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Colchester in the Great War (Paperback)

Military P&S History > Social History WWI World History > UK & Ireland > Towns & Cities in the Great War

By Andrew Phillips
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Your Towns & Cities in The Great War
Pages: 190
Illustrations: 100
ISBN: 9781473860612
Published: 13th February 2017



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Few towns equalled Colchester in their role in the Great War. In this expert account, Colchester historian Andrew Phillips records four of the most dramatic years in the town’s history.

As Headquarters of Eastern Region, Colchester’s garrison supplied many of the men who prevented the early defeat of France. The town then became a training area for at least 100,000 recruits. While training, guns on the Western Front could often be heard.

At times Colchester’s civilian population of 40,000 was equalled by 40,000 troops, who often billeted with local families or housed in large tent cities, which then became hut cities. With 20,000 troops to feed on average, long food queues became a daily experience until rationing was introduced, and soon thousands of requisitioned horses, trucks, artillery pieces and munitions were also assembled in the town.

As the war took its deadly toll, Colchester became one vast hospital as the wounded arrived by train. An enlarged garrison hospital, an enlarged civilian hospital and six Red Cross Hospitals nursed at least 110,000 men. Colchester women made huge quantities of bandages, splints and gowns to alleviate the suffering of the war wounded.

Colchester factories produced uniforms, guns, shells, mines, compressors and engines. Paxman’s, the largest firm of the town, produced a staggering 20 million precision-machined parts.

Over 10 per cent of Colchester’s adult men died in the conflict, the highest in eastern England and twice the national average. Small wonder the town built one of the finest civic war memorials in England.

A really readable illustrated account of the impact of the Great War on the town and lives of the people of Colchester which will appeal to all historians.

Essex Family Historian No.163

"It's hard to imagine what it must have been like for people 100 years ago, as their country came under attack in an age before the TV, internet and widespread awareness of the world. Steven Russell finds the words of [this] book vivid enough, though, to suggest how shocking it must have been."

East Anglia Daily Times (Suffolk and Proud)

About Andrew Phillips

Andrew Phillips is a local historian who has previously published eight books about Colchester and its history. He has been active in heritage initiatives in the town for many years, including the collection of oral history and historic photos. For thirty-four years he has published a monthly local history feature in the Essex County Standard. Now retired, he was formerly Head of Humanities at the Colchester Institute.

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