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Postcards from Ballykinlar

Ballykinlar (also Ballykinler) Camp started life as a firing range for the 5th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles as they trained for the war in South Africa, fighting the Boers. At the time they were garrisoned in Downpatrick, 8 miles away, and the coastal land at Ballykinlar offered good real estate for musketry practice. For the most part in the early days, accommodation was tented, often with a canvas camp being established in the summer months for the cycle of soldiers coming through. There would most likely have been wells sunk and possibly even latrine huts established on site. However, early accounts recall a condenser being used for the desalination of sea water as no fresh water was initially found.

A vast city of ridge tents. Soldiers from Ireland and Scotland would travel to Ballykinlar to undertake rifle training on the 100 yard ranges constructed on the edge of the sand dunes. At one stage at the start of the 20th century there may have been as many as 1,600 soldiers under canvas, rising to a peak of 3,000 in 1903. A local engineer installed sash targets that could be raised and lowered, and even developed a moving target on a small rail system.
Sandes, the soldiers home. Sandes was founded in 1869 by Elise Sande who wished to improve the welfare of English soldiers serving in Ireland. This was one of the first permanent buildings on site, built in 1902, and often provided much needed respite from the weather for the cold and weary soldiers. In 1974 a PIRA bomb destroyed this building, resulting in the deaths of two soldiers. The Christian institution still operates five centres, three in Northern Ireland and two at phase one training establishments in England.

It was at the time of the First World War when the camp surged once again, and with four new Battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles to train, each at 1,000 men each. With the new conflict abroad, it was time to construct more appropriate accommodation for the influx of new recruits. The first in what would be a vast series of corrugated iron huts began to be constructed.

Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea

Lyrics from a traditional Irish folk song
Worlds End Camp. The men of the Ulster Division would have been all to familiar with this view of the camp, sprawling barrack huts as well as ablution blocks, cookhouses and segregated accommodation for soldiers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Commissioned Officers. A massive building scheme was undertaken across the United Kingdom and Ireland constructing temporary camp for the millions of new soldiers that would be trained for the trench war in France.
Camp NameAccommodation
Worlds End Camp1,102
Centre Camp1,102
West Camp1,102
Extended Camp916
Musketry Camp493
Extended Camp, looking west. This image appears to have been taken on top of a small hill to the east of the camp. As you look across the huts in the middle ground, you can just make out Dundrum Castle silhouetted on the hills to the left of the image. This was a local landmark and also featured on postcards sent by soldiers. The huts in the foreground are likely to be for females, likely working as nurses looking after the 4,000 soldiers.
Extended Camp by nature of the name indicates that this was perhaps constructed later than the main camp to the east. One of these huts may have been used as a local hospital, or perhaps a Motor Transport office due to the vehicles being parked close. There is an ambulance, motorcycle and three utility trucks parked up. We can also see that the barrack huts are supplied with electricity through overhead cables, and are heated by individual stoves in each hut; the flues and chimneys are also visible.

The header image was scanned from a postcard posted in 1906 and depicts a group of young soldiers in their tented camp. It is a good insight into daily life, we can see a brush as well as an older soldier holding a mallet. The soldier in the centre of the photograph is about to be shaved, perhaps for his first time judging by his age, and the other soldiers are wearing a mixture of uniform in varying degrees of order!

All postcards are scanned from the authors personal collection of original real photographic postcards. They are a great source of information relating to camps that often have no physical evidence remaining. Individual postcards can be bought online for between £2 and £20.