Essex role in North American War should be studied in schools - Colchester MP.

Sir Bob Russell MP. Sir Bob Russell MP.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
6:00 AM

It is as important for children to learn about the North American War when Essex soldiers burnt down the White House as the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo, Sir Bob Russell has said.

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The Colchester MP has urged education secretary Michael Gove to include the 19th century war in the history curriculum.

He told the House of Commons that it was soldiers from an east Essex Regiment who destroyed the White House 200 years ago in August 1814.

Sir Bob said that he had been completely unaware of the North American War until last summer, when visited the Canadian International Military Tattoo in Hamilton, Ontario, where a reenactment of the war was performed.

“I think it is totally amiss that this important chapter of British history has been airbrushed from what is taught in schools. He added: “What makes it even more astonishing, in a local context, is that it was our own local regiment – the 1st Battalion of the 44th East Essex Regiment – which actually burnt down the White House on 24th August 1814 and caused the President of the USA to flee. It is a fair bet that men from Colchester would have been there, something which I am hoping to establish.”

Mr Gove, who was questioned on the subject in the House of Commons did not directly answer the question.

He said: “I have always had cause to thank people not just for the superb way in which history is taught in Colchester and across Essex, but for the distinguished contribution that public servants in Essex, both in uniform and out of it, have made to this country.”

He said, before he was interrupted, that it was only appropriate to remember that the war of 1812 to 1814 was a “cousins” war.

But added that “we should extend the hand of amity”, as I do to my American cousins.

“Even as we remember their valour, we should also celebrate the fact that we work together in the brotherhood of man today.”

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