No bells and no sirens at midnight tonight, only a few distant drunken voices singing “Auld Lang Syne”.
Very busy all day with sugar beet cropping forms, but did not feel like doing very much work. Had an hour off this afternoon to go up to Mrs Lyon-Campbell’s with Poulter. The old lady was most pleasant, and we brought away a Bronze Age sword and a very fine palstave, both found in the garage, among a mass of rubbish. Dr. Laver bought the sword from Wells, and I believe it is from the Thames at Barking.
Fine night, cold and starlight.
Apparently our Great Premier spoke on the radio tonight, but I am glad to say I did not hear him. I understand he said that England may be in a position to take an offensive in 1943, that our position is far worse at present than ever before, and that unimaginable horrors lie before us.
I was most interested to see in the Essex County Standard this week a letter from a farmer at Bures, suggesting that Churchill should be “elected” Dictator of England by a national plebiscite. He recalls in his letter (as a shame on the town) an occasion when Churchill came to the Colchester Oyster Feast, and was not very well received by the crowds.
It is interesting to see that anybody could be so stupid as to seriously advance this purely Fascist idea as an aid to Democracy.
Went back to the Castle and ate a lonely supper in the cell. No raids day or night. This is the third Christmas Day during the war, and there have never been raids by either side on that day yet.
We went on to Dedham, to see Poyzen about a new water supply, and then, being so near, called at Sherbourne Mill, where Mrs. Parrington, who looked very charming in brown “slacks”, gave us a cup of tea. After that I got Joanna to drive me back by way of Dedham Street, so that I could go to the Sissons. Joanna is very pleased that she is staying on with us for the revision of the 1942 cropping, and so am I. She is a lovely girl, completely unaffected.
At the Sissons met Joan Richards. Mrs. S. had been playing the cello, which was leaning against her spinet when I went in, and some of her puppets, including the new one Poulter made for her, were scattered about the room.
Miss Richards was talking about fire-watching. She said that at Gloucester Cathedral there was only one night-watchman and an ancient verger, yet at her school, outside the town, the staff had been compelled to forego their holidays in order to maintain continual watch throughout the whole day. Sisson came in from Frinton, where he had been on bomb damage business, and brought his wife some flowers for Christmas.
More fog tonight. Got into the Castle 5 minutes late, giving Miss Oldfield another opportunity to be extremely rude, which she was, pointing out that this was the second time I had kept her waiting.
Just as I was congratulating myself that these foggy nights ensure us no little peace and quiet, the sirens sounded at about quarter to 6. I was in Cyril Cook’s at the time, buying rations, and the fog was so thick that it was impossible to see across the road. It seemed quite incredible that planes could fly in such weather, but the Germans seem to be able to do anything. One of the sirens kept sounding a long piercing blast long after all the others had finished. No sound of any planes, although the all-clear was not given until half past 7. I sometimes think that the police forget there is an alarm in operation. Very few planes come over at night now, and not very many by day.
As I cycled up Queen St., I saw an ambulance standing outside the police-station, and a young girl limping into the building, supported by a St. John’s man and a constable. It looked very dim and mysterious, in the light of a few torches.
Chelmsford appeared to be as crowded as it always is on a market day.
Finally got away at 5.30, and came home very slowly in a thick fog. For some reason I did not feel so sick as I usually do. It is clear from what was said today that the staffs of the District Offices are likely to be increased considerably. Capt. Folkard told me that efforts were being made to keep Joanna Round, and that he had spoken to the Executive Officer. I don't quite know in what capacity she will be employed now that the farm survey is almost completed.
Went out with Joanna to examine various pieces of land about the Borough which must be recorded in the farm survey. We went down to the Moors at Hythe Hill and walked along the footpath, St. Leonard’s Church peeping up among the trees, just as it did when Col. Cockburn drew the scene 126 years ago. Then we went down Hythe Hill to see Bruce, about the ownership of the Moors. The old houses opposite the church, which Penrose tried to save are gone now, not a stick or stone remaining. Bruce could tell us nothing, so we went to Francis & Gilders’ office nearby into a room hung with photos of barges, and a smell of tarred rope about. Found what I wanted, and walked back to Brook Street.
Then we went up to Grange Farm, Old Heath, to see some little old fields belonging to the gas company. Met the dear old fat man who has worked there for 15 years. He thinks highly of his master, Mr Berriman of Greenstead Hall, and told us this delightful little story. He said “You know, Mr Berriman is forever a’doing of kindnesses to people, things what nobody don't know about. Some time ago, years ago now, the old man’s dead now, I shouldn’t wonder, a little old man what lived down the Greenstead Road was a’sitting in his little old chair, and that had the worm and let he down wholly sudden like. And what do you suppose Mr Berriman went and did? He took hirself down there, and he says ‘Good afternoon, Mr. So-and-so’ (I rightly forgets his name, but he’s been dead years I expect). ‘Good afternoon’ he says ‘Yes, that’s right, my little old chair been and let me down and bruised my behind something cruel.’ And what do you think he done then? Why, he went and took his car, and went off up the town and he bought an armchair for the old boy. Then he thought ‘If I do this, I reckon the old woman’ll be wholly jealous,’ so he went and bought another for her as well.”
From there we went to see old Dodson’s field in Land Lane. How lovely it is, looking across to the Roman Wall. The old man did not recognise me, and had a good deal to say about the injustice of not being allowed to ruin the view by building houses along in front of the Wall. He had no idea that I was largely responsible for preventing this outrage, four or five years ago.
However, he told us several good stories about horse dealing. In the stables in Land Lane he showed us a good looking grey cob belonging to Drake, the dealer. The whole place reeked of liniment, and the cob stood on three legs. It was a nice looking beast though, and I can well understand anybody buying it in the hope of curing it.
The former rubbish-dump, just beyond “Maydays”, is now growing potatoes. Everitt cultivates all these odd pieces of land in that neighbourhood.
