10th September 1940: The evacuation of Colchester

Alarm this morning from 2am – 5am. There was a fire burning at the Hythe, just as planes were passing over. I thought it must be an incendiary bomb, but heard later it was an accidental fire at the Moler Works, only rubbish burning. A bomb fell in the distance. The planes were high above the searchlights.

At 10 o’clock came what I had expected all the summer, and had half begun to hope we should escape – notices for the evacuation of Colchester. Old or infirm people, retired persons, women and children are urged to leave immediately. ... I rang up for a taxi, in case I could get [my parents] to go, back to Maidenhead if necessary, although I knew it was hopeless. Saw Hilda Smith, worrying about her old father, who she wants to go to Windsor, so we agreed to share a car in case anything can be done.

Saw George Farmer, joking and laughing, but very anxious. His people want to go, and are going to try his sister’s place in Surrey. As I thought, when I got home the parents resolutely refused to leave again under any circumstances. ...

Today as yesterday, no papers came until 2 o’clock. This is due apparently not so much to the fact that the papers cannot get out of London, as to the fact that the distributors refuse to send them out until they have the whole lot, which seems very unfair. More terrible raids in London.

Old Mr. Temperley sent us one or two things, including a very nice Celtic bronze ring and a 16th century key, both found at Maldon. The ring is labelled as being found during the excavation of Maldon West Station, a not unlikely spot.

EJR pasted the notice issued by the Regional Commissioner on the transfer of the local population into his journal. It provides an insight on the seriousness of the war situation and the expectation of an invasion:

'Urgent Notice. Temporary Transfer of Population.
1. If the enemy tries to invade this Country the Services will defend every inch of our land ...
2. The public throughout the Country has been asked to “stay put” and that it will do, but special considerations apply to this town. Some reduction in its population will make it easier for the Army to operate. For this reason we ask, as a patriotic duty, all those whose work does not require them to remain, to leave the town temporarily as soon as possible. This applies particularly to:
Mothers with young children
Schoolchildren
Aged and infirm persons
Person without occupation or in retirement
3. Such person should make arrangements for temporary accommodation with relatives but not in coastal areas of East Anglia, Kent or Sussex or in London.
4. Assistance is available to pay for railway fares and accommodation
5. You are urged to go quickly and not to take much luggage. Take your National Registration ID Card, Passport, Ration book, Gas mask, a rug or blanket and food for 24 hours
6. Special trains will be available from 11th September to Peterborough, Rugby, Kettering, Wellingborough, Stoke-on-Trent, Burton-on-Trent. ...
The following should stay:
Home Guard, Police and Special Constabulary, Fire Brigade and AFS, ARP and Casualty services, Workers in War Work, especially if on the land, export trades and the supply and distribution of food, transport employees, water, gas, electricity employees, Local authority members and officials, Doctors, nurses and chemists, Ministers of Religion, Government employees, Bank employees.'

1 comment:

robssmith said...

Thats a frightening note to read, even now