EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

18th September 1940: Coggeshall Church damaged in air raid

Papers still talk of invasion. This morning I took the bus to Coggeshall to see how true was the report about the church, and I was glad to find it very largely untrue by the sight of the building standing as it has always done, when it came into view from Stone Street. On looking more carefully I could barely distinguish with my weak eyes that one or two battlements were missing near the tower, but it was not until I reached the churchyard that I could see that serious damage had been done.

To say that only the tower remains is absurd, but great damage has been done to the nave and the N. aisle. Two heavy bombs were dropped by a plane flying home, one of which fell only a few feet from the N. aisle and the tower, while the other dropped harmlessly on some waste land near some cottages, doing no damage. The explosion of the first blew in part of the wall of the N. aisle and destroyed part of the nave arcade. This brought down the roofs of both aisle and nave, completely destroying all pews etc. By some freak, the patriotic touch which these occasions never lack was supplied by the fact that the Union Jack hung over the War Memorial Tablet was untouched – a fact frequently commented on by sight-seers – “Good old flag still flying” etc. etc.

The chancel and the two chapels, together with the S. aisle appear untouched, except for a few broken windows. The tower is cracked from top to bottom, and, most curious, both the westerly buttresses have been blown off. The opinion seemed to be (expressed by one of the churchwardens, a builder) that the whole tower will either fall or have to be demolished, but I think very strongly that it ought to be shored up at once, and said so.

Lady Mary Honeywood from Marks Hall is quite safe in the S. Chapel, and as far as I can find the other monuments are mostly safe. Great damage has been done, but the church is certainly repairable. It is fortunate that the roof was modern.

Damage to Coggeshall Church after the air raid on 16th September 1940 (Photograph courtesy of the Benham Estate)

On the journey I noticed in many places wires had been stretched across the fields on tall steel poles to trip up German planes if they try to land. This afternoon an alarm at 4 o’clock. 162 came in, but no Germans were to be seen. Today I wrote to Swinerton of Northleach and Balfour of Slough asking about farm jobs without a great deal of hope.

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