Mrs Jean Little's Memories of Langholm Camp

Jean (nee Grant) was a gamekeeper's daughter, one of eight children. She was born at Pathhead and the family moved to Holmhead in the mid to late 1930s when she was about five. She was about nine when the camp began to be built in 1940. She walked down the Lodge Walk every day on her way to school, so she is one of the few people left in Langholm who saw the Camp from the inside.

As Jean entered the Camp on her way home from school she passed the two sentry boxes just outside the pillars at South Lodge. Until they got to know her she would be challenged by the sentries, and would produce her pass. When the old regiment was replaced by a new one she had to get a new pass - an often repeated procedure as the Camp, being a training camp, was always in a state of flux.

Just to the left (south) of the sentry post was the medical block, consisting of double-length Nissen huts. The medical officers' quarters were in wooden hutting nearby. All the camp buildings were single storey, and where possible they were tucked in at the edge of woodland to be less visible from the air.

Further along, near the Armstrong Centre, the concrete stand which now serves as a car park was constructed for the Sherman tanks. She would often see men working on them. Churchill tanks could not cross the Ewes Bridge, so they were parked on the Kiln Green, which also was given a hard surface for this purpose.

As she walked up the Lodge Walk, Jean would often see soldiers marching and drilling but she doesn't recall seeing formal games of say soccer, cricket or rugby, though soldiers might be knocking a ball about. Further along her walk was one of the Camp's cookhouses, and further again the first of two blocks, each of six Nissen huts.

Just to the north of Langholm Lodge on the lower track northwards, the stone building on the left was in pre-war days the garage for Langholm Lodge, and the little house next to it was the chauffeur's accommodation. The arches of corrugated iron were added to the garage by the army when they took it over.

The second cookhouse was further north on this track, and further on, in what is now woodland there were further Nissen blocks to the right. Just before the track reaches the junction near Holmhead, there is still a brick structure which has had two Nissen huts built against its north face. This was the NAAFI (Navy Army and Air Force Institutes), and there was a little hut/house nearby for the NAAFI girls.

To the NE of Holmhead was the workshop of the camp cobbler who occasionally also attended to Jean's clogs.

The water supply for the Camp was drawn from the Esk near the north end of the Pheasant Field. The concreting for this was done by Italian POWs who were brought in from outside the camp to do this. There were two pump houses, and the water was pumped up to an elevated reservoir tank in the small triangular field between Holmhead and North Lodge.

At Holmhead some of the outbuildings were requisitioned by REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The looseboxes were used as workshops and the loft area above some of the outhouses became living quarters for some soldiers. Jean believes some of the inscriptions left by the soldiers are still up there.

Jean's home at Holmhead was a "home from home" for some of the soldiers. Her mother would make great jugs of tea when new detachments of thirsty soldiers arrived at the Camp after long train journeys.

Jean and her brothers and sisters loved to roam freely through the woods on the policies. She remembers being on a path up near the wall to the north near the "Curly Snake" and finding a little tin box hidden in a crevice in the wall. It contained a large amount of money. She handed it in at the Camp and was thanked but not otherwise rewarded. The money had been stolen from the guard room.

After the war was over, Polish soldiers came to the camp and were employed in forestry. By this time the sentry boxes had been removed.

This was no doubt a serious time for her parents as they watched and worried over the progress of the war; but in these years at Holmhead as a young lassie Jean felt secure and happy.