If my dating of Calderon’s ‘Sunday’ letter to the Sturge Moore family is correct, then today, Monday 18 January 1915, George’s company (about 250 men) of the 9th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry moved into Fort Brockhurst, which is two miles up the A32 out of Gosport. Possibly the whole battalion (600-800 men) was now garrisoned there.
Fort Brockhurst is one of five ‘Palmerston Forts’ built between 1858 and 1862 to protect Portsmouth against French invasion. It is now owned and managed by English Heritage.
With its moated keep and formidable firepower, the fortress was an impressive piece of military engineering. Neither its exterior nor its parade ground have changed much since 1915, but the interior now houses a ‘treasure trove of objects from English Heritage’s extensive reserve collections’. Probably it was much more densely settled than the one or two areas presented as ‘barrack rooms’ suggest today.
Obviously, the wag who described it to George as ‘just like a prison’ was right. All these men were living on top of each other, much of their life was regimented, and it must have been claustrophobic. On the other hand, it probably focussed their training as a crack infantry regiment very effectively.
Next entry: An Appeal