Went up to London today. Heard on the station that the bang last night was a German bomber which crashed at Clacton, so that its whole carcase exploded. Besides the crew, at least two people are dead, and several houses have been demolished.
These were the first civilian deaths of the war on mainland Britain. The German Heinkel He-111E plane had been on a mine-laying operation off the east coast when it was hit by anti-aircraft fire from Harwich and crashed onto Victoria Road, Clacton. The huge explosion, which had been heard by the Rudsdale family in Colchester (see 30th April 1940 journal entry), was caused by one of the remaining mines on the aircraft exploding. Eric gives an eyewitness account of the scene of devastation on 9th May 1940 and Mike Dennis provides information on his family's experience of this crash in his comments on Eric's blog for 22 August 1940. For more information on this crash see the book, Clacton at War, 1939-1945 by the Clacton VCH Group and there is also a thread about this crash on the WW2Talk discussion site. Newsreel footage of this incident is available on YouTube.
I went straight out to the Ada Cole Memorial Stables at S. Mimms, near St. Albans, in fact so near that I wished I had had more time to go on to see the Museum. I met Dr Rose Turner there, and we had a free discussion about what ought to be done with Bob in an emergency. I decided to give the Fund £15, in hope that they could support him for about six months, if they had him in the spring. The Ada Cole Memorial Stables was a home for retired horses and continues today as a horse rescue centre.
I discussed the possibility of my going in the army, and mentioned that my physical condition was poor. The old doctor at once insisted on running her stethoscope over me. I was most embarrassed. She calmly said my heart was sound, so I suppose all the pains I have been through this last 10 years are just imagination. However, the old dear meant very well.
Leaving there I went straight down to Piccadilly, to attend a Council meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Burlington House.
After that, I went round to Paddington to see if Maura Benham was in her “garette”, but she was out, so I walked along by countless dozens of empty houses to Hyde Park. The sun was setting as it does in London, a great crimson ball sinking into a bank of mist, with trees and distant buildings fading into a thickening gloom. Crowds lay upon the grass. There were quite a number of uniforms, but not a tremendous lot. Open air meetings were well attended, but hundreds of men and girls lay within earshot, playing with dogs, and entirely unheeding the words of doom which were being bellowed across the Park. Two ducks, solemnly stalking towards the Marble Arch, marched past the barrage balloon which lay tethered to the ground near Park Gate.
It all seemed very unreal. Came home on the 7.30, travelling in acute discomfort, feeling very sick.