Training Camp 1917

As you may have realised, there were no other letters from the training camp that were preserved.

It sounds, from the first letter, that Harry had just arrived at Rugeley camp and so we could work out roughly how long the training lasted at that time.

In 1914, at the start of the war, training was planned to take around eight months for an infantryman like Harry. By the spring of 1917, this had been reduced significantly. I can't find any specific evidence to determine the length of training, but I do know that Harry was in France by mid-May. Mid-February to mid-May is only 3 months.

We must realise that the previous summer of 1916 saw the terrible battle of the Somme where tens of thousands of men were slaughtered before breakfast. The trenches needed replenishing with men and the obvious solution was to reduce the training period. I suppose there was no real problem as no amount of training could prepare those young men for what was to follow.

"Dripping" in the last post, refers to the fat that was left after meat was cooked. Before the days of cholesteral and sodium, "bread and dripping" was a common dish in the industrial midlands of England. I can remember enjoying it in the 1950s. The fat from the Sunday joint was spread onto bread. Liberal amounts of salt was added and, that was it. Full of flavour, cheap and quite nutritious. Not too healthy.

8 comments:

PeacePug said...

Drippings - that must be the yummy bits of brown pieces in the bottom of the pan after cooking a roast, or pork chops, etc. that I sneak and eat in the kitchen when I am cleaning up after dinner. Is that right? So yummy!

Svenne Farang said...

What a fantastic blog. I have just started reading. I am from Sweden, we never got drawn into any of the wars, but I am still very interested in history.

Anyway, I just want to comment on the bread and drippings food. It brings back memories to me. My father had it a lot when he grew up,he was born in 1924. And I remember that we had it now and then when I was a kid, I am born 1964, but I never liked it. Not because we were poor, but the people back then just liked it I suppose. My father loved that kind of food, he had bread and drippings all his life, he passed away 2000. But now that tradition is gone for ever here in Sweden too I am sure. I for sure haven´t passed it on.

Mike said...

That's a long period for training. Currently, infantry training for the US is around 15 weeks for the Army, 19 for the Marines. The Royal Marines have the longest in NATO at around 26 weeks. We also have a lot more gear and material now (infantrymen are taught land navigation, radio, recon, as well as weapons).

I imagine a lot of it was waiting for access to ranges and equipment, with just routine exercise and cleaning and such. That gets boring fast. It's better than being shot at, though.

Anonymous said...

I grew up on bread and dripping it is very tasty.. though considered unhealthy now, remember people had very few labour saving devices and had to walk most places..plus, food was not all that plentiful, we were not overweight because we never had enough food to make it so no matter what we ate. When a joint beef was roasted in my childhood (60's) a pound of lard was added to the pan and this gave a warm brown pudding basin of dripping sfterwards..the bottom inch was dark brown gooey goodness..no fridge, butt we ate it for weeks with no ill effects and the brown bit was often exposed to air through our diggings...

Great blog..thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I'm from sweden and just found this amazing story. I will absolutely read it all in sequence.

Just to make a comment on the "dripping" and the previous post from Sweden.

A strange swedish tradition is to dip pieces of bred in the gravy or "juice" that is left after having roasted the christmas ham. This tradition must surely have some sort of connection to the "bread and dipping".

bbaking said...

I used to work in a butcher/deli for a Saturday job and my Grandad used to request beef dripping, he used to spread it on toast too.

Anonymous said...

Do you know that letters from this "training period" were sent, but they are lost, or, as I suspect, were possibly censored to non-existence: trashed as it were. Nonetheless, as a veteran myself, I could also guess he was just too busy. That is not as likely as command and cadre deciding letters home were no priority at this time. Mail en-mass is a logistics nightmare.

Anonymous said...

If the cow is grass fed, as I'm sure these were, the drippings were actually healthy!