Dispersal Units for demobilisation purposes 1918-1920

As early as May 1918 the procedures and structures for demobilisation had been devised but it took final shape during November. The British Isles was to be sub-divided into 20 “Dispersal Areas”, each of which had one or two associated “Dispersal Units” (these are sometimes seen named as Centres or Stations) to which men would be sent for demobilisation. The soldier would be routed to a unit depending on where he intended to be resident (often, of course, where he had lived before enlisting).

From the “Leeds Mercury” 23 December 1918 courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive

Scottish Command Dispersal Areas

1A: incorporating  Aberdeenshire, Caithness, Clackmannan-hire, Forfar-shire, Fife, Inverness-shire, Kincardineshire, Orkney, Outer Hebrides, Ross and Cromarty, Shetland,  Skye, Sutherland. Men of these areas to be demobilised at Kinross Dispersal Unit.

1B: incorporating Arran, Dumbartonshire, Islay, Jura, Mull, Peeblesshire, Perthshire, Stirlingshire, Renfrewshire, Roxburgh-shire, Selkirkshire. Men of these areas to be demobilised at Georgetown (Paisley) Dispersal Unit.

2A: incorporating Berwickshire, Dumfries-shire, Haddingtonshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Linlithgowshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburgh-shire, Selkirkshire. Men of these areas to be demobilised at Duddingston Dispersal Unit.

2B: incorporating Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Wigtownshire. Men of these areas to be demobilised at Georgetown (Paisley) Dispersal Unit.

From 15 December 1919 all remaining dispersal drafts for the above areas, from overseas and from commands other than Scottish Command, would go to the Ripon Dispersal Unit. Personnel who were serving in Scotland and who proposed to reside there after dispersal would then be demobilised at the Edinburgh Discharge Centre.

Kinross Dispersal Unit

Organised as numbers 1 and 2 DUs.

In January 1919 being sent 1000 men per day (Dundee Courier, 21 January 1919)

The unit closed on 15 December 1919 (Western Morning News, 16 December 1919)

Georgetown (near Paisley, Glasgow) Dispersal Unit

In the former and very recently closed munitions works which had been named after David Lloyd George.

January 1919 being sent 710 men per day (Dundee Courier, 21 January 1919)

Duddingston (Edinburgh) Dispersal Unit

First phase 10 December 1918

January 1919 being sent 2000 men per day (Dundee Courier, 21 January 1919)

Edinburgh Discharge Centre

Situated at Olympia.


Northern Command Dispersal Areas

VA: incorporating Durham, Northumberland and Berwick-on-Tweed.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Ripon Dispersal Unit.

VB: incorporating Yorkshire.
Men of this area to be demobilised at Clipstone Dispersal Unit.

VIA: incorporating Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Rutland.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Harrowby Dispersal Unit.

VIB: incorporating Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire.
Men of these areas also to be demobilised at Harrowby Dispersal Unit.

Clipstone Camp Dispersal Unit, Mansfield (Nottinghamshire)

Appears to have been organised into three Dispersal Units.

Harrowby Camp Dispersal Unit, Grantham (Lincolnshire)

Operated between 23 December 1918 and 4 May 1919, demobilising a total of 2,388 officers and 77,145 men. (Grantham Journal, 17 May 1919)

Ripon Dispersal Unit (North Yorkshire)

Began work on 10 December 1918. Capacity to demobilise 2,400 men per day. Closed on 15 January 1920. Converted to a rest camp.


Western Command Dispersal Areas

III: incorporating Cumberland, Lancashire, Isle of Man and Westmorland.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Heaton Park Dispersal Unit.

IVA: incorporating Anglesey, Carnarvonshire, Cheshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Herefordshire, Merionethshire, Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Shropshire.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Oswestry Dispersal Unit.

IVB: incorporating Brecknockshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire,  Glamorganshire, Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Oswestry Dispersal Unit.

Heaton Park Dispersal Unit (Manchester)

Converted from a Command Depot on 23 December 1918, with capacity for demobilising up to 3,000 men per day. Operated until May 1919. Had demobilised 1,660 officers and 100,600 other ranks by March 1919 (Manchester Evening News, 7 March 1919).