Had tea at Jacklins, for the first time for a week or so, and then went to the stables. Hampshire put his pony to for me to cart hay down to Bourne Mill. I went off in the dark, under bright stars, keeping well to the middle of the road, where I could see the white line. The pony bounced along in a lively fashion, and as I tried to ease him up about 150 yards from the top of the hill in Bourne Road, the offside rein broke. He broke into a canter, and I was quite in a panic. I jerked the near rein, pulled it a bit, and turned him into Gilberd Road. He was going too fast to get round, tried to stop, got on the pavement, his hooves crashing, sparks flying, the cart hit the curb with a crash, the breeching straps broke, the shafts hit the wall of a house and he almost went down. Then he stood still. A man came out of the house and said “Whatever are you a’doing of?” It was a very near thing, and if we had gone down the hill I am sure I should have killed him. However, very little damage done really; I shall have to pay for two new straps. Got back without further mishap.
Clouds blew up, and a little rain fell, very cold. Supper in the little café, hot sausages and mash. Bed late.
Beautiful starlight night, but no planes or alarms.
Went along by Ardleigh, and had to wait at the railway gates. The rain came sleeting across the grey little station, where two or three people were waiting on the down platform. The little cottage by the gates, where I so often had tea with [EJR's schoolfriend] Daven Soar’s grandparents, is deserted now, and the room in which we used to sit is full of sand-bags and concrete, to form a machine-gun post. The train came in, enveloped in steam, haul’d by the monster “Audley End”, hissing and dripping with water. After a moment or two it drew slowly out, heading away towards Norwich, 60 miles away.
Ardleigh Station closed in 1967.
It is strange how I have before heard momentous news over the radio in the most unlikely places. Five years ago tonight, I was standing outside North Station with Hervey Benham, waiting for his sister, when I heard King Edward VIII’s farewell speech coming from a radio in an empty car just outside the station.
Cycled back at 10, by the light of dozens of searchlight beams.
My photographs are going well. Got another lot from Mason’s today and paid them a bill of £2-10-0.
EJR's collection of historic photos of Colchester, entitled 'The Prospect of Colchester' was assembled as a record of historic buildings and streets in Colchester in case they were destroyed by bomb damage.
The Castle will be open for free and there will be festive entertainment for the whole family and a Christmas market.
I hope you can join us and I look forward to meeting you.
Best wishes, Catherine Pearson
Great manoeuvres today. The town was “attacked” by “invaders”, and the whole of the Civil Defence Organisation was on duty to deal with the various “incidents” which were to occur.
At 9.30 I went out for some supper, and just as I crossed the street by All Saints Church, a car drove up, two men got out, and threw a lighted cracker into the road, where it exploded with a tremendous report. Immediately an ARP ambulance, coming up East Hill, ran clear over the imaginary “crater”. The two firework throwers waited a few moments for wardens to come and take charge of the incident, but nobody came, so they got in the car and drove away. It was only when I had eaten my supper that I realised that as a special-constable I ought to have taken charge until a warden appeared.
Bourne Mill was broken open by Canadian soldiers early this afternoon, as they were instructed to hold the place and search for “parachute-troops”. So far as I know nothing was stolen.
The pylons at Great Bromley formed part of the Chain Home Radar System, which gave the RAF advance warning when German bombers were approaching. One of the pylons and the ancillary buildings survive on the Great Bromley site and photos can be viewed on the Derelict Places website. CP
Wild stories in the papers today about “conscription for all”. Tonight heard one of the “Colonel Britton” broadcasts on the radio, the most puerile drivel I ever heard.
This is the view that Eric Rudsdale could see from the windows
of Hollytrees Museum in Colchester Castle Park.
Part of Hollytrees Museum had been taken over by the Essex War Agricultural Committee as office accommodation during the war and this was
where Eric worked from 1941.
Rudsdale regularly visited Dedham and supported the campaign to preserve Dedham and the Dedham Vale in the 1930s, so this it will be a very fitting location to talk about his life and work.
Members of the public are welcome to attend. Please contact the Dedham Vale Society for further details. Many thanks, Catherine Pearson
It is just a year since the great air-raid on Coventry, when the centre of the city was destroyed and 300 people killed. I well remember it, for hundreds of German bombers flew over Colchester all night long, coming and going, sailing unhindered beneath the stars, as there was no opposition at all.
Went down to Sissons, and spent the evening mounting photographs, which are coming along very well. Back to Colchester at 11.30.
From the spring of 1941 all women had to register their occupation under the National Service regulations and single young women between the ages of 20 and 30 began to be directed into war work. By December 1941 the National Service Act (No 2) made the conscription of women legal for the first time and led to a huge increase in women workers of all ages being employed in the Women's Services or in essential war work.
Amazing story in the evening papers about a madman who today drove a car round Chiswick and Ealing, stopping here and there to shoot people. He shot 6 or 7 in all, and killed one. One man was shot quite near Argyle Road. It gives one a great sense of horror to think that there may be other such persons at large. I remember that about three years ago a man went onto a tube station in London, and for no reason whatever pushed a girl under a train. Ever since then I have always stood against the walls when on Underground stations.
The phaeton was a great success, and even with the hood up suited Bob admirably. Made all the harness fit, then back to Birchett’s Wood to lunch, (in a very cold room. Some people have no comfort in their houses). This afternoon we all went off to Dedham, Penelope looking really lovely. She suited the vehicle very well, looking quite an 18th century lady in her manner and appearance. Called at Sisson's, and he took photographs of us.
This photograph, which was taken by M.A. Sisson, shows Bob harnessed to the phaeton with EJR in the driver's seat and Penelope Belfield sitting beside him. Joy Parrington can also be seen riding her horse, Roger. The photograph was taken outside the Sissons' home, 'Sherman's Hall' in Dedham High Street. EJR labelled this photograph: ‘When we drove over to Higham'.
