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Amazing sight as 10,000 soldiers marched through Craven
9:00am Saturday 21st July 2012 in Craven History
A hundred years ago, the arrival in Craven of 10,000 soldiers of the territorial army caused much excitement. The ”citizen soldiers” arrived in 50 specially laid on train coaches and were dispatched to summer training camps at The Craven Heifer, Skipton, and also to East Marton and Gargrave. In the first of a two-part feature, Lesley Tate looks back on the “invasion”.
Unprecedented since the Scottish raids, Craven was invaded by thousands of territorial army soldiers from Lancashire, Cumberland and Manchester.
Despite it being late July, the weather was appalling, turning the fields where the men were camped into quagmires and making manoeuvres almost impossible.
The men had been due to carry out field work including the building of temporary bridges and were given the run of nine estates, including the Duke of Devonshire’s at Bolton Abbey, Sir Mathew Wilson’s at Eshton, Colonel Tottie’s at Coniston Cold and Major Tempest’s at Broughton.
Altogether, there were 9,735 officers and men, 295 horses, 129 vehicles and 44 guns in camp. There should have been more than a thousand more men, but many were not able to be released from work.
The arrival in the district of so many soldiers must have been quite something, not least because of the numbers who flooded into Skipton at night, but it was the death of one soldier that was to cloud the whole event.
Private Joseph Hutton, a 23-year-old from Darwen, had been sheltering from a ferocious storm close to a wall in Broughton when he and his colleagues from the East Lancashires, were hit by lightning.
The circumstances covering his death will be covered in detail in next week’s history feature.
In the morning before the storm, and after a night of heavy rain, the soldiers had taken part in several manoeuvres.
The Skipton camp – comprising the 4th and 5th battalions of the Border Regiment – had been busy learning the principles of attack and defence and outpost duty.
There was also gun laying, signalling and range taking, while drivers spent their time with the horses, matching them into pairs, riding and stable management.
At the Gargrave camp – located on the hillside overlooking Coniston road bridge – soldiers from the Manchester Regiment, Royal Engineers and Field Ambulance were given their first taste of camp life and were involved in earth work and dredging duties.
In a postcard home, one of the soldiers wrote: “Our camp is up among the mountains.”
The event, reported the Herald, was “unprecedented in the annals of Craven”.
Although no civic reception had greeted the territorials, their arrival had long been anticipated.
And despite the heavy rain throughout, the men seemed to cheer up no end when they flocked into the town at night.
“Their humour was perhaps a little too boisterous to please the taste of the peaceable citizen unaccustomed to the robustness of town life,” reported the paper. “But everyone was prepared to make allowances.”