Armistice Beacon lighting at Belton House

Belton Camp during the First World War. EMN-181030-163802001
Belton Camp during the First World War. EMN-181030-163802001

A Beacon of Light will be lit at Belton House on Sunday November 11 as part of an evening of commemoration to remember those men and women who served at Belton Park and Harrowby Camps during the First World War.

This free event is open to anyone who would like to join the Belton team on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Over 170,000 men from the UK and the Commonwealth passed through the training camp at Belton Park and Harrowby between 1914 and 1918, before being posted to the front lines. Many more returned with ‘Blighty wounds’ to Belton Park Military Hospital and were cared for by members of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Queen Alexandra Military Nurses, Voluntary Aid Detachments and other volunteers.

In August 1914, Adelbert, 3rd Earl Brownlow donated the use of Belton Park to the War Office to provide a training camp for Kitchener’s New Army. From September 1914, the 11th Northern Division trained at Belton Park before they left for the Gallipoli campaign in the summer of 1915. Soon afterwards, the newly raised Machine Gun Corps moved into the camp. Belton Park Military Hospital opened in April 1915 and is believed to have closed in 1920.

Throughout the evening, members of the Grantham Explorer Scouts will be reading poetry written by soldiers at Belton House 100 year ago, and the event will close with the bells of St Peter and St Paul’s Church ringing out for peace.

Melissa Maynard, Belton’s Learning and Community Officer, said: “Whenever you read about the First World War locally, you get a great sense of the many kindnesses that the people of Grantham showed the soldiers, and the losses incurred by many local families. This is an opportunity for us to come together to remember, as the community did 100 years ago.”

Melissa continueD: “Adelaide, Countess Brownlow, arranged and paid for every soldier leaving Grantham to be given a hot drink and meat pie on their way to the station. To remember these small gestures of support, everyone who visits for the beacon lighting will be given a hot cup of Horlicks, sponsored by Amia Foods.”

Fragments of Horlicks mugs were found during a Time Team excavation in 2012 at the site of one of the YMCA huts near the hospital.

Adelaide, Countess Brownlow who died in 1917 worn out by her war work, had been president of the South Lincolnshire branch of the Red Cross. She is known to have volunteered at Belton Park Camp.

“The company moved out of Belton one cold morning before dawn. As we marched through Grantham’s main street to the railway station it was apparent that our movement was not all that secret. A number of local women volunteers had set up gas boilers and trestle tables… And all ranks paused for a cup of tea. Mine was handed to me by Lady Brownlow, the aged and dignified lady of Belton House.” Frederick Hunt, 1915

During the evening, The Last Post will sound the start of a two-minute silence before a descendant of one of Belton’s gardeners killed in 1918 lights the beacon. The café will be serving hot pulled pork sandwiches and other light refreshments.

Gates open at 6.15pm. The poetry and song will be performed from 6.30pm; The Last Post will sound at 6.55pm; the Beacon of Light will be lit at 7pm and the first peal of the church bells will sound at 7.05pm.

Official records of Belton Park Camp and Belton Park Military Hospital were destroyed by fire during the Second World War. Much of what is known is through information gained from descendants of those present. If anyone has any information to share about Belton Park and Harrowby Camps and the Military Hospital contact Melissa Maynard, Learning and Community Officer at 01476 566116; melissa.maynardl@nationaltrust.org.uk.