W2415a — Group of cooks at Houndean Camp, 1916

Box 45


‘Tools of the Trade at Houndean Bottom’ — Dr. Graham Mayhew, Historian

Audio transcript at bottom of page


The countryside around Lewes was extensively used for the British Army to train new recruits. Many different regiments sent men to camps at Kingston, Houndean and Malling, amongst others. Each regiment had its own expert cooks, who prepared food on site. Here they are shown holding the tools of their trade. The cooks were expected to fight if called upon, but did not wear battledress while cooking.


“This photograph was taken at the army camp at Houndean Bottom in 1916, and these likely lads are army cooks. This area of the South Downs was regularly used as an army camp, with records of soldiers being billeted there dating back to 1876. The smiley chap in the middle, with the Lance Corporal stripe on his arm, will almost certainly be in charge of this unit: a close examination of his and the other two uniformed soldiers cap badges reveal them to be from the Royal Artillery Regiment. The Army Catering Corps did not exist as a separate corps until 1941: until then each regiment tended to have its own expert cooks, who were also trained in other aspects of soldiery and expected to fight if called upon, so it is likely that these cooks are in the RAR too. While cooking, however, they would not wear their battledress, instead being kitted out in these garments: round-necked cardigans, aprons and rather fetching chef’s hats. We love the way each man has fashioned his hat in a different manner, as well as the way that the three men on the right of the front row are brandishing the tools of their trade: a kitchen knife and two sharpeners.”


Text by Alex Leith – Viva Lewes, October 2016