30th November 1940

Short alarm this morning, but nothing at night, when a fog came up. Uncle Frank [Webb] arrived from Croydon today. They have had some terrifying experiences there, but he seems to be quite unshaken. Had quite a lot of talk about the old family.

Frank Webb was Eric's mother's brother.

29th November 1940

Strange how some people consider that towns are safer than the country so far as raids are concerned. They like to feel they are near a shelter. In day time I much prefer to be out in the open country, but at night I find it very terrifying to cycle along lonely dark roads when German planes are flying over, and I always hurry until I am back behind the solid walls of this ancient Castle.

28th November 1940

Long alarm, from 6.45pm tonight until 2.35am on Friday morning. Few planes about, and heard no bombs.

27th November 1940

Alarm at 6.20am this morning, the first for 56 hours! Bombs fell loudly to the N.W., I learnt later at West Bergholt, where some goats and chickens were killed near the Brewery, and the blacksmith’s damaged.

Tom Critchley's Letters 1940 to 1941

Regular readers of Eric's blog may be interested to know that you can now access Tom Critchley's Letters from 1940 to 1941 via a new blog. Tom Critchley wrote vivid accounts of what it was like to live through the London Blitz during 1940 to 1941 in letters to his family. The archive is also a remarkable record of his reactions to war and the social changes he witnessed as a result of the conflict. My thanks go to Barbara Critchley for her excellent work in compiling this blog. CP

26th November 1940

Felt dreadfully ill today, and fainted in the Library this afternoon, being revived by the staff with hot tea. Very embarrassing. However, went off to see [the film] “Saloon Bar”, still feeling bad. Afterwards spent a miserable evening at Rose’s. Fine night, but no alarms, nor any all day.

25th November 1940

Went over to Lt. Horkesley this morning, and recovered the shroud brass, and the inscription (all there was) of the other Swynborne tomb. Brought them away strapped onto my cycle carrier. Went down to the “White Hart” Nayland, about the missing head, but the landlord swears he never heard of it, and has no remembrance of two men discussing the matter. Then went to Horkesley police station, and the school, and offered 10/- reward to anybody who might find the head. Back at Colchester, I telephoned the County Council Highways DepĂ´t, to make sure that their Horkesley roadmen should keep a sharp look out, as it might be in a ditch.

No alarms today, nor any up to 11 o’clock tonight.

The missing head from the effigy of the Little Horkesley Knight was eventually found and reunited with the figure. All three effigies, which were restored by the Colchester Museum staff can now be seen in the rebuilt church at Little Horkesley.

For the background to the destruction of Little Horkesley Church and its artefacts see EJR's earlier diary entries from 22nd September 1940.

24th November 1940

Lay in bed until 10, then a lovely breakfast. Watched people going to church across the road. We miss the sound of Sabbath bells, even if we never heeded them. A Mrs. Walkoff came to lunch, an Englishwoman married to a Russian. She is sister-in-law to the woman who has recently been imprisoned as a spy. Mrs. W.’s husband is apparently a “Red” (so is she), whereas the husband’s brother is a “White” Russian admiral, and his wife favours Germany as an opponent of Bolshevism. The spying was carried out with the assistance of persons at the Belgian and American Embassies.

Mrs. Walkoff lives in Chelsea, where there has been great damage. She admitted that she has no fear of raids, but is in fact rather stimulated by them.

After lunch went over to Stratford to see Ida [Hughes-Stanton], but the children were an awful nuisance so I did not stop. A number of planes flew over as I came into Stratford. Home to Colchester at 6. There was an alarm at 6.45, so I went out to go to the Castle. Planes were going over to the south, and there were many searchlights out. As I went down Military Road, past the almshouses, there were two violent explosions, and great flashes across the sky, which later this evening I heard were two large bombs near Kingsford.

Ida Graves [Hughes-Stanton] was the partner of the artist, Blair Hughes-Stanton. See EJR's diary entry for 31st March 1940 for more information.

