Morale & mutiny played a big role in the First World War; this was the only driving force the soldiers had. As part of the United Kingdom force, Shoreham Army Camp prepared soldiers to go join the worldwide war. Early stages of Shoreham camp the camp only consisted of tents & non-permanent stationary. Living conditions for the soldiers was not great; it was unprepared because of the sheer amount of soldiers. The small tents, of which the soldiers lived in, were made out of white canvas; this was designed to reflect the sun’s heat. But in the case of Shoreham camp, this was in the middle of November where the weather wasn’t suitable for the design of the tents. The weather was freezing cold & the rain caused the field they were living in, to turn into a muddy chaos.
This setup was a fail & was not popular with the approximately 19,000 soldiers who stationed there. This was because these tents were not weather resistance- they couldn’t resist high winds & also they were waterproof to a certain state. The soldiers also had to deal with leaking tents because of the horrible winter weather; this also caused the soldiers to be constantly cold. This made the soldiers living condition to decline to a state where the soldiers couldn’t live their daily lives without the fear of dirty clothing & their health conditions.
I have learnt what rough life is, I shan’t know how to feel when I sleep in a bed again and have my meals off a table, after sleeping on the floor and having my blankets for a chair and my knees or the floor for a table. You would laugh to see us sitting round the tent, laughing and talking, all as happy as can be”.
Due to the issues with living conditions, most of the soldiers at Shoreham Army Camp did not enjoy living & training in the conditions given. There were, however, some efforts to provide entertainments with concerts in the tents put on by local orchestras and reading materials offered. The soldiers were also excited for the hot food they’re giveneveryday.
‘We have hot sausages for breakfast, sometimes bacon. We have hot beef and potatoes for dinner. We have not had a cold dinner only once, and that was when we come from Ipswich. We had some good cake last Sunday for tea, and I always have all the tea I can drink’
Following the winter According to the Goodchild brothers they were moved to huts temporarily in early December 1914 but they were not properly finished and the weather got so bad soldiers were sent to Shoreham, Worthing and Brighton to live with locals – called ‘billeting’. The majority of soldiers stayed in these billets with the locals until the huts were completed properly in March 1915. Only some returning before then to work on the camp roads.
These huts proved to be way better than the temporary tents in-place before. The huts were made out of wood & were actually able resist the harsh weather. These huts provide proper shelter for the soldiers, therefore they were getting good sleep and it was a nice & cosy place for them to keep warm. This improved the soldiers’ living condition a lot & boosted the soldiers’ morale. From there onwards the soldiers’ morale kept getting better & better, they had entertainment, activities & a good living quarter.
Some examples of the activities the soldiers got up to included visiting the local cinema where soldiers are able to watch films and socialise with the locals. A boxing match was also part of activities that made them feel more relief from the stress of the living condition in the camp. The soldiers was also able to participate in the boxing matches, this gave them a hands on experience of fighting the opposition.
There was also a YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), this is provided soldiers activities to do out of their own spare time. The YMCA provided the soldiers with religious and athletics activities. As part of the religious activities the soldiers were able to participate bibles studies, worship services and prayer meetings. They also had religious support from the YMCA this boosted the soldiers’ morale & also gave the soldiers hope when they go to war & also motivation to support each other’s back in the time of need.
As part of the YMCA, the soldiers were provided with alethic activities. These activities included football, rugby, running & also general exercising. The YMCA was a big success with the soldiers because it gave them time to disconnect themselves from the pressure & fear of the war. This made the soldiers’ mind & body fitter & more prepared for the war ahead. There were also lessons in the camp in French, German and first aid cookery. Musical entertainments, comedians and shows increased when the camp started to take in soldiers convalescing recovering from injuries.
When the war was over, the camp was still intact & operational. The government plan for demobilisation was drawn up in August 1917 – long before the end of the war. The government’s aim was to avoid mass unemployment when the soldiers returned home. So the scheme they came up with was to release individual soldiers rather than whole units in accordance with the needs of industry – those with important jobs to go to would be demobbed first. This also affected the soldiers of Shoreham army camp; the scheme was highly unpopular with the troops as it seemed really unfair.
The soldiers wanted to go home to see their families- but weren’t officially allowed to. This led to the soldiers forming mutinies to protest against the authority. It was recorded in the Argus on the 6th of January 1919 that the soldiers of Shoreham & Southwick army camp decided to march to Brighton.
Around 4000-5000 soldiers from Shoreham army camp contributed to this march resulting in their voice being heard. This march was to Brighton hall; this was over 8 miles from the camp. The soldiers kept a good order & were singing the whole way. They marched to Brighton hall, where the mayor of Brighton was located. This resulted in the mayor of Brighton taking actions, he stated that he hoped things hurried up for them & added that he was glad that the protest was made so that the soldiers could receive the attention they needed. The soldiers were extremely satisfied with the mayor’s action; they went ahead and sang ‘for he’s a jolly good fellow’ & according to the report ‘re-formed fours & marched off on their return eight miles tramp’
Towards the end of 1919, the soldiers of Shoreham army camp slowly demobilised. It was a sluggish process but all of the soldiers that remained at the camp were able to return to their family & return to their normal lives.