Payne, Maureen O'Hara and a child actress Connie Marshall, 'Kiss and Tell' with Shirley Temple, 'Desperate Journey' starring Errol Flynn and Ronald Regan, 'A Guy Named Joe' starring Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne, 'Bells of St Mary's' with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper's 'Pride of the Yankees', and arguably one of the most successful films of the era, 'Casablanca'. There were usually two shows every evening, one at 6.00 in the gymnasium for ordinary ranks and another at 8.30 in the Officers' Mess for higher rank personnel. In April 1943, "there were 32 movies shown" in Tweedsmuir Camp "with an approximate attendance of 4,870." Unless each film was repeated more than twice every evening, these figures contradict Stacey's claim of 3 titles per week; no matter how the arithmetic is done.

The films were provided by the Canadian Auxiliary Service which, together with various other Canadian Units in the UK, was being disbanded by the end of 1946. As a consequence, on 3 October, the Service announced an "end to the supply of films." In Tweedsmuir Camp, however, a protest was made to a "higher authority" in the hope "that this last form of entertainment may be continued." Two weeks later the matter was resolved as film shows were again being screened in the camp.

In accordance with tradition, on 25 De cember of each year officers and sergeants would serve Christmas dinner to ordinary rank personnel. One such memorable function occurred in 1944.

"MONDAY - CHRISTMAS DAY

This special day was observed in the spirit of good fellowship among the troops. The Padre held two services of Communion at 0800 hrs and 0930 hrs. Part 1 Orders contained a special message to all ranks from the Commander. The men had the traditional Christmas dinner of turkey with all the things which should accompany it, including roast pork. The officers were present and served the men. The QM had obtained plates on which to serve the dinner in place of the customary mess tins; this was obviously appreciated by the men and it certainly added much to the enjoyment of the meal. The concert which was to have been given in the afternoon was unavoidably cancelled but there was sufficient beer for all the men and they made the most of it. Captain Ferris, in the robes of Santa Claus, distributed cigarettes and candy to the ordinary ranks to their doubtless amusement, but obvious pleasure and appreciation. A movie "Follow the Boys" was shown in the evening but there weren't many present."

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

A close analysis of some of the recreational functions reveals the rationale that underpinned their timing. When the workload in the camp was less busy, or when the ordinary ranks were being entertained off site, officers and non-commissioned officers organised events that excluded other ranks.

Boxing Day of 1942 was one such occasion. "Under the supervision of DW Bissit a supper was arranged for 100 men in the village hall" (Thursley). "After supper The Troubadours gave an excellent performance to an audience of 550. A dance followed and approximately 130 stayed." Back at Tweedsmuir Camp the officers entertained the sergeants in the Officers' Mess.

Later that same year, towards the end of August and at the start of September, there were few category personnel passing through the camp. A number of drafts had left for Canada and administrative staff were generally tidying up offices and living quarters. This was an ideal opportunity for the Lorne Scots Regiment to organise a shooting competition for PE officers on Tweedsmuir's rifle range. In an endeavour to bring a little spice to the contest, on 1 September "Colonel Keene visited Guildford for the purpose of purchasing prizes" for the event.

Not to be outdone by their superiors, regimental sergeants arranged social functions called "At Home" (sometimes referred to as 'Open House') in the Sergeants' Mess. Although these occasions were usually low key events, every so often they tended to be less restrained. In 1943, on 21 August for instance, "a very enjoyable dance was held in the Sergeants' Mess. A very fine orchestra played swell dance music and a buffet supper served at 2345 hrs." While the sergeants were entertaining guests in the camp, a professional concert party, The Macordialities, amused the ordinary ranks in Thursley Village Hall.

There were also opportunities for officers to attend dances with their wives and "sweethearts". One such occasion occurred on 2 January 1943 at Green Farm, Churt, some 5 kilometres south east of Thursley. Other dances, such as the Garden Tea Dance of 20 August 1944 when marquees were specially erected "on the lawn", were held in the Officers' Mess at Tweedsmuir Camp.

National events, like the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, were of special interest to camp personnel as few would have had the chance to enjoy such occasions once they returned to Canada. The boat race in 1946 was held in warm spring sunshine, following a foggy start to the day. Several weeks before the race, which occurred on Saturday, 30 March, the Chief Instructor had arranged for a party to leave Tweedsmuir Camp for Putney, London, to see Oxford win by 3 lengths. This was the first boat race since its suspension in 1939.