EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

29th October 1940

Did not get up until 9 this morning. Very pleasant riding in. Alarms today at 4.10pm, 4.30, and from half past 6 until 10.40. Just after the last alarm was sounded I heard a few explosions, but nothing more. Slept at the Castle as usual. A very cold, dark night. Hull came in for a few minutes today, but was away all yesterday.

28th October 1940

Shelters are begining to be excavated on the lawn in front of the Hospital. Raid alarm at a quarter to three, and another at 5 o’clock. A lot of planes came over the first time. Saw Grubb in the town, and had a cup of tea with her. This evening cycled to Dedham, and spent the night at Sissons. Another alarm at a quarter to 9. The night thick and cloudy. Sisson was very gloomy, and had been to London this week. The damage is colossal.

27th October 1940

To Mill all a.m., chopping firewood. Alarm – 4pm-7pm. Tea at Rose’s. Hampshire took my dogcart phaeton over to Hadleigh today. Was sorry to see it go, but what’s the good of keeping it if I don't drive it? Beautiful night, but no more alarms. Went to Seymour’s.

26th October 1940

An alarm at 12.30. When I was in my yard this pm, about 3.30, with Bob carting straw, I heard a plane diving, and was just in time to see a big Dornier appear out of cloud to the South. A man next me cried “Look, he’s dropping bombs!” and at once there were explosions, and I could see smoke. This man actually saw the bombs fall. At first I thought they might be near Bourne Road, and after hastily putting Bob inside I cycled down there and made enquiries but it was obviously a long way off. This evening I heard there were four bombs, and they fell on Berechurch Road, near the new camp, one right on the road, doing no damage or injuries. About half an hour after this the alarm blew, but nothing else happened. Bought half a ton of straw for 35/-. Cheap.

25th October 1940

Began washing the Horkesley figures. No siren all day. Got two suppers tonight, at Rose’s and the Rallings. Beautiful fine day.

24th October 1940

Heard today of a serious disaster at Braintree. Two land mines fell the other evening on the East Road – St Mary’s Road area, and caused great damage, though only about 27 houses were rendered useless. Thousands of windows were smashed, but by a merciful miracle nobody was killed and only a very few hurt badly enough to go to hospital.

No siren all day, though lots of planes over. Two loud explosions to E. at 9.15 tonight.

23rd October 1940

I heard today that a Colchester man, who lives in Wellington St., and is a conscientious objector, has been put in an army prison in the Isle of Man, and has been badly hurt for refusing to obey military orders. May the Gods protect him.

22nd October 1940

This morning an Australian lorry completely demolished the little barber’s shop outside St. Botolph’s Station, by trying to turn into the station yard too quick. Little Freddy Chapman was being shaved at the time, but neither he nor the barber was hurt. The lorry turned onto its side, but the driver calmly stepped out unharmed.

Alarm tonight for 1 and 3/4 hours, and I slept at the Castle.

19th October 1940

Went over to Lt. Horkesley with Mabbitt and a girlfriend. We got all the brasses removed from their matrices and assembled the figures roughly in order to see how much was present. There is a good deal more than one could have hoped for, seeing the condition of the building.

Worked there all day. Could not get bread and cheese at the Rose and Crown so had to go down to Nayland. None there, so had tomato sandwiches and tea, very good. When we got back to Colchester had tea at Rose’s cafĂ©.

Mabbitt takes a very gloomy view of the state of London, and reckons another 3 months will see the end. He considers that the place has no military value, and is only being made so much of for purely sentimental reasons. Unfortunately, owing to the problems of evacuating its remaining 6 or 7,000,000 inhabitants, it is not a very easy place to abandon.

Mabbitt is working in the Ministry of Supply, and is a very level-headed person, though perhaps rather pessimistic. There was quite a lot of air activity round Nayland during the afternoon.

When I went down to Bourne Mill tonight, there was an Australian soldier there. We got talking, and he told me that the majority of the Australians had some good reason for leaving Australia.

There was an alarm tonight at 7.15, and heavy gun-fire S. of the town. Two girls from a farm at Little Horkesley were the only persons to come into the shelters. They told me that 17 bombs had fallen on their farm, in three lots, and they had also been machine-gunned. They did not seem in the least scared. (This was Bull’s Farm, Lt Horkesley).

18th October 1940

Heavy gunfire this morning, 2-3 am. I think mobile guns, manned by the Australians. Went to see Hervey Benham this evening, who is staying with his father-in-law, Penry Rowland. He and his wife Barbara look very well. Mrs. B. was in a public shelter at Plymouth which received a direct hit, but she was untouched, and through her efforts, everybody was saved alive except one child. Alarm tonight, few bombs. Thick cloud. Slept at Castle as usual.