Then went off to Higham, bowling along the lanes in fine style, dear old Bob going well. The roads were thickly coated with fallen leaves, an immense number having come down in the last few days. The farms on the Suffolk border look well. At Moye’s farm near Stratford Church there were many fat stacks all very well thatched. At Higham, we called at Cedric Morris’s house, but he was not there, and the whole place looked very forlorn and derelict. It is strange that artists never seem to live in their houses, but are always somewhere else. While we were there I heard much machine gunning, bombing, and the sound of planes in the direction of Colchester, and was much alarmed, but the ladies were not in the least interested, merely assuming it was an attack on Leavenheath aerodrome. Back to Lawford, called for Mrs. P., and took the phaeton back to Lawford Hall, Bob still going strongly. Mrs. Nichols was there, looking just as charming as she did last year. We discussed Tandem driving. Mr. Nichols, who is Ambassador to the non-existent Czecho-Slovak Republic, drove off to London in a Rolls-Royce.
Settled Bob at the Mill, then walked back with Penelope. Just by Jupes Hill we heard sirens, and a few distant explosions. High tea, then caught the 8.20 bus to Colchester. Heard the all-clear soon after we left. To office, wrote some official letters, then to post, and was furious to find café shut at 10 o’clock, as I had no bread at all.
A most enjoyable day.
When I went to the little café tonight for supper, I thought as I walked along the cobble paving by All Saint’s Churchyard that William Wire must have walked along this very pavement. It is almost the last piece in Colchester, and shows clearly in a photo of 1858.
Lovely moonlight night, cold and still. Standing on the Castle roof, I could hear the machines at Paxman’s and Bracketts [factories], humming in the distance. No planes over.
All Saint's Church now houses Colchester's Natural History Museum. Can anyone tell me if the cobble paving that EJR mentions above remains near the Churchyard?
William Wire was a 19th century antiquarian who kept a diary of archaeological finds in Colchester from 1842-1857. EJR's decision to keep a journal had been influenced by his knowledge of Wire's diary.
Mrs. Rushbury was at lunch today in Rose’s café, with an artist whose name I forget. They were talking about Chelsea Public Library, where both had worked. Mrs. R. said she had met her husband there, when he very shyly asked her to let him paint her. She must have been a very pretty little thing 20 years ago. They seem to have had a good party at his birthday last week. One of the guests was sick in the garden.
[War Agricultural] Committee today. Very long and dull.
Cold wet weather. On duty alone [at the Castle] tonight, and relieved Winnie, [Miss Oldfield] a strange little girl, who has nothing whatever to say.
Found Grubb varnishing a trap. Everything in terrible confusion, old pails, tins, old stoves, bits of harness, furniture, all over the garden. Told me a sad tale about her brother trying to get her turned out of the cottage. Had a cup of tea with her, at a table which as usual bore the remains of the last five or six meals, spread with a cloth which was covered with cats’ footmarks, leading to and from the milk jug. The animals had evidently drunk out of the jug as far down as they could reach. There was a plate of rotting tomatoes on the electric stove, and an incredible mass of harness on the floor. She said “We generally keep it on the sofa but somebody came in who wanted to sit down.”
Poor Grubb. I don't know what she can do. I tried to tell her it was useless to keep eight horses, all either very old or else unbroken, but she would not listen. Back at 6, and saw Hampshire about some more chaff, called at home, then supper, finished letters, and to the post at 10.
Very cold, but not so bad as yesterday.
In consequence of this row, got home early and had supper and much pleasant conversation at Molly Blomfield’s in Trinity Street.
The Indians are very popular in the town, crowds of small children following them everywhere.
Went to tea at Jacklin’s, and saw Mrs. Betty Prior, looking very charming, just about to leave for London on the motor coach. Saw her off, just across the street, and then to the Mill to feed Bob.
Lovely starlight night. Many searchlights out. Supper in the Oven [at the Castle], and about 10 o’clock Penelope ‘phoned to thank me for the book. Wished she was having supper with me. What a wonderful invention the telephone is.
EJR's book 'E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester' records that the first Indian soldiers arrived in Colchester by 17th October 1941.
Lunch, washed, and away to Lawford with a set of harness for Mrs. Parrington. Fine warm day, and was carried there on the wings of the wind, scudding along in fine style. Stopped at Old Shields Farm, Ardleigh, to inspect the dead stock set out for sale tomorrow. Nice cob-size van and tumbrel which I should like.
Got to Sherbourne Mill at 4, and drove out with Roger [the Parrington's horse] in the ralli. He went very well, with a lot of shying. Going round by Humberlands, met little Rosemary, who remembered me from last year. Tea at the farmhouse, and then down to Dedham. Sisson there alone. Heard alarm in far distance, but no planes until nearly 10, when two went over, very low above heavy racing clouds, flying east. Back in the Castle by midnight, after a most enjoyable day.
EJR probably bought the book 'Nothing but Horses' by K F Barker, which had been published in 1937 and contained over 100 equestrian drawings by the author.
Cycled over to Dedham tonight, to the Belfields, and had supper. Penelope's brother, a lieutenant, was home on leave. Nice young chap, looks very like P.
Set out this afternoon to go to East Bergholt, and arrived there about quarter to 4. Cycled down the long lane to Flatford, and looked across the glorious Stour Valley. When I stand in Suffolk and look across to Essex I always feel that Suffolk is really a foreign country to us. Quite a lot of people at Flatford Lock, fishing and sitting about on the grass, and there were two boats on the river. The “16th Century Cottage Tea Rooms” were doing quite a lot of business, and I thought at first that this must be where the lady [who EJR met on 3rd October 1941] was living. However, before making enquiries I thought I might as well have a look at Flatford Manor again, so I went there. Noted several interesting details of the construction which I had previously overlooked.
Went back to the tea rooms, and discovered that my lady did not live there but at another tea room opposite, which is kept by old Richardson, who used to have Flatford Manor when it was a farm. He is quite a naturalist.
