This plaque commemorates the listed building constructed in 1874-75 as the Officers’ Quarters of the Royal Artillery Barracks. In more recent times the building has been known as the Garrison Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess and now thoughtfully converted into eight luxury homes with the name “Sergeants’ Mess Building”.
The detailed architecture of the Officers’ Quarters makes it arguably the most prominent building in one of the earliest and best persevered permanent barracks of the Victorian Colchester Garrison. It is also the last barracks in the United Kingdom to have been constructed around what was the traditional Military Camp Plan. As such the surviving Grade 2 Listed buildings are the only known examples of what was then a new layout of barracks, developed at Aldershot in the 1850s, for large-scale training camps. Collectively these Grade 2 Listed buildings are of historical and national importance.
Additionally, as a matter of interest, in what was the Officers’ front garden (lawn tennis court) that the remains of the Colchester Roman Circus Starting Gates were discovered in 2004.
This plaque is in remembrance of Major Raymond England, Battery Commander 88th Battery, 14th Brigade and the men of the Royal Field Artillery, who lost their lives at the Battle of Le Cateau on 26th August 1914. The battle will always be remembered for the bravery of the men who fought in it, five VCs were awarded, three of which were to 37th Battery Royal Field Artillery which was the last mounted artillery battery to be stationed at Le Cateau Barracks in 1937. This was a result of mechanisation within the Royal Artillery when vehicles replaced horses. (This led to the establishment of a large engineering workshop on the site which became the REME workshop and its later years ABRO Colchester providing engineering support to military units based in the east of England).
There were two name changes of the barracks during its lifetime, both of which reflect important events in military and British history. As a result of a major reorganization of the army in 1899 the Royal Artillery Barracks became the Royal Field Artillery Barracks, and following the Great War the barracks were renamed, Le Cateau Barracks, this being to commemorate the actions of the Royal Field Artillery in the Battle of Le Cateau.
The plaques will now be added to the Colchester’s Civic Society Military and Wartime Plaque Trail for the public to follow and increase their understanding of Colchester’s multi- layered military history.
We have Paul Knappett and a small team including members of the Colchester Civic Society exec committee, Colchester Archaeological Trust (CAT) and residents of the Sergeants’ Mess building to thanks for the production of these plaques and arranging for the necessary permissions. In addition funding is underway for a permanent monument to commemorate the history of the building, the barracks, the setting (including the Circus Starting Gates which can be seen in the photo below) and the Battle of Le Cateau after which these barracks were renamed in commemoration of the action by the Royal Field Artillery during the Battle of Le Cateau during the 1914/18 ‘Great War’.
One important piece of information which has yet to be established before this memorial can be completed is the actual date at which the Royal Field Artillery Barracks was renamed Le Cateau Barracks. Please get in touch if you can help with this. Also please get in touch if you are interested in helping to fund this memorial . You can do so by clicking this email link firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are photos of the Sergeants Mess and the unveiling ceremony.