30th November 1941: Gt Bromley Pylons Radar System

Went to Dedham today, by way of Crockleford and saw two enormous craters in a field next to Carrington’s Farm, where two of the land mines fell on Thursday. The other two were further over towards Bromley. This was apparently an attack on the Bromley Pylons, but missed by a long way. A lot of people in the district are complaining because no attempt was made to bring down the attacking planes.

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

29th November 1941

Got up at 7 this morning to let Joanna Round into the office so that she could do three hours work before going hunting. Warm, but pitch dark. I could hear the footsteps of people going to work, and see a few cycle lamps coming up High St. An early bus came round from the garage in Queen Street, full of workmen.

28th November 1941

Had a most unpleasant dream about quarter to 6 this morning. I was with Hervey Benham and Maura, apparently in a field, and we were sitting on the grass, looking at pictures in a book. One showed a Thames barge fast on some rocks, a boat hanging from its davits on the starboard side, and the great red sail flapping. It was entitled “The Death”. The pictures were endowed with motion, like a film, and I could see the waves moving and the sail flapping. I had just drawn Benham’s attention to this fact, when a mighty bomb exploded nearby, with a blinding, yellow light and shattering roar. I crouched on the ground, my hands over my ears, and woke up in that position, sweat running off me and my heart pounding madly.

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.

25th November 1941

Warmer, dull morning, and became so dark that by 10 o’clock we had to have lights on. Rain began, and the scene from the office window was one of grey winter twilight, steely rods of rain beating down, a low grey sky, the tree boles on the Castle Ramparts showing black against it. A woman with a shopping basket hurried across the lawn, her head well down into her umbrella, her light coloured mackintosh gleaming against the asphalt path. It is strange that here, in the very heart of Colchester, I can see green fields and woods right up to the distant horizon. What a tragic mistake that the By Pass road was ever put along the bottom of the valley.



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.


24th November 1941

Fine day. Warm. Did not feel well, with stomach pains on and off all day and a high temperature. Capt. Round came in today about the proposed aerodrome at Birch, which he is determined to oppose. He suggests Tiptree Heath as an alternative. How human these people really are. Of course, England must have hundreds of aerodromes, it’s essential, but by Gad, not at Birch! The amenities will be destroyed – the shooting will be interfered with – and, worst of all, Norfolk’s Grove, the best covert for miles, will be uprooted! To say nothing of ruining at least 500 acres of good farm land. Therefore, extinguish the common rights on Tiptree Heath, and bully the Air Ministry to establish a large aerodrome on the edge of a populous village. It is somehow curiously reassuring to find that our elders and betters are so like us.

E J Rudsdale Talk to the Dedham Vale Society 28 November 2011

Readers may be interested to know that I will be giving a talk on 'E.J. Rudsdale and his Journals from 1920-1951' to the Dedham Vale Society on Monday 28th November 2011 at the Assembly Rooms, Dedham, Essex at 8pm.

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

21st November 1941

Warmer today, a cloudy autumn morning, the sun shining through grey and purple clouds. Everything very damp in the Castle, the walls sweating in rivulets. Had a bad night, high temperature and a sore throat. During the morning, Mrs. Blake, on the floor above, hurled a shower of bread crusts out of the top window onto the lawn beneath. Instantly a great flock of gulls, blackbirds, jackdaws, thrushes and sparrows, appeared from nowhere, and came wheeling and swooping in the most amazing evolutions, the jackdaws and sparrows dodging among the bigger birds. It is a strange thing that the Castle pigeons never seem to join in these daily feasts, nor do they ever come down to feed with sparrows. For years I have tried to tempt them with corn, so that they would come sailing down in great squadrons, like the London pigeons, but I have never succeeded.

