Depot Brigade at Camp Devens - 1918

The Depot Brigade is a clearing-house for soldiers, — a training school which never takes a vacation, although many of its graduates daily receive their degrees as first-class soldiers.


“What is the Depot Brigade?” comes the query from all sides.

Some people seem to harbor the impression that it is an organization which camps in the railroad station, or uses the freight yards as a drill-field. But .such is not the case. It is not even remotely connected with the railroad depot or with the freight and passenger service.

The Depot Brigade is a clearing-house for soldiers, — a training school which never takes a vacation, although many of its graduates daily receive their degrees as first-class soldiers.

To the Depot Brigade come all the recruits; to it are sent all those men who do not readily pick up the elements of military training in the line regiments. In a way, it may be compared to the foundry which receives crude iron and odd lots of old metal, and molds it step by step until the finished product is perfected.

The Depot Brigade is the reserve upon which the line regiments depend to replenish troops which have been transferred or sent away. While the infantry line trains the same men day after day until they are proficient as a unit, this clearing-house trains individuals until they are fit for the line, and then sends them away; the vacant places are necessarily filled by green men, and the whole process has to be duplicated.

If a certain company of the line requires fifty men to fill its ranks, an appeal is made to the Depot Brigade; accordingly, fifty well- trained men appear the next morning at the roll-call of the infantry organization.

If two hundred men must leave for Georgia, if ten men suited for engineers are needed, the Depot Brigade comes to the rescue. This training school is numerically the largest organization in the camp; it prepares men for every branch of the service.

The officers are the hardest-worked men at Ayer. They do not drill the same men day after day, but often have several different companies pass through their hands in a month.

They must have on the tip of their tongue every detail of the regulations, for while Brown has been in the service two months and Green one month, Black has had only two weeks’ training and White did not come to camp until the day before yesterday.

The officer must therefore be ready to explain the principles of grenade throwing to Brown, the elements of bayonet combat to Green, the intricacies of company and platoon drill to Black, and the manual of arms to White, — and all within an hour if need be. There is no time to glance at the regulations; he must know what he is talking about every minute.

The constant transferring of men from the brigade necessarily entails constant practice in army paperwork, a most important element of military science. Again, every detail must be clearly graven in the officers’ minds. Such constant practice in every branch of the art of soldiering cannot but bring about an efficiency which would not otherwise be obtained.

Main Street for the Depot Brigade at Camp Devens.

Main Street for the Depot Brigade at Camp Devens. GGA Image ID # 13a435ec7e

The preceding picture shows the main street of the depot brigade. The headquarters is on the knoll at the left, and the battalion streets, in lines of barracks, run perpendicularly to the right from this thoroughfare. The officers’ quarters are some distance from the road and parallel to it, on the left. It can be seen that the brigade is on the side of a long slope; from its summit one can gain a view of the entire cantonment.

Depot Brigade Battalion at Camp Devens.

Depot Brigade Battalion at Camp Devens. GGA Image ID # 13a44479e1

The picture above shows a Depot Brigade battalion, comprising in this case about 500 men, and made up of four skeletonized companies.

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Third Officers Training Camp - Camp Devens 1918

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