Friday 3 May 2024

New Zealand Troops on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, UK in WW1

With thanks to John Daniel who sent me a message about ANZAC Day that prompted this reseach

Sling Camp was a military camp near the town of Bulford on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, UK, occupied by New Zealand soldiers during the First World War.   

Created in 1903 as an annexe to Bulford Camp, Sling Camp was originally named "Sling Plantation" after nearby woods. 

Soon after the beginning of the First World War, New Zealand troops started work on building wooden huts there. They were later joined by Canadian troops, joiners, bricklayers, and civilian workers. The word "Plantation" was dropped from the title and it became Sling Camp. After building was completed, it was said that if each hut were placed end-to-end they would measure 6 miles.

In 1916, the camp was occupied by New Zealand forces and was then known as Anzac Camp by some. It comprised four main sections: Auckland, Wellington, Otago, and Canterbury Lines. It was officially called the 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade Reserve Camp, and trained reinforcements and casualties who were regaining fitness.

Ten New Zealand soldiers were killed when they were hit by a train at Bere Ferrers in southern England. The accident occurred as troops from the 28th Reinforcements for the NZ Expeditionary Force were being transported from Plymouth to Sling Camp.

To occupy them before deployment, the New Zealand soldiers were put to work carving the shape of a large Kiwi in the chalk of the hill that overlooks the camp. The Bulford Kiwi, as it is known, is still there today and as of 2007, the Kiwi has been maintained by the Ministry of Defence. In 2017 the chalk figure was designated as a scheduled monument.

In 1918, there were 4,300 men at Sling. Soon after this date the camp suffered large casualties as a result of the Spanish influenza.

The camp also housed fourteen New Zealand conscientious objectors (among them Archibald Baxter and his brothers Alexander and John), who had been forced into the army and sent all the way from New Zealand to England to make an example of them.

At the end of the war, there were 4,600 New Zealand troops stationed at the camp and it became a repatriation centre. At that time there was unrest in other camps as a result of delays in demobilising troops. To try to maintain order the "spit and polish" regime was enforced and route marches ordered. The men requested a relaxation of discipline as the war was over and they were far from home, however this was refused and the troops rioted, stealing food from the mess and all of the alcohol from the officers' mess, hundreds of New Zealand soldiers rioted. It was the most serious breakdown of discipline in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the European theatre.

In an attempt to resolve the situation, the officers and men were promised no repercussions, but this promise was not honoured; the ringleaders were arrested, jailed and immediately shipped back to New Zealand. 

Much of the original camp was demolished in the 1920s and replaced by newer buildings.


ANZAC DAY – remembered on 25th April annually.  25th April marks the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps forces during The First World War, at Gallipoli.

Cathy Sedgwick, who does the most wonderful work researching the ANZAC soldiers buried in the UK, has researched all 66 NZ War Graves in Codford (ANZAC) Cemetery, Wiltshire.  Cathey tells me there is a New Zealand War Graves Project -