Many people have seen a ghostly tall man stalking the halls of a military base in Bovington, Dorset, says ROBIN WHEELER
The Armoured Centre Headquarters building in Bovington, Dorset, is an unremarkable 1970s affair, built in concrete and at first sight possessing no atmosphere in which a ghost might feel at home.
Only the chrome ashtrays by each seat in the Carver Hall lecture room give a feel of the smoky past. But this impression would be misleading.
Down on the ground floor of the side of the building occupied by the Combat Manoeuvre Centre (CMC) is a large open-plan office occupied by a sub-department called TTEL – Training Technology Enhanced Learning.
They are a design and graphics department, skilled in producing exploded drawings of vehicles, tank guns and other weapons, poster design, training pamphlets and handouts and many other items.
Artefacts from the past are all round the office; model tanks, dummy shells, signs.
Working late one night…
One night one of the designers, Rich Stewart, decided to work late, and was alone in the large office in the evening when all the other offices were dark and the print room at the far end of the corridor was illuminated only by the corridor lights.
As he returned from having a pee before packing up for the night, Rich could see the white fire doors at the end and on them, the green emergency signs with white lettering.
But as he looked down the corridor, a tall dark figure suddenly emerged from the right hand side of the print room and walked across the fire doors until it was out of sight on the left.
Rich particularly noticed that as the figure moved across the doors it was solid enough to block out the signs as it passed in front of them.
So solid in fact that he was immediately convinced that some light-fingered squaddie was in there with a view to helping himself; so he rushed in shouting ‘Oi! Who’s there?’ and put the lights on.
No one to be seen
There was no-one to be seen, so guessing that whoever it was had ducked down behind the large chest of drawers on the left of the room, he darted behind it, but again there was no-one there.
At this point, he told me, his hair stood on end for the first time, as it dawned on him that this was not a normal trespasser.
He said that he could not make out any features on the figure’s face, nor any clothing, just that it was over six feet tall.
He also deduced that as a small path threads down from a wooded area where First World War accommodation huts and a canteen used to be to the pavement at the side of the headquarters building, the figure may have been following the natural progression of the old path to some other long-vanished part of the old camp, perhaps the Quartermaster’s Stores, or one of the cinemas that used to be on the camp.
A Lt Col Scattergood has an office on the same corridor. He has noticed that on several occasions when he has worked late, odd things happen. Doors bang on the corridor, footsteps come down the corridor towards his office, but when he goes out to see who is about, there is no-one there. He is convinced that when this has happened his corridor was deserted apart from himself, quite possibly the entire building.
On one such evening he had some copying to do, so walked across the corridor to the printing room and set the copier going. Some time later he returned to the printing room, but as he walked in bumped into an obstacle that had definitely not been there before. Several boxes of new printer cartridges in their boxes had been stood on their ends right in front of the copier. No one had been there to set up this peculiar prank.
This tall gentleman does not just walk through on his obscure errands, or play jokes on those working late. Sometimes it seems he likes to stop and watch people working.
One day the cleaners were working on the corridor of the upper floor of the opposite side of the building, by HQ Royal Armoured Corps. As they worked, they became uneasy, feeling that they were being observed. And indeed when they looked down the corridor, there at the end was the same tall figure, standing watching them. Consternation ensued as the cleaners flung their sponges and dusters in the air with a shriek and fled, refusing to return to that part of the corridor.
Perhaps he keeps an eye on the Driving and Maintenance (D and M) School from time to time, as those who work there late have heard footsteps coming down the corridor towards their door, but on looking into the corridor find no-one there. Perhaps more startling was the occasion when two Senior NCOs were preparing a lesson on the Jackal vehicle – one of which was in the room with them – when suddenly one of its doors was flung to with a great crash.
This could only have been done by using force on the door, as they are quite heavy; and besides they were inside in a classroom and away from any wind. They were very spooked indeed by this.
Footsteps have been heard too in married quarters up on Sir Richard Hull Road. A Dutch lady who married an Armoured Corps Senior NCO suffered from footsteps tramping along her landing as well as doors opening and closing and door knobs being rattled and turned. As this was when her husband was out of the house at work, and she and her young son were terrified.
It may be significant that the area where the married quarters are is the site of the original Bovington Military Hospital (built in March 1915), to which many wounded soldiers returned from the fronts of World Wars 1 and 2, some no doubt to die there.
The same phenomena have been heard and seen in several of the houses on the road. Perhaps puzzled doctors search in vain for their operating rooms, or patients search hopelessly for the wards they remember.
ROBIN WHEELER: “Educated at Harrow and Cambridge, barrister, cavalry officer in the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, mature student in theology (BA, MA, PhD) and author of ‘Palmer’s Pilgrimage’ about the life of William Palmer of Magdalen. Military lawyer in the Army Legal Service then Full Time Reserve officer in a number of posts, currently a major and staff officer in the Headquarters of the Royal Armoured Corps. Now living the dream on the Isle of Wight and hoping to achieve ‘caulk-head’ status.
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