There were a lot of people about, and quite two dozen cars on the Car-Park. The tea room was a long wood shanty with an earth floor, furnished with a few forms and tables, all deeply embowered among trees and bushes. I enquired of a woman outside, and was told that “Mrs. Prior” was in, immediate calls for “Betty” giving me the other part of her name. She came out, very pleased to see me, and we had tea in this curiously ramshackle shed. The air was becoming cool, and the sun was sinking as a golden ball behind the Essex hills. Some people came in for tea, and then a youth and a girl, who sat talking about bombs which fell at Ipswich last night. Heard them say that one fell in Brook Street, and did a good deal of damage, although it seems nobody was killed.
After tea, was shown the pigs and poultry, all housed in a few derelict sheds behind the tea-house. There were also a couple of cows. The whole place was terribly decayed and neglected.
EJR included a postcard of Willy Lott's Cottage in his journal to mark his visit to Flatford so here is a photo of the same view today.
Mrs. Prior agreed to walk back to Dedham with me, across the meadows. She told me many sad things about her life, and I was amazed to hear that she has three children, the eldest a boy of 14. I had imagined that she was under 30. Her husband has treated her very badly.
We got to Dedham in the gathering dusk, and waited for Miss Richards to meet us, but she did not come. As we waited it grew dark, and RAF planes began to fly over towards the sea, some dropping crimson flares as they crossed the coast. The sky was full of searchlights. At last left her at the “Marborough”, made a hurried call at Sissons’, where I saw Miss Richards, and then rushed back to Colchester.
Just past the “Wooden Fender” I noticed what appeared to be a considerable fire towards Ipswich road. There were dozens of blazing points, which I took to be incendiary bombs, so I went to a cottage nearby, intending to get help. As I knocked hard on the door I heard the voice of Wee Georgie Wood, the comedian, singing on the radio “Who's that knocking on the door?” and the more I knocked the more this idiotic song was bellowed back at me. At last I attracted attention, but by this time the fire had died to a glow, so that nobody felt inclined to tramp across the muddy fields to investigate. As a result of all this, reached the Castle 10 minutes late, and found Miss Oldfield waiting, cold and angry. She was extremely rude. However, as soon as she had cleared off I went over to the café for supper, as there was no alarm.
About a quarter before midnight when I was on the Castle Bridge I heard far away the sound of alarm hooters at Paxman’s and Brackett’s, and then the noise of a plane coming from the west. I jumped inside and shut the door just as there were a number of tremendous explosions, and I could see shells or bombs bursting in the air. I put my helmet on and went onto the roof. The noise of the plane was dying away, and there were no sign of any fires. I could hear voices outside the ARP Headquarters and somebody said something about “fire at the Queen’s” so I presumed there had been some damage in the Berechurch Road. The explosions were in that direction. The night was very chilly, and I was shivering with cold and fright, so went down to a warm bed. I expect my poor old people were frightened.
I woke up, badly frightened, but fell asleep again only to have this second dream. I was with a girl in Wimpole Road, near Miss Bowle’s house. It was a dusky evening. Suddenly I noticed a golden coloured aeroplane high in the sky, diving towards us. Its wings were not noticeable. It dived down, flattened out a little, and then dived again, while I saw bombs fall out of it in the direction of the Gas Works, which oddly enough were visible from where we stood. The plane came zooming up, dropped some more bombs, and flew away firing its machine-guns. I thought “How convenient to be able to stand here and see an air-raid” and did not feel at all frightened. The girl (who left no impression) and I then walked towards the Gas Works but the dream became confused and I remember no more.
Tonight, when coming up town, I noticed a prayer meeting by the corner of the Abbey Wall in Stanwell Street, the preacher and his circle standing in deep shadow, only his hands and prayer-book catching the moonlight as he moved. His harsh voice rang out in the frosty air, as unheeding soldiers walked down towards the town.
Felt very queer in the head tonight.
After the sale we went to the Museums, and ate lunch in the park shelter behind Christchurch Mansion. P. wanted to go into a café, order tea or coffee, and then eat our own food, but I could not face that. Rain began to drizzle, and the old park looked very dreary. Penelope, as usual, was most anxious to get home, so there was no chance of going to a cinema, which I rather hoped we should have done. Came home on a Colchester bus.
Busy tonight doing office work which I should have done during the day.
EJR always enjoyed going to the Horse Fair at Ipswich and this link to Sir Alfred Munning's painting, 'A Suffolk Horse Fair, Lavenham' gives us an idea of what these sales were like. Munnings was one of EJR's favourite equestrian artists, so he would have appreciated this painting! CP
Glorious sunny day. Had to take wages out this afternoon to Severalls Hall and Boxted. Children blackberrying in Severalls Lane. There was a tractor ploughing somewhere on the farm. I could hear it faintly, and a horse drawn flax puller near the house.
Called at Boxted Hall, to pay men there. Saw pretty land-girl. Called at Homedale Farm. They have several very good traps there, one very good indeed. Then went to Lt. Rivers, to Rose’s and found Mrs. Rose writing up and editing old Mr. Waller’s cycling diary, of about 1890. Not very interesting in my opinion.
She also had a list of Essex books compiled by old Waller, which was most useful, and I borrowed it to make a copy. Had supper by candlelight, flickering shadows on the beams now nearly 500 years old. Left at 10, in brilliant moonlight. Bombers were going over towards Germany. Went down to Bourne Mill and fed Bob. The Mill looked lovely in the moonlight. Owls were crying and squeaking all round. Called at home, and then to the Castle and bed.
Thick fog early this morning, and very cold. At half past eight the Town Hall tower was just shimmering out of the mist, pearl grey and pink against a clear pale blue sky.
Bright and sunny later on, and the Park was full of people sitting about on the seats and lawns. A schoolboy football-match was on in the Holly Trees Field. Pretty nurse-maid, very blonde and petite, walking with a little boy, who was bowling a hoop and running squeaking after it. A Scottish soldier stopped to play with a puppy belonging to a little girl in red.
