THE RE-DISCOVERY OF THE FORGOTTEN EAST & WEST SANDLING CAMPS

&

WW1 PRACTICE TRENCHES

TOLSFORD HILL, SALTWOOD

Canadian Expeditionary Force

The intention of the following is to describe the location of the East & West Sandling Camps and the Tolsford Hill Practice Trenches and the important part this location played to the Canadian Expeditionary Force and to the outcome of World War One

© Michael Dugdale. Saltwood. 2016

 

Images of East & West Sandling Camps & Tolsford Hill Training. WW1 
 Hover over image for title. Click on image for full screen slide show.
 
BACKGROUND - CURRENT RECORDS

Canada was among the very first countries to respond to England’s need at the outbreak of the First World War. 619,636 Canadians enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and approximately 424,000 served overseas. Of these men and women, 59,544 members of the CEF died during the war, 51,748 of them as a result of enemy action. 

 

By February 1915, the area around Saltwood, Kent, (UK) was dominated by Canadian troops. 40,000 Canadian Soldiers training in Shorncliffe, Hythe, Dibgate, East and West Sandling, Westenhanger and Otterpool. Due to the proximity to France, they could be training on one day and be in the trenches on the Front by lunchtime on the next. East & West Sandling Camps also billeted British troops, RAF cadets, the 31st Middlesex, Russian Relief Force and the Canadian Expeditionary Force on which this web site concentrates. 

 

There is of course much written evidence mentioning Canadian Servicemen stationed at  East and West Sandling Camps and the nearby training area of Tolsford Hill but very few are certain of the exact location of the Sandling Camps. The confusion as to where the Sandling Camps were located, is in part because the Kent village of Sandling is near Maidstone, some 30 miles away. The East & West Sandling Camps took their name from the nearby Sandling a small hamlet on the outskirts of Saltwood and Sandling Park, a large estate on the outskirts of Saltwood. Sandling Park also gave it's name to Sandling Junction, the nearby rail station.

 

Until this publication, no evidence has been discovered, published, or previously available, showing the location and extent of the nearby ‘Practice Trenches’ mentioned in Battalion syllabuses, letters home and a very few 100 year old photos reproduced here.

 

The original Sandling Camp, built by McAlpine and Sons of Glasgow in October 1914 and auctioned off in September 1919, was of wooden huts and was built to house 8 battalions of the CEF as an extension to nearby Shorncliffe Camp. The 21st Battalion CEF went to West Sandling Camp upon arrival in England, and they made many references to their training on Tolsford Hill and marching back and forth morning and night in various letters and War Diaries, before going to 'The Front'

 

Soldiers stationed at East and West Sandling Camps, Saltwood, Kent, during the period of the First World War, undertook, as part of their training, ‘Entrenchment’ at Tolsford Hill, the digging of practice trenches. Here they would also learn to ‘go over the top’ There is evidence that practice trenches were also dug near to Shorncliffe Camp and above Folkestone & Hythe purely as a form of ready defence.

 

Route marching and entrenching formed an important part of the syllabus, which was taught following the experience of almost a year of actual fighting on the Front and relayed from general staffs of the Imperial and Canadian forces in the field as a basis for training.

 

Often the daily syllabus for the East & West Sandling Camps would mention ‘Entrenching on TOLSFORD HILL’. Until now the exact whereabouts, public knowledge and evidence of these extensive practice trenches on Tolsford Hill, Saltwood, Kent, have remained unknown since being infilled nearly one hundred years ago.

 

Discovered Location of Practice Trenches

The area of Tolsford Hill is quite extensive with no obvious defined boundaries. Clues as to the whereabouts of the Practice Trenches are sparse. The daily Battalion syllabus gives ‘March Discipline’ time as half an hour on ‘Road to Tolsford’.

Leading from the East Sandling Camp are several ancient trackways which climb Tolsford Hill. (TR 15833 38181)

Without the mention of ‘Road to Tolsford’ in the Battalion syllabus, any of these tracks would have provided good access across fields during dry weather from East and West Sandling Camps to Tolsford Hill training area.

