100 Days Centenary Countdown: Case study- Huts
Huts were by far the most widely produced and used building of the war. Huts were used for everything from housing newly recruited soldiers in training camps, to providing additional office space for the government in London, and even used to increase the capacity of burgeoning hospitals.
After the war many huts were surplus to requirement and they were frequently sold on following the end of hostilities. Many huts were re-purposed to act as reading rooms, libraries, village halls, and a whole range of other non-military purposes.
This post-war re-use has led to some surprise survivals, with wartime huts surviving in the most unlikely of places. We are very certain that there are plenty left to be re-discovered.
These simple wood framed hut were the main form of accommodation for soldiers in training camps and elsewhere. These accommodation huts are often referred to as ‘Armstrong Huts’, which was a specific design of hut devised by Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong. However, the work of the Great War Huts project has revealed that many different hut designs and variations were used throughout the country; though ‘Armstrong Hut’ is often used to describe any wooden hut used during the First World War.
These huts often measured around 60ft by 20ft (18m by 7m) and could accommodate between 20 to 30 soldiers, sometimes more. Heat was provided by a centrally positioned ‘pot-belly’ stove (you can see the chimney for these in the photograph above).
This type of hut was quick and easy to build using readily available materials due to its sectional design. The basic structure could also be easily modified to create other buildings; such as cook houses, mess halls, recreation huts and stores.
‘Armstrong Huts’ were frequently constructed from a simple wood frame clad with wooden panels, weatherproofed felt, asbestos, or ‘wriggly tin’ (corrugated iron). The ‘Armstrong Hut’ design was also modified to ensure that strategic materials, such as metal and wood, were used sparingly later on in the war.
You can find out how to identify First World War huts in our Hidden in Plain Site case study.
Here are just a small selection of the Accommodation Huts recorded through Home Front Legacy. There will be many more out there that remain to be recorded.
Bingham WI Meeting Hall
Back in 2015 we had the pleasure of conducting a workshop in Bingham, Nottinghamshire. The venue for this workshop was a First World War era Accommodation Hut now used by the Bingham Women’s Institute as their meeting hall.
Inspection of the hut revealed that it was constructed from one and a half accommodation huts, the join between the two was clearly visible.
These huts were re-erected on the current site in 1925 (following their sale by the military). It is highly likely that these huts were once part of the nearby Clipstone Camp, an extensive First World War camp used for the training of soldiers located 26km North-West.
The Worcester Church Hut
Sheena had read the case study and recognised a potential re-used accommodation hut, now in use as a church.
After some fascinating research it was possible to confirm the hut as a wartime example using surviving documentation. The building application for the hut survived in the archives and confirmed that the church was once indeed a ‘army hut’.
Orford RNAS/RN Hut
This was a chance find by Home Front Legacy Officer Chris. While working with CITiZAN in Orford, Suffolk, Chris spotted this hut which seemed to resemble a First World War era Accommodation Hut.
Consultation via Twitter with a leading First World War era hut expert, Taff Gillingham of the Great War Huts Project, led to the hut being identified as a Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) or Royal Navy Hut.
Over To You
As always, you can record any First World War era Huts that you re-discover through your local Historic Environment Record. As we have seen, some research may be required to confirm the origins of wartime huts.
We encourage you to investigate your local area to see what First World War Home Front sites you can re-discover and record.