BLANDFORD CAMP

This is a recent photograph of the entrance to Blandford Camp now called "Collingwood Corner" after the Naval Division battalion of that name.

The Camp is still occupied by the British Army and access to it is strictly controlled.

The land in the background was used as a training area for the Royal Naval Division before it left for Gallipoli and the Memorial in the photograph which was inaugurated in 1919 commemorates this.

Sub Lieutenant Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) and his friends were here in 1914 and again in 1915.

The second photograph taken during WW1 shows the type of barracks built at Blandford Camp in 1914. All the hutted accommodation erected at that time for the Royal Naval Division was demolished in 1920, some of the buildings being sold to nearby villages for use as village halls.

The first unit to arrive at the camp was the Nelson battalion which arrived at the end of November 1914. The remainder of the Division was sent there shortly afterwards.

The rapid building of the camp was something of an achievement, for all materials had to be brought in from elsewhere to Blandford Forum railway station and then by steam tractors and horses a further 3 miles to the camp. When it was finished it was in effect a small community with its own churches, hospital, canteens and railway line and station; eminently suited to become the Depot for the Royal Naval Division for the rest of the war.

It also housed a German Prisoner of War Camp whose occupants were employed on camp duties and also hired out to local farmers to work on the land. By the middle of 1918 part of the barracks was taken over by the newly-formed Royal Air Force which had been formed on 1st April of that year.

In 1918 the influenza pandemic caused the deaths of several German prisoners held in Blandford P.O.W.Camp. Among those who died were four men whose bodies were buried with full military honours in the churchyard at Tarrant Rushton, a picturesque little village near the camp. Unfortunately, no record of the names of these men is held in any registers either by the Authorities or the Church. Thus the four plots are marked with wooden crosses with a metal cross centrally placed bearing the words "4 Unknown German Soldiers". A mystery of the war.

Rupert Brooke took part in the ill-fated 5 day Antwerp Expedition of 3rd October 1914 in which heavy casualties were incurred, the Collingwood battalion for instance, returning with just 22 men. Whilst at Chatham Naval Barracks, Brooke had problems with a fellow officer and therefore transferred from the Anson battalion to the Hood battalion where he was to meet many fine officers who had been attracted to the Division and were to serve it well in the years to follow.

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