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Belton Park Camp

5th August 1914 Military Camp to be built  It was revealed that plans had been made to construct a large military camp in the grounds of Lord Brownlow’s country house, Belton Park near Grantham.

18th Oct 1914 Lord Kitchener inspects Northern Division  Lord Kitchener inspects the 11th (Northern) Division at Belton Park, near Grantham.

9th Dec 1914 Social Dangers  “The social problems which have suddenly arisen in the diocese of Southwell, as in other parts of the country, owing to the establishment of military camps, was the subject of a crowded meeting of citizens held at the Albert Hall. Nottingham this afternoon (9th December 1914). The Bishop of Southwell presided, and addresses were given by Capt. Fitzgerald, who was Provost Marshal of the camp at Belton Park, Grantham, the Rev. H. J. Hoare, senior chaplain of the 11th Division at Belton Park: Mr. R. Yapp, the general secretary of the Y M.C.A.; Canon Field, and Captain Raynor.

The Chairman said that much had to be done if the new army was to be made strong in character as well as in arms. The citizens must share in that burden. The places in this diocese where camps were bring formed or men billeted included Nottingham, Derby, Buxton (3,000), Swanwick (1,000), Chesterfield. Newark, Chatsworth, Bawtry, and Mansfield, where there was to be a divisional of 16,000 men. We could not have these large bodies of men situated in perfectly new centres without considerable difficulty, and the citizens must assist as far as possible to create a clean army.

Captain Fitzgerald, who was responsible for the conduct of the troops at Belton, said that when they first went to Grantham there was an appalling amount of drunkenness, and much difficulty was experienced in dealing with it, as the military police were new, but the drunkenness had now considerably decreased. This was largely due to the fact that the troops had become more disciplined. A large number of very “bad hats” were enlisted in the hurry and scurry, but these had been dismissed, and a lot of amusements had been got up for the men in camp, to draw them away from the temptations of the towns. The publicans at Grantham, too, began to realise that it was not worth their while to serve men with too much drink and were now running their houses much better. At Grantham there was some difficulty at first about the arrangements for closing public-houses, but now they were forbidden to serve intoxicating liquors after eight o'clock in the evening. Further, no soldier was to be served before 1 p.m., or between two and four o'clock. At lot of drunkenness was still going on, but Grantham compared favourably with divisions in other parts of England. Mr. Yapp gave a description of the immense work which the Y.M.C.A. is doing in the new camps. He especially appealed to citizens to sign the pledge for the duration of the war as an inducement to the soldiers to do the same.” Nottingham Evening Post of the 9th December 1914.

24th Apr 1915 Manchester City Battalions move camp  The four Manchester City Battalions left Heaton Park Camp for Belton Park near Grantham, Lincolnshire. 18th Battalion left Heaton park in the early morning, marching through Manchester to London Road station to entrain for Grantham. On arrival they marched 3 miles to Belton park.

30th Apr 1915 18th Kings Liverpool move to Belton Park  The 18th (2nd Pals) Kings Liverpool did their basic training at Hooton Park Racecourse and on the 30th April 1915 moved to Belton Park. They went on to other parts of the UK for more advanced training.

4th May 1915 20th Manchesters arrive at Belton Park  20th Battalion Manchester Regiment arrived at Belton Park Camp Grantham in Lincolnshire.

17th Sep 1915 18th Manchesters move to Larkhill  18th Battalion Manchester Regiment arrive at Larkhill Camp from Belton Park.

Oct 1915 MGC Training depot at Belton Park  Machine Gun Training Depot was established at Belton Park Camp for soldiers of the newly formed Machine Gun Corps to be trained in the use of the Vickers machine gun.

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Those known to have trained at

Belton Park Camp

during the Great War 1914-1918.

