The memoirs of Edward Groves

(1875 - 1961)

- The Alnwick and Country Gazette Extracts -


In 1988, during a 4-month European sojourn, I made an attempt to trace the birthplace of my father in Lesbury, Northumberland, without knowledge of any specific location, and was able to do so within a matter of days. With the very kind assistance of two friends from London, Marek and Kim, we journeyed by car to Alnwick, Northumberland. whilst conducting research in the archives of Alnwick Castle, we were referred to a one Mr Petit, a senior partner of the Alnwick Registry Solicitors, who would prove a valuable source of information. Mr Petit had an interest in the military history of the town and had assembled a large collection of an original local Alnwick newspaper, spanning a period that included the First World War. It was within this collection that I was able to locate references to my grandfather's activities during his time at the military camp in Alnwick, which had subsequently converted to a convalescent camp. Here are some extracts from that newspaper.








I am indebted to Mr Petit of Alnwick, Northumberland, for the following newspaper extracts of 1916 from the Alnwick and County Gazette.

8th January 1916

Old Year's Night in 'B' Camp

"A happy gathering of chivalry and beauty was held in the Sergeant's Mess of B camp on Old year's Night. Officers and men from the various regiments in Camp were prsent, and the ladies from Alnwick and ladies of the staff responded well to the invitations sent out the gallant and genial veteran, Colonel P. Broome-Giles, entered into the fun of the evening. Sergeant West, R.A.M.C., ably officited as Master of Ceremonies, and the music was supplied by Private Burrows, who presided at the piano. Refreshments were supplied during the evening under the superintendence of Sergeant McCartney and Corporal Brown, R.A.M.C. As the New Year came in the company sang with great heartiness "Should auld acquaintance be forgot" and "A guid New Year to ane and a'", was expressed by everyone. Songs were rendered by several soldiers and ladies. The arrangements were carried out with regimental precision by Sergeant-Major Groves, who generally superintended the proceedings successfully. it is hoped that this is only the forerunner of many more. Votes of thanks were passed to all who had contributed to the evening's pleasure, and the delightful proceedings terminated right loyally at an early hour on New Year's Day."


Saturday 5th February 1916

Mrs C.E. Browne's Concert at the Y.M.C.A.

"The concert arranged by Mrs C.E. Browne, Alnmouth, for the entertainment of wounded convalescent soldiers in the military camp at Alnwick, and held in the Y.M.C.A. Hut on Friday evening last week, came off with much success. The audience was large and appreciative and included officers and men of the 7th N.F. and the staff of the R.A.M.C., both male and female, besides the wounded soldiers. The programme was choicely varied. Songs were appreciably rendered by Mrs C.E. Browne, the Rev. Canon Mangin, vicar of Alnwick, Miss Mangin, Mr Ferguson,and Capatin H. Boswall, the latter also giving a humorous recitation from Rudyard Kipling. The party, dressed in Pierrot costumes, presented a really picturesque appearance on the stage. At the finish of the programme Colonel Broome Giles, commandant of the camp, in a moving vote of thanks to Mrs Browne and her party of entertainers, for the delightful evening they had provided, remarked upon the pleasure they would also have to see Captain H. Boswall in a convalescent state. The motion was carried by hearty acclamation, and further, on the call of Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves, three ringing cheers were given for Mrs Browne and her party of friends. The company separated after singing "God Save the King". "


Saturday 19th February 1916

Concert at the Y.M.C.A.

"A successful concert was given in the Y.M.C.A. Hut at the encampment, Alnwick, on Saturday night by the staff of the of the Convalescent Military Hospital. The arrangements were carried out by Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves, assisted by Mr A. Cunningham, the leader of the Y.M.C.A. Colonel Broome-Giles, C.B., presided. The stage was artistically fitted up by Sergeant-Major Pont. Songs were excellently rendered by Private Blain, Private Hall, Private Charles, Private Higgins (humorist), Private Owens, Sergeant McPherson, Private Burrows, Private Hague, Private Simmonds, and Lance-Corporal Taylor. Melodious selections were beautifully played by Private Shelmerdune and Private Maywood, and a highland fling was cleverly executed by Private Maywood. An interesting feature was an exhibition of weight lifting by Mr William Fairbairn, of Alnwick, and Private D. McSkilson, Lancaster Regiment, followed by a competition which was won by Private Shelmerdine. The singing of the National Anthem concluded an interesting entertainment."


