The Melton Invasion

Top: Men of the Suffolk Regiment outside a wooden barrack hut similar to those built in Melton.
Centre: The Army Service Corps, pictured in Wickham Market, having collected a load of flour from
Rackham’s Mill.
Below: A tented camp at Debensgate, Woodbridge, in 1916. Camps like these were set up in Melton
and the surrounding villages.

On 12th August, less than a week after the declaration of war, Melton was itself invaded. Woodbridge and its surrounding villages, Melton, Ufford, Wickham Market and Bromeswell, became the temporary home to the Eastern Mounted Brigade as they prepared for their eventual deployment overseas. As the war progressed, a hutted camp was built between Melton Road and Leeks Hill wood, which became home to more soldiers arriving in the area. As soon as one battalion left for the front line, another took its place. Food and other supplies were needed to support the camp, which had more than doubled the population of Melton.

Although the servicemen were kept engaged during the day with training and route marches, there was still time in the evenings when the men could get restless. There is an account of men from the 2nd King Edward Horse, billeted in Melton, and the Monmouthshire Territorials, at Bromeswell, fighting each other in the Thoroughfare in Woodbridge.

To keep the men occupied, concerts and lectures were arranged. The start of a series of concerts was reported in the Woodbridge Reporter and Wickham Market Gazette in their edition dated 15th November 1917:

Concert at Melton Huts

 The first of a series of fortnightly concerts was given on Wednesday to the troops and friends at Melton. The programme was a splendid one, and all the items were much appreciated and encored. Gunner Wheatley of RGA opened the concert with selections on the piano. “The Corporal’s Ditty,” and “Men of Suffolk” by Gunner Madden were favourite items, the audience joining in the chorus. Miss Jessie Parkes delighted the house with “Souvenir” and also selections on the violin. In “Whisper to Me,” and “Devon for Me,” Miss Ruby Dent was heard at her best. Miss Lily Finch was a great favourite with the troops, and her rendering of “Come Sing To Me” and “I’ll Sing to You” were both deservedly encored. Lance Corporal Edward Victor of the Royal Fusiliers was the hit of the evening with “Experiments in sleight of hand” and “Magical problems” and proved himself an expert in conjuring much above the average. His hands have lost none of their cunning since the days of leaving Devant’s of Egyptian Hall fame for the army.

Gunner Boot of the RGA, both vocally and as a pianist is a splendid entertainer, and did well with “An Old Fashioned Town,” and “Drake goes West.” Private Smith of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles (REKMR) gave two popular items in “The Trumpeter,” and “A Perfect Day.”

Major Cobb of the REKMR thanked the artistes and accompanists for the enjoyable evening. Also thanks were given to Sergeant Collow for arranging the programme, and to Staff Sergeant Instructor Clavering for erecting the stage and effects which made the concert more enjoyable. RSM Buckley made an admirable chairman. The proceedings ended in the audience singing “God Save The King.”