1st August 1944

Alarm at 7.30 this morning but don't mind them very much then.  Dull and cool, but cleared up after lunch.

Going in, saw a coffin being brought out of a house near Severalls Farm. 

Daphne and Walling had another of their bitter quarrels this morning.  Seemed to go on for hours.

Busy this afternoon writing a review of old May’s book, “Britain’s Good Earth”, which is really extraordinarily good.

This evening to cinema with Daphne to see “Pygmalion”, beautifully done, which I enjoyed very much.  This is quite one of the best performances of Leslie Howard.

Went back to Boxted with Daphne, got in at 9.30.  Sat talking to Goodbody for an hour, he telling me stories about Ireland.  He said that it was a common story over there that Michael Collins was really murdered by his own chauffeur, over a quarrel about his (Collins’) wife.  Goodbody is a Protestant, in fact of Quaker upbringing, and is very “anti-Irish”.

He also told a story about a ship being sunk by a submarine off Africa, and the captain of the submarine helped the passengers and crew into lifeboats and agreed to stand by until help came.  Later other submarines appeared, and they too stood by as the weather became rough.

When the passengers reached England and told the story they were warned that if they spread it about proceedings would be taken under the Defence Regulations. 

Heard today that the mother of a Land Girl named Cornish has been killed by a flying-bomb, and that the fiancĂ© of Ivy Pass, another Land Girl, is said to have gone mad through finding parts of a body when clearing up a bombed house site in London.  Ivy Pass is a very attractive girl who helps with Women's Land Army timesheets.

Mentioned to Father today that I might have fortnight on the Broads with Sissons this month, just to get him into the mood that I might be going away for three weeks or even a month if I can do it.

31st July 1944

To Post at 1.00am, a fine, brilliant moonlight night.  There was an alarm soon after midnight, just before I set out, and another at 3.30, but nothing came into this area, and there was no sound of gunfire.  Young Carter was on with me, and we talked all night about farming, ghosts, witches, and so on.  Some of his old grandmother’s tales are very good.

Clouds came up, but it was warm.  Felt very sleepy, and glad to get into bed at 5.30am.  Slept until 8.45, and did not get in until nearly 10.  Capt. Folkard furious.  Luckily no meeting today.  He himself works 14 or 15 hours a day, Sundays as well, and has the lowest opinion of anybody who does less.

Vast numbers of planes going out all morning.  Worked hard all afternoon until 6, then to Lawford.  Joy let me have 2 dozen eggs for Father, which will delight him. 

Back to Boxted, fine cool evening, and bed 11.30.

'Young Carter' who shared Royal Observer Corps duty with E.J. Rudsdale on this day 70 years ago is Douglas Carter, who was born in Boxted, went on to serve in the RAF and is now the village's historian.  Douglas has written a number of excellent books on the history of Boxted, which give a wonderful insight into the village.  Boxted's village website gives details of these publications.  CP

30th July 1944

Woke again to find a brilliant fine morning, and by the time I had breakfast and bath it was nearly one, so had to hurry to have lunch with Maidstone and his wife at Layer Marney.

Went quickly by way of the By Pass (noticed a little piebald pony and foal on our grass at Sheepen) and along Straight Road, Peartree Lane and Warren Lane, to Heckford Bridge.  Met Finn, the newsagent from Magdalen St. walking in Warren Lane.  Saw a combine in a barley field at Birch, I suppose Barbour’s, out on contract.  Can't stand the things.

Saw the Home Guard going home to dinner, and horses standing under trees, swishing flies.  At last came to the great red tower above the trees, and found the Maidstones very comfortable in one of the little cottages by the church.  She is a Czech, short and plump, and very charming.  They were waiting for me, and I was most apologetic, saying truthfully that had been out late on duty.

Delicious lunch, then walked out among the fields and round the farm buildings.  All empty, as we keep no cattle here, the men refusing to go so far to feed them, so all these yards, and hundreds of tons of straw, are wasted.  Last year’s straw stacks are still there.  Only 2 horses in the paddock, and one of my Ardleigh trollies in the lodge.

Noticed a field of beans, cut and traved, I should say nearly 50% barley, self sown from last year.  The amount of corn which shales owing to bad handling and the use of machinery is shocking.

Had tea, aeroplanes going over all the time, high in a deep blue sky studied with fat white clouds.  Mrs Maidstone finds the place a peaceful haven after Chessington, where she says the damage is enormous.  Almost everybody they knew there has had damage done or suffered injuries since the flying bombs began.

