Regiments at Heaton Park
On 24 August 1914 a meeting of the Manchester Home Trade Association was held at which it was put forward that recruits for "Kitchener's New Army" would be found in the warehouses and offices of the city.
On 28 August a panel of employers met at Manchester Town Hall where they decided to raise and equip a battalion of men. Volunteers were to enlist for three years or the duration of the war and they would be equipped and clothed by a fund raised for the purpose.
The response was overwhelming and by early 1914 a total of eight battalions had been raised. These became:
- 16th – 19th Service Battalions, Manchester Regiment (1st – 4th City Battalions) forming the 9th Infantry Brigade.
- 20th – 23rd Service Battalions, Manchester Regiment (5th – 8th City Battalions) forming the 9th Infantry Brigade.
On 4 September 1914, the Manchester Corporation Parks Committee gave permission for Heaton Park to be used for the men’s encampment.
On the 12 September recruits from the 1st City Battalion entered the park as construction of the camp commenced. The site would eventually accommodate the first four raised battalions.
The 20th – 23rd Battalions would initially be based at Morecombe.
On 21 April 1915 a crowd of 20,000 people witnessed the brigade sports event. Three days later the men left camp for Belton Park, Grantham.
By 8 November 1915 all four battalions had departed for France.
As the focus of the camp switched to convalescence, more buildings and equipment were installed. A hydrological department featured different kinds of baths and electrical apparatus and a hydro–therapeutic installation which provided modern methods of treating shell shock, gunshot wounds, frost bite, rheumatism and other troubles.
During the conflict, serviceman recovering from wounds recreated a trench system in the park near the Middleton Road entrance. Based on original front-line trench systems it included fire trenches, listening posts, dug outs, observation posts and barbed wire entanglements. The aim of the trenches was allow the general public to experience the actual condition of trench warfare.
Admission fees were 6d for adults and 2d for school children in groups. Also on display was a collection of German war relics. Money raised from this experience used for the benefit of soldiers and sailors blinded in the war.
In January 1917 the parks committee of Manchester Corporation approved proposals for workshops to be built in the park to teach soldiers various trades during their convalescence.