23rd November 1940

Cycled over to Dedham this evening. Called at “Springate”, Ardleigh, on the way to see Molly Blomfield. The Claytons asked me to have tea with them which I did. We were talking about the Horkesley affair, and I mentioned that one of the Knight’s heads was missing, whereupon Clayton recounted how he had heard that two men went into the “White Hart” at Nayland some few days after the disaster, and in the course of conversation said that they had found a wooden head near Lt. Horkesley Church. This is most interesting. Must go to Nayland.

To the Sissons, had a lovely supper, and much pleasant conversation. Some bombs fell at Dedham on Thursday, near Brook Farm, but did no damage except to break some windows.

Being asked, I was tempted to stay the night, which I did, in great comfort.

22nd November 1940

Father seemed rather unwell yesterday so I telephoned Dr. Rowland this morning. He came along before tea, and soon cheered the old man up a good deal.

Hull away all day. No alarm tonight, although the sky was clear and starry. It is quite impossible to estimate from weather conditions if they will come or not.

Heard today that there were four people dead at Bures on the 6th November, and that one was an old lady of 90, who had been evacuated out of Colchester for safety. She was grandmother of the young man who worked in Blomfield’s shop, and who has suffered severely as a conscientious objector.

Dr Penry Rowland was the Rudsdales' GP. He was also father-in-law to Hervey Benham. Eric’s father had had to retire early from school teaching due to ill health and the family were always conscious of his state of health in case of a relapse.

21st November 1940

Long alarm, from a quarter to one this morning, until half past 8, but very few planes over. Sometime during the night there were some very heavy bombs somewhere towards the west. High wind all day. Short alarm during the afternoon, and the usual evening alarm at 7.45. I managed to have two hours at the cinema between the two. Have not the nerve to sit through an alarm in a picture-house. Harding was complaining a good deal about the amount of duty he has to do.

20th November 1940

A fine day. No alarms at all before midnight. I went home for an hour and a half this evening to see the old people. Poor old dears, I am afraid I am neglecting them.

19th November 1940

Museum Committee today, afterwards they came down to the Castle to see the wooden figures and the brasses. Hull suggested to the Committee that a Wardens’ post should be established at the Castle, and that the whole building should be in the charge of wardens as he does not consider we are very reliable. The two attendants are now complaining of the amount of duty which they have to do.

During the usual alarm tonight, Warden Lissimore and the Revd. Knock came in. We all had hot tea in the Oven.

A girl was attacked by one of the Australians last night, up Bergholt Road, and very badly hurt.

Very cold today.

18th November 1940

Rang up Councillor Blomfield this morning, and heard that [his daughter] Molly was ill again, at St. Clare Road. Thinking to cheer her up, I went there this evening, and took the Marney brasses in order to show her the palimpsests. She was most interested. She looked very ill indeed, and quite tiny lying in bed.

There was an alarm from 5.30-7.30, and another from 8.30pm for the rest of the night, but not many planes were heard.

17th November 1940

Another alarm at 9 o’clock this morning woke me up. Chapman relieved me at 10, just as the All Clear sounded. Another alarm from 12 midday to 1, but nothing came over either time. This evening went to Seymour’s, but there was an alarm almost as soon as I got there, so S. and I went out on duty. It was only 20 minutes, so I went back again. Much talk about war.

16th November 1940

Thompson Smith came in this morning, and gave all the coins and pottery [to the Museum] which were found in the shelter in his garden.

Another alarm tonight, from just after 6 until half past twelve. Not so many planes as last night, and they seemed to be flying towards London. For some reason I did not feel so frightened as I did last night.

EJR had witnessed the German planes flying in on their way to attack Coventry the previous night. His description of this event appears in his book.

14th November 1940

Last night some drunk Australians went into All Saints Churchyard and smashed several of the tombstones. Fortunately Southwaite’s was not touched.

A lot of Australians went away today, presumably to Africa or the Near East. We are lucky that more damage has not been done by them.

13th November 1940

Three alarms today, and some distant bombs shook the town. Not many planes over. The Lt. Horkesley effigies begin to look really well. Poulter and I spend every morning on them now.

