Training at Prees Heath Camp
The following extracts are from letters written by Private 22219 Bert Oakes, KSLI, No 28 Hut 4th Camp, Prees Heath. He writes to his parents Edward and Eliza Oakes of 5 Barber Street, Broseley and describes the daily routine of military training and life in the camp, in 1916.
“We get up at 6 o’clock, dress & make beds then drill from 6.45 to 8 followed by breakfast. Then drill till 12, when dinner takes place, of course we do our own cleaning & washing up. Two o’clock sees us at drill again till 4 or so, then tea & when we have put our beds ready we are allowed out till 9.30. Of course the camp is as large as Ironbridge, Madeley & Broseley all combined, so you may expect we can’t go far. There is a YMCA close to our hut & there we can get this paper, listen to concerts & can get cocoa or coffee & buns or anything else we need as we all go there, of course there are a lot of YMCA huts about the camp but all are full to overflowing during the opening time.
We have two night parades on this week, one a march with full pack & the other laying barbed wire entanglements in the dark. Today we have been trench digging. I will just give you an illustration of a day’s work, this is to days. Six o’clock got out of bed, dress, make bed & tidy room, first parade 6.30 am. Physical training till 7.45 am, breakfast, buttons cleaned, shaving & boots till 8.45am. Bayonet fighting till 10 o’clock. Marching & other drill till 12 pm, rest & dinner till 1.45pm, Musketry till 4.00pm, the trenching digging comes in the drill from 11 till 12, so you see it is a good day. Then some nights we have an hour lecture & others silent marching to the trenches in the dark. Last Thursday night about 12, the bugle went & we all had to turn out of bed as quickly as possible & in whatever we could get into in the dark, for a fire had broken out in one of the Camps. We had to remain shivering on the parade ground in perfect order for about 1 hr. & a half till the fire was put out’ It burned down the officers’ mess & two huts & destroyed everything in them. This is soldiering. “