Skip to content

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.”

Ben Edgcumbe5

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.

Ben Edgcumbe2

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.”

Ben Edgcumbe10

Ben Edgcumbe4

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

Ben Edgcumbe6

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:

Ben Edgcumbe

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.

Ben Edgcumbe3

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

Ben Edgcumbe7

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

Ben Edgcumbe8

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

Details of our Anzac Day service

We shall be holding our Anzac Day service along with a formal ‘opening’ of the Map of Australia on Thursday 25th April 2019.

We are delighted to be joined by the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Mrs Sarah Rose Troughton and the Deputy Australian High Commissioner, Mr Matt Anderson.

Meeting time is 10am at Naishes Farmyard, A30, Compton Chamberlayne, Wiltshire, SP3 5DL, with a service start time of 10:45am. Please note, that due to the location of the Map on the chalk downland, a 15-20 minute walk plus a fairly steep climb is required. Please wear suitable footwear. Vehicular access can be arranged for those that need assistance, please let us know in advance.

Anzac Day

Anzac Day at Hurdcott Camp in 1917.  Photograph from the Samuel Marsden Archives, held at Moore College, Sydney, Australia.  For details of this photograph album, see our separate blog post.