The Heritage Group uncovers the unexpected…

On November22nd we were fortunate to hear a fascinating talk by John Rainer, Suffolk Archaeological Field Group, who performed the LIDAR investigations on Lodge Hill on behalf of the Heritage Group. Not only did John bring in the sophisticated equipment for us to handle but also explained, in layman’s language, about the complicated technology and how to interpret the scans produced. The scan below shows very clearly the outline of several rectangular structures on the left hand side – not the lodge we were looking for.

From researching the archives, old newspapers and aerial photography we are very confident that these structures are associated with a WW1 encampment housing troops and their horses prior to being shipped to France. The geophys is not consistent with either WW2 buildings or a temporary camp. The southern building would have been enormous but, from what we now know of  the stable sizes from the 1919 auction sale details, our large building was more likely to be yards, with rows of stable shelters opening into them.

The main inhabitants of the camp were from the 1st Lincolnshire Yeomanry. A newspaper report from 1914 describes the park in a ‘shocking state as a consequence of the rain and snow. We are sleeping out in the park in a large marquee, and I often wake up shivering like a leaf as we are not allowed a lot of clothes to wrap in. The food is so very scarce as we are only granted a small amount, mostly bread and jam and there is often a scramble for it’.

There were two deaths associated with the camp – one soldier was kicked by a horse and died and another drowned while trying to swim across the Waveney.

However, the villagers of Hoxne rallied to try to give as much support as they could.

Belgian Day was celebrated in January, 1915 and villagers dressed in Belgian colours and made collections for the Relief Fund. An auction of donated poultry and dairy produce was held at St. Edmund’s Hall and a concert was given by members from the yeomanry. The day’s proceeds of £60 was ‘most gratifying to all concerned’.

Other events held to entertain the troops and keep up morale were described in newspapers. In 1915, the Lincolnshire Echo describes ‘a delightful programme rendered by the ‘Jollies Concert Party’ from Grimsby’ where the services were given free and the expenses paid for by an officer.

A 7-mile cross-country race was held across Stuston Common with 50 competitors from the Lincs. Yeomanry, the Staffs. Yeomanry and the Leics. R.A.M.C. Ambulance unit. The Lincs. Yeomanry were the undisputed winners.

In May, 1915 the Diss Express reported on ‘some capital military sports’ at Oakley Park. All races were for mounted men and included conventional jumping sections for men and officers separately but also included some amusing novelty races. Amongst these were musical chairs using small enclosures for the horses rather than chairs, slalom races (again for men and officers separately!), wrestling on horseback, the cigar and umbrella race where the rider had to hold an open umbrella, light a cigar and cross the finishing line with the cigar alight. The horses did not appreciate the colourful umbrellas! The Victoria Cross race was reported to be full of amusing incident and involved using dummies. The concluding race involved 24 men riding up to a similar number of ladies and having a button sewn on their uniform. When completed, a lighted cigarette was handed to the rider who had to race to the finishing line with the lighted cigarette.

The whole event was watched by a large number of servicemen and civilians   and also included some wounded ‘Tommies’ from the Leics. Yeomanry  who had been wounded in France and were recovering in a local hospital.

Hence in trying to unravel one story we have revealed a quite different one!

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