NAAFI memorabilia at the Roman circus visitor centre

On Wednesday (21st March), an interesting item of NAAFI memorabilia arrived here at the Trust’s HQ. It is a page (page 382) from an issue of The War Illustrated, published on the 12th April 1940, during WW2. It shows five great photo.s relating to the NAAFI, and – appropriately for Women’s History Month (March) – these feature some of the women who worked in NAAFIs or for the NAAFI during the war. The NAAFI – the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute – was created to provide catering and leisure facilities and services to ‘the Services’. Our HQ and the Roman circus visitor centre are housed in a building which was built in 1937 as the NAAFI for the Artillery (Le Cateau) Barracks of the old Colchester garrison. Our tea room is in the former NAAFI restaurant, where soldiers would have been served at three counters and then been able to sit at tables and enjoy a cup of tea, cake, beer, and light meals.

We are, of course, re-opening the Colchester Roman circus visitor centre, site and tea room for the summer on Tuesday 27th March! The visitor centre, site and tea room will be open 11.00am-4.00pm, Tuesday-Saturday, until the end of September. Admission is free. Visitor information and map at .

This is our page from an issue of The War Illustrated. 


The War Illustrated was a magazine edited by John Hammerton and printed in London by the Daily Telegraph newspaper. The magazine was also published in ten volumes. You can read The War Illustrated in full online at .

The photo. page includes a photo. taken from behind a counter in a NAAFI restaurant.



The Imperial War Museum holds a very similar photo., taken from behind a counter in the servery of the NAAFI at RAF Oakington in Cambridgeshire during WW2. It shows two ‘NAAFI girls’ hard at work, serving tea and cakes to RAF personnel, apparently during a ‘NAAFI break’. This is a very interesting photo. and a copy of it is on display in our tea room, in what was the servery of our NAAFI. The photo. is displayed in the corresponding position to see the view in this photo., which would have been almost identical to this, with the archway counter, door and stage.


ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1939-1941. (CH 2144) Waitresses serving tea and refreshments to airmen in the NAAFI canteen at Oakington, Cambridgeshire. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: .












This image is copyright the Imperial War Museum – © IWM – (CH 2144). It is posted here with thanks to the Imperial War Museum.

The images below shows the same view in our tea room today, with and without people. [image to follow]



















Read more about our NAAFI on this web-site at . When you visit the Roman circus visitor centre or our tea room, you can walk round most of the ground floor of the former NAAFI, including the rooms or spaces which were, originally, the men’s restaurant, the corporals’ restaurant, the servery, the kitchen, and the two entrance lobbies.