27 The War Years

There is little information regarding the 1st World War  affecting water supplies in Essex. The majority of sources were from underground wells and boreholes. River works had not been constructed until the 1920’s onwards.

Zeppelin over Essex 24-9-1916

Zeppelin downed in Essex 24th September 1916

Lab Report 001

An insight into events during the war can be obtained from the combined Annual Laboratory Report of 1938 to 1947. Individual Annual Reports were made from 1931 to 1937 inclusive, summarising the results of examination of samples from river, reservoir and treated waters, together with effluents from sewage disposal works. The reports also described points of Special interest such as rainfall and river pollution and those arising from the operation of the Langford Treatment Plant and Lime Recovery Plant.

Throughout the war, the work of the Laboratory fell upon Russell Pelly and Mr Morrison making it impossible to produce Annual Reports. In 1945 Mr A L Davis joined the staff as Assistant Chemist,  but there was a substantial  increase in work, owing to the development of the Company’s boreholes, and promotion of the Hanningfield Scheme. Additionally the working conditions of the war had left almost every aspect of the Laboratory requiring an overhaul. The decision was taken to enlarge and re equip the laboratory to accommodate a secretary and an additional assistant. Mr Morrison left on the 28th February 1946 to join the South Essex Waterworks Co as Assistant Chemist, after 19 years at Langford. 

One of the  main restrictions during war time was the blackout requirement, especially on the lime kiln which emitted a large plume of white smoke containing fine lime dust. This would have been easily visible on a bright moonlit night. Also exterior lights on the treatment plant tanks, had to be shaded, which were normally left on for the safety of the plant operatives


There were also problems in the distribution system with bomb damage to water mains.

Bomb Damaged main at Colchester 001

Bomb damage to trunk Main

Abberton Reservoir was used as a practice site for the Dam Busters to practice with bouncing bombs, not activated of course.