EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

30th October 1941

Out early this afternoon, and cycled to Battleswick [Farm]. The old gentlemen are still about the place, and are continuing to farm about 20 acres across the valley, which I am sure they will do until they drop dead. They are both real good Essex farmers. Inspected some old brewing things for the Museum, and then on to Fingringhoe. Saw pretty little Miss Elmer driving a tumbrel past Grubb’s, while her father’s tractor was ploughing the big field behind Hervey Benham’s house.

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.

29th October 1941

Biting cold N.E. wind. Sunny in the morning, and then about 1 o’clock it began to snow, but soon left off. George Farmer came in, looking rather ill and depressed.

27th October 1941

Cold, windy day. [War Agricultural] Committee meeting at Birch. Frightful row about Langenhoe Hall, the Chairman threatens to resign. It is certainly a scandal if old Tuke can evade his liabilities by allowing the Committee to take possession.

In consequence of this row, got home early and had supper and much pleasant conversation at Molly Blomfield’s in Trinity Street.

26th October 1941

Drove Bob over to Boxted, to Harry Holmes’ place, for a load of corn chaff. Left him there, and cycled on to the Rushbury’s house at Higham, where I had tea. Rushbury is rather a pompous little man at close quarters. Cycled back to Boxted, called at Roses’ cottage for a few minutes, picked up Bob, then back to Colchester by 6.30. Got two dozen bags of chaff.

23rd October 1941

Had another dream last night about bombs. Once again I was in some building that was being terribly shaken by explosions. As I lay awake about 4 o’clock this morning the idea suddenly came to me to write a diary which might be called “Twenty One Years” based on these journals, covering the period from 1920 to 1941. “Twenty One Wasted Years” would perhaps be a better title.

The Indians are very popular in the town, crowds of small children following them everywhere.

22nd October 1941

Decided I had not given Mother anything worth having on Monday, so bought her a very good bag and put £2 in the purse of it.

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.

21st October 1941

Glorious weather, though cold. View from the office window made grander every day by the ever changing autumn tints. A lady artist appeared this morning, with sketching board and folding stool, and sat on the Holly Trees Lawn, apparently sketching the E. end of the Castle. Much interest was taken by a crowd of little boys, who sprang up from nowhere, and two tall Indians, walking through the Park, stopped to speak to her.

EJR's book 'E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester' records that the first Indian soldiers arrived in Colchester by 17th October 1941.

20th October 1941

Dear Mother’s birthday. Gave her a few little gifts, which seemed to please her, and she had one or two from friends and relations.

I find that we are still carting barley at Abraham’s Farm, Gt. Tey.

19th October 1941

Lay later than I intended, but got down to the stables before Maura arrived. Got busy cutting chaff. Wonderful what two pairs of hands can do, we got through a whole truss in half an hour. Then carted it to Bourne Mill with Bob. Sat on the hay in the granary and discussed the future of the Mill property, which seems to be very bleak.

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.

18th October 1941

Bright, with strong westerly wind. Spent the afternoon at Benham’s offices, going through old photograph files, from 1903. Made some very interesting discoveries, including pictures of the military review and the aeroplane at Colchester in 1913, both of which I remember well.

17th October 1941

Bought Barker’s book of horse drawings today, and sent it to Penelope for her birthday. Hope she will like it.

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.

15th October 1941

Cold. Heavy thick clouds all day. Very busy in office, after Committee meeting.

14th October 1941

Rain today, and cold. We are still carting barley at Abraham’s Farm, Gt. Tey, where it has been left out by the late tenant Ross.

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.

13th October 1941

Dull day. [War Agricultural] Committee at Birch. Spent two or three hours sorting P.G. Laver’s photo collection tonight. Went up to Poulter's flat to hear the 9 o’clock news, which was “jammed” by the Germans, so we could hear nothing. Quiet night.

12th October 1941: A Visit to Flatford

Glorious, warm sunny day, with great fleecy clouds floating across the sky. The first tints of autumn are appearing in the trees.

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.

9th October 1941

Had two very queer dreams the other night, in the early hours of the morning. In the first I was in the basement of a large building, it seemed to be in London, when bombs fell loudly and terrifyingly near. The place trembled violently, and a piece of stone fell on my foot.

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.

8th October 1941

Thick fog early in the morning, but cleared away by eleven o’clock. Then a bright sunny day.

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.

7th October 1941

Had a day off. Went over to Ipswich in Mr. Craig’s car, picking up Penelope B. at Stratford Church on the way. Had a very pleasant day. A good horse sale. The chestnut cob which I so admired when Blake had it was there, and made 40 gns in 5 minutes. It was bought by a man named Frost at Bromley. It is a fine looking animal, and I wished it was mine.

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

5th October 1941

This morning drove in Watts’ little tub trap over to Fingringhoe with the jennet, taking Maura and Edna Benham. Lovely day, pleasant drive. The jennet had not been in harness for a year, but she went very well, her tiny feet clattering along in great style.

3rd October 1941

Coming down High Street after lunch, I met the good looking woman whom I saw at a Repertory Show last winter, waiting for a bus at the Hippodrome. I stopped and chatted, and discovered she is staying at a café at East Bergholt. Promised to call and see her there.

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.

2nd October 1941

Always seems to be pay day in the office, or else preparing for pay day. Thursday again, and the end of another week in view.

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.

1st October 1941

Joanna Round’s 21st Birthday today. She did not come to the office as they were having a celebration at Birch Hall.

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.