1st January 1941 - New Year's Day

A year ago today I wrote of a prospect of unrelieved gloom. [See EJR's diary entry for 1st January 1940 here]. I said it would be a miracle if New Year’s Day 1941 found me alive and at Colchester Castle. That miracle has come about. I am alive, if not exactly well, and am more in the Castle than ever, as I suppose I must be spending about 16 hours a day in it. Since my gloomy writings a year ago, bombs have fallen within a few hundred yards of me but I have been in no ways affected. I have had several narrow escapes cycling but I survived those as well. I am not worried by the fate of friends, because even now, after 16 months of war, I have only three friends or acquaintances in the forces – Stanley Hills and Hervey Benham in the Navy, and George Farmer in the RAF. It is terrible to think of girls of 20 and 25, with every male friend in some dangerous job.

My cash affairs remain about the same, something like £200 in the Bank and £70 in superannuation fund. I have saved a few pounds during the year, but the cost of horse-keep has gone up a lot – hay nearly £10 a ton, oats 18/3 per cwt, bran 11/6 cwt. Dreadful prices, and not going to the poor farmers either.

My parents are still well and as happy as possible. I am no worse, still coughing, with pains in several parts, bad exhaustion at times, eyesight rather weaker, and a recurrence of my old sleepwalking-amnesia trouble. (I have done it once at the Castle).

Enemy action in Colchester has not yet had very much effect. About 50 or 60 bombs have fallen within the Borough Boundaries, four houses and part of a laundry have been demolished, about a dozen houses and a workshop at Moler’s damaged, (mostly slightly), five people killed and 4 injured. Hardly a military success. The great dangers are now A) bombing or machine gunning by solitary planes in daylight (Clacton had had a lot of this) B) bombs dropped by planes returning from London, and C) an invasion. This last is always in our minds, although hardly any one ever mentions it, except in joke. At any moment during the next few weeks we may find it is no joke but a terrible reality. I firmly believe (and so do many others) that if the Germans once get a landing in England nothing will stop them. The defences erected look ridiculously inadequate.

Today terribly cold, bitter north wind. I was much cheered to have a visit from Mr Sadler and Captain Folkard of the Essex Agricultural Executive, offering me a job as Clerk to the District Committee which is to sit at Colchester. I expressed willingness to take it, and sincerely hope I shall get the job, although I shall find it a fearful wrench to break away from the Castle. I told Poulter tonight, and he did not express much opinion either way.

Anyway, the visit today cheered me up a good deal. HWP suggests that they ought to take Holly Trees Library as an office, which I must admit would be rather ideal. One thing I should miss here more than anything would be Parnell’s Cell which I now find most cosy and (I hope) comparatively safe. As I write in it now (quarter to midnight) planes are flying east and 3 or 4 bombs have just dropped. I suppose this is another London attack.

A little snow is falling.

Captain Folkard was the District Officer for the Lexden and Winstree District Committee of the Essex War Agricultural Committee. R N Sadler was deputy to J C Leslie, the Executive Officer at the Essex War Agricultural Executive at Writtle, Chelmsford.

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