Royal British Legion charity event: Screening of ‘War Horse’
£8 all tickets
Profits from ticket sales will be given to the Royal British Legion.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Emily Watson, Jeremy Irvine
A special showing of Steven Spielberg’s 2011 film War Horse, based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel of the same name. Prior to the screening, author Andrew Phillips will give a short presentation – entitled ‘Colchester in the Great War: training troops, ‘breaking in’ horses, healing the wounded’.
The film is being shown as part of a series of events that the Mayor of Colchester, Councillor Peter Chillingworth, has organised to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. Profits from ticket sales will be given to the Royal British Legion.
More about Andrew Phillips’ talk:
Few towns equalled Colchester’s contribution to the Great War. As headquarters of Eastern Command, its garrison supplied many of the 1914 Expeditionary Force that stopped Germany on the Marne, busy all day and all night loading men, equipment and horses for transport to France. It was a major base, centred on Abbey Field, for housing and training tens of thousands of volunteers for Kitchener’s Army, and later conscripted men. Resident soldiers sometimes equalled the town’s population of 40,000, putting massive strain on the town’s infrastructure. Thousands of requisitioned farm horses were ‘broken in’ and sent to the front. Billeting of troops on households was widespread. Simultaneously we became a reception area for 100,000 casualties over the war years, in crowded military, civilian and converted Red Cross Hospitals.
Support organisations for trainee soldiers, for the hospitals, became, particularly for women, a full-time activity, as wives and dependants of soldiers in training moved into the town. Black-out, air raids, and preparation for evacuation in the event of German invasion, food shortage and rationing, all associated with World War 2 were a Great War reality in Colchester, where gunfire on the western front could often be heard. Colchester’s factories, employing hundreds of women, contributed massively to the war effort. By 1918 the town was exhausted and facing the real threat of a German victory.
Half the town’s adult male population took up arms, over 20%, nearly twice the national average, died. To this add half as many who returned with life-changing injuries. And the legacy? A broken town, no land fit for heroes, just widespread unemployment, particularly for ex-servicemen. No wonder Colchester erected one of the largest and most dramatic war memorials for a town of its size, still commemorating every November four of the most dramatic years in its 2,000-year history.