12th November 1940

Sisson came in to [the Museum to] see the effigies, and said he had seen a few broken windows near the second railway bridge, by Dilbridge Hall. This afternoon I learnt that four or five bombs had fallen alongside the railway, and one in a garden near the railway bridge, but no damage except broken windows. The plane met no opposition at all.

The police have moved into the new Headquarters in Queen Street, thus breaking a continuity of almost a thousand years, as it must be almost that length of time that the seat of the administration of law and order has been located on the Town Hall site. One may assume that the Town Hall destroyed in 1846 was of Norman date, judging from the decorated doorway and window. The cells in this building were retained in the Victorian Town Hall, and no doubt continued in existence until 1898, although I have no definite evidence of this. The Gaoler and the Sergeants-at-Mace always had their headquarters at the Town Hall. I believe Poulter is giving the press a note somewhat on these lines, so as to have some record of the occasion.

The existing cells will remain, and will be used to hold prisoners, prior to their appearance in the Courts above.

[A brief history of Colchester's Town Hall is available here].

Cloudy windy day, but fine this evening. A boy brought a wretched half-starved pony to the stables tonight, and said he found it wandering loose in Morant Road. It is terribly thin, and its coat covered with what seems to be motor oil. I gave it a good soft bed and fed it. From its appearance I thought it must belong to one of the dealers, either Gaskin, Chitty Conyers, Pim Barbour or “Funny” Mason. I called on Gaskin, but he said it was not his, so I went along to Chitty’s place, opposite the Corporation Omnibus Depot. There is an old clothes shop in the front, kept by a gipsy woman. I went in and she appeared from behind a mass of filthy smelling clothes and said “What is it my dear?” I said I wanted to see Chitty. She replied “Just a minute, my dear,” and went along a dark passage to a room behind the shop.

I heard Chitty and she talking in low voices, and then she called “Come along in my dear, here he is”. I went into the room, which was large, and incredibly filthy. There was a huge double bed, several very old armchairs, and a mahogany table. A huge wood fire roared up the chimney, and several strings of washing spanned the room from side to side. Chitty was sitting on one side of the fireplace and a young man on the other, reading an evening paper. Chitty was peeling onions, the aroma of which mingled with the general smell. He greeted me most genially. “Good evening to you, sir! Come right in, sir! What can I do for you?” I told him about the pony, but he assured me he knew nothing of it, as all his horses were stabled “down the yard”. I know that stable, - a filthy airless shed with no door, backing onto St Botolph’s Station.

I was then shown out by the gypsy, beaming with affability, and went up to the Police Station to report the stray. I mentioned Chitty, and the sergeant told me he was out on bail for stealing a set of harness. When I walked in carrying a police helmet, he naturally thought I had called about the case, hence the polite reception. Under normal circumstances I should have been greeted with curses.

This was the first time I have been in the new Police Station. The interior is quite impressive, the central hall being surrounded by doors labelled “Inspector” “Sergeants”, “Detectives” etc. On one side a large hatch opens into the charge-room. All the woodwork is light polished oak, and looks very well, although all police stations are naturally grim and foreboding.

Went to bed early tonight, at 11 o’clock, feeling very tired and worn out.

E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester - Buy the Book Here!

I am delighted to inform you that it is now possible to purchase signed copies of the book, E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester, from me directly via this blog.

Please click on the photo of the book cover on the right-hand side of this page and this will take you to a link where you can request a personal dedication and purchase the book.

The book costs £12.99 plus postage and packing and makes an ideal Christmas present.

The book is E.J. Rudsdale's account of his experiences of wartime life as told through his journals and draws mainly on extracts which do not appear on E.J. Rudsdale's blog. Those who have read the book so far have responded very positively and include a gentleman who knew E.J. Rudsdale and who kindly wrote to tell me that when he read the book he 'could hear Eric telling his story in his own special way'.

I do hope you will also enjoy the book and thank you for your support,

Catherine Pearson

10th November 1940

Late getting up. Sawing wood all morning, causing bad heart pains and nausea. Went down to the flat for lunch and tea. Weather getting very bad. No planes today.

