LIFE ON MERSEA ISLAND (POPULATION 1,600)
AT THE OUTBREAK OF THE GREAT WAR
AUGUST 4TH 1914.
Summer was nearly over and, symbolically,
this was to be the last harvest of an era –
the world would never again be quite the same.
“When war was declared on 4 August 1914, I had just taken over my little farm, East Barn, which adjoined Waldegraves. There were about fifty acres with barn and cattle yards and, as luck would have it, I was about to gather in my first harvest.
Farmers were encouraged to harvest before joining up and this was infuriating as I, like most other young men, was desperate to get off to the war. Percy Roberts a great friend of mine, was also waiting to enlist and, as we both had motorcycles, we decided to enlist together.
As soon as the harvest was gathered in we reported to the Albert Hall in Colchester, where we passed our medicals. We then signed up, asking to be posted to the 11th Hussars, who were then based in Colchester, as we were keen on riding and thought it would be great fun to join the cavalry. It was a fortuitous request to have made, because had I gone into the infantry my name would quite probably have been on the fatality lists beginning to come back from the Front.”
Extracted from ‘Pearls & Oysters’ by Harry Pearl Cross 1892-1988.
With kind permission of his grandson Russell Wheldon.
Commuting from Mersea did not exist as we know it today, and even travelling to work in Colchester daily would have been difficult from the island.
Read more about the Farmworkers, Fishermen and Crews of Mersea – Click here.