Clipstone Camp changed the face of Mansfield during First World War

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Nearly a century ago Mansfield resembled an army garrison town as thousands of troops descended upon the area.

In May 1915 the first soldiers entered Clipstone Camp to learn the brutal trade of trench warfare before they were shipped off to the front line as Britain locked itself into a bitter war with Germany.

Whilst at Clipstone Camp, which covered a six mile circumference of land, soldiers honed their rifle and machine gun skills on rifle ranges and grew accustomed to trenches in specially constructed trenches, traces of which can still be seen today.

The camp, which was built on land donated to the War Office by the Duke of Portland, was initially planned to hold 14 batallians with four lines hosting 15,000 men.

But it quickly expanded to include 20 permanent camp lines holding 1,000 troops and 35 officers, with 10 lines running along Mansfield Road and 10 on Clipstone Drive, along with three tented camps taking total capacity to more than 30,000 soldiers.

And, according to Clipstone historian John Danbury, the sudden influx of men dramatically changed life in the area.

“The materials to build the camp was brought in by traction through Forest Town and there was a lot of disruption to the roads in the area,” said John.

“The damage to the roads caused a lot of controversy amongst people in the area and the camp and how material was brought to the site was actually discussed in Parliament.

“Things began to settle down eventually with soldiers becoming a major part of the community. Mansfield really was a garrison town.

“There was the normal problems with drunkenness from the soldiers, but people in Mansfield were happy to help. The officers were even allowed to join Sherwood Forest Golf Club as honorary members.

“Soldiers were also given underground tours of Mansfield Colliery on Wednesdays and regular sporting contests between the soldiers and teams from local companies often took place.

“The camp gave the foundations for the future of the village.”

Each camp line was self sufficient and contained sleeping quarters, mess rooms, cook houses, parade grounds and a guardhouse to keep the troops in check.

The camp also featured a 900 seat church and a 365-bed military hospital.

Additional recreational activities included swimming in nearby Vicars Pond and in the Spa pools to the northwest of the camp.

Soldiers arrived at Edwinstowe by train before marching to Clipstone to begin their training.

The Clipstone Camp Partnership Group has recently been set up to celebrate the role the camp played in the life of the village and are currently working on plans to hold a variety of commemorative events in the coming years.

It is hoped a lasting memorial will be constructed outside Samue Barlow Primary School.

Plans to hold a charity football match and a guided walk around the site are also under discussion.

Pic cap: Historian John Banbury looks over some Clipstone Camp documents during his research