War and Remembrance: Dunmow’s Emergency Committee

It is a well known that during the Second World War (1939-1945), Britain prepared itself for the potential invasion of the country by Nazi Germany. However, not so well known is that during the First World War (1914-1918), with German Zeppelins flying over head in the skies above East Anglia and London, invasion by the Germans was also feared. Across rural East Anglia, various towns and villages set up Emergency Committees to inform and advise the population what to do in case of invasion.

Below is a leaflet written by Great Dunmow’s Emergency Committee informing the town what to do if the threat became reality and Germany invaded. The leaflet is dated January 1915, showing that fears of invasion had already been felt to be very real threat within the first 6 months of the Great War, and an evacuation plan had been drawn up.

Great War - Great Dunmow's Emergency Committee

Great War - Great Dunmow's Emergency Committee

Great War - Great Dunmow's Emergency Committee

Great War - Great Dunmow's Emergency Committee

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2 Responses to War and Remembrance: Dunmow’s Emergency Committee

  1. I’m sure that, despite the reassurance that ‘a hostile landing is no more likely to occur now than in the earlier stages of the war’, that the publication of this document would have been greatly unsettling for everyone. Not only would they know of air raids having taken place but many would have encountered Belgian refugees fleeing hostilities there, or heard some of their tales. There’s a tendency to remember the war in the horrors of the trenches, but the effects of the hostilities on the men, women and children remaining on the ‘home front’ should not be forgotten either.

  2. the narrator says:

    The threat of invasion, and what had happened to Belgium, must have been a very real threat and have caused such a considerable concern so that the powers-that-be in towns and villages across East Anglia had to organise official plans so early on.

    According to the Great Dunmow’ local historian, Dorothy Dowsett, writing in the 1970s, recalled that they could hear the noise of the guns on the Western Front actually in Great Dunmow during the Battle of Mons (23 August 1914). The town itself had been full of troops from very early on in the war – the Sherwood Foresters arrived in the town in November 1914 and left the area in the December. So the war was very much present to those left behind on the ‘home front’ – particularly those in East Anglia.

    The plan itself is fascinating. The major routes all around the area had been designated military roads. Meaning that if the area had to be evacuated, then the people would have basically had to flee across tiny tracks and fields.

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