  • Almond John. Pte. (d.19th Aug 1916)
  • Balls Daniel Methuen French. Pte.
  • Boss John William. Sgt.
  • Green Alfred. Pte. (d.13th Dec 1917)
  • Lamb Joseph. Cpl.
  • Maskrey Francis. Cpl. (d.9th Aug 1915)
  • McQueen Samuel Brown. 2nd Lt.
  • White Bertie William John. Pte.

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Sgt. John William "Jock" Boss MM. 42nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps

With the outbreak of the WWI, John Boss enlisted in the Royal Scots on the 16th of December 1914, and was assigned to B Company of the 1/8th Battalion. B company was located at Tranent, and had their drill station at Ormiston. His battalion initially took up position on the Scottish coastal defences. John received his six week gunnery training at the Training Centre at Belton Park, Grantham, Lincolnshire, and served in the Machine Gun section of the 1/8th Battalion. He was then sent to France around early to mid 1915 to join up with the battalion.

On the 24th of July 1916 John was compulsorily transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and was based temporarily for further training at the MGC base in Camiers on the northern coast of France. In early 1917, he was transferred to the 126th Brigade Machine Gun Company. On the 23rd of Feb 1918, the 126th Brigade Machine Gun Company, along with the 125th, 127th and 268th Brigade MG companies combined to form the 42nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps, attached to the 42nd Division of the British Army. Combining the machine gun companies took place to more efficiently utilise the Vickers guns and men. This allowed them to be moved quickly and placed where they were most needed, instead of remaining attached to specific brigades. It also allowed the division to develop and use sophisticated MG tactics, which became the hallmark of the MGC in 1918.

At this point the 42nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps was about 800 strong with 64 Vickers guns. The Battalion was divided into 4 Companies (A, B C and D), with each Company consisting of several Platoons. Each Platoon contained 8 sergeants, and each sergeant led a Section. By now a Sergeant John was in D Company, which was affiliated with the 126th Infantry Brigade, and he had charge of four Vickers machine guns and 24 men.

During 1918, Sergeant Boss with his 42nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps was heavily engaged in the battles along the Western Front. And it was near Solesmes, during the Battle of The Selle in October 1918, that She was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. His citation read:

No. 44491 Sgt. J.W. Boss, 42nd Machine Gun Corps Awarded the Military Medal: For great gallantry and devotion to duty near Solesmes on 20th of October 1918. During the advance of his unit, one of his guns came under heavy fire with some of the team wounded. He personally mounted the gun and continued to fire until the "spare numbers came up". His magnificent conduct and gallantry during the operations have been a fine example to the men under him. Signed: A. Solly-Flood, Major General, Commanding 42nd Division.

With shells, both explosive and gas, accompanied by strafing machine gun fire from the German 25th Division. The decision had been made for a surprise night attack by the Third Army, at 2am on the morning of the 20th of October. However, before it could make the all-important thrust forward, the 42nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps and 42nd Division were tasked with the operation to push the allied line to the west, beyond the River Selle. It was during this action that his bravery won him the Military Medal.

The section of the Selle that the Third Army had to contend with was more difficult terrain than that further north and south, and heavily defended. The river was about 30feet wide and 6-8feet deep and all bridges had been destroyed, making advance of the Third Army impossible. Along the eastern side of the Selle was a railway embankment with branch lines forming an elongated triangular plateau, an ideal defensive position where numerous German machine gun posts had dug in. Above that was a very steep ridge providing the German 25th Division with the high ground covering the north, south and west.

