Langdon Hills Second World War Army Camp

Built in our hour of need and now returned to farmland

By Ken Porter 13 Feb 2011

If you take a stroll down Old Church Hill, Langdon Hills, past the Old Church of ‘All Saints’ and just before you get to the junction with Lower Dunton Road you come to Bentley Farm the home of the former Army Camp.

It would appear that just before the Second World War the land was acquisitioned from local farmers and the camp built.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Langdon Hills Second World War Army Camp' page

The huts were shaped like an elaborated letter ‘H’ consisting of five barrack rooms and a block of ablutions and latrines, all connected. They were given the nickname of ‘Spiders’. There were four blocks and with each barrack capable of sleeping 40 personnel, meant that at its peak the camp could hold 800.

Each barrack hut had a N.C.O room known as ‘bunks’ and they were shared by two Sergeants or Bombardiers (the equivalent of Corporals in the Infantry).

In addition to the accommodation blocks there were washing and toilet blocks with concrete floors, very spartan  but  kept clean and very well maintained. Cook house and dining hall, again very spartan, concrete floors, trestle tables, but as always maintained to a high standard, with the food being very good. The Orderly Officer inspected and asked for complaints daily. The camp was powered by electricity, a luxury many houses in the area did not have.

Photo:Ranging unit at the camp 1949/50

Ranging unit at the camp 1949/50

There were at least two Anti Aircraft guns on site and a searchlight and no doubt they saw a fair amount of action during various stages of the war. However I have found very little information of the camp’s activity during the war. Most of the information is about the period after the war with the camp more or less becoming a ‘transit camp’ where troops were sent before being demobbed. To keep them entertained there was a weekly dance in the N.A.A.F.I. (Navy, Army and Air force Institute) canteen, where a number of the local girls would be invited. Many a soldier would have had to walk the girls home up Old Church Hill; it must have been quite an eerie experience for all concerned.

The Crown Hotel where dances were held in the hall at the back and the Laindon cinema were also some of the soldier’s favourite haunts.

Sports activities were high on the agenda. In 1954 they ran a successful sports day at the camp, transporting the local civilians to the camp in the army lorries. Laindon Community Association arranged side shows and special races for the children. Proceeds went to the Laindon Community Hall Fund.

On the 23rd April 1954, Michael Miles of the BBC Light Programme visited the camp, then referred to as the ‘Embarkation Establishment’ to record his programme ‘MILES AHEAD’. It was transmitted on Friday the 18th June 1954.

With the quiz master Michael Miles was Leslie Welch," memory man", Carole Carr, singer and the Malcolm Mitchell Trio.

Michael Miles, compered the show, told jokes and ran a quiz, the audience tested Leslie Welch's memory with sporting questions, Carole Carr sung a couple of songs.

The programme was opened and closed with the following signature tune: -

‘Whether you’re in the Navy, Army or the Air force

Or just a plain civilian who’s allowed to stay in bed

Come and join us every Friday night at seven thirty

And we’ll all be ‘Miles Ahead’.

It was a very popular programme of its time.

Photo:75th H.A.A. Regt. Royal Artilary

75th H.A.A. Regt. Royal Artilary

Some of the units that appear to have used the camp are as follows:

  • Signal Regiment
  • 7th Infantry Workshop REME, 3rd Division
  • 265th Battery , ‘F’ Troop, H.A.A. Regiment
  • 1st Battery, 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44ft Foot)
  • A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service) later renamed the Women’s Royal Army Corps.
  • 75th H.A.A. Regt Royal Artilary

The camp became a storage depot in the late 1960s, closing in 1969 and being demolished in the early 1970s.

This page was added by Ken Porter on 20/02/2011.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

I was at Laindon Camp in 1959/60 as a driver in the RAOC at the same time others I remember were Tony Rabin, Stan Bishop, Bob Harlow, Alf Taylor, Lt Dave Butcher, Capt Holyoake, Chalky White and Brian Jones.

By Ray Pearce
On 05/02/2017

Andrea don't suppose you know a surname?

By Barry Pinnell
On 02/09/2016

Donald; sorry for lateness of reply.  The Barry Pinnell you refer to did live in Dickens Drive, Laindon and is still local.

By Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell)
On 06/03/2016

Barry - re Jimmy - I was also told that he was Irish, not a northerner.

By Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell)
On 06/03/2016

Would Barry Pinnell be the same Barry Pinnell who lived in Dickens Drive as a boy? If so, I knew you back then although I haven't seen you since that time. You may remember me as Smith? If this is you, I intend to be at the September memory meeting and it might be good to catch up.

By Donald Joy
On 29/08/2015

Looking for my father, a northern soldier named Jimmy who befriended my mother Constance Pinnell from Laindon.

