Fremington Training Camp was built in 1943 by the US Army as a hospital and rehabilitation centre. The Americans left in 1945, and soon afterwards it became the School of Combined Operations, commanded by an Admiral. In the late 1950s it became home to various Royal Army Service Corps/Royal Corps of Transport amphibious squadrons, until in the 1970s it became an Army training camp.

Aerial photograph of Fremington Camp 2011

American units in camp are as follows:
12th MHSP 15/11/43 to 27/11/43
22nd MHSP 17/08/43 to 03/09/43
24th MHSP 27/08/43 to 19/09/43
24th MHSP 26/11/43 to 27/11/43
34th MHSP 19/10/43 to 13/11/43
44th Hospital Train 
313th Station Hospital 

The first DUKW Company to be formed after WW11 was 116 Amphibious Company at Cairnryan . The unit was Commanded by Major J A Abraham MC this consisted of Company HQ and 4 Platoons of 16 DUKWs each, the unit moved to Fremington in March 1952.in June 1954 it was reduced to three officers and 37 other ranks it was redesignated  Amphibian Training Wing RASC in February 1960.   303 Company RASC (Amphibious Transport) was formed at Fremington in August 1956 to take part in theSuez operations it never left Fremington and was disbanded in November 1956.   18 Company was formed at Fremington in June 1958 under the Command of Major J F Heathcote. From February 1958 to March 1960 a detachment was sent to Christmas Island on Operation Grapple, the testing of the British nuclear bombs. Also a detachment was sent to Singapore in 1964 until 1968.   18 Squadron left Fremington in 1971 and moved to Marchwood, in 1974 the Squadron was finally Disbanded.   The last remaining DUKWs in service are based at the Amphibious Training Unit Royal Marines Instow.     


A BRIEF HISTORY of 18 COMPANY RASC [This article was first published in March 1959]

The history of 18 Company, R.A.S.C., dates back to 1878 when it came into existence at Aldershot as No, 18 Commissariat Depot. It remained at Aldershot until 1902 but little is recorded of its activities during this period except that in 1889 the unit was redesignated a Supply Depot Company and in 1892 was split in two to form 38 Company. In October 1899 the unit embarked for service in South Africa. It is of interest to note that in November 1901 Dvr. Andrews was promoted to the rank of corporal for gallant conduct in the field whilst attached to "J" Battery, Royal Horse Artillery in South Africa.
In January 1901 men were provided to line the route for the return of Lord Roberts from South Africa and also later in the year details were similarly provided for Queen Victoria's funeral. For a period in 1902 the unit together" with 38 Company was used as a Demobilization Centre for troops returning from the South African War. 

The Company moved from Aldershot to Woolwich in 1902 and at the same time its role was changed to that of transport. In 1906 18 Company moved to London (Kensington) where it remained until the outbreak of the First World War. 

In 1914, 18 Company went to France with the British Expeditionary Force as a Horse Transport Company in 4 Divisional Train, The unit is recorded as having remained in France until 1916 although there is no mention of its activities during this period. Indeed, records make no reference to the Company again until 1922 when it is shown as being at Chatham in a static transport role. Chatham continued as its home until 1939 when it was reorganized as a Motor Ambulance Company and proceeded to France with the British Expeditionary Force. Having been evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940 the unit sailed for the Middle East in 1941 where it remained in an M.T. role until 1946 when it was placed in suspended animation. 

In 1947 18 Company was re-formed in Germany as a Divisional Transport Company but was once again placed in suspended animation in May, 1948. For the third time in its history the company changed its role and was re-formed in 1950 as a Water Transport Company having amalgamated with 632 Company at Sheerness. For the next seven years 18 Company continued in this role; its activities were spread over much of the East Coast area from Newhaven to Tynemouth and flotillas were to be found at Dover, Woolwich and Grimsby. Two notable happenings during this period were in September, 1951, when a flotilla of ten fifty-foot G.S.Ls. made a very successful training cruise to Copenhagen and in February, 1953, when the Company operated an extensive ferry service between Chatham and Sheerness carrying foodstuffs, medical supplies and personnel during the East Coast floods. With the rundown of the R.A.S.C. Fleet 18 Company had to be disbanded in September, 1957. 

