The Ministry of War was granted permission by the Marquess of Bute around 1939 to accommodate British and Allied troops under canvas in the fields around the Dumfries House Estate. By 1942 The Ministry of War had requisitioned the 12 acre Pennylands field, about 1/3 of a mile to the north of Dumfries House. Accommodation for around 750 was built and consisted of a mixture of Nissen huts and Ministry of Works and Planning Standard Huts (MOWP huts), pre-fabricated pitched-roof buildings of different sizes and purposes.
The camp had one main entrance, the Avenue which run from the Barony Road further north and bisected the camp. There was also a secondary entrance to the east and led to Auchinleck cemetery. As you came into the camp a large parade ground was situated to the west, with a section for officer and admin section to the north. To the left and right of the parade ground were the battalion accommodation sections and beyond these, further south were the service areas and just outside the perimeter, to the south-east, was a shooting range. The camp was surrounded by 10-foot-high barbed-wire fencing and all movement in and out of the camp was controlled through the guard-rooms with a moveable swing gate barrier and large gates.
During this period the 72nd Anti-Tank Regiment, 5th Inniskillings, London Irish Rifles, 511th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, the Canadian Active Service Forces and 3rd and 4th Free French SAS were among the troops who trained in and around Pennylands. These training sessions lasted up to six months before troops were sent to the front line. George VI inspected some of these troops and visited the Camp in 1942. The Free French paratroopers were billeted at Pennylands from January to June 1944 so there is likely to have been some cross-over between the camp being used as a Training Camp and as a POW Camp.
Adam Ross Stewart was a Lieutenant with SAS Brigade HQ based at Sorn Castle and the Dumfries Arms Hotel, Cumnock during 1944. He was the British Army Liaison Ofﬁcer and Quartermaster for the 3rd and 4th French SAS who were billeted at Pennylands from January to June 1944. The French NCOs and ordinary ranks were at Pennylands with their comrades of 4th SAS, whilst their Commanders, Captain Pierre Bourgoin and Commandant Captain Pierre Chateau-Jobert – aka Yves Conan, were at Auchinleck House.
When the Brigade formed from the original British, French and Belgian SAS units, in early 1944, for training purposes they required somewhere relatively quiet, with access to rugged outdoor areas, but close enough to air, sea and land transport facilities and the area around Cumnock, Kilmarnock and Monkton was chosen. The Headquarters for the Brigade were established at Sorn Castle on 8 February 1944 and remained there through to August 1944, when it was moved further South into England following the D-DAY invasion.
In the early morning of 20th April 1944 Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, Commander in Chief of 21 Army Group reviewed a parade of SAS soldiers at a parade ground in Cumnock. He then moved on to Galston via a short stop at Sorn Castle, to review the remainder of the Brigade’s troops in a ﬁeld close to the old Loudoun Kirk.
On his retirement Adam Ross Stewart was a Major with the Black Watch Royal Highlanders.