EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

30th April 1940

At about 11.15 tonight the whole town was shaken by a tremendous explosion. Doors and windows rattled, china jumped about. We were all sitting in the dining room, round the fire. Mother and Father were considerably startled. I looked outside but all was black as pitch, and nothing more could be heard. I expect it must be another explosion in a munitions works. Perhaps at Lt. Oakley or even Waltham Abbey.

See Eric's post on 1st May 1940 and 9th May 1940 for more information on this explosion.

28th April 1940

Suddenly decided to go over to Hadleigh to see Dr Taylor’s Memorial, in order to obtain details for a story with I have had in mind for some time now, and which one day I might write. Cycled off towards Nayland, and on the Boxted Road came upon Page, of the Treasurer’s Office. He is now in the Territorials and is at Newmarket. He did not seem very happy.

Went on by Langham to Thorington Street, passed Thorington Hall, looking as lovely as ever, but all closed up and shuttered. There were 3 Suffolk horses standing in the stream nearby, and the sun shone brightly. The farms looked good and well ploughed. I wonder if Penrose [the owner of Thorington Hall] will ever see the old Hall again? On up the little valley passed the old mill and so through lovely country to Hadleigh, beginning to feel very tired indeed. Went up to see the Monument, and found it just as it is always shown in pictures, although a hedge boundary now runs near it, and all the land is ploughed. In a little farmyard next the Monument field, a group of men were trying a beautiful grey cob under saddle. Overhead RAF planes soared towards the coast.

Hadleigh town itself does not look very war-like. There are a few sandbags round the police station and the Territorial Army HQ, but nothing else. Many old houses have been demolished in the last few years, leaving unsightly gaps in the streets.

Hadleigh’s Rector, Dr Rowland Taylor, was a religious martyr, burnt at the stake for his Protestant faith at nearby Aldham Common in 1555 during the reign of Mary I. The people of Hadleigh lined the streets in support of Dr Taylor as he rode to the place of execution. A memorial stone, erected in 1818, marks the place where he was burnt at the stake.

Professor Lionel Penrose owned Thorington Hall and gave it to the National Trust in 1940 after he had taken up a medical appointment in Canada.

27th April 1940

Heard a cuckoo at Bourne Mill this morning. Men of 26 registered for military service today. The ginger-headed consciencious pacifist stood outside the Labour Exchange all day, holding up a pacifist placard. He is a brave man. Crowds in the Museums. It is pathetic to see the young lads in shorts cycling up to the Castle on Saturdays. I wonder how many are having their last holidays?

24th April 1940

Very wet and colder. Went to the Repertory Theatre tonight, to see “The Man who Changed his Name”, by Edgar Wallace. Quite amusing. Moon came out in late evening.

23rd April 1940

A Budget was announced today, with Income Tax at 7/6 in the pound. Who cares at £3 per week?

Eric was earning £3 a week as an Assistant Curator at Colchester Castle Museum - slightly under the average working man's wage of £3-9s in 1939.

The Wartime Letters of J W N Broom

Readers of Eric's blog might be interested to learn of a new blog which posts wartime letters written by J W N Broom to his family, entitled: Onward Christian Soldier. Broom served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Second World War and his letters detail his experiences. Broom was born in Colchester in 1916, making him a near contemporary of Eric Rudsdale's and his letters provide an interesting parallel to Eric's blog, especially as they both shared a pacifist outlook.

John Broom, J W N Broom's son, has set up this blog and is preparing the letters for future publication. Thank you, John, for letting me know about your blog. CP

20th April 1940

Mr Rowles, former Witham Schoolmaster, came in and brought a beautiful little bronze Madonna and Child [as] a gift. It was found in Guithavon Avenue [in Witham] a few years ago.

19th April 1940

They have begun two more shelters on the W. side of the Castle, on the line of the forum walls.

More details on the extent of air raid shelter provision at Colchester Castle and Castle Park can be found here.

18th April 1940

Bitterly cold day, with heavy rain. Had to go out this afternoon in a torrential downpour to get bran, which is still 4/9 per half cwt. Felt very ill.

14th April 1940

This morning I drove over to Fingringhoe, and had lunch with Hervey Benham. He seems to be very happy now, but worries in case his [Coastal Patrol] station is moved away from Brightlingsea. It would be such a shame if he has to leave his little cottage less than a year after taking it.

