Although Colchester has always been militarily important the first barracks were not built until the times of the war with France in 1794.
Once building started in the area to the South of the existing town more barracks were quickly built to include Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry barracks so that within 10 years the Barracks were home to 7,000 men.
From then on the barracks increased in size and importance with a large amount of land like Abbey Fields used for parade, firing ranges, large exercises and housing for the men.
To this day many of the roads bear hallmarks of this time like Barrack Street and Military Road while others have military connections from the Civil War ( Cromwell Road, Lucas Road and Fairfax Road) , Military Leaders and Campaigns ( Poperinghe Road, Ypres Road, Cambraid Road, Aisne Road, Menin Road and Falklands Road).
Colchester remains an important military town and is home to the 16th Air Assault Brigade comprising of three air assault infantry battalions, two aviation regiments, one artillery regiment, and the necessary supporting units. Most of the Brigade is based at modern purpose built accommodation to the South of Colchester.
Many of the old buildings remain having been converted into housing leaving their origin clear.
Abbey Fields is now a recreational park in the centre of the old barracks.
Goojerat Barracks,The Garrison Church, Hospital and the TA Centre still stand in the main complex for visitors to see from public roads.
The Battle for Arnhem, which was battled out on the banks of the Rhine in 1944, was part of Operation Market Garden. It was the code name for a large offensive which aimed to advance from liberated Belgium straight to the middle of the Netherlands and then turn off towards Germany. The aim was to have the bridge conquered. However, the German forces proved to be too strong. Market Garden had failed, Arnhem was a ‘bridge too far’. Much of the old town centre was destroyed. After the battle all Arnhem residents had to leave the town on orders from the German authorities. Subsequently Arnhem was systematically looted by the German army. Arnhem had turned into a ‘ghost town’.
Sgt Eric ‘Herbie’ Atkinson. Originally from Tilbury, Sgt Atkinson was called up in 1939 and trained at Colchester Garrison after joining the Army in 1939 and had already fought at Dunkirk, North Africa and Sicily.
Sgt Atkinson, a gunner in 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery Royal Artillery, was flying to Arnhem in a glider that crashed short of the objective and he was rescued by the Dutch resistance.