A century ago, Colne boasted 26,000 people, a number of cotton manufactories, some iron foundries, works for the manufacture of looms and mill furnishings, a brewery, a brick works and a goodly amount cattle dealing.
The Colne Times of Friday, 7th August 1914 reported the immediate impact of the declaration of War, with Ambulancemen from Trawden and Colne leaving to serve on ships, hospital ships and in shore-based hospitals. The men marched to the railway station with cheering crowds led by a band. Many other men and women left Colne and surrounding villages to fight or serve in other ways in the weeks, months and years that followed. All those who stayed were affected in some way.
Many men joined the East Lancashire Regiment, famous for the Accrington Pals. The Regiment served on the Western Front, at Gallipoli, and in Macedonia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. In all, they earned a total of 120 Battle Honours and suffered a total of 7,000 casualties.
Colne changed forever.
Colne Commemorates the Great War was designed to help us all remember and to educate us about lesser known aspects of The Great War.
In 2014, we held our first event and despite the rain, Colne turned out en masse with visitors from farther afield to remember. The focus was very much on recruitment and how the Home Front was bound up in the jingoism of the beginning of The Great War. Our lively Poster Campaign and Recruitment Events deployed the same psychological tactics as events a century before.
Two years later, we chose Saturday, 2nd July to hold our second event: Colne Commemorates… 1916. This is was the closest weekend to the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
This time we were generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowing us to host an ambitious schools’ project in addition to a packed schedule of re-enactments and entertainment across the town. Our focus was on the privations of war and we screened the 1916 film, The Battle of the Somme at The Muni, as well as news reels and period accounts of war at The Little Theatre.
In 2018, on 23rd June, we staged our finale to the Colne Commemorates series. Once again, we were generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which allowed us to not only build on the schools’ project, but to include even more elements, from munitionettes to period fashion shows and from tunnelling to convalescence. Heralded by Philippe Handford’s magnificent art installation on Pendle Hill (1918 composed of poppies and stalks made of agricultural fleece), the regions’ eyes were on Colne and our small team, augmented by an army of volunteers, pulled it off! Throughout the day, we ran an enormous, multi stranded and multi venue event. Feedback from visitors, gratifyingly, was that we achieved our aim of remembrance mixed with education with some entertainment thrown in – a challenging mix to attempt.
Please call back to this page soon when we expect to have the film of the 2018 event available for viewing.
In addition, we expect to run an exhibition at The Town Hall in the week prior to Remembrance Sunday, on 11th November, encapsulating all three Colne Commemorates programmes.”