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Deputy Chief of the Australian Army, Major General Rawlins visits the Map of Australia.

On Wednesday 13th November 2019, we hosted a visit by Major General Rawlins and his staff from the Australian Army.  We showed the Major General the Map of Australia and stood in the fields which had once held around 4,000 Australians in what was Hurdcott Camp.

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Trustees Tim Butler (2nd left), Helen Roberts (centre) & Ben Passmore (3rd right) in the Hurdcott Camp fields with Major General Rawlins (3rd left).  The Map of Australia in the distance. 

We were able to show the Major General archive photo’s showing the camp fields during the First World War and except for the lack of huts, the layout of all the fields is still the same today as it was over 100 years ago.

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Major General Rawlins was also able to visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Compton Chamberlayne where 28 Australian soldiers are buried and lay a wreath.   We then moved to the village hall which is an old WW1 camp hut where we had morning tea.  The Australian Army personnel were able to chat to Map of Australia volunteers and read all about the history of Hurdcott Camp and the Australians in this little corner of Wiltshire.

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Map of Australia volunteers

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The Ben Edgcumbe War Diaries and Photographs 1917-1919.

An amazing discovery about Hurdcott Camp has just been found on Facebook: “Grandfather’s diaries & photographs have been in the cupboard & under the bed for just about 100 years. As it is the anniversary of WW1 of his wedding, decided to put them together in a book & now a Facebook page.”

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Caroline Spowart, the Granddaughter of Gunner Ben Edgcumbe of the 12th Field Artillery Brigade, Australian Field Artillery has published the diary entries and photographs in a book but has also added them to the Facebook page called ‘Ben Edgcumbe WW1 Diary & Photographs Western Front 1917-1919 12th FAB, AFA’.  They are a wonderful record with never seen before images of life at Hurdcott Camp in 1919 when it became a large de-mobilisation camp.

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Ben also mentions the Map of Australia, on Friday 25th April 1919 (Anzac Day) he wrote:

“Geo and I went up the steep hill overlooking Hurdcott Camp where there is a map of Aussie. We walked around it taking us nearly 4 minutes, the white border is 4ft. The letters are eight foot across the map from east to west is 204ft north to south 168ft. Tasmania measures 21ft.”

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The page also contains details of his life as a member of the 12th Field Artillery Brigade, Australian Field Artillery on the Western Front.

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What is striking about this discovery is the clarity of the photographs. Reading his diaries, he made some income selling his images as cards. He certainly had some skill in the art of photography. On Friday 23rd May 1919, he wrote: “Geo Randal and I were Mess Orderly today. I got up early and all the boys were all asleep I took a snap of them do not know how it will turn out.” The image is below:

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Ben Edgcumbe was at Hurdcott for a couple of months & describes a fair amount of violence at the camp, perhaps evidence of the frustration felt by soldiers being unable to get home: ‘We walked into Fovant to get some postcards, but was unlucky. We went & had some tea & cakes and picture before returned home. We set out for home after dark, on arriving at the head of our own lines Will and I were attacked by a crowd a [of thugs]? They knocked us about and kicking us when [we] were down. Got home feeling sore about the head.

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Ben left England on 15th June 1919 onboard Swakopmund, a German ship and eventually arrived home on Saturday 2nd August.

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We are so grateful to the Granddaughter of Ben Edgcumbe for making this material available, a wonderful tribute to him.

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Open Day at Sutton Mandeville

We spent the afternoon with Sutton Mandeville Heritage Trust at their open day this afternoon in one of the old camp fields close to the Royal Warwickshire and 7th City of London badges.  It was a good afternoon and fantastic to see the Royal Warwicks in authentic WW1 military uniform back in the same fields their predecessors would have been over 100 years ago. Royal Warwicks

ANZAC Day 2019

We were delighted to see so many people join us up on the Map of Australia for our very special ANZAC Day service yesterday.  It was an opportunity to also officially mark the restoration and a beautiful brass plaque was unveiled by the Deputy Australian High Commissioner, Mr Matt Anderson along with Mrs Jill Young, who travelled all the way from Australia to be with us.  Jill’s father, Bombardier Albert Haslet from the 12th Field Artillery Brigade, was at Hurdcott Camp for two months in 1918.

Private Edward George Emsley, 10th Battalion London Regiment

We are very grateful to Gerry Emsley and his son Martin Emsley for contacting us recently to tell us the story of their relative Edward George Emsley (the uncle of Gerry) – a Private in the 10th Battalion London Regiment who was at Hurdcott Camp during 1916.  Tragically, Edward was killed by dashing across the road (the present A30) in bad weather and was hit by a motor vehicle which he did not see.  We have been given several documents relating to Edward and you can see them below.  Such a sad story.  Edward is buried in the neighbouring parish of Baverstock at the beautiful St Edith’s Church. Edward Emsley - PhotoEdward Emsley - orginial crossEdward Emsley - gravestoneEdward Emsley - telegramEdward Emsley - letter of condolence