IN JULY 1915, the first soldiers arrived at Park Hall Barracks. Troops from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the Cheshire regiment marched from Whittington station to Park Hall in their thousands, ready to be trained as soldiers and soon sent to war.
The barracks were in constant use during First World War, relentlessly churning out soldiers onto the frontline. The hall was also home to a military hospital with 866 beds.
Prior to the war, Park Hall was owned by Major Wynne Corrie until he moved to Shrewsbury and handed the hall over to the military as their local headquarters.
The first Oswestry knew of this was a small paragraph written in the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer in November 1914, when it was announced that 14,000 troops would soon be arriving.
Within a couple of weeks, that number had risen to 21,000 troops with 400-500 officers.
While this was welcomed in many quarters, the local burghers of Oswestry warned of the possible moral danger to the young women of the area.
By Spring of 1915, over 900 labourers were busy constructing the camp in the grounds of the old hall, which was to be burnt down just three years later.
Just before midnight on Boxing Day 1918 a fire broke out in the chapel of the hall which quickly spread throughout the rest of the building.
Despite both the Oswestry and Shrewsbury Fire Brigade rushing to the hall, they were unable to save it as the timber-framed building burnt so quickly that there was little they could do.
After the First World War – the war to end all wars – military camps had been run down all across the country. It was not until Britain decided to declare war on Germany in 1939, that there was a move to train and equip sufficient soldiers for the conflict. It was then remembered that Park Hall had played an important role in the training of First World War recruits.
It was only 20 years after the last conflict, but everything at Park Hall had either been removed or left to decay. However, in May 1939, the land was earmarked once more for military use, with the expectation of four battalions being on site by the following July.
As a result, construction crews moved in and within a very short time, the camp began to take on the shape that it was to retain for many years.
The camp continued to be used for training for many years to follow. The Royal Artillery were joined by the Infantry Junior Leaders until the Artillery left in 1968. The junior leaders continued at the camp until its closure in December of 1975.
Despite Park Hall being a place many remember the war by, Oswestry holds fond memories for many of the soldiers who were trained there.