26th July 1944

Wednesday
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.

25th July 1944

Tuesday
Up 8.30.  Fine and sunny.  Heavy ‘planes going out.  Felt rotten during night, but a little better this morning.

During the morning Daven Soar came in with his lovely little daughter.  Arranged to go out with him tonight.

Very tired.  Slept after lunch.  Cycling along Magdalen Street saw Rene and her child going up the steps into the old house.  Didn't see me.  Thought I heard Brantham alarm just after.

Busy all day on the aftermath of Committee.  Capt. Folkard very sad about the Joe Percival row.  Nothing from Chairman.

Tonight called for Daven, and cycled off, first to Layer, then to Fingringhoe, then across the ferry to Wivenhoe, calling at pubs.  All very silly and rather amusing.  Became very fuddled and can't remember where we went or what we talked about it.  Daven is now stationed at Harrogate, and is having a very nice time indeed.  How I envy him.  [Daven Soar was a Post Office Telephone Engineer and had been a school friend of Rudsdale's].

Got back to Colchester about 11 o’clock, still quite light, and left him at the top of Brook Street, with much promising to meet again soon.  He is trying to get a job abroad, at Khartoum or somewhere like that.  Sees no future in this country.

Had to be on duty at 1am so made my way slowly in the direction of the Post.  Somehow found myself at the railway crossing at the old Brickyard and walked in a confused way into the side of an engine which happened to be standing there. 

Felt so tired and dizzy that I lay down on the grass by the cart track, near where the firework factory used to be, and dozed off, only to be awakened by the sirens and the noise of a ‘diver’ roaring over on the other side of the town.  Had no idea of the time, and in a panic hurried to Horkesley, only to get there 20 minutes too early.  However, felt much better by that time, and the other men noticed nothing.  About 1am a balloon came drifting over, lit by the searchlights, and the Bromley guns fired at it as it crossed the coast.  Great flashes showed where the trailing gable dragged across the high tension wires.

Fell asleep twice during the watch, but we had nothing on our sector.  Bed 5.30am, exhausted.  Very hot.

24th July 1944

Monday
Up again at 8, and office at 10 past 9, getting in before Capt. Folkard.  Busy all morning on Committee work. 

Birch at 2.15, Col. Round told us that one of the ‘divers’ missed Birch Hall “by feet”, and passed right over Birch Church.  Noticed beds have been brought down into the front hall and the gun-room.  Mrs Round is home, but rather weak, and feels a little nervous.

Meeting was fairly short, and had great hopes of getting off by 5.30, but right at the end a most distressing thing happened.  The Chairman said, as he always does, “Well now, has anybody got anything else?  Claude? Frank? Gardner? Joe?”  And Joe Percival got up and said very quietly “Only this Sir, I want to give you my resignation.  I think you know why.  But I’d like to thank you for all your kindness, and now I’ll be goin’.”  He walked to the door and opened it.  The Committee was quite stunned, and the Chairman called out “I won't take it like that, Joe, you know,” but Joe only said quietly “Alright, Sir, I’ll be writing to you,” and shut the door behind him.

So there we all sat in the gloom, everybody sad and angry, nobody knowing what to say.  At last the Chairman said “Well, we’d best go away and think this over,” so we all went.  Left Capt. Folkard at the Regal, and as I went round Headgate saw Joe and Alec Craig talking in Craig’s car.  Wished I hadn't seen them.  Who can say what intrigues there are.

Decided to go to Higham, felt so very depressed.  Found Jacqui Conran very charming, and spent a most delightful evening until nearly midnight.  Started back to Boxted by way of Langham Mill, and decided to curl up on a stack near the Stoke road for an hour or two.  Suddenly wakened by a ‘diver’ about 4 in the morning, and saw the thing rush past about half a mile away, going west, a most terrifying sight.

Decided to move away, and thought how amazed Alec Page would be if he knew that the Committee Secretary had slept on one of his straw stacks.  Boxted at 4.30, and went to bed, still greatly saddened about Committee affairs.  I had had a slight hint that things were bad between Joe Percival and old Warren, but had no idea that they were so bad as to make Joe resign.  The trouble started with Joe criticising Frank Warren’s methods of dealing with the Committee’s cattle and grazing land.  Frank Warren is a complete dictator in these matters, and does just as he likes.  This of course has been going on for a long time, until Joe took it on himself to complain to the Chairman of the Executive Committee one day last week when he was at Writtle.  Kemsley then spoke to Round, who was furious, and told Joe if he was not satisfied with the work of other members of the Committee he’d better resign, and he has.  It’s very tragic, because Joe and Col. Round have been great friends for many years.

23rd July 1944

Sunday
Had three hours sleep in bed, then up at 8 to be on the post at 9.  Cloudy and cool.  Lots of Forts circling which kept us busy.  Saw in the log that there were 9 ‘divers’ yesterday, which seemed to come in over Bradwell. 

Forts formed up and went off S.E. then we could hear the sound of church bells faintly all along the valley, - Stoke, Higham, and nearer at hand Boxted and Gt. Horkesley.  Many larks singing.  Field of oats traved near the Post.  Everything is very dry now.

To Dedham this afternoon, where everybody seemed very optimistic about ‘divers’ – considered the damage was not so severe, and that the launching sites would soon be out of use.  Personally cannot help thinking that there must be many more launching sites much further east.

Left at 11.30 to go to the Post again – second watch in 24 hours.  Very dark night, and clouds rolling up from the South.  Had no cycle lamps, but trusted to luck not to meet a policeman.  Searchlights lying low along the valley made a sort of green moonlight against the clouds.