Saturday 4th March 1916

Concert at the Y.M.C.A.

"On Wednesday night a very successful concert, arranged by the local Soldiers Recreation Committee, was held in the Y.M.C.A. Hut and was attended by a large and appreciative audience, including several officers of the units in camp.

We understand that convalescents are arriving daily in the camps, and in B and C camps there are now about 500 convalescents. Last week 200 were discharged as fit for further service. The general opinion amongst the convalescent soldiers is that the atmosphere of Alnwick is much more recuperative than at Blackpool or Eastbourne.

The large recreation rooms in B and C camps are now i full swing. The C recreation room has been beautifully adorned with the colours of the Northumberland Fusiliers by Mrs Riddell, of Lesbury House, and is quite a delightful place; so is the recreation room of B. In both of these adjuncts a dry canteen is doing good work. Entertainments have been given here twice or thrice a week. Whilst drives will be held alternately in B and C recreation rooms, and in an adjoining dining-room boxing contests are taking place. The master of ceremonies at these was Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves."


Saturday 11th March 1916

Saturday Night Concert at the Y.M.C.A.

"What is said to be one of the most enjoyable concerts yet held in connection with the military at Alnwick encampment was given in the Y.M.C.A. Hut on Saturday Night. The commodious building was packed with a very appreciative audience composed of the officers and staff and convalescent soldiers, also officers and men of the 3rd/7th Northumberland Fusiliers and a number of civilian friends. The chair was most acceptably occupied by Colonel P.Broome Giles, C.B., Commandant of the Convalescent Camp, who ably conducted the proceedings. The programme was admirably arranged by Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves, and Sergeant-Major Pont had the stage tastefully fitted up.


Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves is deserving of a nice compliment for the success of this entertainment which he had arranged; the whole of the proceedings went off with a pleasing swing."


Saturday 18th March 1916

Friday Night at the Y.M.C.A.

"Another concert of an excellent and delightful description, arranged by Regimental Sergeant-major Groves, R.A.M.C., was given in the Y.M.C.A. tent at the encampment in the Pasture on Friday night last week."


Saturday 25th March 1916

The Opening Concert

"The new concert hall was well filled on the opening night, when the Rev. Canon Mangin, vicar of Alnwick, took the chair, and amongst the audience were Colonel P. Broome Giles, Captain R. Stuart Bluche (chaplain), and several of the officers; and amongst the townspeople were Canon Moore and Misses Moore. The stage was artistically set out and decorated by Captain Bluche, Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves and Quartermaster-Sergeant Pont. In opening the proceedings, the Chairman said he had great pleasure in presiding over the inaugural concert in the new hall. They were greatly indebted to Mr. C.C. Iley, organist of St.Pauls Church, for bringing down from Newcastle at his own expense a company of artistes to render the programme (applause).

(Concert detail).

At the conclusion, on the proposal of Colonel Broome Giles, a vote of thanks was passed to the Alnwick Soldiers Recreation Committee and people in Alnwick for being so good in providing entertainments for the soldiers; and particularly to Mr C.C. Iley for their excellent concert that night. He was pleased, too, to see so many of the townspeople present."


8th April 1916

Saturday Night's Concert

"Arranged by Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves, R.A.M.C., a delightful concert was given in the new concert hall on Saturday night. The programme rendered was highly appreciated by the large gathering of officers and soldiers who were present. The artists were Corporal Harris, Private Murphy (recitation), Little Willie Hayes (song and dance), Private Ferrier, Mr. Frank Fenwick (Northumbrian bagpipes), Sergeant Jenkins, the Welsh tenor, Private Harris (comic vocalist), Corporal Foster, Mr Jack T. Wilcox (comedian), Private Jenkins, and Sergeant Conway. Every item was most pleasing and was applauded to a encore. Mr Jack Wilcox, to enthusiastic recalls, had to respond twice. Amongst the convalescent soldiers, some new talent has been discovered, which Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves will introduce in due time."