9th November 1940

Mayor making – Alderman Percy Saunders is to continue in office. A very hard working practical man, a bad speaker.

Machin-Goodall came in today from Sudbury to see Poulter. His daughter Vivian is a great show jumper, and owns the celebrated Whynot. This horse has a lot of hackney blood, and can out-jump any Thoroughbred. M-G said he bought several hackneys when Moss’s stud at Chelmsford was sold, and they were all good jumpers. He said that at a recent blood-stock sale at Newmarket, a woman bought 20 thoroughbreds at £5 each to feed greyhounds.

8th November 1940

The bombs last night were near the Seven Arches Viaduct, Lexden. Mr. Hedge had several cows killed. Some reports today say only one dead at Bures, a woman of 90, but I believe there were more.

Account of the Assizes in the Essex County Standard tonight. The case of a Home Guard who deliberately shot two men at Pitsea when a German plane was brought down. He was charged with manslaughter only. One of the men was an old fellow, a native of the place, and the other an official of the War Agricultural Committee.

Another alarm at 6.35 tonight.

6th November 1940

Went over to Lt. Horkesley this morning. Heard that during the alarm at tea time yesterday some bombs fell at Bures, bringing down several houses, killing 5 people, and blocking the road. A few more pieces of effigies found today. Now only the head of one knight is missing, and I can find no trace of it. Very loud bombs late tonight (about 1am on 7th November), during an alarm. Fine rain, and a misty moon.

5th November 1940

Rain at intervals. The town looked very lovely in the early morning light when I got up. An alarm this afternoon, another at tea time while I was carting hay, and another at a quarter to 7 which looks like lasting all night.

Heavy rain continues. Sir Gurney has asked me to revise the Colchester Guide for him during the next few weeks.

4th November 1940

More rain, nearly all day. No alarms at all. Absurd story brought by Harding [the Museum Attendant], that he had been told that a man riding in a bus a day or so ago had overheard two Australians say that they had stolen a “card” of coins from the Museum. The conductor heard this, and he told Harding. Hull was in a terrible state. The description of a “card” seemed to indicate the silver coins from the Bronze Ewer Hoard, which are mounted between two sheets of glass, so nothing would quieten Hull except we go into the Dungeons and empty practically every packing case to see if anything was missing. Nothing was, but that is certainly not Hull’s fault. None of the packing cases is closed by a lid, although I urged that this should be done from the very beginning.

Hull has now bought a large padlock which he intends to lock the inner gaol door. Personally, I believe the whole story to be a complete invention, like so many of these tales about the Australians.

Called at Harry Day’s this afternoon and had tea there. Tried to persuade him that the immediate future of the harness trade must be bright, but he refused to believe me, and will continue to do most of his business in fancy goods.

Had supper at Rose’s. Still raining tonight.

3rd November 1940

Lay late this morning, in luxury, then down to Bourne Mill to chop wood. Rain nearly all day. Alarm this afternoon from 4 until 6.30, but none after that, so I was able to spend the whole evening with Rose.

Rain still continues tonight. Cold.

2nd November 1940

Alarm from 6.30am to 7.25, but nothing over. Another at 11 o’clock, for 10 minutes. Few people came into the Castle.

Essex archaeology news 2010 - please see Steve Verhey's comment below on today's post. The BBC link is here.

1st November 1940

O’Neill came down from the Office of Works today, to see the damage which has been done at Bluebell Grove, where the military authorities have scarped the east side of the rampart ditch in order to incorporate it in a “tank trap”. Their own trench, towards the S., bears slightly to the W., and cuts right through the ancient ditch, a clear but oblique section of which can be seen in the new cutting. O’Neill was rather upset about the whole thing, but I don't think the damage is very serious. It can easily be remedied. Had tea with O’Neill in Head Street.

Benton came in today about the palimpsest from Lt. Horkesley.
Nothing yet found in the Shelters in front of the Hospital.
Alarms from 2.15 to 5 past 3, and 6.30 to 9.45pm, but nothing happened. Only a few distant planes.