As I went down the hill by Lt Rivers the alarms sounded.  There were many ‘planes about, and masses of searchlights further west, and distant gunfire.  Then heard the chugging of a ‘diver’, some distance to the S., but it went on.  An aircraft carrying headlamps like a car came in and landed at Langham.  Got to the Post before one, and heard that two ‘divers’ had gone over, a little S. of the town.  They had not exploded anywhere on our board.  A few minutes later a huge mass of bombers came in, back from a raid, each batch lit by a bunch of searchlights.  As the warning was still on, thought how terrified people in the town must be, to hear such a roar of aircraft.  Was glad when “all-clear” sounded in about 10 minutes.

Very dark morning for July, and heavy clouds. 

22nd July 1944

Saturday
Up at 8.30.  Slept well.  Dull morning.  At office heard that there was an alarm at 2am, and that nine ‘divers’ passed over Tiptree, going west.  Seems very odd, can't understand where they are coming from.

Daphne gave me an American cream chocolate this morning – haven't had such a thing for years.

Got out about 11, and went to the Town Hall.  Saw Harvey and was just beginning to talk about the possibility of my leaving the Museum, which he much deplored, when Sam Blomfield walked in.  Very awkward.

An addition to the photo survey today – very nice picture of 6 Trinity Street, taken by an American.

Went on to the market this afternoon, then home for three-quarters of an hour, then had tea in Culver Street.  Greatly miss not being able to go into Holly Trees.  Went to library, saw an account of the last Suffolk Sale at Ipswich – one of Frank Warren’s geldings made 200 gns.  These prices are really too high, and likely to do breeding more harm than otherwise.

Went out to Boxted at half past 6, and then on to the Roses’, but did not seem very welcome.  Dodo is now undergoing some form of medical treatment which necessitates her going to bed exactly at 9.30.  Being in a bad mood, could not understand how anybody could even think about bed, so left, and went cycling, though cloudy and cold.  Went through Stratford, where there was a big patch of blood near the bridge, and then round by the Hall, hoping to see Ann Barry, but nobody there.  Went on to Higham, and up the back road towards Raydon.  Found a lovely stack in a very lonely field, where I sat and dozed for an hour until cold drove me on.  Listened to the strange night noises in the hedges and trees, birds talking in their sleep.

Cycled round by Langham Mill and Plumbs Farm, reaching “Woodside” shortly after midnight.  Wished it were later.  Took some blankets, and went and lay in the cornfield behind the house until 4 in the morning, when light began to come.  Heard badgers moving in the wood.  No ‘planes all night, and no gunfire either.

21st July 1944

Friday
Got into bed by 5.30, and was late in as usual, but fortunately Capt Folkard not there.  No time to shave, and felt filthy.

Heavy gunfire towards London all the morning.  Very hot and sunny.

This afternoon a wretched creature called Hull (name of ill-omen) came down from the Ministry of Works to see about requisitioning the big house in New Town Road for a new office.

Went in with him, with my plans and details (seemed strange to stand in the room where I last saw my very dear friend A.G. Wright nearly 17 years ago, and to see the room where he died).  This fellow Hull was very objectionable from the first, and when I said something about the allocation of a room for Committee use he said unpleasantly: “I’m afraid I can't possibly allow you to do that …”  Whereupon I instantly shouted: “Well come and run the bloody War Agricultural Committee yourself!” tore up the plans, hurled the fragments at him, rushed from the room, slammed the door in his face and felt much better.

Walling was there at the time, looking like a sick cat, but the look on this man Hull’s face was even better.

This evening went to see “Snow White” again, first time since 1939.  Enjoyed it.  Called at home, Father very well, then had a coffee in a milk-bar in Pelham’s Lane.  There was an American there, with one of the American WAACs, an elderly grey haired woman who looked well over 50.  He was very rugged and weather beaten, and spoke with a very broad western accent, so broad that the girl behind the counter could not understand a word he said.  He was rude and brusque to a degree, and everybody stared at him as if he was some sort of animal.  He and the WAAC sat close together and nobody spoke to them or offered to help them.

Boxted at 9.30.  Wind rising, almost a gale.  Bed at 11.30, hoping for a quiet night.  Very tired.  Stories in press today suggesting that Hitler is mad or dead.

20th July 1944

Thursday
Fine morning, after a quiet night, but wakened early by the roar of ‘planes going out.  Got in rather late, but before 9.30.  Labour rows all morning.  Engledow came down, - what an unpleasant creature he is.  Much argument about poor Wratten’s death.  Apparently we are clear of any claim as it happened in her own time. 

Admitted in the press today that the “diver” attacks on London have very much increased.  Situation is getting worse daily.  What on earth is to happen during the winter?  Actual damage is being kept very secret.

Some of our oats are cut at Wigborough.

This evening cycled down to Sheepen to see how the place looked, and went along the by-pass to see some of Mr. Craig’s cows in the water-meadows.  As I stood there a young woman dressed in pink came along on a cycle, and got off to speak to me.  She was smiling in a most friendly manner, but as soon as she began to speak it was clear that she was quite mad.  Could not understand anything she said, and came away.  Her cycle was brand new.

To Boxted, and had a terrible stomach-ache on the way.  Could not move for 10 minutes.  Went slowly towards the Post soon after midnight, as I had to be there at one.  How eerie these lanes are at night.  Many ‘planes going out, their navigation lights shining.  “Divers” on when I got there, and soon after there was considerable gunfire to the south, and we could see with the glasses a “diver” going over Bradwell apparently coming in from the south-east.  Fear that the Germans must be building new launching-platforms right up the Belgian coast, although one would have thought the distance across the North Sea would have been too great.

Clouds came over very thick, and we were busy the best part of an hour, on the alert, in case any “divers” turned northwards into the Foxes’ area. [Rudsdale's Observer Post at Great Horkesley was known as 'Fox One' and was one of three 'Fox' Posts in North Essex].  At last it was over, and we were able to make the tea.