15th October 1940

Museum Committee. Announced that I now have the keys of the Muniment Room at the Castle [with instructions to remove the Borough Charters in case of fire]. The Committee actually came into the Castle after the meeting in order to see the Lt. Horkesley figures and brasses. Two short alarms this morning, and one tonight, 7.10-10.35, when many planes came over.

13th October 1940

Went over to Gt. Horkesley this morning. Came back to the Castle to get my cycle, and just as I arrived the siren blew, at 5 minutes to one. Nobody else turned up. The two men are very slack, but I do not expect Revd Knock on a Sunday. “All Clear” 1.35. Tea at Rose’s. Another alarm at 7 o’clock, lasting till after midnight.

10th October 1940

Gorgeous night last night in the Oven [at the Castle]. Quiet and still. Only occasional rumble of traffic. The ‘All-Clear” went at 11.30pm, but I never heard it. Fast asleep.

Miss Morgan came over from Stowmarket today to see the Phaeton-Dogcart. As a matter of fact there were two, both in very country tweeds, very well bred, and so on. I think she will have it, although she would have preferred one on rubbers. Sorry to let it go. Alarm tonight at 8.20. Nothing happened. Settled down to sleep as soon as I decently could.

I hear Australian troops are coming here.

EJR was now sleeping regularly at the Castle in order to open the Castle during air raids. He slept in what is known as the 'Oven' or James Parnell's Cell in the entrance to Colchester Castle. James Parnell was a Quaker who was imprisoned for his religious beliefs and died at Colchester Castle in 1656. EJR later wrote of his experiences:

Parnell and myself might claim to be authorities on living in the "Oven", as being probably the only people who, in recent centuries, have lived there for any length of time. I am not, however, in any position to complain with him regarding its discomfort, for when I slept there for several hundred nights in the early part of the war, I had comforts which he had not, notably a mattress, several thick blankets, and an electric fire.

8th October 1940

There was an alarm at 12.45am today, and a good number of bombs fell. About 2 o’clock eight came down near Maypole Farm, making a tremendous shriek and whistle. We could hear fire bugles blowing in the Barracks, although there was no fire. One bomb did not go off until 7 this morning, when it made a tremendous crash.

7th October 1940

Quiet night last night. No planes at all. [Christopher] Hawkes [the archaeologist] came down from London today. He is now at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and tells me that the making of planes is going on very well indeed. He also said that in the near future a lot of night-fighters would be in use, but this I will never believe until I see them. The British Museum has had a bomb in the Courtyard, and another at the N. entrance, but no real damage was done. The Tate Gallery has been unroofed, and there has been a serious fire at the Natural History Museum, but apart from that London Museums seem to have escaped so far.

Today I went to see Hervey, and had a chat about our prospects. He does not believe that the Museum will be shut, and does not think there will be any alteration of our reserved age before the spring, all of which I hope is true. An alarm tonight about 10 o’clock, but nothing happened.

Fine day, warm. I shall see W.G Benham as soon as I can, - suggest indefinite leave so that I can do farming, but if I get a farming job I shall resign and draw out my pension money.

6th October 1940

Dull day. Some rain. Some planes were over during the morning, and I could hear distant bombs while I was at Bourne Mill. Tea at Rose’s then went to Seymour’s. Heavy rain tonight.

4th October 1940

Heavy rain and high wind. Names of the dead on the Casualty Board at the Public Library, together with an incredible coincidence, the names of three evacuated children, sent to Rushton, near Kettering, and killed there in school yesterday. Amazing that two such things should happen on the same day.

Went over to Girling’s, Holly Lodge, Lawford, this afternoon and had tea, and had a long talk to him about the possibility of my getting a job there. He was not so enthusiastic as I had been led to believe by Sisson, but suggested that I should see Gurney Benham and get his opinion of the future of the Museum.

Rode back via Sherbourne Mill to Dedham, and reported what had been said. While at Dedham I heard a loud by distant explosion about 9 o’clock.

2nd and 3rd October 1940

On 2nd and 3rd October 1940, Colchester was hit by daytime air attacks. EJR's account of these events can be read in his new book: 'E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester'.

1st October 1940

One alarm today, in the morning. 51 people came in. A good few planes over, but nothing happened. I rang Frank Girling today about farm work, and he seemed quite favourable. Asked me to go over Thursday. Hope springs eternal.