End of the war: what happened next

Magdalen Street shop with Charles Humphrey in the doorway. Courtesy Joan Free

We looked at how the armistice was announced, and the peace celebrated, but also considered that not everyone was able to come home quickly.  We used case studies of Tettrell Coulson, Frederick Millican, Robert Gomer and Ernest Churcher to look at how men could use skills learnt in the war in their civilian life, how Wilfrid Hamblion had a career in aeronautics, and to trace the Humphreys family into later life.

Most men were demobilised by 1919 but not all came home straight away.  Frederick Millican joined the army in 1911, so before the war, but wasn’t  discharged until 1920.  Tettrell Coulson joined the navy in 1911, and remained on mine clearing duties until 1922.

Men were able to put their skills to future use.  Robert Gomer served with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps from 1915 to 1919.  The ROAC were responsible for largely rail based infrastructure logistics – moving equipment and munitions around.  After the war in 1924 Robert joined the Railway Workers Union as a general labourer and in 1939 worked in maintenance on the railways.  

Ernest Churcher was a loco driver with the Royal Engineers during the war and became a train driver after the war.

Wilfrid Hamblion

Wilfrid Hamblion, whose sister Gertrude attended North School, joined the navy in 1918 when he had just turned 18.  He transferred to the newly formed Royal Air Force soon after and remained in the Air Force as an aircraft hand until 1926 spending some of his time in India and Pakistan.  He continued his interest in aircraft after the war and moved to Middlesex where in 1939 he worked for the Ministry of Aviation as an examiner in the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate.

The Newell Family

The Newell family lived at 77 Albert Street.  James and Harriet Newell were parents to Harry, Jessie, Percy, Violet, Alan, Bertie, Archie and Frank. 

Percy, Alan, Bertie and Frank all served in the army or navy before the war. This was quite usual at the time as the forces offered employment, housing, food and clothing.   

Percy (born in 1881) served for a year in the navy in 1896 on HMS Impregnable.  Alan (born in 1882) joined the Army Service Corps in 1901, and rejoined the army in 1914 for the duration of the war.  Bertie (born in 1887) joined the Essex Regiment in 1904 and spent time in India.  He arrived in France in August 1914 and was killed in action in November 1914.  As one of the first Colchester men to be killed in the war, the news was personally delivered by Alderman Blaxhill.  Frank (born 1892) joined the Royal Field Artillery and in 1911 was in South Africa.  He arrived in France on 22nd December 1914 and was killed in March 1915 when he was 24. 

Alan Newell spent time in Australia before the war and returned there at the end, although his wife Margaret and five children remained in Colchester. 

We don’t have any evidence of Archie Newell’s war service, but in the 1920s he was a ham and beef dealer at 34 North Station Road.  He went on to become manager of the Co-op Store in Witham, living there with his mother Harriet and his wife Susan until his death in 1956. 

A Queen Mary tin, given to soldiers for Christmas 1914, that belonged to one of the Newell men has remained in the family.  Inside is a pair of brass boots.   


  One of the Newell brothers’ Princess Mary Christmas tin
Courtesy Michael Woods

The Humphreys

Charlie, Bert and Lawson Humphreys were associated with North Primary School.  After the war Charles, who served with the Canadian Forces, returned to Colchester and set up a chain of greengrocers with branches on Magdalen Street, Culver Street, Old Heath, Eld Lane. 

His younger two brothers, Lawson and Bert were well-known members of the original Colchester football club. This was an amateur club, although for at least one season Lawson became a professional footballer in Scotland.

Football team, 1918 – 1919. Lawson (middle row, first player from left) and Bert in uniform at right end of middle row.
Courtesy of Joan Free