Before World War One

This year, and quite rightly, there has been much talk about World War One – and we’ve done our share of that. But of course, parts of our area were militarised before the Great War – that war which was supposed to end all wars – began. In an attempt to keep body and soul comfortably together, our Manorial Lord had sold his lands on Salisbury Plain to the War Department. Tenant farmers continued to user the land for several years but at Pond Farm, now in Easterton parish, an annual summer camp for reservists took place.

In the Edwardian era the whole area was closed and it became a permanent military training area. Local photographers made sure the last of the fairly open summer camps were well recorded. And here we have one such photo.

Soldiers at Pond Farm Camp in 1909

Soldiers at Pond Farm Camp in 1909

This card shows signs of its past life as a piece of pub décor. It has been in the museum for some years but had an earlier home at The Drummer Boy which has now closed.

The card gives a real sense of the vast openness of Salisbury Plain. If it wasn’t for the soldiers, the area would really look empty. Somehow that distant horse and rider on the horizon adds to the sense of huge space.

The year is clearly given on the card. It is 1909. The regiment here are obviously ‘of horse’. Regular summer campers were a regiment known as the London Rough Riders. Here the troops look anything but rough as they maintain a neat formation led by their officers.

The vast open space of Salisbury Plain

The vast open space of Salisbury Plain

What a lovely image and it can remind us that when the war started, just five years later, the horse was still the mainstay for haulage and transport. Sad to say horses suffered very badly in the war, just as the men did.

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