On the evening of the 19th of October, D Company along with the 126th Infantry Brigade, moved into assembly positions west of the Selle River. The situation of the front during the day was relatively normal, with hostile artillery and machine gun activity. At 2am on the 20th of October, the offensive resumed. Conditions were dark with heavy rain and the slopes on the eastern side of the river muddy and slippery. The 42nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps was crucial in providing a barrage for the assault, as well as moving forward with the 42nd Division across the Selle. C company along with the Auckland NZ MG company provided the machine gun barrage cover for the 126th Infantry Brigade who, along with A and D companies of the 42nd Battalion MGC, pushed across the Selle River. Intense fire from enemy machine guns could be seen raining down onto the river while John in D company and A company carried their Vickers across with pack animals. Once the plateau was taken, both companies set up their HQs in the railway cutting. A and D companies proceeded to attack the ridge. During this operation they encountered hostile patrols, dug-in infantry and machine gun posts. Once the ridge and high ground to the east had been secured, A and D companies dug in to defend their position. From their positions, during the morning in very dull conditions with fine rain, they provided the barrage cover for the 127th Infantry Brigade, who pushed forward and leapfrogged the 126th Infantry Brigade. During this assault they fired 57,000 rounds fired from their Vickers. At around 13.00hrs, D company consolidated their position and A company took up fresh positions to protect the right flank, owing to the neighboring Division to the right of the 42nd Division not having been able to take the high ground. Later that afternoon, A and D companies provided barrage cover when the neighboring division re-attacked with the assistance of the 127th Infantry Brigade to gain and secure the high ground on the right flank.

The official war diaries of the 42nd Battalion MGC states "Throughout the day hostile artillery and MGs displayed great activity. The whole area was consistently shelled". The assault by the 42nd Division on the 20th of October paved the way for heavy artillery to be brought forward ready for the final assault on the 23rd October, through the town of Solesmes and onto Maubeuge.

John Boss survived the war, and soon afterwards immigrated to Mildura in Victoria, Australia. With the outbreak of WWII he enlisted in the Australian Army, served as a machine gun trainer and attained the rank of Warrant Officer II. He died in Mildura in 1975.

Sergeants of the 42nd Batallion MGC. John William Boss is second from the right, back row.

Wal Collins


Pte. John Almond 2nd Coy. Machine Gun Corps (d.19th Aug 1916)

On the 31st May 1915, when the first Zeppelin bombs were dropped in London only half a mile from his home, John Almond, aged 17 and his brother Alfred aged 20, travelled to Holborn, London and enlisted as volunteers with the Hampshire Regiment. The brothers were given consecutive service numbers 18143 & 18144.

John was clever, good at mathematics, and quickly selected for training for the regiment's machine gun team. The Machine Gun Corps (MGC) was created by Royal Warrant on14th October 1915, by Army Order. Later that same year, John was informed he was to be compulsorily transferred to the new unit, thus separated from his elder brother.

On 26th January 1916, he joined his new Regiment at the highly secretive MGC Training Centre in Belton Park, Grantham, where he was issued with a new service number MGC 26764. Here, he undertook 6 months of specialist training on Maxim and the newly introduced Vickers Machine Guns.

After leaving Folkestone on 13th July, John crossed the Channel to Boulogne, France and joined 2nd Company MGC, in the field, on 18th July. On 14th August, the 2nd Company War Diary records the following: They were in front at Mametz Wood, Somme and on 18th August, the 2nd Coy moved up to the Intermediate Trench to the west edge of High Wood in support of 2nd Infantry Brigade. During a series of attacks on the afternoon of 18th August by The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, The Kings 4th Liverpool and 4th Suffolk, John was in a forward machine gun position. With increasing casualties and orders to retire, the machine-gun section was also ordered to pull back to the support line, which was done under fire, their guns mounted to cover the edge of the wood so as to give some protection to the retreating wounded. John was seriously wounded sometime during the actions of that day at the west edge of High Wood, and was reported dead on 19th August 1916, aged 18.

John Almond was listed as missing and would have remained, as such, except that when his remains were, eventually, found he had on him a spoon, a shaving brush and razor that were engraved with his Hampshire service number, HTS 18144. These items, together with his MGC cap badge and buttons, were enough to identify him. John's remains are buried in a named grave at the High Wood Cemetery, London Extension, Longueval, Somme, France.

