Essex Regiment & Essex Militia History

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Schools

Like every aspect of life in Essex, Schools were affected by the Great War.

The needs of the country had changed due to the vast number of men who joined up or were conscripted and the shortage of goods and concentration of energy into the war effort meant that children were important in the war effort.

The school day was shortened to allow the children to go home and help with household chores or to go to work.

In rural areas , older boys were given six weeks off school to assist in harvesting.

Where staff joined up there often was a shortage of replacement so some of the class sizes rose.

Most schools used part of their playground to grow vegetables which were tended by the children.

Groups of children, usually girls would knit and make comforts that were sent to members of the armed services.

Fund raising often took place within schools to raise money for funds associated with the war.

At certain times of the year groups of schoolchildren were sent to collect wild fruit such as blackberries to be sold for food and acorns that were used to feed pigs.

A stranger harvest was that of horse chestnuts that were used in the manufacture of Acetone which was a vital component of the propulsive charges in shells. Many children were given days off school in the autumn of 1917 and 1918 to collect horse chestnuts. The Chelmsford Chronicle of 8 February 1918 reported that the children of Great Parndon school had collected a ton of horse chestnuts and subscribed three pounds to the Blinded Soldiers Childrens Fund.

Particularly for the boys, PT became an important part of school life as fitness was a requirement for members of the armed services which the boys would eventually join.

Many schools had Cadet Companies for a variety of armed services, the most common of which was the Essex Regiment. The cadets trained older pupils and old boys and made their eventual recruitment into the armed services easier fro both the members and the armed services.