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Army: King's Own Royal Regiment, Lancaster - Regimental Depot

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23 January 2006

Information provided by: Peter Donnelly
Part of: King's Own Royal Regiment Museum
First published: 13 January 2004


The Regimental Depot of the King's Own Royal Regiment, was at Bowerham Barracks, in Lancaster. Bowerham Barracks was built as part of a reorganisation of the Army by the Secretary of State for War, Edward Cardwell, after the disastrous failures during the Crimean War (1854-1856). Cardwell placed the army on a regional basis and allocated particular regiments to particular areas. In 1873 the King's Own Royal Regiment was allocated to Lancaster, with a recruiting area from Fleetwood in the South to Barrow in Furness in the West and Coniston in the North. Florence Nightingale, remembered more for her nursing dedication during the Crimean War than her statistical work, proved that 'a soldier in barracks was twice as likely to die from disease than an individual member of the public'. Nigthingale provided the driving force to a Royal Commission, and as a result new purpose-built barracks were to house numerous regiments including the King's Own. In 1873 the War Office purchased a piece of land on the Bowerham Estate, for £7,300. The barracks were erected between 1876 and 1880. The barracks provided stables, an armoury, stores, guard room and hospital as well as accommodation for officers, sergeants and their wives and two barrack blocks for the recruits. On 20th April 1880 a party of thirty men of the King's Own, under Captain Herbert Borrett, were the first to occupy the barracks. Further detachments arrived during May and June and by July the barracks were full. The main functions of Bowerham Barracks, as Regimental Depot, was to provide recruits with their basic training. This function continued until the 1950s. During the Munich Crisis in September 1938 when there was a real fear of war trench digging took place on the playing fields, and key buildings were protected with sandbags. The Crisis passed, but within twelve months the country - and the Regiment - was at war. During the Second World War the Auxiliary Training Service took over Bowerham Barracks, at first for training, but later for accommodation as well. Following the reduction in the size of the army after the end of the Second World War, the King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), was amalgamated with the Carlisle based Border Regiment. This resulted in recruit training moving away from Bowerham and the closure of the barracks on 26th September 1959.

Facts and figures

Unit name: 1st Battalion
Force: Army
Designation: Battalion
Type: Infantry


06 Oct 1939: Comforts Fund established

The autumn of 1939 saw the launch of the King's Own Royal Regiment Active Service (Overseas) Comforts Fund. With so many soldiers overseas serving in difficult conditions the Comforts Fund was established on 6th October 1939 to provide them with gifts from home. The headquarters were set up in a large room in Westfield House, at the Westfield War Memorial Village, Lancaster. The War Memorial Village had been established following the ending of the First World War. During the war volunteers sent parcels of socks, scarves, mittens and sweets to members of the King's Own serving overseas. Many fund raising events were organised including bring and buy sales, whist drives and bridge tournaments. An appeal was made for paperback books to be sent to the troops and in the summer of 1940 good knitters were asked to work on socks and mittens for the forthcoming winter.

28 Jan 1940: Blizzard stops training

On Sunday 28th January 1940 a fierce blizzard completely blocked road and rail communications south of Lancaster. An SOS message from the railway authorities asked for a party of soldiers to clear the line. On the Monday morning soldiers armed with shovels left the King's Own Infantry Training Centre at Bowerham Barracks to clear the line. For a whole week military training came to standstill, the opening up of communications took priorty over everything. The digging parties did splendid work, and by Friday railway links with the south were established once more and a limited train service was in operation.

10 Sep 1939: Depot becomes King's Own Infantry Training Centre

Museums and Organisations

Name: King's Own Royal Regiment Museum
Address: City Museum, Market Square, Lancaster, Lancashire
Postcode: LA1 1HT
Telephone number: 01524 64637
Email address:
Comments: If contacting the museum by email please supply a full postal address to which a reply can be sent. If visiting the museum in person with a particular enquiry please telephone first to ensure the curator is available.

Further resources

Title: The King's Own The Story of a Royal Regiment Volume Three 1914-1950
Author: Cowper, Julia M
Pub year: 1957
Description: The best single source history of the King's Own and all sub-units for World War Two. Now out of print but should be available on inter-library loan. Now available from the King's Own Museum on cd-rom. Excellent indexing and rolls of gallantry awards.

Title: Lions of England A pictorial history of the King's Own Royal Regiment, Lancaster
Author: Eastwood, Stuart A
Pub year: 1991
ISBN: 0 947971 68 8
Description: Pictorial history of the regiment with chapter covering all operations in World War Two.

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