By kind permission of John King, Author
The YMCA hut near Pennington Camp was eventually completed to replace the tent. It was located at the end of Chinbrook Road at the junction with Marvels Lane on land where later Riddons Road was to begin. The official opening was by Lady North on 25 March. The cost of the building which was more substantial than its name suggested, was £585 which had been largely raised by local residents, the chairman of the management committee, Everard Hesketh J.P. contributing £100. As with other soldiers’ clubs, the hut was equipped with various comforts and provided nightly entertainments. Local people also assisted with another but smaller YMCA hut which was opened in Marvels Lane on land that was later to be the Grove Park Library Gardens.
The secretary, C W Shortt of the Soldiers’ Institute in Baring Road which was still very busy with hours extended to 13 00 — 21 30. lived at ‘The Briars’ at the beginning of Grove Park Road. His house was at the junction with Marvels Lane and faced the new ‘hut’ which he had also been involved in promoting. The new recruits were drilled in the field behind ‘The Briars’, and in hot weather Mrs Shortt often supplied large quantities of lemonade to the exhausted men. The Medical Officer often set up an innoculation centre alongside the fence of the Shortts’ garden. The Shortt children found it intriguing to see the young men lined up with sleeves rolled up awaiting the ‘jab’. A surprising number of the soldiers fainted when the needle was stuck in. Many years later their house gave way to a new building for the ILEA’s Grove Park Youth Club.
Both Mr & Mrs Shortt were quite accomplished singers and frequently participated in the entertainments provided by local talent at the Workhouse. Mrs Shortt would carol the troops that she “didn’t want to lose them but she thought they ought to go” — a sentiment they probably shared after instruction from the drill sergeants. One of the Shortt’s boys was also quite talented on the stage and he would base his performance on what he had seen at the Lewisham Hippodrome at Catford which continued to operate during the war. Professional performers also visited Grove Park and Marie Lloyd came at least once. The Shortts also helped the ASC by accepting billets.
A vestry meeting at St Augustine’s was held on 25 April when the long service of two churchwardens was noted. Messrs Warrens and Ellercamp had
each served the church for nearly a quarter of a century.
The following day Private Arthur Harris was discovered with his throat cut in an empty house in Grove Park Road. At the inquest it was revealed that he had been worried about his sick wife and was in fear of going overseas. It was not to be the only suicide in the camp.
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