When the troops went to Westerfield

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By John Keast

There are still plenty of trees on Richard Langdon’s farm at Westerfield – he has a strong interest in forestry – and it was trees – concealment – that caught the notice of engineers in 1942.

World War 2 was raging and land was sought for army camps.

Enter the Langdon farm.

It became the site of Camp A, one of five camps built in the area to accommodate and train 5000 men.

Developing the camps was a major undertaking, and the Langdon farm has many reminders – concrete – of the army’s presence.

Most noticeable are two water reservoirs, one circular, and a smaller square one not far from Mr Langdon’s home. Mr Langdon wants to preserve them.

The house, plans show, is built right on the site of an army tent camp.

Mr Langdon, who has an interest in history and recalls former soldiers calling to the farm to reminisce when he was a teenager, hopes to preserve the reservoirs, but other remnants of the army’s presence – not least sunken drains – are a problem.

A tour of the farm shows it is littered with structural reminders of its past life: concrete foundations, soak holes, the reservoirs, drains, holes and even, still standing, a latrine.

Mr Langdon said passing traffic would see a mound in his paddock but not know what it was – though plenty of wayward sheep had found their way into the reservoirs.

Once in, they could not get out and to resolve the problem a section of the reservoir was taken out to create a grassy escape route.

There have been Langdons at Westerfield since 1921, all part of the Passchendaele purchase.

Mr Langdon has a sheep breeding programme, forestry, and part is leased for dairying.

“We are finding holes all over the farm; some are marked, some are not.”

To try to find out where they all are, Mr Langdon sought records – and has them.

They confirm the identity of some buildings, but not all the drains.

Some have been discovered by accident, including a big septic tank.

“We had been working over the top of it and the lid gave in.”