Tuesday Night's Concert

"Arranged by Mr J.D. Henderson, chairman of the Alnwick Soldiers' Recreation Committee, a concert was given in the new concert hall which was filled with a very appreciative audience.

(Concert detail).

Other entertainments have been arranged for next week, and if possible, a boxing tourney will be organised by Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves."

The Convalescent Camps

"A visit to the encampment in the Pastures this week, after an absence of a fortnight, revealed a wonderful change in the ornamental approaches to B and C camps. The shrubbery adorning the sides is flourishing beautifully through the dry weather of last week. The interior of every hut is now comfortably arranged and fitted up, and every week wounded men in a convalescent stage are arriving in the camps for treatment. Today (Friday) a draft of 91 men arrived. The dowsing heat treatment is now in good working order, and some 123 men are massaged every morning, while 70 others are being attended to by the ladies of the V.A.D., who dress their wounds. The B and C camps at present are quite full with patients, and camp A has nearly got its full complement. On Wednesday, Lady Victoria Percy had the hospital in Baliffgate transferred to the hospital at the top of C camp, and we noticed that the elctric station in B camp was nearly completed. The whole of the lighting for the four camps will be controlled from this station, which will save a great deal of trouble and labour and consequently be much more economical. Its efficiency was brought into operation on Tuesday night, when there was a threatened air raid, all lights being immediately switched off.

Unfortunately for the soldiers, through the outbreak of German measles in the town, Alnwick has been declared "out of bounds" for at least a fortnight."


15th April 1916

Saturday Night's Concert

"Another extremely pleasing concert, arranged by Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves, of the R.A.M.C., came off with great success in the new pavilion at the Military Convalescent Camps on Saturday night. Colonel P. Broome Giles, C.B., commandant, and several officers, together with a large muster of soldiers, crowded the commodious hall. The programme was opened with a pianoforte selection, admirably played by Captain R. Stuart Blucke, chaplain. A humurous song, "What will the Vicar say?" by Private Harris, was encored, and in response he sang another comicality, "My wife's first husband".

Boxing Contests at Alnwick Camp

"Colonel P. Broome Giles, C.B., presided and also officiated as referee at a boxing tourney held in the new institute at the Convalescent Camp on Thursday night, whih was attended by a large gathering of officers and soldiers together with a good many civilians intersted in the noble art, and who were sight-seers of a good display in the several bouts of the nine events set down for decision. Lieut. Booth, N.F., and Sergeant Haycock acted as judges; Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves proved an able master of ceremonies."


29th April 1916

Easter Monday night at the Pavilion

"A night of delightful entertainment was spent in the Pavilion at the Military Convalescent Camps at Alnwick, on Easter Monday night, to which a great many townspeople were invited through the kindness of Colonel P. Broome Giles, commandant. The commodioud building was packed and the audience could not be otherwise than appreciative of the efforts of the artists, one and all. The arrangement, which proved admirable, was entrusted to Mr Jack Willcox, himself a well-known entertainer, and the great success which attended the wind-up of the holidays showed that the confidence reposed in him had not been misplaced. In addition, and what proved to be one of the most interesting features of the evening, for which we believe that Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves was responsible, is was the performance of the six boys from the Queen Victoria School in Dunblane, all of whose fathers were serving in the Army, two being sons of Sergeant-Major Groves; and one elderly soldier on the staff of the camps, Company-Major Russell, has soldiered with some of their grandfathers. The boys gave exhibitions of their skill and dexterity in in boxing, wrestling, club swinging and parlour tumbling and acrobatic feats, assisted in the last respect by Sergeant-Major Groves, with whom the boys played some funny antics by arrangment, to give a spicy flavour. Altogether their performances were very clever, and the applause which followed was great and well deserved. The names of the boys were Alfred Osborne, George Groves, Thomas Groves, Alfred Trout, David Mitchell and George Mitchell, and smart they looked in their kilts, jackets and Glengarrys. "

The six boys from the Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, rehearsing at Alnwick Camp. Middle left, George Groves; front left, Thomas Groves; middle rear, Mag Groves; with trainer Mr Fizzer, middle, front.

