In the first years of the war, large areas of Surrey, particularly the commons of the Downs and uplands of the south-west, were occupied by temporary army camps where Kitchener’s new armies were trained before they were sent overseas. Initially volunteers shared tents, but gradually wooden huts replaced canvas. Once the men had moved out having completed their training some of the camps became hospitals or convalescent homes.
For example, the Woodcote Park camp of the Universities and Public Schools Brigade (18th-21st (Service) Battalions, Royal Fusiliers), formed in Epsom, in September 1914, was subsequently used as a convalescent camp for Australian and New Zealand troops and then was occupied by wounded Canadian soldiers.
Witley Camp, south of Godalming, became particularly associated with units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Unhappy at the slow rate of demobilisation and repatriation at the end of the war, the men rioted.
Written by Mike Page, Surrey History Centre