The final chapter in the history of the unit to date has only just begun. On 1st June, 1958,
18 Company was once again re-formed, this time to be an Amphibious Transport Company. As 18 Company, R.A.S.C. (Amphibious Transport) the unit is now in the process of training at Fremington in North Devon in order to take its place in the Long Term Army. In its new role 18 Company has an important part to play and continues as it has done since 1878 to contribute to the many and varied activities of the Corps. 

In addition to having to train amphibious vehicle drivers, the Unit has also had on trial new vehicles to replace the DUKWs of WWII.   


AT HOME ON LAND AND SEA  By JOHN PORTER and BARRIE DAVIES [This article was first published in January 1961]

At Fremington the tiny Devonshire village that straddles the Bideford-Barnstaple main road it is a common sight to see a convoy of dukws squeezing their way through the narrow lanes. For Fremington is the home of 18 Company (Amphibian). Fremington has long been a centre of military activity, for the camp was formally occupied by American troops until 1958 when 18 Company moved in. The camp is built in the grounds of Fremington House, an old country mansion that is now the Officers' Mess. 

Being based in the heart of such a small village as Fremington, the personnel of the company and the local people have of necessity to be in close contact: no effort has been spared in getting to know the villagers, and many friendly contacts have been established, 18 Company is often called upon to give demonstrations to civilian 'organizations. Even while we were visiting the unit members of Devonshire police were being entertained. But D e v o n has more reason to thank the company than for mere makebelieve demonstrations. 

During the great floods that caused so much damage in the West Country a couple of months ago, the men of 18 Company played a big part in rescue operations. A dozen dukws made a fifty mile dash through the night to Exeter where they spearheaded the rescue operations after five feet deep floods had swept through the streets of the Cathedral city. 
A farm at Winkleigh was the scene of another dukw rescue act when two vehicles were sent there to rescue 160 sheep trapped by floods. 

It took us very little time at Fremington to find that the work at the camp is interesting and varied. And one thing we discovered was that the men like being based at Fremington. Instance of this came from C.Q.M.S. George Southgate. He has spent twenty one years in the Corps and had previously served at the camp. With two years to retirement he was given a choice of where he would like to serve. He and his wife chose Fremington. The Q, who will return to his home town, Manchester, when he retires, told us he had done everything in the Corps except air despatch. 

We were given the opportunity to drive a dukw on the training beaches and wondered at the way in which the men drive these large and cumbersome vehicles so confidently through the narrow streets of Barnstaple on their way to the training area. But Dvr, John Greenaway, eighteen-years-old and an ex- Junior Leader handled them expertly and, like the other drivers, was quite confident of taking them through the narrowest gaps. John's number two on his dukw was Dvr, Robert Read, also an ex-Boy. They have both been with the company for six months and took part in rescue operations at Exeter. Dvr. Frank Robinson is also an ex-Boy. 

We spoke to Lieut. R. Stephens, a former policeman, who was in charge of the dukws that went to the aid of flooded Exeter. Lieut. S t e p h e ns thought it was funny to be working side by side with the Chief Constable of Exeter and smiled as he told how he and his men rescued a hundred girls stranded for nine hours in a flooded factory. He comes from a military family. His father is a retired lieutenant-colonel. Born in India, Mr, Stephens saw England for the first time in 1950. A former lance corporal in the Tank Corps, he transferred to the R.A.S.C. on being commissioned. CS.M. Arthur Owen, has served twenty years with the Army and joined the company when it was formed. Father of two girls and a boy aged eighteen, he lives in a hiring at Westward Ho! C.S.M. Owen was particularly pleased that the company was receiving a number of ex-Boys; in fact, at the time we were there, they had twenty-eight in the company. 

