World World I display team validating at Farnborough ahead of next week.
World World I display team validating at Farnborough ahead of next week.
Hints of a railway past.
We went over into the woods near to the canal some time ago to see if we could identify where the old Deepcut Barracks railway ran, and if there were any remnants still visible.
The railway was built around the time of WWI to bring troops and equipment into the barracks, and several lines ran into different parts of the camp. The extension from the Pirbright camp to Deepcut was put out of use in 1921.
90+ years have passed since the track was last used so there are some substantial trees growing along the course of the railway.
The concrete slabs/steps are the only physical evidence we saw on the main route of the track, although other recent finds in the woods suggest these concrete remains may well be a WWII bunker, rather than related to the old railway.
A recent post showed some of the many German and Austrian POWs arriving at Frimley Station and being marched to the Frith Hill detainment camp. A good number of these detainees would be set to work, in local residences, in farmer’s fields, and some of them helped Canadian troops stationed at Deepcut build a brand new railway line into the camp during 1915. This was necessary to cope with the increase in trop traffic through the camp during WWI. The station building was built chalet-style out of timber taken from the surrounding woods, and was opened by King George V and Queen Mary. After the the line closed following a surprisingly short life in 1921 (and was dismantled in 1928), the building itself went through some changes being a residence in the early 30’s (called Deepcut Cottage on the 1934-35 map above), and even a regimental museum.
The building no longer exists but there are still signs of the existence of the railway and it’s branches in the woods alongside the canal, which I’ll show you in my next post!
Firstly, thank you so much for your mesage, and many apologies for not replying sooner.
I’ve just started doing a bit more in depth research into the people who lived in Deepcut in it’s early days, focussing mainly on the civilian population that grew around the barracks, and I’m currently trawing through the Electoral registers (1918-1945) year by year. I’ve got up to 1930 and can confirm that the name Finch has a longstanding link to the Post Office in Deepcut!
Here’s the details I have so far…
Frederick Augustus Finch (born 1864 in Sunningdale) married Annie Elizabeth Hawkins (born 1872 in Tetbury, Glos) in 1902.
Frederick was postmaster at Deepcut from at least 1911 (looking at the birthplaces of their children, they look to have made the move here from Egham, somewhere between 1904 & 1907)
The 1911 census shows them as having 3 children, Frederick William (1904), Eric Augustus (1907) and Muriel Elizabeth (1910). Also living with them was Frederick Augustus older sister, Margarett.
Frederick and Annie remained at the Post Office until Spring 1924, and 2 years later their son Frederick briefly appears as living at the Post Office. It may be he stayed there when the new Postmaster (Julius Watts) took over, or came back as an assistant.
I’ve not seen Charles’ name yet, but hopefully the above will let you ascertain whether your grandfather was a relation of the earlier Finch family doing the same job.
Hope this is of interest to you, it certainly is to me! It appears that Frederick and Annie made a very similar journey to Deepcut, that my wife and I did, they came from Egham and we came here from Englefield Green right next door. This research is certainly making me feel a lot closer to the village, and to the people who helped to build it around the army base.
If I find out anything further, I’ll let you know.
Surrey Heath Museum is currently displaying some wonderful paintings and drawings by German artist George Kenner who spent time at the Frith Hill POW camp in Deepcut in 1915as one of the german civilians who had been living in Britain after the outbreak of World War I.
He recorded his time at the camp, and although they were censored by the British Army, they still give a fascinating insight into what life was like for those a British Prisoner of War camp. Well worth a visit, and while you’re there you can have a look at the engraved spoons that we acquired which were engraved by someone in the camp.
Absolutely chuffed that the curators at the museum wanted to have them in their display, and only too pleased to loan them to the exhibition.
Thanks very much indeed. That would have been my guess, based on what I’d been told about the position of the camps in WWI and WWII. It covers such a big area it’s unbelievable that I hadn’t seen it before. Seems like it’s taking a bit of damage at the moment with tracks of 4x4s and motorbikes over at least one tunnel. It would be nice to think an effort might be made to preserve it, not sure that will happen though.
I deliberately stayed on solid ground while having a look. Saw too many voids to take any risks.
