Witley Camp

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During the Great War a number of army camps were set up on the commons south of Godalming in Surrey.  Tens of thousands of soldiers, many of them Canadian, passed through these camps on their way to the killing fields of the Western Front or other theatres of war.  One hundred years later the buildings are long gone, the land now heavily forested, but if you know what you’re looking for…

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…or if you have a good Guide, as I did…

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…you can still find traces of Witley Camp…

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…or at least the Witley Camp rubbish dump.

Panorama

Presumably, when the camp was cleared at the end of the war, bulldozers piled what remained into these mounds (above & below) and there they were left, as nature gradually reclaimed the land on which the camp was sited.

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First finds.

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Talking of rubbish, apologies for the rubbish photography – the remains of the Navy Cut cigarette packet were too fragile to touch.

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One of the ink wells still contained usable ink!  Really.

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My second-favourite find.

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And my favourite find: this beautiful enamel shaving bowl.  One wonders what stories it could tell.  The barbed wire, British, by the way, is from near a cemetery called Welsh Cemetery Caesar’s Nose, to the north of Ieper.  I will show you around it at some future date.

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Various bullets (note the wooden-tipped one on the right).

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Nine months later and the archaeologists have recently moved in, but many of the finds uncovered in the last year or two are on display at Godalming Museum.

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8 Responses to Witley Camp

  1. Thanks.
    My interest, the Hired Military Transport Royal Edward, brought the 11th. Reserve Btn. of the 1st. contingent of the C.E.F. to the U.K.

    See the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group:
    http://cefresearch.ca/matrix/Utilities/reserves/11th.htm

    Kath.

  2. joseph orgar says:

    I was only looking at the CWGC site the other day, and I put in Witley and it came up with a long list of burials, most of them are Canadians.

    Joe

    • Magicfingers says:

      Funny that, Joe. Neat coincidence. Particularly as I took these pics last September but have only now got round to posting them.

  3. joseph orgar says:

    Have you seen BBC Local news that they have found lots of items from the Second World War at Witley.

    Joe

    • Magicfingers says:

      I haven’t seen it Joe, but I am aware of the WWII activities there. It’s quite complex becuase there was more than just one camp at Witley. The main Second World War camp that I am aware of is about half a mile away from where I was, maybe a mile, and on the other side of the A3. Having said that, I cannot be certain, although doubtless someone out there is expert enough to tell me, whether all the items I found are WWI vintage. The wooden bullet, for example, could well be WWII, I would have thought, and I suspect that only a Canadian boot expert can tell me what vintage this particular style of boot is, although I suspect it is most likely Great War because of where I found it. Maybe I’ll find out for certain one day.

  4. Steve says:

    How where you able to find a guide? I plan to visit the area with my father since my grandfather was stationed at Witley during WWI.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Well Steve, I was lucky in that I was invited to spend a day with the archaeologists/volunteers who were working on the site – and they were happy for me to take my finds, such as the boot, away with me for my personal collection as they had found much similar stuff. So I don’t know what to suggest really. I was just lucky in that I know the guy in charge.

      By the way, my father was at Witley at the start of WW2.

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