The Bullring at Etaples

A plan from 1918 of the famous and brutal WW1 retraining ground known as the ‘Bullring’ at Etaples.
Etaples was the scene of much Allied activity during WW1 due to its safety from attack by enemy land forces and the existence of railway connections to both the northern and southern battlefields.
The town was home to 16 hospitals and a convalescent depot, in addition to a number of reinforcement camps for Commonwealth soldiers and general barracks for the French Army.
The troops who had returned from leave or from convalescence would be ‘toughened up’ here before being returned to the trenches.
Up to 20,000 men would be drilled here at one time and by most accounts, the NCOs who supervised the training were harsh to the point of brutality.
Under atrocious conditions, both raw recruits and battle-weary veterans were subjected to intensive training in gas warfare, bayonet drill, and long sessions of marching at the double across the dunes.
After two weeks, many of the wounded would rather return to the front with unhealed wounds rather than remain at Etaples.
Of more than 11,500 soldiers interred in Etaples Military Cemetery, over 10,000 of these men were casualties of World War One who died in Etaples or the surrounding area.
The abundance of military infrastructure in Etaples gave the town a capacity of around 100,000 troops in WW1 and made the area a serious target for German aerial bombing raids, from which the town suffered heavily.
The combination of withstanding these attacks and giving over their homes to the war effort led to Etaples being awarded the ‘Croix de Guerre’ in 1920.
The Second World War once again saw Allied hospitals stationed in Etaples, and with them the reopening of the cemetery to cope with the casualties of another war.
119 men were buried in Etaples Military Cemetery in World War Two, this low number attributable to the fact that the hospitals were only in place from January 1940 until the British withdrawal from the Continent in May of the same year.
Plan dated 31st March 1918.


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