Local History Society

 Memories - Closure of the Remount Depot

Brief history of the Remount Depot

The Remount Depot during the Great War



The 'Reading Mercury' began 1937 with the announcement that the old Remount Depot, a major local employer, was slated for closure amid great fears for the local economy. Here are the news articles from that time:

January 2nd:

Remount Depot to Close

After 32 Years’ Existence

Loss to Local Tradesmen

The War Office have decided to close down the Remount Depot at Arborfield on March 31st and, as a result, approximately 140 men, some of whom haThe Remount Depot, from a 1930's OS six-inch mapve been employed at the Depot for thirty years, are looking for new jobs.

The Depot, which was one of the few remaining centres for Army horses in the country, has been in existence for 32 years. When it was started in 1904, it consisted of a few sheds only, but now it covers an area of about 500 acres, with substantially built houses and stables.

Altogether between 90,000 and 100,000 horses have passed through the depot during its existence. Its greatest usefulness was during the period of the war, when horses and mules were received from all quarters and tThe Moat House, built for the Remount Depot in 1906, has survived to the 21st Centuryransferred eventually to the various battlefields. Since the war an average of 2,000 horses have been dealt with annually, and at the present time there are 250 horses kept in condition ready for service. This will disappear with the depot.

The present commanding officer is Brig.-Gen. C. C. Lucas, M.C. The closing of his depot will be a great loss to tradesmen and others in the district, particularly to farmers, who have been in the habit of supplying the depot with large quantities of fodder each year.

The Future Uncertain

An official of the Depot told our representative: "We have no idea of what is going to happen to the Depot. All we know is that as a remount depot it will be closed on March 31st. Whether it will ultimately be decided to sell the land which comprises the depot or to utilise it for the new mechanised army we are not in a position to state".

January 9th:

Letter: The Closing Down of the Remount Depot

To the Editor of the "Reading Mercury, Berks.’ County Paper":

Sir – It will be in the knowledge of many of your readers that on March 31st next the Army Remount Depot at Arborfield is closing down, thereby throwing out of employment a large number of men. Many of these men are members of the Newland, Arborfield and Barkham branch of the British Legion, of which I have the honour to be the chairman.

May I, through the hospitality of your columns, appeal to employers of labour in the county to come to their assistance? Those of your readers who are members of the British Legion know of that splendid spirit of comradeship that obtains throughout its ranks, and will share something of the dismay that fills my heart at this blow that has fallen on so many of the households of our little villages.

If the good and cheerful work which my fellow members of this branch have invariably and ungrudgingly given on behalf of their stricken comrades of the Great War is any criterion of their worth, then I am convinced that no employer need fear that his confidence will be misplaced in giving these good fellows a chance of employment. Please send your inquiries to me at the address below.

I am sir, yours faithfully,

(Major) Henry S. Morris,
Newland, Arborfield and Barkham Branch of the British Legion,
Longmoor Cottage, Barkham, near Wokingham.

January 23rd:

Report on Arborfield British Legion’s 6th annual dinner held at the Village Hall on the previous Saturday: Nearly 90 sat for dinner; 117 financial members.

There was an initiative to start raising money for a Benevolent Fund. Col. A. E. Porch (county vice-chairman) said that ‘the British Legion were doing all they could, and were in direct communication with the War Office, in regards to the closing of the Remount Depot, which was casting such a cloud upon so many of the members and ex-Servicemen employed there, adding that everything possible was being done for their welfare’.

February 6th:

The Remount Depot at Arborfield

Sir Ralph Glyn’s Question in Parliament

Major Sir Ralph Glyn, Member for North Berks., asked the Secretary of State for War in Parliament on Tuesday how many men had been discharged or were under notice to leave the remount depot at Arborfield, Berkshire; what was their average length of service both in the Army and since joining the reserve, and what steps were to be taken to find them suitable employment, bearing in mind that they had no trade other than horse management.

Mr. Duff-Cooper replied: "The reduction and reorganisation of the remount service resulting from the increased mechanisation of the Army will entail a reduction in the establishment of the Arborfield depot on March 31st next. There will be a further reduction probably not later than June next, when it is likely that the depot will have closed down.

"All employees have been warned of the early closing of the depot, but apart from normal establishment fluctuations, no men at the depot have been discharged or given notice to leave, as it is not yet known what the requirements of the reorganised service will be or how many men can be absorbed in other than Army occupations. The second part of the question does not, therefore, arise."

Hansard on 16th March gave a little more detail of the numbers involved:

Brigadier-General Brown asked the Secretary of State for War how many of the employés at Arborfield remount depot have been given notice to terminate their employment; how many of these men have now found work or been provided with another job; and how many of these men are ex-service men?

Mr. Cooper: Notice has been given to all the 161 employés at the Arborfield remount depot, of whom 147 are ex-service men; 82 have been found or have found employment, of whom 78 are ex-service men. A further 68 employés, of whom 65 are ex-service men, will be retained at Arborfield remount depot until the depot is closed.

The closure took place later in 1937, but the site then became an Ordnance Depot and the site of the Army Technical School. On February 25th: 1938, the 'Times and Weekly News' reported:

'The Garth Hunt Point-to-Point races will take place on the course of the Army Ordnance Depot (late Remount) at Arborfield on Tuesday March 29th. There will be the usual six events. We understand that another military or adjacent hunt point-to-point will be held there at a later date. It is greatly appreciated that the converting of the Remount into an Army Ordnance Depot has not yet affected these popular point-to-point meetings, but there are rumours that this year’s events will bring them to a close.'

On March 11th 1938, this newspaper noted that Licences were granted for two Point-to-Point meetings at the Ordnance Depot: the Garth on March 29th and the Berks and Bucks Stag-hounds on April 16th. Both events were covered in detail by the paper.

The April 1st issue noted that the Arborfield Cottage Garden Society met at the Village Hall to plan the Annual Flower Show, which could no longer be held at the old Remount Depot. Many members who had been based at the Remount Depot had moved away. The new venue was to be Targett’s Farm.

With acknowledgements to Surrey & Berkshire Media, and to Berkshire Newspapers

Some of the men working at the old Remount Depot moved to the Burghfield R.A.O.C. Depot in 1937. Sidney Bennett started work at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst in January 1937; he used to cycle there every day until a few years before he retired, aged 70. 

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