Capturing the history of Britain’s largest army base

15 August 2012

An innovative project to tell the story of Catterick Garrison through the eyes, ears and mouths of the people who lived and worked there is to begin this summer.

Garrison Voices will record the history of the largest British Army base in the world through a mix of oral history recording, maps, photographs, and written documents.

The project, which is being led by North Yorkshire County Council’s County Record Office and the library service, has been awarded a grant of £26,000 by the Ministry of Defence Community Covenant Fund, which will pay for a part-time project officer. Other partners involved in Garrison Voices include the County Council’s Adult Learning Service, the Green Howards Museum, the Catterick Garrison History Group, local schools, and voluntary and veterans’ organisations.

County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, Executive Member for Libraries and Information Services said:

This is a tremendous opportunity to preserve the history of this extremely important base through the eyes of people who have actually lived and worked there.

It will increase mutual understanding between the military and civilian communities of Catterick Garrison and its hinterland, as well as preserving vivid memories of what it has been like to live and work there over the generations.

Catterick Garrison was founded by Lord Baden Powell at the beginning of the First World War. During the Second World War, the camp was home to more than 40,000 service personnel. Today, with some 13,000 personnel – military, civilian, and their dependents – it is the biggest military garrison in Western Europe, covering 2,400 acres with a further 20,000 acres of training grounds. All infantry soldiers in the British Army receive their basic training at Catterick.

Councillor Metcalfe added: 

Catterick Garrison has played a hugely important part in the life of North Yorkshire and the British Army for almost one hundred years.

It is fitting that we should all get together at this point, on the eve of the centenary, to do our best to ensure that the history of the Garrison is properly documented.

The project will bring together veterans, local residents, volunteers, and members of the Services community to record and celebrate a people’s history of the Garrison, to be set alongside a snapshot of life at the base in the present day.

Oral history recording will be the primary method of capturing information, and special attention will be paid to aspects of life where the civilian and service communities intersect, such as sport, leisure and entertainment, education, transport, and community life.

Work on the project will begin this summer, and will culminate – around the 100th anniversary of the camp’s foundation – with a travelling exhibition suitable for libraries, museums, galleries, supermarkets, pubs, village halls, and clubs; a commemorative book; a “time capsule” of memories for permanent preservation and future reference; and a project website with full social media connectivity.


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