This attractive and unusual map in my eclectic collection shows the 2500 acres of Royal Park at Richmond in WW1.
In this blogpost we will look at
- This map’s use for my Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop miniatures games
- The WW1 Dad’s Army or Home Guard – The Volunteer Training Corps or VTC
- The interesting history of Richmond Park and my fleeting personal connection to its up and down rough terrain
Richmond Park has a history going back hundreds of years.
The northern part of Richmond Park on this 1916 map is marked in red ink ‘Ploughed Land April 1917’ which I take to be connected with the drive to produce more crops from empty land at the end of WW1.
An early form of WW2 Dig For Victory?
In 1918 Rationing was introduced, partly as the result of several bad harvests, the need to feed the troops and horses fighting in WW1 as well as civilians at home, along with the effects of the German submarine attacks on merchant shipping supplying Britain with good from the Empire and beyond.
Who were the VTC?
The VTC or Volunteer Training Corps was the fascinating WW1 equivalent of Dad’s Army or The Home Guard.
Like the Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts and Guides helping out with the War effort in various ways including as cycle messengers and coast watchers, the VTC also guarded important infrastructure such as railway tunnels, bridges and coastline.
The VTC in WW1, as with the Home Guard in WW2, was made up of young men not old enough yet for military service, those past military age or unfit to serve and those in reserved occupations.
“The VTC duties were to repel any enemy invasion, garrison various towns and villages, guard strategic points and help evacuate the civilian population in the event of an emergency. In addition the companies near London helped with the city’s defences. Corps members had to be British subjects and either too old to serve in the army, or unfit, or unable to serve for some other ‘genuine reason’. Despite this some members were called ‘shirkers’ for not joining the Regular Army.” Surrey in the Great War website / Surrey Heritage Centre
The 8th Battalion (Richmond) Surrey VTC is shown in photographs on this website:
The 8th (Richmond) Battalion of the Surrey VTC had a mobile detachment in the form of cyclists who produced this 1916 map. The VTC initially had to fund itself, uniforms, arms, equipment and all – I wonder if the map is a fundraiser for sale to the public or purely for the military use of the VTC ?
This was not the Surrey VTC’s only mobile troops:
During the Summer of 1917 the Surrey Motor Volunteer Corps received official recognition. Its commandant was W J Dayrell-Steyning and it was to consist of 12 squadrons of vehicles. Surrey in the Great War website
The Volunteer Training Corps Handbook 1916 can be read here:
Using the map for gaming scenarios
It is interesting from a Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop point of view of using this map for the terrain to base some interesting scenarios. Scouting Wide Games prohibited Scouts from entering fields with crops – out of bounds and taboo.
The notes mention:
Enclosures – Permanent enclosed plantations and woods are shown by a double line. These are “out of bounds” for all manoeuvres.
Buildings too were out of bounds.
It mentions “Watercourses … depressions affording good cover” which are marked with short transverse lines.
The notes with the map sound like the VTC were planning Field Exercises or their VTC version of Scouting Wide Games.
This map with sections enlarged and transposed onto a sheet could be very useful for Scouting Wide Games in their earliest days before WW1, during the war, the 1920s and 30s.
Likewise, you could use the lovely old Airfix WW1 British Infantry figures as the VTC as they appear to have retained this peaked cap uniform throughout the war. The early VTC appear to have had a large red left arm woven cloth Arm Band or brassard marked GR for George Rex (George V) but dubbed jokily ‘Grandad’s Regiment’ or ‘Gorgeous Wrecks’):
(Pictured above) Much appreciated box of WW1 Airfix, a Christmas present from my family. Close to the VTC uniform.
The uniforms are sometimes described as Lovat Green, which if you look it up varies greatly in shade from brightest green to almost grey especially in tweed mode.
Uniform notes – Green grey rainproof drill for Norfolk Jacket tunics or whipcord trousers, putters of brown gaiters, red brassard. Military Peak Cap, Forage Hat or Felt Hat.
I think the VTC or “Gorgeous Wrecks” are fascinating footnote of WW1 history and deserve a further blog post and research on their gaming potential. Watch this space ….
Slow down near The Deer Pens?
It will be a bit weird potentially using this map / terrain for Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop as I have some reasonably happy younger memories of the ups and downs and rough tracks of this park.
“Back in the day”, as a teenage schoolboy, I used to sometimes run in the occasional league or regional cross country running match at Richmond Park, if my comprehensive school had made it through to running against other local comprehensive and independent schools in South London / the Southeast.
If we encountered the deer herd, even if it was a critical point of the race, we were instructed to slow down and stop and let them pass. A welcome break but tough on seized up muscles and tired legs to get started again …
I can’t remember exactly which part of Richmond Park this was but it may have been near the White Lodge Royal Ballet School. In possible fanciful memory I vaguely remembering hearing music whilst running past here!
Little did I know then that I was tramping the same paths as the WW1 Home Guard, the VTC!
There are many interesting terrain features mentioned on the map including gravel pits:
“In the second half of the 17th century, King Charles II spent over £3,000 on repairs. He created new ponds for the deer to drink from and gave permission for gravel to be dug in the park.”
Several of the other terrain features on the 1916 VTC map and that I remember have an interesting history:
“In the 18th century, two planned vistas were created to show important guests the best views of the park and beyond. One looked down to the grand avenue of Queen’s Ride to White Lodge, a hunting lodge built for King George l.
The other looked out from King Henry’s Mound – a high point, said to have used by Henry Vlll to watch hunting. You can still stand here and look down a specially-maintained avenue in Sidmouth Wood across London to St Paul’s Cathedral.”
“Few other changes were made in Richmond Park. Pen Ponds, a lake divided in two by a causeway, was dug in 1746 and is now a good place to see water birds.”
“In the 19th century, several small woods were added. These include Sidmouth Wood and the ornamental Isabella Plantation, both of which are fenced to keep the deer out. Also in the 19th Century people were no longer given the right to remove firewood, which is still true to this day, to help in preserving the park.”
“Change happens slowly and maps made in Victorian times still make sense here.”
Or even maps made in WW1 times “still make sense here”?
Having some knowledge of its vast grounds, Richmond Park would have been an ideal spot for Scouting Wide Games and for VTC / troop training – WW1 Army camps and military hospitals are marked on the edges of what is now covered by modern housing development. The CWGC graves in Richmond Cemetery to the north is a sad and solemn reminder of why the VTC were formed in the first place.
A moving herd of deer would be an interesting random element to disrupt a Wide Game – time to raid the family stores of plastic animals maybe!
Historical Gamers visiting the park will also notice the Ian Dury memorial bench, but dedicated to the late pop star, thankfully not for the very much alive Ian Dury of the Peter Laing Collectors Circle on MeWe and the Continental Wars Society.
An interesting little map with interesting VTC origins which should lead to some unusual future (Wide) scenarios.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 19th January 2020