Supper at the café. Maisie was there, waiting to see me. The Welsh girl fortunately did not come. Maisie looked very well. She wanted me to find a cottage where she and George could spend his next leave. I said I would try.
Alarm at 9.45. Heard a plane, and bombs fell so as to shake the plate glass windows violently. Took M. home, and then walked back in lovely pale moonlight. All clear 11.15, just as I got to the Castle.
Work on photos tonight, and got quite a lot done.
EJR was now assembling a collection of old and contemporary photographs of Colchester as a record of the town's historic streets and buildings in case of their destruction in air raids. He called the collection 'The Prospect of Colchester' and it now forms part of the collections in the Colchester Museums Resource Centre.
Supper at the café. Welsh girl not there.
Update: 28th September 2011
Following my request for help to translate EJR's Welsh phrases in his diary extract for 23rd September 1941, I am very grateful to Brett Colley and Derek Jones for providing the translation for me and I have now been able to update the extract to reflect this. Thank you again, Brett and Derek. CP
Went to the café. Welsh girl not there. Rang up Mrs. Sisson and had a long talk about the possibility of my living at Dedham or at Sherbourne Mill as an alternative. Mrs. Parrington is quite willing for me to do.
Mike Dennis kindly drew my attention to the German Aircrew Remembrance Society website which has an entry for a German plane shot down near Clacton on Sea on 16th September 1941 and includes the pilot's name, Erwin Veil. Roger Kennell of the Clacton Victoria County History Group then contacted me to say that his father recorded the following entry in his diary on Thursday 18th September 1941: 'Last Tues we shot down a German bomber near Jaywick'. This would have been the night of 16th September 1941 and, therefore, also confirms EJR's account of this plane being shot down in the Clacton area.
Roger Kennell's father also recorded on 18th September 1941: 'Aurora Borealis seen tonight', confirming that it was possible for both EJR and Mr Kennell Senior to see the Northern Lights as far south as Essex that night.
Many thanks to Mike and Roger for your help with my enquiries about these events.
The Clacton VCH Group's book: Clacton at War, which Roger Kennell helped to compile, is a fascinating history of Clacton, a coastal town on the frontline in the Second World War. CP
The Welsh girl was in the café tonight. Walked to Mile End with her, and felt a little better when I got back. She was in the café tonight and smiled in a very pleasant way, so I got into conversation with her. She speaks Welsh, although it is the South Welsh, as her home is at Swansea. We talked of Wales, of the mountains, of Cardiff. I have not enjoyed a conversation so much for a long time. When I left her in the darkness near Mile End church I said “Nos dawch cariad” ["Good night love"] and she answered “Nos da in cluwi, mi cyfaill!” ["Good night to you, my friend!"] Previously she had said with a lovely lilt, “Talkin’ to you iss like talkin’ to the people far away at home."
She works as a nurse at Severalls Asylum.
Following my request for help with the Welsh translation for this extract, I am very grateful to Brett Colley and Derek Jones who have kindly supplied me with the correct transcription and translation, which I have now added to the diary entry above. Many thanks Brett and Derek for your help, it is much appreciated, CP
Eric Rudsdale was descended from a James Jones of Selattyn on the Welsh borders. He identified closely with his Welsh heritage and frequently visited North Wales during his lifetime and learned to speak Welsh.
Felt very ill tonight, with bad head pains.
Ate lots of blackberries. Lovely view of the town from the top of the hill above the railway. Such a dreadful pity Stephenson has put so much bad work into West House Farm. He has quite spoilt it. Home Guard had all gone by the time we got back to the river.
This afternoon cycled to Lawford. Took Mrs. Parrington’s pony for a run in the luggage cart. Very much enjoyed myself. Went back to the Atterburys at Gunhill. On the way back saw Penelope, very pretty. Had tea at the Mill, then down to Sissons this evening. Talked about my old photos. Mrs. S. very kindly offered me a home for the winter. Most tempting. I must think it over. Alarm about 10. Distant explosions. All clear 11. Cycled home feeling rather ill, but better after hot milk. Lovely starlight night. Slight mist.
Saw a heron at West Bergholt this morning, flying along the valley.
Another alarm this evening. A strange light in the Northern sky, apparently the Aurora Borealis [the Northern Lights].
Update: 24th September 2011
Thanks to readers of E.J. Rudsdale's blog, it is now possible to confirm EJR's sighting of the Northern Lights in Essex on 18th September 1941. Roger Kennell of the Clacton Victoria County History Group has kindly contacted me to say that his father (who was in Clacton) recorded the following entry in his diary on Thursday 18th September 1941: 'Aurora Borealis seen tonight', confirming that it was possible for both EJR and Mr Kennell Senior to see the Northern Lights as far south as Essex that night. Many thanks, Roger, for your help with my enquiry. CP
Another alarm tonight at the same time. I wonder if the Germans are training bomber pilots for the winter?
Fine sunny day, though cold.
Does anyone have any information on this wartime incident at St Osyth? I haven't been able to track down any records so far so perhaps the story was false? Thanks CP
Update 24 September 2011:
Thanks to readers of E.J. Rudsdale's blog, it is now possible to corroborate EJR's account of the German plane which was shot down in the Clacton area on 16th September 1941. Mike Dennis (see his comments below) kindly drew my attention to the German Aircrew Remembrance Society website which has an entry for a German plane shot down near Clacton on Sea on 16th September 1941 and includes the pilot's name, Erwin Veil. Roger Kennell of the Clacton Victoria County History Group then contacted me to say that his father recorded the following entry in his diary on Thursday 18th September 1941: 'Last Tues we shot down a German bomber near Jaywick'. This would have been the night of 16th September 1941 and, therefore, also confirms EJR's account of this plane being shot down in the Clacton area.
Many thanks to Mike and Roger for your help with my enquiries about these events.