 

Leading from the West Sandling Camp, the mention of a ‘road’ in the syllabus would suggest either the Ashford then Sandling Road from the West Camp (TR 14623 37492) or from the East Sandling Camp, Bluehouse Lane, being the most direct and convenient road route. Bluehouse Lane commences within a short distance of the East Sandling Camp Entrance, (TR 15731 37220) the Post office (two farm labourers cottages – still standing) and the site of the Jellicoe Club at Stone Farm (TR 15954 37139). It would allow access in all weathers to the base of Tolsford Hill. Bluehouse Lane leads to an ancient trackway that ascends Tolsford Hill, leading at the summit to within a short distance of a centrally situated gated entrance (with cattle grid) (TR 15823 38342) or more likely joining the route from the Sandling Road at the base of Tolsford Hill to the entrenching field and recently discovered practice trenches.

 

Myself and my wife Paula have ‘Route Marched’ from the middle of Sandling Camp to the middle of the entrenching field and it takes half an hour. The entrance gate contains a cattle grid. The cattle grid itself may be significant in that within this large area of open grazing, there are efforts, if the grid existed in 1915, to prevent cattle or other animals entering the entrenching field.

 

East & West Sandling Camps are divided by a short steep valley containing an ancient trackway (TR 15246 37211) It can be seen in the background of an iconic image called ‘Heads Up – Sandling’. Also visible in this image is the Eastern end of West Sandling Camp.

 

Field examination of both camps reveals little evidence, the odd brick or lump of coal. An aerial photo taken in 1940 reveals the ‘crop mark’ layout of the West Sandling Camp.

Location of East & West Sandling Camps
Site of West Sandling Camp shown in Crop Marks 1940  
(TR 14819 37299)
Site of West Sandling Camp looking towardsTolsford Hill Training Area.

Plan of the East & West Sandling Camps, overlaid onto arial view

Plan of the East & West Sandling Camps, overlaid onto aerial view

 

Illustration of East & West Sandling Camps & routes to Tolsford Hill Training Area

'Heads Up - Sandling'

'Heads Up - Sandling' is an iconic image showing 22 un-named Canadian Soldiers. I have found the exact location of the photograph which is taken from the East Sandling Camp side of the dividing valley between the East & West Sandling Camps looking towards the West Sandling Camp, where huts can be seen on the ridge. I show here the original image, a composite with the same location taken in 2016 and an image of the location as it is today.

Original Image 1915
Composite of original 1915 image and 2016 image
Composite of original 1915 image and 2016 image
2016 image and the location as it is today
 

Tolsford Hill Training Area - Ground Observation

Tolsford Hill from East Sandling Camp
Tolsford Hill from the South
Tolsford Hill from the South
View from South centre ridge of Tolsford Hill towards the sites of the East & West Sandling Camps

'Training Horses on Sandling Hill ' 1915 - From ‘The Emma Gees’ Herbert W. McBride.  

The same track today giving access from the Camps via the south base of Tolsford Hill to the training ground on the summit  

(TR 15599 38018)

Digging Practice Trenches - Tolsford 1915
The same location today  (TR 15423 38323)
(Recent near growth on field boundary removed by computer)

The area of Tolsford Hill, Summerhouse Hill and Brockmans Bushes contain various Neolithic and later trackways and ancient historic earthworks. The area, is very exposed, especially in Winter and is used for grazing. It remains a Military of Defence training ground.

Despite extensive ground research, it is difficult to determine First World War Practice Trenches from the ground, infilled during and soon after the end of First World War hostilities. Some trenches can be partially traced at ground level with experience and prior knowledge as to their general position.

Central Area.  TR 15618 38283
South East Ridge.  TR 15696 38069
Central North Base  TR 15334 38460
Central North Base  TR 15334 38460
Central North Base  TR 15334 38460
 
The Trenches - Aerial Observation

There are few published aerial photos of the Tolsford Hill area and those that are available, show no obvious features. However I have adopted a photo enhancement technique which, with certain images, show the full extent of the practice trenches on Tolsford Hill for the first time in over one hundred years. Also included here, with special thanks to Paul Brooker (Pilot) and Geoff Hall (Photographer) some amazing recent Microlight aircraft aerial images.

With image enhancement, the extent, line and position of the practice trenches can be seen.