By Barry Pinnell
On 29/08/2015

My Name is Raymond John Elliott

I was stationed at Langdon army camp 1959-1962 as a driver for military transport and was wondering if anybody else was stationed there at that time also?

I am trying to track down a fellow soldier by the name of Nobby Clark. He was a cook & about the age of 28 at the time. 

By Ray Elliott
On 25/07/2014

Barry Pinnell, you mention the name William - I was told it was Jimmy.  Andrea

By Andrea
On 13/07/2014

Hi Patricia

There were two camps in Langdon Hills. One was the German POW camp at the top of the hill.  It was open from April 1945 to July 1948.  It only had German prisoners, not Italians as many folk seem to think.

Then there was the British Army camp at the bottom of Old Church Hill which opened in 1939 and closed late 1960/s early 1970s and as far as I am aware this never had any Italians only British service men and women.

I hope you enjoy the site, your comments are always welcome.

Ken

By Ken Porter
On 29/06/2014

I have just got on to this site.  I used to live in Nightingale Avenue until 1953.  I remember the camp well - Italians were there then - and they fed us.  Pat English (nee Mills).  In NZ now.

By Patricia English
On 29/06/2014

Hi Robert

Re: Staff Sergeant Kenneth Brunskill  Drury

I have written a book on the Prisoner of War Camp at Langdon Hills and am now working on a book on Laindon and the Second World War, I would love to know more about your Uncle. If you are willing to talk to me, please contact the editor and he will let you have my email address.

Cheers

By Ken Porter
On 18/06/2014

My Uncle Staff Sergeant Kenneth Brunskill Drury is, I think, one of those shown in the photograph (second from right) of the 75th HAA Reg. He was killed in Italy on the 26/9/1944, but we do not know where and is buried in Caserta War Cemetery.

Anyone with any information would be greatly appreciated.

By Robert Trewhitt
On 18/06/2014

Trying to find a soldier who was at the Langdon Hills camp around 1948 name William Irish friends with a girl called called Connie Pinnell.

By Barry Pinnell
On 13/05/2014

My mum, Alice White, worked at the NAAFI for many years when I was at Laindon HR school 1960-65 or she may have worked there earlier than that. She worked with a lady called Kath Ringwood who also lived in Berry Lane where we lived.

By Joan Merchant
On 29/10/2012

From December 1957 to December 1963 I was the village constable at Horndon-on-the Hill. Laindon Camp was on my beat area and I was a regular visitor there. I had occasion to work with a Major Turner RA in investigation of petty crimes reported to me. When a .38 revolver disappeared from the armoury Grays CID were involved and a Detective sergeant Reg Swinyard and myself were involved in staging a little scenario which resulted in the weapon being recovered much to the relief of Major Turner. I still have his letter of thanks sent to me similarly to Reg. Swinyard. During the war I lived as a lad in New Century Road and played trumpet in a dance band known as The Rio Seven. We did a show 'for the boys' at the camp in 1940. Heck that was a long time ago!!

By Harry Rossiter
On 03/06/2012

I owe my existence to Laindon Army Camp. My mother (Helen 'Nellie' Stokoe) was the NAFFI manageress and my dad (Frank Ward) was stationed there after spending time in Gibraltar. They met there and had their courtship in the area in the middle of the war. They often used to go to the dummy airfield during air raids and watch the bombs fall (apparently they used to have spotters who counted the bombs and made sure they all exploded). My mother's family lived in Laindon, the Hanby's from "The Leighs", New Century Road (see Ted Hanby's article elsewhere on the site). I was born in June 1947 in "The Nook", Pound Lane where my auntie Frances and uncle Lionel lived at the time before taking over "The Prince of Wales" pub on Wash Road. The army camp has many memories for me.

By Gerry (Gerald) Ward
On 21/07/2011

Hi Geoffrey Would like to hear your memories of the time you spent at the Army Camp.

By Ken Porter
On 30/06/2011

I was the soldier that Anne Burton mentioned, I married Norma Fullerton who was from Laindon in April 1960, her sister Wendy married my brother in December the same year, we are all well and live in Taunton, Somerset, this year is both of ours 51st wedding anniversary.

Congratulations to you all on your fifty first wedding anniversary and to many more.

By Geoffrey Trott
On 24/05/2011

A friend of mine married one of the soldiers in 1960 and when her sister visited her she met and subsequently married his brother.

By Anne Burton
On 25/04/2011

For a spell, my sister went out with one of the soldiers from this camp, but he was such a compulsive liar, the courtship soon ended. I believe he was in the Signals.

By Brian Baylis
On 03/04/2011
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