Braintree District Museum holds varied collections relating to both World Wars and their impact on Braintree District. This includes an archive relating to the vital role of Crittalls and the East Anglian Munitions Committee during World War I, photographs of bomb damage in Braintree during World War II and medals, identity cards and evacuee certificates beloning to local residents as well as many more artefacts.
First World War
11th November 1918 marks the centenary of the armistice which ended the horror of the trench warfare of the First World War. Braintree and Bocking contributed greatly to the war effort, not only did men enlist rapidly in the army, but Crittalls and Lake and Elliott among others participated in the production of munitions employing many women to replace the men serving in uniform.
Deaths at home and overseas were to be expected however the scale of the war came as a surprise to many who expected a short conflict. By the armistice several local residents had died from aerial bombing while over two hundred servicemen had died on land, sea and in the air.
Lance Corporal Frank Herbert Rankin from Bocking Church Street serving with the 2nd Battalion Essex regiment was the first local lad to perish during the withdrawal after the fighting at Le Cateau on the 26th of August 1914. He was 25 years of age.
One of the last to be killed in action was Private William Arthur Ratcliff from Panfield Lane. The one-time saw mill labourer joined the Essex Regiment transferring to the 18th Bn Machine Gun Company and fell during the last ‘Hundred Day’ as the allies pushed the German forces towards the armistice. William was killed on the 8th of November, three days before the armistice as they attacked the Forest of Mormal.
Between the end of the fighting and the beginning of the Second World War on 3rd September 1939 men continued to die from wounds, disease and stress which began during the conflict. These remain unknown to all but close relatives and friends.