Étaples is the site of one of many British bases in France. Here British and Commonwealth troops are trained before being sent to the front. Units that have already been in the line are often redeployed here for more training.
Conditions at Étaples are poor. The base authorities have a reputation for harshness. As many of them have never served at the front they are regarded as shirkers by the men.
The nearby town of Le Touquet is out of bounds to enlisted men, its attractions reserved exclusively for officers; that does not stop ordinary soldiers from slipping over there. However, when a New Zealand private is arrested on his way back from Le Touquet, his comrades assemble to demand his release. Military policemen attempt to break up the crowd, without success.
Then a shots are fired: one of the MPs kills a Scottish private and injures a French woman. But instead of dispersing the crowd, the gunfire inflames it. More soldiers join the demonstration and the MPs flee to Le Touquet. Soldiers then rampage through the camp, at one point reputedly pulling the commander from his desk and parading him around the town as a trophy.
The British army has thus far been spared the large-scale disturbances that gripped its French counterpart earlier in the year. Now the authorities frantically prepare countermeasures to restore order in Étaples.
training (Roads to the Great War: Notorious Étaples Camp)
accommodation (Roads to the Great War: Notorious Étaples Camp)