Life in the Camps - A Soldier's perspective
Erskine Williams was a soldier during the Great War who spent time training at Brocton Camp. Prior to the war Erskine was an artist and musician and when he enlisted in 1916 he opted for service as an Army Bandsman and joined the band of 11th Division of the British Expeditionary Force, playing the oboe.
Throughout his time in the army Erskine drew numerous sketches of the people he met and the places he spent time. He sent many of these home to his family as postcards, giving them an insight into what his daily routine in the army involved. These postcards today provide us with a better idea of what life was like for soldiers during the Great War, both at home and during their time on the front line. Erskine's sketches detailed all aspects of life at Brocton camp, from catering and cleaning to training as well as leisure time activities.
Erskine Williams was demobilised in February 1919. He returned to his career as a technical illustrator and set up his own sign writing business in Tooting, London in 1924. He died a month prior to his 70th birthday in 1951. Like Ernest Begueley he never mentioned the war to his family and his sketches, both of his training days at Brocton and the later ones of his time in France, are the only record of his experiences of the Great War.
Food & Chores
The soldiers were responsible for the preperation of their own food and for keeping their living quaters clean.
The main task of the camps was to provide military training to young men to prepare them for trench warfare on the Western Front.
There was still time to participate in sleeping and waiting for news from home even for time to track down the local public houses!
Staffordshire County Council would like to thank Daphne Jones, Erskine's daughter, for her kind permission to use her father's postcards. More information on Erskine Williams and more examples of his illustrations and postcards can be found in Daphne's Book 'Bullets and Bandsmen: The story of a bandsman on the Western Front’