Photo of Soldiers at a Command Depot

This week’s image is another group photograph from World War One:SKM_C284e18071011040On the face of it this image is much like many others we have looked at, with only the long service of some of the soldiers of interest, indicated by their service chevrons:SKM_C284e18071011040 - CopyAnd the high number of wound badges on their sleeves:SKM_C284e18071011040 - Copy (2)The photograph becomes more interesting when you look at the writing on the rear of the image:SKM_C284e18071011050The caption reads ‘W Barnes, 4642, May 3. 19. Coy D Camp, M.G.C. Command Depot, Derwich, Northland’. I am probably misreading the place name as I cannot find anywhere with this name, however Command Depots in the First World War were military convalescent camps, which would tie in with the length of service and wound stripes these men are displaying. After recovering from wounds men at the camps would embark on training that slowly increased in intensity until they were ready to be returned to the front line.

One example was at Eastbourne and according to :

On arrival at the Depot the soldier would be interviewed and examined by a medical board. The report of the board would govern his assignment to one of the four squadrons at the Depot. These were (in descending order of fitness) Red, Green, Blue and Yellow. The men wore a slide on the epaulette in their Squadron colour. The men were re-boarded every 14 days during their time at the Depot.
Red Squadron – fit to return to unit within 7 to 10 days
Green Squadron – fit for all training up to bayonet practice
Blue Squadron – fit for all training up to the assault course
Yellow Squadron – fit for all training up to exercise with telegraph poles.

Training was very varied. There were football matches twice a week as well as cricket, tennis, boxing and fencing with inter-squadron tournaments. The gymnasium was under the supervision of a Medical Officer and was well supplied with machines to allow weight training and rowing as well as the conventional vaulting horses and climbing ropes. Indian Clubs and bags containing 7lbs of gravel were also used in the gym. Gardening was highly encouraged with mowers, rollers and sprayers provided along side hand tools so that when the Depot closed there were 2,000 plants ready for bedding out in the Depot Nursery. Six soldiers manned a hand-cart fire engine with 1,500 feet of hose and chemical extinguishers as a camp fire brigade. The camp motto was “Hors de Combat” which was spelt out in the traditional white washed stones.

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