After tea went into the church, and saw pools of water on the floor of the Marney chapel, standing an inch deep, and filth and mess everywhere.  The east window of the chapel is likely to fall out into the churchyard at any moment, the mullions and jambs crumbling away, while the east wall is a mass of green slime where the water runs down.  The monuments were like little islands among the pools of water.  Am determined to do something to attempt to remedy this, and shall write to O’Neil and Sisson, and to Mrs.  Arundel Esdaile.  This country can spend £13,000,000 a day on a wicked senseless war, but cannot find £300 or £400 to save this church.

It is very wrong that these monuments have been uncovered, as they are now in as great a danger as they have been at any time during the war.

Left at 7, cycling slowly.  Met two pretty girls riding near Birch Rectory, and a group of people in bright coloured summer dresses walking back from church.

At Stanway Hall saw dear Caradoc, my first pony, in the paddock.  He looks very fit, and must be 20 or 25 now.  It is ten years since I sold him, and he has had 10 very happy years there.

To Boxted, then Post.

29th July 1944

Up again at 8, and office 9.15.  Usual Saturday rush and hurry.  Not out till nearly 2, and so no lunch but a cup of coffee.

Horseshow at Chelmsford today, but could not go.  Fine this morning, but rain in afternoon.

Went home to tea, then left for the Post, being on from 9 to 1am.  One of the Horkesley policemen came in for a chat, and was talking about the affair at “Woodside” Gt. Horkesley, some months ago.  This place had been fitted out as a brothel for Americans, when one night some 8th Army men, who had learnt to hate the Americans in Italy, raided the place and smashed it to pieces.  There was not a piece of glass or furniture left.  This was all hushed up at the time, but the general opinion is that it was a good thing.  The English police can't touch these American brothels for fear of upsetting the “allies”.

Quite a dull watch, and nothing to report.  Went off at 1.00, intending to go home, but turned back at the corner and hurried down to the stack by the marshes.  Then wished I hadn’t – felt quite cold with terror, lying on the stack in the silence of the night, and overcome with a feeling of horrid premonition, in fact felt I was expecting the sirens which sounded almost immediately.  Tried hard to lie still under the yellow moon, but could not, in case something crept up on me from behind the stack, so had to get out of the warm straw and stand shivering, listening to the distant guns, and the wailing of sirens over in Suffolk.  Yet the sky was clear but for the moon and the stars. 

But it was soon over, and slept peacefully for 4 hours, lulled by the cries of herons and owls, and the rustling of rats in the stack.  Woke to find a light rain faling, and heard the Nayland church clock strike 5.  A pale yellow glow in the NE, and thin watering clouds drifting over. 

Had a message for Dunsley at White Park Farm, so walked up the driveway and pushed it under the door.  Not a sound anywhere but the rustling of something in a stable. 

Cycled back to “Woodside”.  Near Water Lane a young red setter bitch came trotting along, a piece of cord round her neck.  She refused to be shaken off so I had to shut her in the wash-house with some water.

Then to bed.

28th July 1944

Quiet night, and had some sound sleep, without dreams.  Many ‘planes going out between 6 and 7.  Amusing rumours at the office that these long strips of paper, dropped to confuse the radar systems, are really coated with germs.  Quite a lot of the country folks believe this.  Newspapers printing a lot of stuff about 10 ton “rocket bombs” which may be expected very soon.

The ‘diver’ I heard yesterday evening was at Peldon, near the Reservoir.  Capt. Folkard was at Abberton and saw it crash.  Not much damage though, except for some windows. 

This evening went down to Peldon with Daphne, and then to Copt Hall, thinking we might ride Robin, but the saddles and bridles have gone.  Lovely evening.  Crops mostly look well, but some of the Committee wheat a bit smutty.

Back to Boxted at 11 o’clock, and heard that a Marauder from the aerodrome crashed in Mill Road today, killing the pilot.

Felt very depressed this evening, and sat up until midnight looking up trains in the time-tables.  Hear that Dr Penry Rowland has gone away, just when I want to see him so badly.

27th July 1944

Before coming off at 1.00am heard rumours that 176 out of 260 ‘divers’ had been destroyed in 24 hours, but we hear that damage in S. London is enormous.  ‘Diver’ came on again as the reliefs took over, and the sirens sounded as I came past the “Queen’s”.  Felt very queer, and turned away down to Harrow Corner, went along the path, and slept 2 hours in a ditch until a gentle rain began to fall.  Made my way over the fields to the back of Sprott’s Marsh, and then along the ditch to Woodside, hauling the cycle with me.  At last crawled into bed at 5.30.