After tea I had to go back and feed Nick and Bob, and met Charlie Woods on the way, and had a discussion with him about army service, as it appears he is 27. I always thought he was much more. The point is, if he is listed as head-horseman to Moy’s [Coal Merchants] he might not have to go, but if he does go he wants to get in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. I did not tell him that, as he was suitable for such work and would ask for it, that it would be the very last job he would be likely to get.

Hervey Benham, son of Sir W Gurney Benham, had volunteered to join the Navy's Coastal Patrol service earlier in 1940.

13th April 1940

Very full market today. Even some old bulls there, which I have not seen for some time. One was extremely fierce.

When I was down at Rose’s tonight we heard a special announcement on the radio that the British Fleet had had a great action at Narvik in Norway, and had sunk a large number of German ships of all kinds.

12th April 1940: Mysterious Footsteps at Colchester Castle

Butcher [Attendant at Colchester Castle Museum] reported to me today a curious occurrence which had been told him by two ladies this afternoon. They were alone in the Iron Age Gallery at about a quarter to 2, with no one on the upper floor, when they heard footsteps coming across the Crypt. Thinking that someone was about to come through the doorway into the Iron Age gallery, they stood waiting to let him through before entering themselves. No one appeared, and on going into the Crypt they were amazed to find the room empty as was the Small Gallery and the rest of the gallery floor. They immediately went down to the office and informed Butcher, who received the information with considerable calmness, saying that footsteps and noises were often heard in the Castle. The ladies thereupon left, somewhat shaken.

Went to the Repertory Players tonight, and saw them do “Gaslight”. Very good, and very well done. I have a great liking for these detective pieces of the last century. There is something very rich and dramatic about them.

9th April 1940

On the news this morning that the Germans have invaded Denmark and Norway, apparently without any appreciable resistance. Great excitement everywhere. ...

At four o’clock we heard a special news bulletin about the latest invasion but it did not tell much. It seems that vast numbers of troops have been landed by ‘planes and parachutes.

8th April 1940

Tonight’s newspaper placards announced that the German fleet is moving in Norwegian waters.

7th April 1940

The Art Exhibition was open this p.m. from 2.30-6.30, when no less than 1,507 people came in. The bulk of them were soldiers and girls out for an afternoon walk.

6th April 1940

Mr & Mrs S.A. Courtauld came in today to see the Art Exhibition. As Courtauld’s are renowned the world over for their silks, I showed him all we had in that line, especially the Coggeshall [silk] loom, and mentioned that Warner’s [Silk Mills in Braintree] had put it up for us, and that they had several similar looms, old winders and warping-mills still in use. “Ah, yes” said Courtauld. “I believe they are a very old fashioned firm, but I have never been inside their place.” What an incredible picture! In a little town like Braintree, two old firms dealing with different aspects of the same business, yet Courtauld had never even condescended to visit his rival, who makes the King’s Coronation Robes!

It always comes rather as a shock to me to find the great ones of our little world are just as jealous and petty as the rest of us.

The Coggeshall Silk Loom to which Eric refers is now housed at Braintree District Museum. The Museum has displays on the history of Courtauld's Textile Mills in Braintree. The Museum Service also operates the Warner Textile Archive at Warner's Mill, Braintree, which is a unique record of textile manufacture and designs by the Warner Company from the 18th century onwards.

S.A. Courtauld was then chairman of the international textile firm of Courtaulds. Courtauld was also a patron of the arts and helped to found the Courtauld Institute of Art.

5th April 1940

Went over to Chelmsford this afternoon. I went across to see the Horse Sale ... Cart horses were going well, but small ponies were only making £5-£6. There was a Thorough-bred hackney pony, which started at £2.10 and finally made £4! What a wicked shame that such things should be. ...

After this I went to see Emmison [then the Archivist of Essex Record Office], while he showed me some of his treasures. Restoration work and research are still going on quite normally in the Record Office.

1st April 1940

Mr. Gold did not show up until after lunch, and remained unperturbed at being told that the Catalogue was wrong in many places. As he left it so late I took it on myself to set out chairs and seats for about 30 people, and a table and chairs for Mrs. Butler to preside at. (She is wife of Butler, M.P. for Saffron Walden, and Secretary for Colonies, or something). She, Sir Gurney and Lady Benham sat on one side of the big mosaic [in the Castle], while the audience, consisting of about 20, sat on the other. Sir Gurney had previously expressed his complete disapproval of almost all the pictures in the Show, but his speech was a model of what a chairman’s speech should be.

Mrs. Butler blathered pleasantly, and the Mayor responded. The audience then filed out, and the show remained almost empty until it closed at 7.30. The hours between 5 and 7 are not popular for museum visiting.