By kind permission of John King, Author
It was on 22 September that Captain C V Holbrook, then working at the War Office took over Grove Park with a Warrant Officer posted from Woolwich. Arrangements were subsequently made for the reception over the ensuing twenty-four hours of 800 recruits and the provision of all necessary rations, clothing, equipment, stationery etc. But no other military personnel were allocated and Captain Holbrook was obliged initially to run the new unit from the War Office. Thus began No.1 Reserve Mechanical Transport Depot at Grove Park. There was good sense, however, at the War Office. It was realised that some of the workhouse staff ought to be retained to manage and service the building. Among the staff requested by the War Office to stay on were the Master and Matron, porters and portress, cooks, baker, laundress, storekeeper, carpenter and painter. They all agreed with the exception of Alfred Williams, the tailor since 1904, who declined for reasons unknown. The other staff were seemingly absorbed by other Workhouses.
As the 800 recruits arrived on 23 September, the last of the Workhouse’s inmates departed. A number of the recruits who had seen previous service were selected as NCOs. Almost before the first batch of men entered the new barracks, cables were being received to post numbers of them to Avonmouth for embarkation. Moreover it was planned to accommodate double the Workhouse numbers by also using the day-time accommodation for sleeping purposes. But congestion soon became apparent, although arrangements had been made for the clothing and equipping of 1000 recruits. Recruiting offices throughout the country were in such a state of confusion that documents for the recruits were not forthcoming with the result that in order to meet the urgent demands of the War Office, it was necessary to send large parties of men to ports without regimental numbers. The Officer-in-Charge ASC Records simply refused to allot numbers until the man’s documents had been sent to him and returned by him to the unit. Meanwhile a detachment from Aldershot arrived at Grove Park including Lieut M J H Bruce and a small staff who had previously been engaged at Kensington and Aldershot in connection with the impressment of vehicles. The only other officer at first was Captain and Quartermaster .1 Walsh who had been acting ~s Officer-in-Charge of Documents, No.52 Company. Subsequently Captain Morrison arrived to take over the duties of Adjutant from Captain Holbrook while Lieut Col. H F Fisher assumed command at Grove Park on 27 September.
Meanwhile in Grove Park itself, attention was diverted from the military when in the early hours of 24 September a railway constable discovered a metal railway chair fixed to the main line shortly before the night mail train from Dover to Cannon Street was due to pass. The constable reached the nearest signal cabin with thirty seconds to spare arid the train was stopped. Whether the miscreant was a German agent or simply a madman was a question on which official opinion was divided, the Bromley Chronicle reported. Armed soldiers were subsequently to be seen guarding the railway tunnel beneath Elmstead Woods. Another diversion was the sighting later that day of the army’s airship BETA 1 which passed over Lee at about 18 00 hours.
The schools were seemingly not yet affected by the new conflict and had re-assembled after the summer break. At the first assembly the Headmaster of Quernmore said “They tell you it will all be over by Christmas, but I tell you it will last four years”— a farsighted man!
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