Cpl. Derek Walley (27). who spent three years with Water Transport as a marine engineer, is a dukw driver, but when we saw him he was walking around with his leg in plaster. He broke it playing football for the company team in September. Cpl. Walley has also played football for Barnstaple • Town and plays cricket for the town too. A crack tennis player, he is going in for the Army tennis title this year. Pte, Jim Thomas (22). though a lorry driver in civilian life, is the C.S.M/s clerk. A burly 13 stone rugby enthusiast, he plays for Barnstaple as the company hasn't enough players to raise a side. But Jim hopes to organize a team for the Corps sevena-side competition This year. He is just getting back to form after being out of the game for half a season with a broken thigh. Sgi. Cliff Cooper (31), who has seen twelve years in the Middle East is N.C.O. in charge of the M.T. Section. Sgt. Cooper, married with two children, is an amphibian trained instructor 

Cpl. Ronald Short, the documentation clerk, is a twenty - four - year - old engineer from Peterborough. Also in the documentation office is Pte. Dan Chandler (22). a carpenter. Assistant chief clerk, CpL Taffie Pugh (26). a Regular soldier with eight years service, has been at Fremington for two years. The despatch clerk, twentyone-year-old Pte. Brian Champion, is married and lives in Middlesex. Cpl. Tom Mead was with the company from 1952-54 and came back to dukw driving nineteen months ago. 
A former Welsh Guardsman, he joined th* Corps in 1948. Another ex - guardsman, this time the Scots Guards. is L/Cpl. John Lambie (24), a dukw driver who joined the Corps in 1958. L/Cpl. Bill Boyd (28), a keen rugby player from Wigan, is ex-Royal Horse Artillery. He has been with the company for eighteen months. Dvr. Ernie Gallagher (23), is a re-enlistment and comes from Motherwell. 

Officer Commanding 18 Company is Major N. I. B. Speller and we extend our thanks to him for giving us the run of the camp during our stay and helping us in every possible way, At Fremington we saw plenty of signs of the floods that had recently devastated the countryside and our visit coincided with gale force winds, ominous -skies and heavy downpours. While we  mere landlubbers found our frequent soakings most uncomfortable, the men of 18 Company took them in their stride probably because this was the kind of weather they enjoy just the weather for dukws.  18 Squadron   RCT left Fremington in 1971 and moved to Marchwood and in 1974 was finally disbanded.  In its unique roles the Unit played an important part, as it had done since 1878, in the many and varied activities of specialised RASC and RCT transport units. Footnote.The vehicles of 18 Company RASC (MAC), had a badge on their doors of a clown balancing on a ball and holding a white hoop with a red cross on it.  Similar badges were common on other medical transport units in the North African campaign. 


18 AMPHIBIAN SQUADRON [This Article was first published in September 1967]

It appears that we have been masquerading under a false title since the Squadron, and its predecessors, entered the amphibious business. Apparently the unit title should reflect our equipment and not our role. 18 Squadron should be "Amphibian" not "Amphibious". This is now agreed but will not be officially published for some months to come. Whilst some doubt exists about our legal entitlement to do so, we have already corrected our title. 

The new G.O.C South-West District, Major-General T. H. Acton, paid his first visit to Fremington on 5th June, which provided the opportunity for the D.U.K.W's to be paraded on Saunton Sands and for the staging of a drive past and a demonstration of water work. 
On 10th June, the Squadron held a Queen's Birthday Parade. A "feu-dejoie" was followed by the traditional three cheers for Her Majesty and a march past. We were privileged to have as our Inspecting Officer, the newly-elected Major of Bideford, Councillor Harold Blackmore. 

Squadron exercises this year started with a return visit to Fort Watchtower near Plymouth. Again our two weeks there were enhanced by glorious weather, which made the view over the Sound magnificent by day and night. R.C.T. Vessel Mull joined us for the exercise, as did a contingent of the Cheshire Regiment, for a few days. 

The R.CT. Staff Band was able to come to North Devon at the end of June so a Regimental Weekend was planned round their visit A regimental dinner was held attended by the newly appointed Mayors of Barnstaple and Bideford and by Brigadier P. H. Henson. On the Friday evening, the Staff Band, after Beating Retreat in Barnstaple's Rock Park, provided their "beat group" for a Junior Ranks' Dance and a dance band for the Sergeants' Mess. 

