Cadet Company

By kind permission of John King, Author

In addition to the mobilisation and testing functions at Grove Park. a new activity was added in 1916 — a Cadet Company. This started in December 1915 as an Officer Training Corps to train NCOs and other ranks who had applied and been recommended for commissions. The men were classed as Cadets but did not wear distinguishing uniform nor the cadet white cap band. Their course of training was short but intensive, lasting five weeks during which instruction was given in drill with elementary lectures in map-reading, military law and the organisation and running of ASC units. On 27 May 1916 the Company was officially recognised as a cadet company and the course was extended to eight weeks, which enabled instruction to be given in the practical running of convoys of vehicles and theoretical instruction in the internal combustion engine.

The pattern of life for driver recruits at Grove Park was well circumscribed by 1916. When the recruits arrived at the former Workhouse, they were taken to a reception office where various particular about them were noted. After a regimental number was allotted to each man, they were taken to “G.H.’ Square — the parade ground of Recruits & Testing Company. As they usually arrived after dinner, there was only time to give them tea and arrange sleeping accommodation at the Hutments Camp in Coopers Lane. The following day the recruits had breakfast at 07 30 which was followed by medical inspection. A visit to the Corporal in charge of clothing followed. They were then marched back to Hutments Camp for the purpose of being sprayed. Civilian clothes were exchanged for uniforms and their private belongings were parcelled up and handed in at the ASC Post Office for despatch home. Tea followed and sleeping accommodation was again organised. On the third morning the recruits went to the Lorry Park for a test, details of civilian occupation, driving experience including vehicle types first being noted. The test course was a hilly circuitous route on which various checks took place. After being interviewed, all drivers whether ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ were posted to the Transfer Section of Recruits & Testing Company for vaccination and posting to the various depots.

Drivers passing tests were posted to the M.T. Depot at Shortlands for completion of examination before posting to Bulford or Home Services Companies. Those recruits with ability who were recommended for instruction were posted to Sydenham M.T. Depot or to the M.T. Sub-Depot at Eltham for completion and posting to Osterley Park. The despatch from Grove Park usually took place on the fourth day.

Another suicide occurred in June. Private Albert Barton, aged 32, arrived at Pennington Camp on 16 June. When his behaviour became strange, he was placed in the custody of two men. He was briefly left alone when the guard was changed during which time he cut his own throat; he died later in the Herbert Hospital.

There were also more deaths of South Lee men on service. They included: G.Bullen of 1st Rifle Brigade on 1st July, Capt J P Knight of the Royal Field Artillery on 31st August and F W Taylor of the West Yorks on 11th. September1916.

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