Rothbury - its military history

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by putteesinmyhands, Sep 16, 2012.

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  1. I'm presuming that most soldiers will have been to Otterburn at some time in their careers and in consequence will be aware of the town (wife calls it a village) of Rothbury, even if it's as a result of the sleepy question "Are we nearly there yet?" and the reply "Nearly, we've just passed through Rothbury."

    Well, my old fellah recently let slip that he did some training in Rothbury in 1944, just prior to being shipped off to India. Fifty bloody years and it's the first time he mentioned this to me. I was aware that he'd been in the Home Guard, was called up, trained at East Wretham (that's Wretham B Camp to you and me), went to India, missed the trip to Burma due to dysentery, spent much of his time at Deolali, quelled riots and returned to UK in 1947, finishing with Z training, but he'd never mentioned Rothbury before.

    I've done a bit of internet research on the subject and have found that the hills above Rothbury were used for trench training during WW1 (and Google Earth tells me that the trenches were more extensive and are much better defined than those on Otterburn Training Area). In WW2, the Northumberland Fusiliers were camped on the recreation area before heading off as part of the BEF; on return they were billeted in the requisitioned Cragside Hall (or maybe it was the grounds of). The Green Howards also had Cragside as their address during the latter part of the war. Evidently a house in Rothbury itself (Simonside House) was also commandeered, though this seems to coincide with the pre-BEF billeting of the Northumberland Fusiliers. There's also some evidence that there are some ranges on Simonside that were used in both WW1 and WW2.


    An internet-grabbed photo, but I don't know exactly where they are.

    Well that's great, except that he said that he was billeted a mile outside Rothbury, not in Cragside but in Thropton. He mentioned that on finishing some overnight manoeuvres once, they had breakfast in Cragside before returning to their billets.

    But no mention on the internet of the Army in Thropton, other than the presence of a sandbagged pillbox which is visible on Streetview of Google Earth.

    Italian POWs evidently were held at Rothbury and a German bomber dropped a stick of bombs in the fields just to the north. When I learned that a couple of years ago, I thought it must have been a lost bomber discarding its ordnance, but maybe the target was Cragside and the bomb-aimer was a bit slow pressing the tit?

    So, come on, here's a challenge. Rothbury quite clearly has a history of being abused by soldiers, but who, when and where?

    The WW1 trenches - who built them, trained in them and where were they billeted? How come OTA didn't extend eastwards to include them - or why weren't they dug on OTA?

    The ranges - why there? Unnecessarily distant from OTA. If used by the troops at Cragside, again why? There's ground closer.

    Where was my dad? He's adamant that he was in Thropton, but then again, I've struggled to find the places where I was less than 30 years ago and I've got maps and the bloody internet FFS. He was KOYLI, drove Universal Carriers and was a mortarman. Just to expand the search a bit further, there's a circular pad on the playing field at nearby Longhorseley that has been described as a "Tank turning circle", yet the gates to the area are only 10ft wide. Would these "tanks" have been Carriers? If so, what unit was there?

    The Thropton pillbox - being a sandbagged one, could this suggest that an Army unit was using it? It points west which seems a little odd. The Rothbury pillbox, on the other hand, is a proper concrete affair and covers the bridge, so manned by Northumberland Fusiliers or is it more likely to have been Home Guard?

    My wife is from Rothbury and knows absolutely nothing about the Army being there, other than soldiers occasionally dropping in for a pint.
  2. My dad told me he was in the TA before war was declared in 1939 and was therefore immediately 'called up'.
    For quite some time he was 'billeted' at his mothers house which meant they got money & extra rations.
    He said it with a laugh so I guessed it was true from that alone.
    This was in Essex though....
  3. Rothbury was in the centre of the Coquet Stop Line

    Beaufront Castle outside Hexham has always been rumoured to have been one of the key headquarters post invasion just North of the Tyne Stop Line. Apparently large quantities of arms and ammunition were hidden in bunkers in the woods there.

    Not a great deal of info on the internet but it seems a lot of units were stationed in the vicinity of the stop lines in the early part of the war.

    My father was 7 or 8 years old in 1940 and lived north of Rothbury, I'll ask him what he remembers.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. I forgot to look at the Coquet Stop Line. I've found the associated pillboxes on Coquet Stop LIne - Google Maps

    Notably, the Thropton sandbagged pillbox (details in Archaeology Data Service: myADS ) isn't shown as a Stop Line pillbox on the Google Map annotation (and it's off the line), but is shown as being in the Stop Line defence grouping according to the Defence of Britain Archive.
  5. Was going over the A66 on ADE this year there is a pill box on it's own on all above the westwards part of the road about 1/2 across it is this a part of the Coquet Stop Line?
  6. The only time I went to Rothbury was for a pint whilst the recruits froze in a nearby forrestry block.
  7. That gets you five extras!