Warwickshire - Sutton Coldfield: Southern Command Depôt
A Command Depot was a military convalescent camp. Early in the war, large convalescent camps were established at Blackpool, Epsom, Dartford and Eastbourne in order to ease the pressure on hospital beds. Early in 1916 it was decided to refine the system further by creating Command Depots for the rehabilitative training of soldiers too fit for convalescent camp, but not yet fit enough to be returned to unit. Southern Command Depot Camp was established at Sutton Coldfield with accommodation for 90 officers and 3,000 men.
From early October 1917 to late January 1918, Mela Brown Constable was based at the Command Depot Camp, Sutton Coldfield, working as a Unit Adminstrator for the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. Women were employed as cooks, waitresses and housemaids working in place of men. The Command Depot comprised three camps with Brigadier General Becher in command.
The camp was based in Sutton Park. Sutton Park is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. It has open heathland, woodlands, seven lakes, wetlands and marshes. In a souvenir postcard sent on 17th January 1918, Mela reveals that Wyndley Pool was on her way to the Hut Orderly Room (Wyndley Pool is believed to be the oldest of the fish ponds in the park and may have been created soon after the setting up of the deer park in the 12th century). A metal plaque in the Park has the following inscription:
Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, Sutton Park, the Great War 1914-1919
This tablet is erected to commemorate the occupation of the Park from 1914 to 1920 by His Majesty’s troops. The Park was placed at the disposal of HM Government entirely free. Over 50,000 of HM troops occupied the various camps constructed. The Birmingham City Battalions of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment received their training here and were followed by other units. For a considerable period the camps were used for convalescent officers and men and New Zealand troops also were in occupation prior to their return home. The Council of the Royal town received the thanks of the War Office for their patriotic action.