The same image below with highlights to show ground features and the distictive and familiar shape of the trenches

Central South Ridge   TR 15606 38308
North Coombe  TR 15542 38511
Mid Field Centred on TR 15488 38274
Central North Base  TR 15334 38460
South East Ridge
South West Ridge  TR 15292 38214

Crop marks, minor ground depressions and elevations are now revealed and the practice trenches line, direction and positions now newly discovered and published here for the first time in over one hundred years.

 

Current observations seem to show practice trenches to Tolsford Hill only and no trenches can currently be found nearby or in strategic defensive positions in the immediate surrounding area. (further research is ongoing)

 

It is important that the Practice Trenches are now surveyed, photographed and mapped and the practice trenches positions and layouts officially recorded to show more clearly the extent of these Canadian Expeditionary Forces practice trenches on Tolsford Hill, Saltwood, Kent, which played such a significant, essential and decisive role in the outcome of the First World War and to the history and future of Great Britain.

Michael Dugdale. 2016.

Contact

 

On 2nd September 1915, King George V, accompanied by Lord Kitchener, inspected the 2nd Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Beachborough Park.

 

Before leaving, His Majesty directed General Turner to inform all his Commanding Officers

that he considered the Division one of the finest he had inspected since the beginning of the war.

Subsequently the following message from the King was published in Orders:—

 

Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Men of the 2nd Canadian Division—six months ago I inspected the 1st Canadian Division before their departure for the front.

The heroism they have since shown upon the field of battle has won for them undying fame.

You are now leaving to join them, and I am glad to have an opportunity of seeing you to-day, for it has convinced me that the same spirit that animated them inspires you also. The past weeks at Shornecliffe have been for you a period of severe and rigorous training; and your appearance at this inspection testifies to the thoroughness and devotion to duty with which your work has been performed.

 

You are going to meet hardships and dangers, but the steadiness and discipline which today have marked your bearing on parade to-day will carry you through all difficulties. History will never forget the loyalty and readiness with which you rallied to the aid of your Mother Country in the hour of danger.

My thoughts will always be with you.

May God Bless you and bring you victory.

 
September 2nd, 1915, King George V, accompanied by Lord Kitchener passing through Cheriton having earlier inspected
the 2nd Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Beachborough Park
 Memorials to Canadian Servicemen at Saltwood and East Sandling Camp
At the top of Tanners Hill, Saltwood, is a Silver Maple and at it's base a plaque which reads
'Silver Maple donated by Roy Stacey on behalf of all Canadian servicemen who were stationed in Saltwood during two world wars. March 1973
Above, the original oak memorial which stood near the entrance to East Sandling Camp at Stone Farm, site of the Jellicoe Club.
Below the replacement memorial in Purbeck Marble
 
The Route to Tolsford Hill Training Ground
Click on image for full screen slide show.
 

From Machine Gunners on the Western Front:

The Emma Gees

by

Captain Herbert W. McBride

(Emma Gee is signaler's lingo for M. G., meaning machine gunner.)

 

It rained all day, but we finally got everything off the ship and on

the trains and pulled out about dark. No one knew where we were going.

The only training camp we had heard of in England was Salisbury Plain

and what we had heard of that place did not make any of us anxious to

see it. The First Canadian Division had been there and the reports

they sent home were anything but encouraging. Our men were nearly all

native-born Canadians and "Yankees," and they cracked many a joke

about the little English "carriages," but they soon learned to respect

the pulling power of the engines. We made ourselves as comfortable as

possible with eight in a compartment, each man with his full kit, and

soon after daylight the train stopped and we were told to get out. The

name of the station was Westerhanger but that did not tell us

anything. The native Britishers we had in our crowd were mostly from

"north of the Tweed" so what could they be expected to know about

Kent. For Kent it was, sure enough, and after a march of some two or

three miles we found ourselves "at home" in West Sandling Camp. And

how proudly we marched up the long hill and past the Brigade

Headquarters, our pipers skirling their heartiest and the drummers

beating as never before. For we were on exhibition and we knew it. The

roads were lined with soldiers and they cheered and cheered as we came

marching in. We were tired, our loads were heavy and the mud was

deep, but never a man in that column would have traded his place for

the most luxurious comforts at home.

 

There came a time when we hated that hill and that camp as the devil

hates holy water, but that Sunday morning, marching into a British

camp, with British soldiers, eager to keep right on across the channel

and clean up Kaiser Bill and feeling as though we were able to do it,

single-handed--why, the meanest private in the Twenty-first Canadians

considered himself just a little bit better than any one else on

earth.

