In both the First and the Second World War, there were massive army camps at Witley which shaped the local experience of the war. The artefacts in this trail were retrieved from a First World War Witley Camp rubbish dump (courtesy of Natural England) and selected, researched and described by John and Sue Janaway.

A detailed account of the camp was given in an exhibition called Witley Camp in World War I. This was created by John Janaway and can be seen on the PC screens in the museum.

For enlargements, click the image


The poet Wilfred Owen enlisted in October 1915 in the Artists’ Rifles. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment and went with them to Witley camp. He wrote that he found everything strange “the country, the people, my dress, my duties, the dialect, the air, food, everything”. While at Witley Camp, Wilfred Owen wrote a sonnet “a New Heaven” which he later reworked as “Anthem for Doomed Youth”

For more information about Wilfred Owen, click here


Anthem for Doomed Youth


What passing bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them, no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.


Wilfred Owen

Godalming Museum, ref B988.33

This programme was produced in May 1917 for the 5th Canadian Division, stationed at Witley Camp.


Brass buckles, blue “poison” bottles and a selection of inkpots. The white china is from the canteen. ACC stands for the Army Canteen Committee, a forerunner of the Navy & Army Canteen Board (NACB), which in 1921 became the Navy, Army & Air Force Institute (NAAFI).


Bottles and jars from the camps. Bovril, sold in 1oz and 2oz bottles was popular at the camps, as was Maclarens Imperial Cheese, presumably a type of cheese spread, supplied in milk-glass containers embossed on the base. Horlick’s Malted Milk Lunch Tablets also seem to have gone down well with the soldiers.


A range of brass titles worn on the shoulder straps of the uniform

CFA = Canadian Field Artillery

INF = Canadian Infantry

LG [in script] = Lewis Gunner

Including a cap badge of the 150th Battalion (Mount Royal Carabiniers) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). This battalion began recruiting in Montreal late in 1915 and sailed to England in September 1916.


A selection of bottles used by soldiers at the Witley Camps during the First World War, including a bottle from Carnoustie, Scotland. Several Canadian bottles have also been found.


A brass oil bottle was an essential part of every infantry soldier’s kit, as was the brass weighted string “pull-through” for cleaning the bore of his rifle




A stirrup

A reminder of the many horses that took part in the First World War