Tony Almond


Cpl. Joseph Lamb 22nd Btn. B Coy. 8Plt. Manchester Regiment

Joseph Lamb was a stoker at Stuart St power station immediately prior to WW1 though he had previously worked in a cotton mill.

On the 1st of September 1914 he attested with the 12th Btn. Kings Royal Rifle Corps as a private No 531, but this was short lived as he was discharged 1 month later under Kings Regulation 392, 111 (unlikely to become an efficient soldier).

Evidently, not put off by this hitch, he then joined the 22nd Manchester Regiment, "B" Company, VII Platoon as a Private on the th of January 1915. His initial training took place at Stretford Rd Barracks, Hulme, Manchester. During this period the 22nd Manchester's had no billets, uniforms or weaponry and in fact returned home at the end of each day's training. The Battalion then moved to Morecambe followed by Grantham and then Larkhill Camp, Salisbury Plain.

They were then sent to France via Folkestone to Boulogne. Due to appalling weather they were billeted overnight until the sea calmed down though the sailing could not be described as calm. The battn then continued advanced training before tasting their first "active service" in trenches facing Thiepval (at that point a heavily defended German stronghold) under the watchful eye of the 1st Bttn Hampshire Regt.

The 22nds remained in France and were billeted at Fricourt the night before the opening of The Battle of the Somme. On the opening of the battle they held trenches midway between Fricourt and Mametz and went over the top in an attempt to capture/liberate the German held village of Mametz. The objective was achieved and proved to be one of the few successes of the day which saw 60,000 allied casualties.

The 22nds lost officers killed May, Bland, Mellor, Gomersall, Peak, Brunt, Swan, Nansen, Price and Gill. Officers Wounded: Lloyd, Worthington Prince, Cotton, Wood, >Workhouse and Riley wounded. 120 other ranks were killed and 241 others were wounded or missing.

In late September Joseph Lamb was listed as wounded on The Times daily casualty lists though I can find no detail of the nature of the wound. They remained in the Somme region and took part in the Battle of Bullecourt in May 1917. This battle proved to be another fiasco largely due to the failure of British tanks to reach, let alone disrupt the enemy front line.

My other grandfather was captured during this battle.

The Battalion moved to Belgium in September 1917 to take part in the 3rd battle of Ypres (Paschaendale). On the 2nd of October 1917 Joe Lamb was in dugouts in a railway embankment west of Zillebeke Lake. On the night of the 3rd the Battlion marched up to Polygon Wood in preparation for the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge. The Manchester's attacked Broodseinde Ridge early on the 4th and he was hit by a shell and lay injured in a shell hole. A German soldier was in the same shell hole and managed to dress Joe's badly wounded leg. Upon the arrival of other British troops Joe Lamb managed to talk them out of shooting the German soldier who was subsequently taken as a POW.

Joe Lamb was evacuated to Britain and spent some time at Colchester Military Hospital though by this time he had lost a leg 2 inches above the knee. He received further treatment at the 2nd Western Military Hospital on Whitworth St, Manchester. It was here on 1st of July 1918 that his artificial leg was "successfully fitted".

He later returned to work for the Electricity Dept as a storeman. He was never a well man after the war and died aged 47 in 1943. His brother in law (another Manchester Pal) died in the same hospital on the same day with neither widow (sisters) realising the other was there. During his recuperation Joe took offence to a grocery boy's taunts aimed at the injured soldiers. When the boy entered the hospital Joe, regardless of his missing leg stole and hid the boys delivery bike. Try explaining that to your boss!


2nd Lt. Samuel Brown McQueen Machine Gun Corps

Sam McQueen was my grandfather. He joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corp, then in 1916, on commissioning went to the Machine Gun School at Belton Park to complete his phase 2 training.

In 1917 he was posted to France where he served to the end of the War. After the armistice he followed his unit to the cavalry barracks at Duren, in Germany, from there he was discharged. Sam was a noted athlete, playing rugby, hockey and cricket for the army. After the war he became Waterlo's first rugby international playing for Scotland.

