As part of my research for a walking tour about life during the First World War in Colchester which I have called Love, Life and Loss – Colchester in the Great War, I visited the Essex Regiment Museum. The museum is part of the Chelmsford Museum, which we have visited a number of times over the years.
The Essex Regiment was in existence from 1881 to 1958. It fought in many wars during the 19th century, including the Boer War. During the 1st World War the Regiment fought at the Battle of the Somme, Gallipoli, and in Sinai and Palestine.
The style of the museum is rather different to other regimental museums. Whilst it does trace of the regiment through the battles that it fought, there is also some emphasis on the “soldier’s-lot”. Not only do the exhibits show the military life, they also show how the soldiers spent some of their leisure time whilst they were in the army
There are individual displays for each period, moving from the 19th century red coated foot soldier, through the Boer War, the 1st and 2nd World War, and finally ending up with National Service. I particularly liked this display, which showed the emphasis on discipline that was so important during National Service. Bedding was beautifully folded, clothes were hung up with precision and even the soles of the boots appeared to have been polished.
It’s only a small museum, and just a short visit, but I was surprised by how much there was to see, and how much I enjoyed my time there.