 

Thus we came to our home in England, where we worked and sweated and

swore for four solid months before we were considered fit to take our

place in the firing-line. All that time, from the top of Tolsford

Hill, just at the edge of our camp, we could see France, "the promised

land"; we could hear the big guns nearly every night, and we, in our

ignorance, could not understand why we were not allowed to go over and

settle the whole business. We marched all over Southern England. I

know I have slept under every hedge-row in Kent. We dug trenches one

day and filled them up the next. We made bombs and learned to throw

them. We mastered every kind of signaling from semaphore to wireless,

and we nearly wore out the old Roman stone roads hiking all the way

from Hythe to Canterbury. We carried those old Colt guns and heavy

tripods far enough to have taken us to Bagdad and back.

 

But, oh, man! what a tough lot of soldiers it made of us. Without just

that seasoning we would never have been able to make even the first

two days' marches when we finally did go across. The weaklings fell by

the wayside and were replaced until, when the "great day" came and we

embarked for France, I verily believe that that battalion, and

especially the "Emma Gees," was about the toughest lot of soldiers who

ever went to war.

 

(Emma Gee is signaler's lingo for M. G., meaning machine gunner.)

 

It must not be inferred that our four months in England were all work

and worry. Personally, I derived great pleasure from them. We were

right in the midst of a lot of old and interesting places which figure

largely in the early history of England. Within a mile of our camp was

Saltwood Castle, built in 499 by the Romans and enlarged by the

Normans. It was here that the conspirators met to plan the

assassination of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury, only sixteen miles

away, and which we had ample opportunities to visit. Hythe, one of the

ancient "Cinque Ports," was but a mile or so distant, with its old

church dating from the time of Ethelbert, King of Kent. In its crypt

are the bones of several hundred persons which have been there since

the time of the Crusaders, and in the church, proper, are arms and

armor of some of the old timers who went on those same Crusades. Among

numerous tablets on the walls is one "To the memory of Captain Robert

Furnis, Commanding H. M. S. Queen Charlotte: killed at the Battle of

Lake Erie: 1813"--Perry's victory. About three miles away was "Monk's

Horton, Horton Park and Horton Priory," the latter church dating from

the twelfth century and remaining just about as it was when it was

built. Then there was Lympne Castle, another Roman stronghold; Cæsar's

Plain and Cæsar's Camp, where Julius is said to have spent some time

on his memorable expedition to England; and, within easy reach by

bicycle, Hastings and Battle Abbey where William the Norman defeated

Harold and conquered England. The very roads over which we marched

were, many of them, built by the Romans. Every little town and hamlet

through which we passed has a history running back for hundreds of

years. We took our noon rest one day in the yard of the famous

"Chequers Inn," on the road to Canterbury. We camped one night in

Hatch Park, where the deer scampered about in great droves. On Sundays

we could charter one of the big "rubber-neck" autos and make the round

trip to Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Deal and Dover.

 

 

But, just the same, when we were told, positively, that we were going

to leave, there were no tears shed. We had gone over there to fight

and nothing else would satisfy us.

 

In Grateful Memory of

PRIVATE ADOLPHUS EVERS ('Duff')

28th January 1895 - 12th April 1918

Canadian Machine Gun Corps.

(Service No. 657154)

WEST SANDLING CAMP

KILLED BY SNIPER FIRE 12TH APRIL 1918

Buried Orchard Dump Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Grave: VIII. B 49

SHORT HOURS - QUICK DRINKS

John:
ANGUS, A M
Rank:Private
Service No:460014
Date of Death:06/04/1916
Regiment/Service:Canadian Infantry 61st Bn. 
Grave Reference:N. 345.
Cemetery:SHORNCLIFFE MILITARY CEMETERY

Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 08 April 1916

SHORT HOURS AND QUICK DRINKS. 
The Hythe Borough Coroner (Mr. B. C. Drake) held an inquest at the Town Hall yesterday afternoon touching the death of Pte. Alfred Middleton Angus (aged 38), of the 17th Reserve Battalion, C.E.F., stationed at East Sandling Camp. Deceased formerly lived at Edinburgh. 

