Lydd in the Great War

Welcome to the town page for Lydd. Explore your town map to discover people who lived in your town during the First World War.

Similarly to Hythe, Lydd was also known as a military town even prior to the First World War, housing an established Army Training Camp. The Royal Garrison Artillery was a military barracks, and the School of Siege Artillery served as an important training facility. As well as this, as a sister to the Hythe Ranges, the Lydd Ranges were a part of the Cinque Ports Firing Ranges, which also contained a military hospital. The Lydd Ranges had been used for trials of techniques and munitions, with the explosive Lyddite taking its name from the place where it was developed.

The First World War saw the expansion of Lydd as a military garrison, and the Camp was extended through the building of metal huts which were known to the locals as Tin Town. Men from Lydd served in all theatres of the War, and those who lived and trained at the Army Barracks were joined by a variety of combatants from Canadian riflemen and the Australian forces.

It is interesting to note that within the Army Camp itself there were over five miles of railway track. The railway link from Lydd to Ashford was operated by the South Eastern Railway, and traffic was greatly increased during the war as it was a direct route for supplies to the Camp and for other training facilities within the area. In 1916 the No 2 Royal Flying Corps Balloon School was established in partnership to the Siege Artillery Brigade. Balloons were used for artillery range spotting and the balloon sheds and camp were noticeable from the town due to the flat terrain.

For the locals, another visible aspect of the military within the town would have been patrols carried out by the Kent Cyclist Battalion, and in 1918 Lydd became a home base to the 2/1st Cyclist Battalion.

Please add information to your town page by clicking Upload Your Story. Tell those important stories about your relatives – share their experiences to help build a picture of your community during this period. Don’t forget to check out your local clubs and societies, and whilst you are exploring our site take a look at the other towns around the coast to discover more about Kent’s rich history during the First World War.

1. Joe Richardson

Chris Richardson speaks about his grandfather who fought in both WW1 and WW2:

‘This is a classic of Joe, aged 17– they must have made the photo into a postcard (a big new thing in 1911). This was three years before the war, and he was training in Lydd, Kent which was the main military training camp for testing explosives (built in 1888) – there was no thought of a War in 1911 – so Joe had quite a life that we didn’t know about. Joe marked himself with an ‘X’ but the postcard was never posted so he kept it through both wars (he fought in both) and gave it to us just before he died aged 71 (March 7th 1894 to December 9th 1965).'

557LYD - 1911 Postcard from Lydd Military Training Garrison 2

Looking at Joe’s WW1 record (damaged and partially burned by a bomb in WW2) – I note he was in the MEF. The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) was part of the British Army during World War 1 that commanded all Allied forces at Gallipoli and Salonika. Once Salonika became the sole Mediterranean theatre the MEF was commanded by General Archibald Murray who was based in Egypt and whose command also involved defence of the Suez Canal from Turkish attacks. As the importance of the Sinai front grew, a separate headquarters called the Egyptian Expeditionary Force was formed (in March 1916). This is the place where Joe told us he had killed several Turks in the fighting to stop the Turks overrunning the vital Suez Canal. Below is a picture of the Turkish troops as they dug in for the attempt to take the canal.

558LYD - Turkish troops attempting to take the Suez Canal 2

And as the Turkish Forces prepared to attack Suez.'

559LYD - Turkish Forces prepare to attack Suez 2

'The battle for Suez'

560LYD - Battle for Suez 2

'Joe was a Sergeant, commanding a field gun similar to this – with a team of 6 men per gun'

561LYD - A Field Gun 2

Courtesy of Chris Richardson Child (Grandson)

2. The Royal Garrison Artilary at Lydd

The Postcard below shows the Royal Garrison Artilery at Lydd. Judging by the language, we believe the postcard is from a student to his old teacher in Cumberland. The card was sent 11th Feb 1916

284LYD - R.G.A At Lydd (Front & Back)

The Transcribed text reads:

‘Dear Sir, Sorry I did not write sooner. This is the kind of gun I am training on expect to go abroad with same. Hoping you are keeping A1 like myself. I am working for my living at last. Joe.’

‘Mr J. T. Beatson, Whitehaven Road, Cleaton Moar ,Cumberland’

Courtesy of D Price

3. Siege Artillery School Lydd camp 1915

Simon Coxhill is looking for any more information on his great grandfather.

260LYD - Siege Artillery School Lydd camp 1915

This photo is taken from a family album and reads:

‘Just a gentle reminder H. Coxhill Lydd Camp Kent 21.8.15’

Courtesy of Simon Coxhill

4. Harry Mittell

This certificate was awarded to Harry Mittell for his service as a Special Constable in Lydd throughout the First World War.

70LYD - Harry Mittell

Harry was a native of Lydd, being born in mid 1875/76; the family had a connection with farming, however he was listed in an early census as residing at Dolphin’s Inn, South Street, Lydd.

Image and text courtesy of Harry Mittell’s great niece, Judy Winstanley.

5. Lydd Camp Main Gate

This card was sent in 1915 by Dick to his friend Jack. Dick gives his address as 19 Siege Comp, 4 Section, Lydd, and promises his friend a long letter which he will write when he is next on guard all night- this gives some idea of the lack of activity in this location. The card was sent 15th March 1915


The transcribed text reads:

‘19 Siege Company, 4 Section, Lydd, Kent’

‘Dear Jack, Sorry I cant get the card I spoke about they are all sold but you see I arrived back safe. will write a letter next time I am on guard all night so you see what I am on. Best wishes to you both Dick’

‘Mr John Chalker, 10 Bradford Rd, Sydenham, S.E, London

Courtesy of D.Price.

6. Lydd Camp

7LYD - Lydd Camp

An unusual image from inside the camp showing the large guns which were used for training. There appears to be an inspection taking place outside of the hut on the right of the picture. These huts appear to be the original brick built huts rather than the tin huts which were erected during the First World War due to the expansion of operations at the Camp.

Courtesy of D.Price.

7. Greetings from Lydd

This postcard was sent 20th Jan 1917 from Sydney who had probably been stationed at Lydd for training on the ranges. We do not know which regiment he was serving with, only that he was moving onto Bristol. The picture of the guns on the rail track is interesting because it shows some of the extensive rail network which existed within the camp.

57LYD – Lydd (Front & Back Of Postcard)

The transcribed text reads:

"My Darling Wife, Just a line to say that I am in the advance party to go to Bristol, and shall be off on Monday. I don't know for certain yet, but I think I shall be able to spend most of Sunday with you at least, probably coming about Friday, but will let you know later Darling. Have just sent a card like this to (?) Gothard, and promised to write from Bristol. Excuse me now Darling, but I will write a long letter from B. With all my love & kisses from your ever devoted Sydney."

Courtesy of D Price.