The Clacton VCH Group's book: Clacton at War, which Roger Kennell helped to compile, is a fascinating history of Clacton, a coastal town on the frontline in the Second World War. CP
Nobody about in Colchester except a policeman at the Holly Trees gate. Thankful to get in and have hot ovaltine. Alarm off at midnight.
* The glare that EJR saw in the sky was from a German plane which was shot down near Clacton on 16th September 1941. See EJR's account for 17th September 1941 for more details.
Home by 6.30, and had supper with Molly Blomfield at the café. She was on duty the other night, and heard the bombs whistle down right over the ambulance depot. Most horrifying. I hate and loathe these sudden attacks.
All men were registered as “fireguards” today, but I did not have to trouble, being a Special Constable.
First alarm for about a fortnight. No planes to be heard for a few minutes. Then I heard a plane approaching low and steady, and thought “That’s one of ours”. Plane seemed to go overhead, then three or four loud explosions. There was a faint trembling, and a few pieces of plaster fell from the roof of the cell.
I leapt out of bed, bundled on trousers, boots and tin hat, grabbed my glasses and rushed out to open the doors. I could hear the noise of the plane and bursts of machine gun fire towards the north. Taylor was coming across the Park, in darkness, and I heard him call “Hurry up there!” but who to I don't know. Then the alarm bell rang from the roof, and I rushed up there, my heart almost bursting. Old Simons called out from the north side of the roof “Look at the fires, Sir!” and I saw in the direction of North Station dozens of glowing fires. The plane was going away towards the east, still firing. The night was cloudy, with a fitful moon. There was not the slightest effort to fire on the intruder.
I heard the faint sound of a whistle, but no sound of fire-engines. A goods-train came clanking down the Ipswich line, and stopped by Clay Lane crossing. Gradually the fires flickered out, except one or two, apparently near the By Pass Road, which burned a long time. A few drops of rain fell, and it was very cold. I stood wondering if anybody had been killed down there in the darkness, and was thankful to find in daylight that there was no damage or injuries – three H.E. fell in fields beyond the station, but that was all. Old Simons said “I hope I done right Sir, to ring the bell?” I told him yes, and went down below to get warm. Lay reading “Lemmy Caution” for an hour then heard the All clear at 10 to 5.
Capt. Round had his car smashed in a collision with an army lorry today, but was not hurt. I keep hearing about crops not yet harvested. Sunny most of the day, and a few clouds, getting very thick tonight.
EJR includes a notice in his journal for this date, issued by the War Agricultural Committee on the subject of the 'Immobilisation of farm tractors in the event of an invasion'.
Waller was here this morning from Coventry. Says he can get plenty of food in Colchester, bacon, butter, and sugar. I gather he gets it through a friend in the Co-op. He also got 5 gallons for petrol without any coupons. Fine day, warm, few clouds. Lovely evening.
Dull, cloudy and rather cold.
The Spitsbergen raid by British, Canadian and Norwegian forces on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen took place in August 1941 but the news was presumably not released until September. The raid was launched to deny coal and port facilties to the Germans. More details on this raid can be found on the WW2 Today website and includes a contemporary account from an islander who had to leave her home. CP
Beautiful blonde, with fine shapely features, wearing a dark coat, goes past my window every day, across the Park. She was in the Café one night. I don't know who she is.
Called on Molly Blomfield at 19 Trinity Street tonight, and had supper there and a long talk. Felt better when I went to bed.
Drove over to Elmstead this morning with Hampshire, to do a deal over his pony. We drove it in my trap. Noticed some fine horses at Park Farm. Many stacks dotted about the landscape, thatched and set to rights. At Elmstead we grazed the pony on the green, in the warm sun, and watched people going down the lane to church. At last Mr. “Tinny” Goode, drove up in a very nice Lawton trap. Did not think much of his pony, but after a good deal of talking and haggling a “chop” was arranged. Then we all went into “The Bowling Green”, - Hampshire, “Tinny”, his mate Walter, and myself. Of course, no sooner had beer been ordered all round then Hull walks in, dragging his enormous Alsation. He said “Hullo, what’s this party?” I replied primly that it was a horse-deal. Hampshire said several witticisms, and Hull wandered out and into the pub opposite. I talked to “Tinny” about Penelope’s pony, which he insists on calling “Sugar”. “Ah, sir,” he said, “she’s a fine little mare, but she’s no pony for a young lady to be a’drivin’”. I told him there was no need to worry about Penelope.
We made ready to drive home. “Tinny” patted his former pony goodbye, and he and Walter clambered into the Lawton and drove away. I drove off with the “chop”, which I did not think as good as the one we had brought. My three half-pints at the “Bowling Green” must have had some little effect, as I misjudged my position by Wivenhoe Park and brought down a few feet of Mr Gooch’s pole palings. Two large pieces fell into the trap, and as I bent to throw them out Hampshire said “Don’t do that! – They’ll come in for firewood!” No damage to trap.
Late lunch at home, washed and cleaned up, then cycled to Ardleigh and saw Mr. Barker in Harts Lane about his taking Whitehouse Farm, Langham. I think he would be rather a good man to have there.
Went on to Birchett’s Wood and had tea. Drove little Cider (or “Sugar”), for half an hour. She went very well. Had a lovely supper by candlelight. Penelope was more than usually tongue-tied. Mrs. Belfield has been staying at Painswick in Glos., and said that almost everybody ate at the British Restaurants, the gas supply being so bad it was difficult to do any cooking.
Rode home in the moonlight, bringing back two eggs and a vegetable-marrow which Mrs. B. kindly gave me.
National Day of Prayer, but saw nothing of it. Only hope it does not have the bad effects which other Days of Prayer have had!
In 1940, the Government decreed that the Sunday nearest to the anniversary of the commencement of the war would be observed as a National Day of Prayer. In 1941, this fell on Sunday 7th September. Previously, a National Day of Prayer held on 26th May 1940 coincided with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk and the National Day of Prayer on 8th September 1940 coincided with the commencement of the London Blitz. CP
When I went up into the gallery, two or three people were standing about, and a few noisy children wandered about. The Chairman came in with Alderman Hazell, the Town Clerk just behind him. Harvey also came.
