Brief history

 

The Antrim Reserve Depot

 

The North Irish Horse Reserve Camp 1914-1918

The camp was established in September 1914 on the site of the Antrim showgrounds, when the regimental headquarters moved there from Belfast. By 1918 it included accommodation for 440 men and 461 horses. The officers were accommodated in the town.

 

North Irish Horse Camp – Antrim. 1918: IE/MA/MPD/AD119287-006. Maps, Plans and Drawings Collection, courtesy of Military Archives, Ireland.

 

Close-up of the main camp.

 

 

 

A number of accounts of life at the camp survive. This from new recruit Frank McMahon about camp life in 1914:

The next day we were issued with a rifle, sword, saddle, blankets and other equipment and were each given a horse, our day was occupied with drawing equipment and all other gear. The next morning Reveille at 5.30am, beds made up, floors swept and then fall in at 6am for physical jerks, dismissed at 6.15am to stables, where one man was detailed to ride one horse and lead 3 for exercise and watering, the remainder of the troop cleaned out the stables, then the exercise party returned at 6.30am and each man started grooming his horse.

We were issued with a curry comb, tail comb, dandy brush, body brush, a sponge (to sponge the horse's nostrils) a cloth and a plaited straw contraption with which you massaged the horse's body after he had been passed as properly groomed by the Troop Sergeant. ... The Sergeant kept warning you to be "careful of that horse, he cost £40, you can get a soldier for 1/-".

After breakfast the recruits were fallen in for riding school. The recruits with their horses formed a large ring in the centre of which stood the riding master, he was a Sergeant with a ram-rod back, a Kaiser William moustache and a fog-horn voice. He taught you the proper way to mount your horse, when you got mounted he gave the order "walk march", after a short time he yelled "trot", the horses were all cavalry trained and on the command "HALT" from the Sergeant, the horses all stopped dead with the result most of the recruits fell over the horses heads. The Sergeant would then threaten those men who had fallen off with disciplinary action, viz "Dismounting without an order".

We continued attending the riding school until the final passing-out test, you got the order "Cross your stirrups over your saddle, fold your arms" and ride your horse over a 4' jump. If you passed the test you were then posted to a troop as a trooper. You were also trained in sword and rifle drill. If you passed your firing test with the rifle you got an extra 6d per day as a marksman.

... after a few weeks I settled down and began to enjoy the soldiering, the life wasn't bad, you could get a pint of Guinness was 1½d and cigarettes 5 for 1d at the Canteen and you had quite a few good friends and there was always a sing-song in the Canteen from 5.30pm to 10pm.

Lieutenant Lancelot Wise wrote to his parents from Antrim on 21 October 1916:

... We haven’t been doing much of interest lately. It is mostly work & then golf. I played all today after 1 o’clock. There are some quite good fellows here. ...  I am in a Major Herdman’s squadron now.  He is a topper & the greatest fun imagineable. He very nearly leaves everything to me! Rather good practise for me!! We had a great field day on Friday. I was in command of one side & we won easily.  I am trying to get a long weekend & go to Scotland to the Dewars’ at Dupplin Castle ... but the Col. isn’t very keen on giving leave for more than short weekends.

Major Arthur Bingham Crabbe painted a less rosy picture in a letter dated 19 September 1917:

I have been here for two years with two visits to France & am here now I expect "for the duration". ... This is a most putrid place & I shall be glad to be out of it for good. I think I have only been in Brighton twice in the last 2 years. I am sick to death of the war & everything connected with it. We used to have a very fine lot of men but now we get mostly Irish conscripted in England, mostly papisties & most infernal ruffians. I had 80 in a batch the other day but I have made 40 desert to hope to make the other 40 go pretty soon.

 

Up for sale

After the war all the buildings and equipment items that had made up the North Irish Horse reserve camp were sold by auction.

(Belfast News-Letter 8 October 1919)

 

G.R.
MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS.
BY DIRECTION OF THE DISPOSAL BOARD
(HUTS AND BUILDING MATERIALS SECTION).
SALE BY AUCTION
OF
16 WOODEN HUTS

OFFICES, MESS HUTS, AND KITCHENS, DINING ROOMS, STORES, BATH HOUSES, STABLES, FORAGE SHEDS, PUMP, WATER TROUGHS, HORSEFALL, DESTRUCTOR, LATRINES, ABLUTIONS, &C.,

AT ANTRIM CAMP, CO. ANTRIM,
On THURSDAY, 9th October, 1919, AT 11.30 o'clock.
The Sale will comprise:–

16 WOODEN LIVING HUTS.
OFFICE AND VERANDAH.
SERGEANTS' MESS AND KITCHEN.
MESS ROOMS.
COOK HOUSE.
WASH UPS.
BATH HOUSES.
DRYING ROOM.
ABLUTIONS.
LATRINES AND ENCLOSURES.
STABLES.
FORAGE SHEDS.
PUMP.
840 FEET PIPING.
WATER TROUGHS.

Catalogues can be obtained from the Auctioneer, JAMES KING, 25, Chichester Street, Belfast.

NOTE. –"SURPLUS," price 3d, the Official List of Government Property for Sale; published twice monthly. On sale everywhere.

NOTE.

A MOTOR CHAR-A-BANC will LEAVE the CITY HALL at 9-30 for ANTRIM, and will RETURN to BELFAST immediately after the Sale is Concluded. Bookings per (..?..), at THOMPSON'S GARAGE, Victoria Square. RETURN FARE, 10s.

 

The site as a showground

Ordnance Survey map 1905–1957 from PRONI Historic Maps, sourced from Frontline Ulster site.

 

Today

Today the site, its boundaries little changed from 1914-18, is used as a Police Service of Northern Ireland training centre.