16th January 1940 - The Winter of 1940

This evening a tremendous fall of snow began. Never in my life have I seen such a fall. It started about tea time and fell in huge, soft flakes, hour after hour, with a north wind piling it up into drifts. By 10pm there was over a foot deep, and still snowing hard. I think it must be more than the great fall of 1916, which I remember so clearly. To this day I remember the roar of snow sliding off the roofs which so terrified me.

Everything that could have been said about the beauty of snow has been said, but it is a chance we may never have again of seeing heavy snow as they saw it in olden times, silent, white, still, with no street lights to give any touch of modernity [owing to the blackout]. Tonight Bourne Mill and the Pond were transformed in an hour from the 20th century to the 16th, without a single thing visible to connect the scene with the present day. If I were 20 years younger, how I would revel in all this. As it is, while I make the most of its beauty, I wonder how I am going to get hay and fodder down to Bourne Mill, as the hill is now just a sheet of ice.

Eric was the custodian for Bourne Mill, a National Trust property in Colchester and stabled his horse, Bob, and a donkey there.

A photo of Bourne Mill and Pond taken during the recent heavy snow in January 2010 can be seen here and is little changed from the scene Eric describes in 1940.

The winter of 1939-40 was to be the coldest for 45 years. Eric recorded the first snowfall on 29th December 1939 and temperatures remained very low in the intervening weeks with heavy snow beginning on 16th January 1940, adding to the difficulties of life under wartime conditions.

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