LOOKING BACK - April 5, 2018 edition

The Advertiser headline for the story in September 1946
The Advertiser headline for the story in September 1946

Rokeby Camp

Does anyone remember anything about the old Rokeby Camp, which was situated just off Dunchurch Road?

Christine Howling is writing an article for the Local History Research Group’s next book and hopes Memory Lane readers will be able to help her to complete it.

She is very keen to hear from anyone with photos or memories of the camp.

It originally consisted of 15 Nissen Huts, a canteen and various other outbuildings.

It was built by the Royal Artillery (Heavy Artillery Aircraft) who requisitioned the land where Rokeby Estate is today in 1941, but after it was cleared in 1946 families lived there.

Christine says: “I was born in 1947 and have lived in Rugby all of my life and had never heard of Rokeby Camp. A few weeks ago someone mentioned on Facebook that they had lived in Hut 6B at Rokeby camp and it sparked my interest.

She explains: “In September 1946 as the camp was being cleared and Corporation employees were posting anti-squatters notices (with police officials and an Army Colonel were standing by) 23 families of “squatters” - in reality homeless families - moved into these Nissen Huts making them as comfortable as they could.

“In fact it was to become a little village of sorts with the baker, milkman and butchers and other trades people delivering goods. Over the next three years the council debated whether to evict these so called squatters and prosecute them.

“The electricity and water was turned of and on again on a few occasions. Several children were born in these huts and I am sure there are still people alive that would remember.

“There was such an acute housing shortage after the war in Rugby, due in part to people being directed to Rugby under the Wartime Essential works. My parents were lucky when they married that they lived with my dad’s parents until April 1950 and then were given a council house in Deepmore Road.”

Apart from mentions of the camp in Rugby Advertiser reports of council meetings Christine has struggled to find any further information from all the usual county and national archive sources she has tried.

The Royal Artillery are searching their records for details of the camp before the occupation by these families which may be of help.

Christine knows the Royal Artillery also requisitioned various buildings in Rugby for their records which included The Co-operative Hall, The Laurels, Baptist and Congregations Schoolrooms, premises over Sam Robbins Garage, The Market Place Methodist Schoolroom and also Kilbracken House, 1 Hillmorton Road until about 1944 when the records were confined to St Marie’s Church Hall.

In July 1946 the Royal Artillery records were relocated to Ibex House in London and the camp was to be cleared.

Here’s an excerpt from the Advertiser on September 10, 1946 (above):

As Corporation employees were posting Anti-squatter notices to the site with police officials and an Army Colonel standing by, families of “squatters” through pouring rain pushed prams and barrows laden with household goods, some even carrying their own drinking water entered Rokeby Camp on Dunchurch Road and established themselves in some of the fifteen newly vacated Nissen huts.

Only that day the Staff of the Royal Artillery had finished working at the camp and as the “Squatters” moved in, furniture and equipment was still being loaded onto lorries and driven away.