However, managed to get to the office early.  Odd incident this morning – Herbert Hardy Fisher, the Deputy Mayor, was sent in from the Labour Exchange with a green card, to be interviewed as a possible clerk.  The position in which he finds himself is quite fantastic.  For better or worse he holds several very important posts in the Corporation, among other things being one of the Special Emergency Committee of Three (The Mayor, Pye and Fisher) who would take over the management of the entire town in event of an invasion or a devastating air-raid.  His only employment is that of an insurance agent, which the Ministry of Labour claim as being unnecessary and propose to direct him to other work.  Fisher himself seemed quite reasonable about the whole business, but pointed out that he had to spend at least a third of his time at the Town Hall.  When he told this to the Ministry of Labour they replied that the Council ought to get “retired people” to sit on Committees!

I ‘phoned the Ministry of Labour, but could get no sense from them, so ran out up to the Town Hall and had a word with Harvey.  He told me that the Town Clerk had done all he could, but the Man Power Board were adamant, and when the Town Clerk pointed out how important Fisher’s committee work was he was told that they must get an older man for that sort of thing!

However, the District Officer has no intention of taking Fisher, as the whole business would be too absurd, so I marked his card “not suitable” and sent it back.  Felt very sorry for him.

Culley had a curious story today.  He says that at about 6.30 this morning there was knocking at the door of his lodgings by the fire station, and on opening it he was surprised to see a stark naked man standing there.  They apparently gazed in some astonishment at each other for some moments, and then the man turned and ran towards the Park.  The police were sent for, and found him near the Rat Ditch.  He had got out of Severalls, and had come 12 miles, quite naked, without being seen.  Curious, when one considers the number of police, wardens, and so on that we have about.

I hear that Tom Turner is cataloguing the Saxon coins in the Museum.

Was in the town again this afternoon, and coming back heard the alarms at 3.15, so went into the Park.  There was a light shower falling, so went over to the trees in the Holly Trees Field and sat down under them.  A lot of people were running into the Castle and the other shelters.  Noise of either ‘planes or ‘divers’ among the clouds not far away.  There was a bald, middle-aged man sitting under the next tree, with his bicycle leaning against it.  He began to call over to me:

“Nice rain.”
“Spoilt my writing,” indicating a letter-pad on his knee.
“Oh, yes?”
There was a noise of something diving rapidly, and people walking over the grass looked up.
“Had my bike stolen three years ago.”
“Oh had you?  Did you get it back?”
No, he didn't.  This was a new one.  After explaining how he bought it at great length he then said:
“I don't worry much about these alarms, do you?”
“Oh no, not in the least.”  Just then the ‘all-clear’ rang out, and the rain stopped.
“Be nice” he said “when we can come out and not hear that bloody thing.  Suppose we shall be able to one day, if we live long enough!  Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Went back to the office until 6 o’clock.  More heavy showers.

This evening went up to Daven Soar’s.  Another alarm at 7.30, while we were in his garden, and a heavy explosion towards the south.  Then we went out to the “Beehive” and the “Leather Bottle” for a couple of hours.  Daven thinks war is going badly, and no sign of end.

Got to Boxted, 10.30 and to bed at 11.15, feeling much better than lately.

26th July 1944

Not up until 8.30, and not at office till quarter to 10.  Capt. Folkard was furious, but said nothing.  Lovely morning, very hot.  Wheat is now a deep gold.  Great flocks of sparrows flying about, always a trouble near towns.

When cycling in had a sudden idea regarding the date of sea-walls – the Mersea block-house was built during the Civil War: would it be worthwhile to examine its conjunction with the sea-wall at that point?  No doubt the wall is earlier, but it would be nice to know.

An alarm this afternoon at quarter past 2.  Heard a few distant bangs.  Opened the window to hear better but all my papers blew away.  Had tea at Last’s.  Hoped to find Diana there, but she was not.  Then home, was delighted to find that Father had slept through the alarm last night.  He often does nowadays.

Had some supper at Culver St CafĂ© and then hurried to the Post by 9.  Lovely cool summer evening.  ‘Diver’ came on at 10 o’clock, and we hurried to get the tea put on before anything happened.  Glorious sunset to the NW, behind high cloud masses piled up in fantastic hills and valleys, with a rugged coast-line fretted with deep fjords and locks, dotted with islands set in a greeny golden sea.  Over the ‘phones heard them say that 4 ‘divers’ had just been destroyed over Kent.  Birds singing all round, and then a sudden sharp shot from the copse behind Ridgnalls.  In the distance a gentle hum of invisible aircraft.  Wonder who has been killed in Kent at the end of this lovely day?

Heard them say at Centre that 8 out of 10 ‘divers’ had been destroyed short of London, but one had gone off to a point S.W. of Cambridge.