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Dunley Hill Camp

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What: Army camp
Where: Ranmore, Surrey
Built: 1941
Architect: Unknown
Abandoned: c1945
Listed: No
Visited: 2014-2015
Last Known Condition: Part derelict, part used as farm storage.
Page Updated: February 2016

Of the hundreds of hastily-built barracks put up in the early years of the last War to house thousands of British, American, Canadian and European servicemen, few survive today. Most were temporary buildings that were dismantled after demobilisation, stood empty for a few years before being demolished to prevent squatters or simply fell apart. Dunley Hill Camp, derequisitioned c.1950 appears to have been saved because it was released to a farmer who converted it into a forage yard. These days of course, the old army camp is clearly showing its age as iron frames rust and wooden huts collapse slowly into damp ruin. The camp housed around 300 men and was in use continuously from 1941 to 1945 by various units, mostly Canadian Artillery, prior to deployment in Europe

A Nissen hut in use as a farm store
A Nissen hut in use as a farm store

More huts
Inside one of the huts

This large partitioned hut may have been the mess and kitchens
This large partitioned hut may have housed the mess and kitchens

[click images below to expand & enlarge]

A Nissen hut seen through the trees Most of the buildings on site looked more or less like this Ministry of Works hut near the main gate Inside the collapsing hut A Nissen hut seen through the trees This large partitioned hut may have been the mess and kitchens This large partitioned hut may have been the mess and kitchens Elsan closet still in situ Motor workshop

Units known to have been based at the camp include the 8th Canadian Light Anti-Aircraft Regt (c1941), 1st Canadian Survey Regt (1941), 7th Medium Regt (Nov 1941), The 5th Anti-Tank Regt (1942) and 1st Medium Regt (c1943), all divisions of the Royal Canadian Artillery.

According to contemporary accounts, the base was muddy, isolated and uncomfortable. One regimental history recorded that "other than the NAAFI, the place had little amusement to offer" and days were filled with battle-drill, command-post and signal exercises, and seemingly interminable lectures on gunnery and gas. The thousands of Canadians stationed here and elsewhere on the Downs became a familiar sight in local towns and villages, although not always a welcome one: according to one source, some of the men would go down to Dorking High Street, get drunk on whisky and start fights until they were rounded up and sent back to base again. Others, no doubt, found more wholesome diversions: competitive sports, cycling, trips to the pictures and community socials would all have offered welcome distractions from the stresses and banalities of Army life. The Canadians proved popular with many locals, especially children (who were apparently captivated by their strange accents and stories of far-away lands), and young women (a number of marriages and children resulted, though not always in that order).

Although the buildings still stand, of the men who briefly lived here and went off to fight perhaps never to return, there is little trace. There are no artifacts, no graffiti, no memorial but the silent algae-stained walls.

Bibliography

Walmsley, R.Y. & Whalley, B.J.P. (1945) "The History of the First Med. Regt., 1940-1945" Amsterdam: Spin's Publishing Co.

Gee, E. & Wilson, C.D. (2011) "The Chocolate Box" Self-published

Nicholson, G.W.L., (1967) "The Gunners of Canada: The History of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, Volume 2" Toronto: McClelland and Stewart

http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-460-1/dissemination/csv/Stage_1/South_east_district.csv

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