Life at Claremont Army Camp in 1916 by Private Jack Arnold

“The camp is situated on the top of a gentle slope, is surrounded on three sides by the Derwent, and has a natural fall to the river. The only road approach is a narrow neck from the railway station, where the guard is stationed. There is not much trouble to get into the camp, but when going out you have to ‘run the gauntlet’ of the guard.

The men are housed, some in huts of 30 to 40, six to a mess: some in bell-tents, which hold three to six, according to size. ‘Reveille’ is sounded by the bugler at 6a.m., and on fine mornings the band parades the camp; on wet days they play in their hut. No excuse for not hearing the ‘alarm clock’. Then from the various huts and tents you hear such remarks as – ‘Who’s pinched my soap?’ ‘Where the what’s-its-name is my towel? and other enquiries of a similar nature. Then there is a wild rush, to the washing-place a case of ‘first come, first served.’

Those who like it can get a cup of coffee until 6.30. Breakfast is served at 7 to 7.30. At 9.15 the ‘Fall-in’ is sounded, each company falls-in and is marched to wherever its particular drill is taking place. Dinner is served about 12.30, meat, potatoes and vegetables. Tea, which consists of bread and jam is served about 5.30. Each man generally puts in a shilling or so per week and buys little extras for tea and supper.

Tuesday and Friday is general leave night – lights out at 12.30, as the train gets in at 11.45. Mon., Wed., Thur., Sat, lights out at 10 pm.; Sundays, 9.30. A good many men take week-end leave from 3 p.m. Sat. til 8 a.m. Monday. The nights there is no leave we usually have a picture show in camp. I went last night, and saw some real good pictures as well as a boxing match between two of the fellows in the camp. We have a canteen, where you can buy almost anything, at town prices, the profits going to the soldiers’ funds.”

John Thomas Arnold was a 38 year old married journalist from Battery Point. He enlisted in March 1916 and served with the 40th Battalion. On 22 April 1918 he was badly gassed and took no further part, being repatriated to Australia in August 1918l. He returned to working for The Mercury, but later took a clerical position with the Repatriation Department. John Arnold died on 20 May 1938.