Tree climbing competition

"A novel and thrilling competition was witnessed on Wednesday afternoon on the outskirts of C Camp, in which the six boys of th Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, took part in a tree climbing competition for small prizes. The boys, who are wonderful gymnasts "speeled up the trees and went amongst the branches like many squirrels, the winner scaling to a height of fully 30 feet, and the second and third only a little below him. The winners were George Groves, first; Thomas Groves, second; and Alfred Osborne, third, and all were complimented upon their performance."

The six boys from the Queen Victoria School, Dunblane,putting in a bit of boxing practice at Alnwick Camp; Thomas Groves, left, with activity being overseen by their coach, Mr Fizzer.


2nd June 1916

Military Sports at Alnwick

"Beautiful summerlike weather favoured the athletic sports festival promoted for the military, which came off with éclat at Alnwick on Monday afternoon by permission of Lieutenant Colonel Parry, the Depot Commandant. An excellent programme of sports had been arranged, and for each event there were numerous entries and keen competition. Besides a host of the military, there was abig gathering of the townspeople in response to the general invitation sent out, and all who attended were well pleased with the entertainment provided. The Band of the Royal Fusiliers, under Bandmaster W.H.Keefe and the Pipe and Drum Band, under their Pipe Major, which played alternately during the afternoon, lent a charm to the proceedings. The officials were Major Preston, Captain R.Stewart Blucke (Chaplain), Captain Corrie (Adjutant), and Lieut. Stubbington, judges; while general arrangements were carried out with regimental exactness by members of the committe, composed of Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves, Sergeant-Major Instructor More, Company Sergeant-Majors Pont, Green, and Whitlam."


8th June 1916

Boxing Tournament at Alnwick Pavilion

"Promoted by Second-Lieut. F.Tenney, Supervising Officer of Physical Training, the byes, semi-finals, and finals in a boxing tournament were successfully decided at the Pavilion of the Camps on Friday night. The fête was held by permission of Lieut.-Colonel F. Parry, Camps Commandant, and a large gathering of the military and others took a keen interst in the several contests. The arrangements were excellent and everything went off with regimental precision. Lieut. Fordham, who has ever evinced a warm interest in these gatherings, officiated as referee; Captain Garden, R.A.M.C., and Lieut. Stubbington were judges; Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves, as director of ceremonies."


17th June 1916

Boxing Tournament at Alnwick Convalescent Camp Pavilion

"A boxing tournament, promoted by Colonel P. Broome Giles, C.B., and officers, took place in the Military Convalescent Camps at Alnwick. The commodious building was well filled and an enthusiastic interest was evinced in the proceedings. Eight events were decided. Colonel P. Broome Giles officiated as referee; Captain Morris and Lieut. Fordham as judges: Quarter Master Sergeant Martin as time-keeper: and Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves ably fulfilled the duties of Master of Ceremonies."


12th August 1916

Harry Lauder at Camp Pavillion

"No travelling concert party being engaged this week, on Tuesday a free and easy concert was arranged by the Officers and men of D Camp. The house was in a lively mood and assisted with the chrous of each song very lustily.

(Concert detail).

On Wednesday a matinee was held, the great Harry Lauder being a tremendous attraction. Owing to the careful seating arrangements by Regimental Sergeant-Major Groves, over 1400 wounded soldiers managed to get into "The Gaff", and were delighted with the efforts of Harry, his songs being "Sailing", "Roamin' in the Gloamin'", and "Carrie". A vote of thanks for his coming, was proposed by Colonel Broome Giles, and three hearty cheers were given by the packed house for "Harry", who responded and made a few patriotic remarks."

Harry Lauder at Alnwick Convalescent Camp on Wednesday 9th August, 1916. Seated is the Camp Commandant, Colonel P. Broome Giles.


Note: More article extracts and photographs to be added in due course.


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