Captain Ernest Bennett, of the 17th Battalion, C.E.F., identified the body. Pte. Thomas Macuhan, of the 17th Battalion, stationed at East Sandling, deposed that on Thursday evening, about 6 o’clock, he came into the town with deceased. They went into the Duke’s Head, where he (witness) had a pint of beer and deceased some whisky. They then went to another house, where deceased had some more whisky, and witness another pint of beer. They proceeded to the shore about 9 o’clock, and deceased said he wished to see a friend at one of the houses on the Parade. He went up the steps, and a second or so later witness heard a thud. He went to see what had happened, and he found deceased had fallen into a basement. 

Mrs. Emily Williams, of 42, Marine-parade, said about 9.30 the previous evening she heard a thud. She went to the front door in answer to knocks, and found the last witness there. He said the deceased had fallen down. They found him in the basement below, and removed him into the kitchen. He was bleeding, and apparently dead. They had no soldiers billeted or staying at their house. 

Captain L. Palmer, of the C.A.M.C., stationed at Shorncliife, said he went to the house about 11.30, in answer to a message, and found deceased there. he had a triangular cut on the right side of his head, and his neck was broken and skull fractured. Death was caused by the latter two injuries. It would probably ensue a few minutes after he fell. 

P.S. Smith stated that about midnight he went to 42, Marine-parade, where he saw the deceased, who was bleeding from his injuries. That day he made some measurements. There were nine steps to the front door. Just above deceased’s head, where he was found lying, there was a scullery window with a small ledge, and one edge of this ledge was chipped off as if deceased’s head had struck it. 

The Coroner said it was a very sad case. Here was a man who had come overseas fight for his King and country, and he had met his death by the cursed drink.

The jury found that deceased met his death from falling off the steps into the basement, and they added a rider that in their opinion more precaution should be taken against serving soldiers with drink. The Coroner said he was afraid the trouble arose because the houses were only opened for such a short period. During that time the men tried to put as much into themselves as possible. He thought it would be much better if the houses were open as usual up to 8 o’clock. He would, however, bring their rider before the proper authority.

 

Links

The transcribed letters sent from Vincent McCarter Eastwood

https://www.lettersfromvincent.ca/

Excerpts From The War Diaries of the 19th Canadian Battalion

Click Here

 

21st Battalion C.E.F.

https://archive.org/stream/21stInfantryBattalionWarDiary1915-1919/21stInfantryBattalionConsolidatedWarDiary#page/n0/mode/2up

http://21stbattalion.ca/kingston.html

 

 

18th Battalion C.E.F

https://18thbattalioncef.wordpress.com/tag/west-sandling-camp/

19th Battalion C.E.F

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/19th_Battalion_(Central_Ontario),_CEF#1917_World_War_Service

 

 

Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group

http://cefresearch.ca/research-resources/library-and-archives-canada/

 

Canadian Great War Project

http://www.canadiangreatwarproject.com/index.asp

A Letter Home from Pte. Harold Campbell.

Published in The Brussels Post Ontario 25th December 1915

Harold was later killed in Action on 27th September 1918

 

A Letter Home

http://doingourbit.ca/profile/harris-walsh

 

 

Letter from Sandling Camp

http://www.canadiangreatwarproject.com/tranSCRIPTs/transcriptDisplay.asp?Type=L&transNo=380

 

The Jellicoe Club – East Sandling

http://www.saltwoodkent.co.uk/#!blank/c13h2

 

The Canadians in Folkestone in WW1 - Step Short Project

www.stepshort.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/The-Canadians-in-Folkestone.pdf

www.stepshort.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Bull88-p.11-14.pdf

INFORMATION ON KENT DURING WW1

www.kentww1.com

Letters Home of Sidney Brook

https://www.glenbow.org/collections/search/findingAids/.../m-9076-15-transcript.pdf

Joseph Boufford

http://militarymuster.ca/boufford-joseph.html

 

The Russian Relief Force - Mention of Sandling Camp

Bolos & Barishynas 
being an account of the doings of the Sadleir-Jackson Brigade, and Altham Flotilla, on the North Dvina during the summer, 1919 
G. R. Singleton-Gates.

Published 1920 by Aldershot in London 

https://openlibrary.org/works/OL10709116W/Bolos_Barishynas

Merry Hell

The Story of the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Regiment)

Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914 - 1919