Can it really be over 40 years since the Bedford 4 Tonners drew into the Fremington Adventure Training Camp. 26 potential officers in the various Foot Guard Regiments. In my thoughts it might well have been a white MOD coach loaded with the Brigade Squad 22 ready for being beasted, but the transport perhaps was not quite as gritty.
I am not sure why it was billed as an adventure but my memory was jogged today. I am staying in Devon helping my family and on realising how close I was to Fremington I had to visit, so the first port of call was some basic research.
The camp was originally used for training the US Army Air Corps in preparation for D-Day and it was in easy marching distance to the now disused railway halt at the Quay. That still survives though as a cafe, closed of course but today was packed with visitors, a missed opportunity.
By July 1944 the first casualties were being returned from France and in the 1950 period it reverted to the Commando Logistics Regiment from RM (Royal Marines) Chivenor on the other side of the estuary. The Guards Depot used the camp extensively for officer training as a facility that was offered to them till at least 1994. It then fell into disrepair and in 2009 was closed as the site was considered very out of date. Then Barrat and Bovis bought and developed the site with 277 houses.
Interestingly a photographer who set up a web called The Urban Explorer visited in 2008 and found a ghost camp and I have added some of his pictures below.
What did I find today? Firstly 277 houses and almost nothing of the old camp. However a few clues remain.
I liked the way two new streets on the site reflected the United States’ beach in Normandy and to remind the residents that the area had been a military base.
The developers had kept the Armoury and the Officer’s Mess as community halls though whether they would ever be used is not clear.
I recall many of the events of that course in 1976 and the first was being marched to the Quay and being asked to swim across, it was rather cold. This is where I think we had to start the dip!
Other notable highlights were pot-holing and Sgt. MacDonald (Scots Guards) leaping out of the mud to grab Guardsman Hargreaves’ (GG) legs, the water got a bit browner I think. It always reminded me of what a turd felt as it slipped away!
Then having to carry a telegraph pole and tractor tyre each time we needed to go the latrine block, legs were crossed. I was also reminded by another friend that Guardsman Trooper Meredith-Hardy (Household Cavalry Regiment) often threw himself immediately onto his bed after a march only to be found by the Irish Guards PSI O’Neill and we so had to do the march all over again.
Whether that is true I can’t recall but perhaps we might have a comment from MH in Australia!
On the rock climbing course there were two points probably only a couple of feet apart but very high up. They were known as the point of no return as you had to jump from one to another, all good for confidence. Did we hesitate, well a little I suppose.
But there were good times, the long navigation exercise over Exmoor, finishing in a The Rockford in the middle of nowhere. That was a moment of normality and the beer and crack flowed. And the friendship that we all found and kept to today!
The final say must go to Bovis Homes who have made a memorial that only means something to us and Guardsman The Honourable Mickey Eliot (Scots Guards).
Times change but the area is beautiful, so here are some final pictures of the River Pill as it is known locally.
Guardsman and O/C Thomas Kelly SG