Park Hall Camp, Oswestry (Shropshire)

Operated between 10 December 1918 and 16 March 1919.
Demobilised 200,000 men (Sunderland Daily Echo, 27 August 1919)
A German POW camp was also located at Park Hall.

Prees Heath Camp, near Whitchurch (Shropshire)

Closed on 15 January 1920, when it was converted to a rest camp for overseas soldiers for demobilisation and for men recently arriving at Liverpool.


Eastern Command Dispersal Areas

IXA: incorporating Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Thetford Dispersal Unit.

IXB: incorporating Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Northamptonshire.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Purfleet Camp Dispersal Unit.

Purfleet Camp Dispersal Unit, Beacon Hill, Purfleet (Essex)

Newspapers in February 1919 were reporting that railway strikes were affecting the delivery and removal of men to and from this unit. From 15 January 1920 acted as Dispersal Unit for men arriving from overseas at Dover and Folkestone. Closed 10 September 1920.

Thetford Dispersal Unit (Norfolk)

Previously used as a training camp, operated as dispersal unit from 8 November 1918 to 13 March 1919.


Southern Command Dispersal Areas

VII: incorporating Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Chiseldon Dispersal Unit.

VIII: incorporating Devon, Dorsetshire, Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Somerset, Wiltshire and the Channel Islands.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Fovant Dispersal Unit.

XC: Kent and Sussex.
Men of these areas to be demobilised at Dover Dispersal Unit.

There was also a Southern Command Discharge Centre at Winchester.

Chisledon (Wiltshire)

Opened on 10 December 1918.

Dover (Kent)

Huts at Northfall Meadow were used as the Dispersal Unit, and men were billeted at houses in Victoria Park, the Oil Mills, and the South Front Barracks Rest Camp (Dover Express, 26 December 1919). Appears to have closed in May 1919.

Fovant (Wiltshire)

Closed on 15 January 1920 and then converted to a rest camp for men recently arrived via Devonport or Southampton.


London Command Dispersal Area

XA: incorporating Middlesex and areas of London north of the Thames.
XB: incorporating Surreyand areas of London south of Thames.
Men resident within this area would go through the Dispersal Units at Shorncliffe (for men returning via Folkestone) or Wimbledon (for men already in the UK or returning via Southampton).

St. Martin’s Plain, Shorncliffe, Folkestone (Kent)

Operated between 10 December 1918 and 29 March 1919.
Demobilising 800 men per day (Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 1 March 1919).
Appears to have also acted as a Dispersal Centre for men working at the port of Richborough in Kent.

Wimbledon Common

Began work on 9 December 1918 and estimated a demobilisation rate of 100-150 men per hour (Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 9 December 1918)
Placed in reserve 14 January 1919 when replaced by Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace (London)

Opened 14 January 1919 and replaced Wimbledon Common. Still in service October 1919.


Irish Command Dispersal Area

XI: incorporating Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Carlow, Donegal, Down, Dublin, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Louth, Monaghan, Tyrone  and Wicklow.

XII: incorporating Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, King’s County; Kilkenny, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Mayo, Meath, Rosscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, West Meath and Wexford .

This command had a Dispersal Unit located at Dublin for men in Ireland at the time, but demobilised Irish men who were in Great Britain at the Oswestry Dispersal Unit (see above).


Other dispersal

Morn Hill Camp, Winchester

A repatriation camp for men from overseas who were awaiting authorisation of their free passage home.

Calais, France

A dispersal camp for men who wished to remain resident in France was established in Calais in March 1919.



From 15 January 1920 the men would not be processed via a dispersal unit but would be demobilised direct by their unit.

If you are lucky enough to find a soldier’s service record it will usually include his Army Form Z11 “Protection Certificate”, issued on demobilisation. It bears the stamp of the Dispersal Unit which carried out the task.

This Z11 has the stamp of the Clipstone Dispersal Unit. The soldier came from Sheffield in south Yorkshire.


British Newspaper Archive


Demobilisation and discharge