There are similar concrete structures near the canal bridge area which may also be bunkers, but may have been related to the railway. Have pics of there to post at some point.As for the POW camp, I don’t believe any physical remains exist, it seems the golf course covers the site now.
The woods at Deepcut were once open heathland and then home to a barracks and a POW camp in the First World War. The barracks expanded and was in use beyond the end of the Second World War. The buildings were removed long ago now, and for decades nature has slowly taken back the land, and like ungrazed heathland, became mainly mixed woodland.
While out searching for new springtails, I wandered into an area that although fairly near to where I live, I’d never been in before and saw the largest area of remaining evidence of the military buildings that once stood here. Practice trenches both 100 years old and very recent (the area is still used by the MOD for training) fill the woods, as does the occasional pile of rubble and lost telegraph pole, but this is the first of this type I’ve seen. It appears to be a system of tunnels and bunkers just visible with the ironwork of tunnel roof supports showing on the largest of these.
Can anyone ascertain how old these structures are, and what their purpose would have been? I assume this is training for similar structures on the battlefield (in the same vein of the replica FOB base elsewhere on the Deepcut barracks land), but would be good to know what era it belongs to. It certainly is probably not going to be around for many more years as nature, footpaths and tracks for 4WDs and motocross cross the tunnels and take their toll.
Edit: It seems certain now talking to others who have lived and served in this area that this was a WWII air-raid shelter for the barracks.
Can’t resist buying old Camberley stuff on eBay!
After my last post showing the camp, this one shows more of the German POWs themselves. They arrived at Frimley station (you can see the buffers in the last image) and were marched along the Chobham Road to the Frith Hill detention centre. The POWs numbers also contained Austrian and German civilians interred at the same time as their military compatriots. Injured soldiers were taken in motor vehicles along with the luggage.
The locals were out in force to see this impressive sight, and many presented the POWs with gifts of food and tobacco.
The Illustrated News article dated September 23rd 1914, states that a few days earlier some 1600 POWs had arrived at Aldershot and were transferred to the camp, which is now the site of Pine Ridge golf course.
The first image in this set, shows some POW’s waiting at Frimley station before their march. This postcard was used, and had been posted by George Nyren Mugridge to his wife, Alice, in Portsmouth.
In it he says
"Dear A, I will answer letter tomorrow. This is some of the nuts what we look after.
After the start of the First World War it became necessary to construct camps around Britain to hold the thousands of German soldiers captured by our soldiers. One of these was here in Deepcut, on Frith Hill, north of the main barracks. The site is now part of Pine Ridge Golf course and the development of the area for this purpose, and also due to the temporary nature of the camp, means there is no physical evidence of the POW camp remaining.
There is very little information available about any of the POW camps in Britain, and even fewer photographs. The fact that so many images of the Frith Hill camp suggest that this camp was one of the earliest, and before any restrictions were introduced on images of Prisoners of War.
The German POW’s were obviously of great interest to the locals (and I’ll show more of that in a later post) and the last postcard above had a message which is testament to that, dated Oct 1914
“Dear Herbert (Herbert was Herbert Chick, a butcher’s son inAxminster, found on the 1911 census)
How would you like to come & see these German prisoners? Some came in on Sunday. I thought this would do for your album. Tell your Dad and Mum that we are likely to be shifted at any time and to any place. I saw some of the famous Death’s Head Hussars, such a pretty dress & smart men also. I went and saw the camp. All are allowed to get quite close, providing do not touch the barbed wire. Remember me to all. With Kind Regards, from Dick.”
Getting quite close was something that would be a short-lived privilege. I also found a series of letters from a soldier that passed through the camp in mid 1915. He references an incident that led to changes at the camp.
“There are a lot of German prisoners here, one of East Lancs killed a German with a pick, the German said nasty things to him, so he give him a pat over the railings with his pick, he died the next morning, now there is a hundred yards space between them and us.”
The conditions at the POW camps in Britain were far more hospitable for the German soldiers in comparision to the conditions in the German camps. A German appointed inspector found no ill-treatment, and said that Germans at the Frith Hill camp “have their own police, even their own secret police”
There were a few deaths of German prisoners however, and they were buried in the graveyard of St Barbara’s garrison church in Deepcut, until they were disinterred in the 60’s and moved to a cemetery somewhere in the Midlands.