On the Saturday the Squadron held "Open Day'* and was greatly invaded. Although the other attractions were well patronised the D.U.K.W, rides proved most popular. Quite unintentionally, the cook house made a profit on teas The weekend was concluded with a church parade. The service was conducted by the Rev. P. Pearson, O.C.F., Vicar of Fremington and the sermon was preached by the Venerable A. F. Ward, Archdeacon of Barnstaple. 

On 1st July the Squadron moved by L.CT. to south Wales for Exercise "Happy Valley". Capt. W. E, Thomas found us a training area suitable for our needs at Pendine with the Proof and Experimental Establishment. This was an alternative to our more usual haunts in south Cornwall. Readers may know that the world land speed record was broken, prewar, five times at Pendine. There is no truth in the story that we held D.U.K.W, races on the sands ! We returned the 230 miles to Fremington overnight. There were no D.U.K.W. failures on the journey. At least we proved that our 25 year old vehicles can still keep up with the modern breed. 

On our return part of the unit was involved with 3 Parachute Regiment. Each night for a week, amphibians met platoons of the "Paras" on Saunton Sands to evacuate them through the surf and by sea back to base (Fremington). The parachutists had earlier been dropped on Exmoor and made forced marches by night for two days to rescue a "kidnapped scientist" from the R.A.F. Chivenor. The exercise was splendid practical experience of night operations for us We were pleased to be able to repay, in part, our debts to R.A.F. Chivenor. For those who do not know, the R.A.F. Station faces our camp across the River Taw. The R.A.F. provides us with assistance in many ways not least by providing what we think is the finest local helicopter service available to any minor unit commander in the Corps. 

On 15th June, the A.O.C-in-C Fighter Command, Air Vice Marshal R. N. Bateson, carried out his Annual Inspection of R.A.F. Chivenor. A section of D.U.K.W's, under the command of Sgt. Mitchell, took part in the day's events. Straight from his inspection of Hunter jets, the A.O.C boarded a D.U.KAV. and took the controls. He proceeded to drive down the new slipway (to the river) and declared this to be opened. Once on the river, the A.O.C was kept "interested" for some long time before returning to the airfield. We trust that the R.A.F. inspection went well and that we occupied enough of the Inspection Team's time.




TALE OF THE UNEXPECTED (an interesting tale from Taff Peters)

In 1964  the Army in its wisdom, posted me to Fremington Camp with the objective of turning me into a DUKW driver. At this time, I was single, thin! and excited at the prospect.   

During the early years at the camp, I used to walk in my spare time, to Fremington Quay, taking with me my fishing tackle, which I slung over my shoulder. I spent hours on that quay, dangling a hook over the side, trying to land something bigger than a sardine! In 2010, whilst at the reunion, I made a point of returning to Fremington Quay to revive my old memories and to show my wife Susan, one of the many places that I have reminisced about.

Back home the reunion over. I delved once more into my hobby, that of researching into my ‘Family History’. Top of the list of my forebears to trace, was my mother’s father, namely one Horace Foster Setterfield and his father, whose Christian name at that time was unknown. After some involved ‘digging’ through various records, I eventually found him, in the 1901 census. He was aged 14 and a ‘Cook’ on the fishing smack ‘Sultan’, a sailing vessel out of Ramsgate, Kent. He was part of a four man crew and the Master was his father, Henry George Setterfield. The census had been written and signed by his father. The eerie part came, when I looked at where they were on this 31stMarch, 1901. They were tied up at Fremington Quay!!! They would have used the same steps and stood in the same place that I am standing some 99 years later. Further research has revealed that they were most probably fishing the grounds between Lands End the Scilly Isles and up to the Old Head of Kinsale, Southern Ireland and across to St Anne’s Head, Pembrokeshire. One of the reasons for using Fremington Quay was the railway station, some 30 yards away. Freight wagons that had been packed with ice in Barnstaple, would convey the fish to the markets in London.I think as coincidences go, this must rate pretty highly.

Community Web Kit provided free by BT