Chris Hallam


Cpl. Francis Maskrey 9th Btn. Sherwood Foresters (d.9th Aug 1915)

Francis Maskrey was born on 7th December 1883, in Whittington, Derbyshire, the son of William and Mary (Swift) Maskrey. He was one of 14 children. During the Boer War he served in the Navy. After his release he married Hilda Buck. They were married on 4th December 1905 in Chesterfield. The couple had three girls.

On 6th August 1914, Francis joined the newly formed 9th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. He was sent to Belton Park near Grantham to train. On 4th April 1915 the battalion left Liverpool for Gallipoli. Francis and his brother Robert made this journey. They arrived on the 6th/7th August 1915 and two days later Francis was killed. His body was never recovered or identified. He left a 18-year-old widow with three young daughters.

Carol Beadle


Pte. Bertie William John White 5th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment

My grandfather Bertie White enlisted in Dorchester on 31st of August 1914. He trained at Belton Park Camp in Grantham and went to the Island of Lemnos. He landed at Sulva Bay on the 6th August 1915 with the 5th Battalion as part of the 34th Brigade.

When the British Army was withdrawn to Egypt the 5th Battalion spent several months there, before going to the Western Front in the autumn and early 1917. It has not been possible to find out when he was wounded, but he received a serious wound to the face. Owing to his wounds he was discharged on 1st June 1917. He lived in Parkstone for the rest of his life, and passed away in 1968.

Roy Feltham


Pte. Daniel Methuen French Balls 10th Battalion East Kent Regiment

Daniel Balls enlisted at Tottenham in 1915 at the age of 15 in the 10th Battalion, West Kent Regiment at Maidstone. On the 01/01/1916 he was transferred to The Machine Gun Corps at Grantham until 15/02/1917 when he was transferred to The Army Cyclist Corps at Chiseldon. On the 14/09/1917 he was transferred to The 2nd/12th Mt. Brigade at Chiseldon. By 02/01/1918 he was with The Leicestershire Cyclist Regiment at Tonbridge and by the 04/03/1918 was with The 67th Division Cyclist at Sutton. On the 25/05/1918 he was transferred to 3rd Battalion East Kent Regiment in Palestine.

He was then sent to France to join the 10th Battalion, East Kent Regiment as part of the 74th Yeomanry Division which took part in the Flanders Advance, 2nd Battle of The Somme, Battle of the Hindenberg Line, Battle of Ephey and The Advance to Artois although I have no knowledge if he took part in any of these actions.

He was gassed on the 03/11/1918 but survived his injuries. On the 30/12/1918 he was transferred to No.86 Labour Coy number, 5 Infantry Section with a new number 419356. He was demobilised at Nottingham on the 23/02/1919 where he was transferred to Section "B" Army Reserve.

Cliff Goodman


Pte. Alfred Green 57th Coy. Machine Gun Corps (d.13th Dec 1917)

My great grandfather, Alfred Green, was born in Boston, Lincolnshire, in 1886. He married Florrie White at age 19 and had two children, Alfred and Madge. The latter one, Madge, being my grand-mother. She was born in 1910. Her last memory of her father was when watching him putting on his puttees before leaving and being drafted to the Western front. The family had moved from Boston, Lincolnshire, to Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, during the first stages of the war. At that time my great grand-father was a railway employee.

He was enlisted in 1916 in Carrington and probably received training in Grantham Camp in machine gun drills. He was then drafted to France. He fought at the Battle of Messines. He survived the Belgium battles and was eventually withdrawn with the whole company from this part of the front in December 1917 and sent to France in the Cambrai area to relieve the 18th Machine Gun Company. He died of his wounds on the 13/12/1917 around Etricourt, Manancourt probably in a Casualty Clearing Station in Ytres and is buried at the Rocquigny-Equancourt War Cemetery. He was 28.

May his soul rest in peace.

Christophe Pourcines

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