Sir Gurney came up to me and remarked that he did not expect many E.A.S. members, as many of them had to catch trains or buses, which I thought to be very wrong. Old Wykeham Chancellor, the President, hobbled in, and Benton, fat and bustling, looking over the top of his glasses. Then came Craske, Marshall the solicitor, (who spoke to me) and Cr. Blomfield and Smallwood. Duncan Clark hurried in, and half a dozen more. It was a very poor gathering.
Benton began to speak in his usual unctuous parsonical manner, and then the Mayor arrived in a tremendous hurry. Laver’s little godson, young Jeffreys, was there in his mother’s arms. He is about 3 years old I should think, so if he lives to be 70, he can say in 2010 that his godfather was born 145 years ago. There were no representatives of the Laver family at all. Benton read a letter from the old sister, who said she was ill in bed. Wykeham Chancellor spoke, leaning heavily on his stick, very dry and dull. Then Sir Gurney made a very pleasant little speech. He spoke of “two lives almost one”, covering a century and a quarter, and praised the industry of this worthy father and son.
Finally Poulter handed him the white tape, which he had been anxiously holding ever since the speeches began. I removed myself to the back of the crowd, not wishing to be in the forefront if some ridiculous contretemps occurred, such not being unexpected in Poulter’s affairs. However, all was well, the old Chairman jerked the tape, the cloth flew off, and the stone was revealed. The little crowd surged slightly forward. Sir Gurney gazed at it in silence for a few moments, and then in his slow quavering voice, read out the inscription:
THIS TABLET IS PLACED HERE TO HONOUR
THE MEMORY OF HENRY LAVER, FSA 1829-1917,
& OF HIS SON PHILIP GUYON LAVER, FSA, 1866-
1941, WHO FOR MANY YEARS WERE ACTIVELY
INTERESTED IN THIS MUSEUM AND WHOSE GENEROUS
GIFTS GREATLY ENRICHED ITS COLLECTIONS.
ERECTED IN GRATEFUL MEMORY AND APPRECIATION OF
THEIR SERVICES BY THE COLCHESTER TOWN COUNCIL
ON THE SUGGESTION OF THE MUSEUM COMMITTEE
The Mayor spoke, as badly as he always does, and called to mind the fierceness of the old Alderman when on the Council 30 years ago. A few more remarks by Benton, and the little crowd drifted away. The commemoration of the Lavers was over. I walked downstairs alone, and went back to the office.
This memorial tablet to Henry and Philip Laver can still be seen in Colchester Castle today.
The weather fine and hot, and the harvest going well. This evening shifting muck out of the stables, with Hampshire’s pony.
Had supper in Culver Street with Maisie Farmer and her sister. Walked home with them in the dusky twilight, arm in arm, the streets full of soldiers coming out of the public-houses. Did not call at home. Poor Mother. A few people hurrying along as I walked back to the Castle. Fog coming up, and the moon showing faintly through it.
Read “Truth” and “Cavalcade” tonight, both of which give gloomy if opposite views of the war. “Calvacade” prophesies a complete collapse of Russia within a short time, and the Germans impregnable in the west. Then a full scale invasion of England within 3 to 6 months. I doubt this on account of the need to refit the German army after the Russian campaign, but I am certain that any such invasion would be successful.
At eleven o’clock tonight a fire engine rushed clanging along High Street and down Queen St. I went on the Holly Trees roof, but could see nothing.
Joanna Round told me rather an extraordinary thing today. She went to see the film “Disraeli”, [the film was called "The Prime Minister" (1941) and starred John Gielgud] in which a photo was shown of an extract from a newspaper giving the result of Disraeli’s first election. She noticed that the next item following stated that James Round (her grandfather) was in for Maldon! How amazed James would have been to contemplate that his descendant should see his victory announced in such a way!
Best wishes, Catherine Pearson
A German plane came over at 10 o’clock, as I was cycling back, but there was no firing. I heard gunfire and distant bombs at midnight.
Two very fierce, firm ladies own the place. I was shown all over, and told I could have a very nice little room upstairs. But the terms? Three guineas a week, or £2-10 if I was away for weekends. Thanked them and left these rapacious sharks as hurriedly as I could.
Went down by the fruit farms, across the deep valley, and passed the Roses' house. Went on to Hill Farm, looking very smart under a new coat of paint. Unfortunately, there was nobody at home.
Along Langham Lane saw a team of horses turning into the yard at Park Farm. The fields all around are thick with traves of oats, wheat and barley, and the lovely little thatched cottages had lights twinkling in their windows.
At Colchester fed Bob, and called at home. A rather disappointing evening.
Baytree Cottage (now known as Baytrees) at Great Horkesley can be viewed here as it is currently for sale.
It was on the night of the 26th August 1941 that A.J.A. Symons, the writer, died in Colchester Hospital. He was only 40 years old. He promised much but achieved little, though his “Quest for Corvo” was an excellent piece of work.
See “A.J.A. Symons – His Life and Speculations”, by Julian Symons (1950), p266.
This afternoon rode over to Dedham and had tea at Sissons’. The day, cloudy.
There was a shower before I got back, which came marching down the Colne Valley and sprayed me as I came down Turner Road.
Cold and stormy all day.
A survey of this site by Colchester Archaeological Trust, undertaken in 2000, agrees with EJR's archaeological assessment of the site:
'The development [Thomas Lord Audley School] is located on the site of Monkwick Farm, a moated grange (complete with fishponds) of St John’s Abbey, Colchester. After the Dissolution of 1547 it came into the possession of Sir Francis Jobson, who apparently rebuilt the house and enclosed a park there. The property was badly damaged during the Civil War in 1648, and then restored. Becoming increasingly dilapidated, it continued in existence as a farmhouse until its demolition in 1963, in preparation for the construction of a school. The fishponds had been drained in 1920.'
