Women working

Woman in uniform
Courtesy Colchester Museums

 Although we don’t have the names of any women from North School families who took on jobs at local firms, it is likely some of them did.  Adverts were in local press from clothing factories “Wanted – girls (from 14 – 16 years)” to work making uniforms, with companies turning out 20,000 military garments a month (p.117, Colchester in the Great War).  Women at Paxmans would have been involved in the mass production of munitions. Younger women might take on jobs in shops, worked in local factories or in the military hospitals, as Alice Twyman, Captain Twyman’s wife did.

Alice’s unmarried name was Alice Elizabeth May and she was born in Berkshire.  In 1891 she had come to Colchester, was boarding at 131 Winnock Road and working as a school teacher. 

By 1896 she had become the head teacher of the Central Girls School in Colchester.  Frederick Twyman was the head teacher of Magdalen Street Boys School and perhaps this is how they met because in 1898 they got married.  In 1901 they lived at 55 Roman Road, both employed as school teachers and soon after their children Alfred and Alice were born. 

When the war broke out in 1914 Alice became a Red Cross volunteer nurse.  Initially she worked at St. Martin’s House which was used as an overflow from the main military hospital to treat men who had had a reaction to the vaccinations given to all new recruits. St Martin’s House also became a distribution centre for clothing and footwear for Belgian refugees who had been displaced by the fighting in their country, although it’s not clear if Alice had any contact with this work. 

St Martin’s House, 2018

She transferred to Gostwycke Hospital on Cambridge Road, which had 30 beds treating Territorials at first, then any wounded soldier from September 1915.  

Drawing of Alice Twyman By Year 6 pupil

Alice’s work was part-time and unpaid.  It is recorded that she did over 3,000 hours between 1914 – 1919. In 1921 she was one of 36 women from Gostwycke who received the Red Cross Medal given to volunteers who had served over 1000 hours in a hospital or 500 hours on ambulance duty during the war. 

Could Alice be in this photograph? Gostwycke 2nd Field Ambulance Hospital Staff cSept. 1914-July 1915. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.