British Base Depots in France, 1914-1918

Base Depots were established at the Channel Ports in France and at other places on the lines of communication. They had a variety of purposes.

  • As a transport hub: Goods arrived in bulk by ship and were broken down into wagon-loads and sent on by rail.
  • For organising soldiers: General Base Depots were the centres for collecting, sorting and despatching reinforcements to units in the field (see also Infantry Base Depots).
  • For storing and organising ammunition and ordnance supplies: specialist ammunition stage depots were also established, with technical workshops of the Army Ordnance Corps.


Unshipping a locomotive at Le Havre, 23 May 1917. Imperial War Museum image Q29483.

The places selected for Base Depots became centres of very considerable industry with workshops, stores, barracks, camps, hospitals, etc. Most of the facilities of the Base Depots were manned and operated by the Army Service Corps (sometimes working with with infantry, Labour Corps or Royal Engineers depending on the job in hand). The bases established were:

1914Le HavreSupplies, reinforcements and remounts (horses).
No 1 General Base Depot for RGA.
No 2 General Base Depot for RHA and RFA.
No 3 General Base Depot for Canadian forces.
Army Service Corps Base Depot.
Army Ordnance Corps Base Depot.
Army Veterinary Corps Base Depot.
I have not been able to establish exactly when it took place (it appears to be by 1916) but the RGA relocated its personnel base depot to Harfleur.
No. 1 Employment Base Depot.
1914St-NazaireThe German sweep across France in August 1914 caused the British concern with regard to Le Havre. The Base was temporarily moved to St-Nazaire but by October was once again moved to Le Havre.
1914RouenSupplies, reinforcements and remounts, ordnance, mechanical transport, sick and wounded (hospitals).
No 4 General Base Depot for Royal Engineers.
No 5 General Base Depot for Cavalry and RAMC.
Territorial Force Base Depot.
Indian Advanced Base Depot.
Army Ordnance Corps Base Depot.
(Later) Army Cyclist Corps Base Depot.
1914BoulogneSupplies, ordnance, sick and wounded, veterinary, evacuation of wounded.
Army Ordnance Corps Base Depot.
Labour Corps Base Depot.
Later also became Royal Engineers Transportation Troops Depot.
1914DieppeRemounts, veterinary
1914AbbevilleAdvanced Base
Royal Engineers Signal Service Depot.
1914MarseillesGeneral Base Depot for Indian Divisions in France
1914EtaplesMost Infantry Base Depots.
Australian Base Depot, New Zealand Base Depot (these latter two switched with Canadian Base Depot in Le Havre in October 1916).
Machine Gun Corps Base Depot.
1915Grand Quévilly (near Rouen)Ammunition
1915Audruicq (near St. Omer)Ammunition
1915CalaisOrdnance, remounts, sick and wounded. No 2 (Mechanical Transport) Army Service Corps.
Army Veterinary Corps Base Depot.
1916Beaumarais (near Calais)Royal Marine Light Infantry
1917Outreau (near Boulogne)Advanced Base
1918Mers-les-Bains (near Le Tréport)Tank Troops Reinforcement Depot


Infantry Base Depots in France

Gazetteer of the Western Front: Le Havre and Harfleur base