(Colchester Archaeological Trust Report, 2000, p.4)
Some wartime memories of Monkwick Farm can be viewed on the Monkwick Residents Association website.
It was such a pleasure to meet so many of you who follow EJR's blog and thank you for your support for his book as well.
Bourne Mill proved to be the perfect setting for this event because of EJR's close associations with the Mill and his role in the campaign to save it for the National Trust in 1936, exactly 75 years ago this month.
To celebrate this anniversary Bourne Mill will be holding a 1940s weekend on 10-11 September 2011. This will also be Heritage Open Weekend in Colchester so many historic properties, including Bourne Mill, will be open for free. Many of these buildings have associations with EJR so it is a great time to visit Colchester.
Thanks again, Catherine Pearson
Afterwards drove her back [to Dedham] with old Bob. It took one and a quarter hours, but the old man went wonderfully. Lovely little girl at the Land Settlement, with red hair and very blue eyes, about 15 I should think. Drove old Bob straight back, 15 miles right off, and he did it well.
Heard from Mother today, saying that Aunt Het seems anxious that they should go.
EJR's parents returned to Colchester from Maidenhead on 18th August 1941.
Rain, rain, and wind all day.
I can't help speculating if they ever met? Alwyne Garling was only six months older than EJR and both suffered from poor health. By a curious coincidence, Rudsdale's first job on leaving school was as a clerk at the Essex and Suffolk Fire Insurance Office in Colchester High Street before he joined the staff of Colchester Museum whilst Alwyne Garling spent his career at the Essex and Suffolk Insurance Society in Chelmsford.
Alwyne Garling's diaries have been transcribed by family historian, Heather Johnson, and each entry is being published on-line by Mark Colyer exactly 70 years after they were first written.
Tonight I called at Rallings’, and found the whole family there, and was pressed to have supper, which I did. The radio was turned on, and some dreadfully dull speech came grinding out, at the end of which the National Anthem was played. To my horror, everybody in the room stood up, as solemn as owls, looking firmly to the front. I was so surprised that I found myself standing with them. I would give anything to have had enough presence of mind to remain seated.
Clock altered an hour tonight. Raid alarm at quarter to 10, seeming to indicate the approach of autumn.
Went down to Mersea this afternoon. My coalcarts have been sent down there ready to begin carting oats next week.
EJR had purchased coal carts on behalf of the War Agricultural Committee to provide additional carts for the harvest.
Full moon tonight, but cloudy. Lovely all day.
I am really determined to find lodgings before the winter. I will not go through another winter in the Oven [Parnell's Cell in Colchester Castle].
27th Anniversary of the beginning of the last war, which I well remember. We were at Lowestoft at the time [on holiday].
The sale catalogue for Severalls Hall Farm dated 27th September 1941 is available to view at Essex Record Office.
Took 2 hours off tonight and went to a cinema. Had supper in the Culver St. café. George’s wife and her sister were there. Many searchlights tonight, but no planes.
Out with Mr. Craig tonight [a member of the War Agricultural Committee], and surveyed Brickhouse Farm, Ipswich Road, (Mr. Williams).
Rudsdale was undertaking this survey as part of the National Farm Survey, which began in 1941 and continued until 1943. The Survey was seen as a 'Second Domesday Book', and as a 'permanent and comprehensive record of the conditions on the farms of England and Wales'. The Survey aimed to inspect farmland to maximise food production for the war effort and to inform post-war planning but also, more controversially, to grade farmers according to their perceived capabilities to manage a farm. Farmers receiving a low grade were more likely to have their farms taken over by the County War Agricultural Committee.
Today the Survey returns provide an important record of land ownership and land use in the 1940s and are available to view at the National Archives.
Worked in office this afternoon, and after tea made a tour of Langham and Boxted. Went in Boxted Church, and then over to Lt. Horkesley. The ruins look exactly as they did last autumn, except that grass is beginning to grow over them.
Back to Colchester, and called at Seymour’s. Fine, warm day.
Miss Oldfield began work at the Castle today, apparently taking my place. She is not more than 22, and is a B.A. of Manchester University.
The service was at St. Peter’s where he was Church Warden. There was quite a big crowd. I walked in with Sisson. The coffin was already in the chancel when we went in, I suppose brought from the hospital, and the organ was playing softly and sadly. Duncan Clark came in, with several of his men, and Becket, young Cross and young Blaxill, all ARP Wardens from Brown’s post. Kenn, Hurry, and poor old Andrews came from the Borough Engineer’s Office. A lot of women. One bought a little girl of 8 or 9.
Chambers the builder came and sat next to me at the back, and Carl Stephenson came into the same pew, all dressed in black. Neither noticed me.
The church looked very dark and depressing. The aisle galleries are a sad mistake. The Sayer monuments, the oldest in the town, look down from their inaccessible heights. It is a shame they cannot be seen. The dismal atmosphere is increased because most of the windows are permanently blacked out, and gas-lights flare along the aisle.
The interior of St Peter's Church as Rudsdale knew it can be seen here in a series of photographs by Bill Brandt taken in 1943 as part of the National Buildings Record.
The family mourners came in, among them Brown of the Technical College, in a lieutentant’s uniform. Strange that I never knew they were brothers. The Bishop of Colchester was there, as Brown had been a churchwarden. The usual hymns and prayers. I noticed that many of the congregation did not appear to know when to kneel or when to stand.
At last the organ struck up a bright tune, and the plain oak coffin was carried down the church, the Bishop, parsons and all disappearing under the tower. We all knelt in prayer, and the organ was mute. Then a bright tune again, and we all straggled out into the sunshine.
I liked little Brown. He was a good, sensible architect, and did a lot of work for Penrose and for the Civic Society.
At lunch time I saw several hundred horses and mules being loaded at St Botolph’s station. It looked quite like a scene from the last war.
A young boy was killed at North Station today, trying to cross the line in front of a train.