17th November 1941

A little better than yesterday, but blustery, grey and purple clouds coming and going across the sky. Almost all the leaves are down now, and from my window at Holly Trees the great beech by the Castle Ditch shows only a few rustling russet leaves on the ends of his fingers. The little flowering cherry on the law below me has a few leaves still left, and a wide circle of brown and yellow all round him, like feathers, reminding me of a partly plucked chicken. “Old Bob”, who used to run with the Harriers, crosses the Park leaning on his stick, bent up with rheumatism. A plane flies slowly across the sky, towards the east.

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.

16th November 1941

Cold and windy. Rain began about 1 o’clock, and I cycled over to Dedham in a heavy buffeting side-wind, which, as I had two stone of chicken meal on the carrier, made heavy going. (I got this for Mrs. B. with some unwanted ration coupons). I was late at the Belfields, but had a cup of tea, and got dried a bit. Penelope talked about going to work at the Brantham factory, as she feels she will be forced to work before long [as a result of the National Service regulations for women].

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.

13th November 1941

This morning had to go with a Government vet: and two members of the County Livestock Committee to see cows at Holmwood Farm, Chitts Hill, kept by old Phizacklea. There are nine lovely little Jerseys, a Jersey bull, all half-starved, and in terrible condition. The fool has nothing to feed them on this winter except mouldy hay, and they are only producing 3 gallons a day from 4 cows. Five are dry, and all of them have aborted at one time or another.

11th November 1941: Armistace Day

Armistace Day, cold and dull, with mist in the distance, just like a dozen other such days in past years. The Mayor deposited a wreath of poppies at the Memorial without any ceremony. A few other wreaths were put there, from the British Legion, the “Old Contemptibles”, etc., and during the day people could be seen slowly mounting the steps of the monument to read the labels on them. Poppy sellers in the streets, and most people wearing one. Heavy rain all the evening, everything soaking wet.

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.

10th November 1941

Heavy rain all day, so Bob was not brought back. I now have 20 bags of corn chaff, but cannot get any straw.

Mayor making today, Ald. Sanders again.

9th November 1941

Slept badly last night, the luxury of a real bed being counteracted by the intense coldness of the room. This morning I heard Mrs. B. and Penelope moving about at 8 o’clock, getting ready to cycle to Mistley Catholic Church. Read, dozed, and woke again, to find to my horror that it was quarter to eleven. Hurried about, no breakfast, and rushed down to the Mill. Cold bright day, and windy. Got Bob out, filthy dirty and just got him to the trap when the Belfields arrived. We all went up to Lawford Hall to fetch the phaeton. Mrs. Parrington came galloping across the Park on Roger, riding very well indeed.

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.

8th November 1941

Got filing box for my photos, made by Benham. This afternoon drove Bob slowly to Lawford, and put him up at Sherbourne Mill. Then walked up to Birchett’s Wood. Supper, and much talking then bed at 11.30.

7th November 1941

Rang Penelope tonight, and arranged to spend the weekend at Birchett’s Wood.

5th November 1941

Not a Guy to be seen anywhere today [for Guy Fawkes Night]. Spent a lot of time searching through photos at the “Essex County Standard” tonight – a saddening job, to be reminded of many scenes with which I was familiar when I was young.

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.

3rd November 1941

Mr. A.W. Page [a farmer on the War Agricultural Committee] said today that he did not see why the Government should get so much money out of Excess Profits Tax, so after this harvest he gave his head men £25 each – on condition they invested it in War Loan!

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.

2nd November 1941

Had a long and pleasant day at Birchett’s Wood [the Belfields' home] and the Sissons' [at Dedham], cycling home at midnight under a watery moon, with a few heavy showers at times, fortunately blowing behind me. Had a narrow escape where a trench has been badly filled in on Harwich Road. I fell into a hole about 6 inches deep when going at full speed, and all but came off. Got to Castle at quarter to one, dried my clothes and drank hot milk.

1st November 1941

The Germans are still advancing into the Crimea, but the newsboys this afternoon were only calling “Big Race Result”.

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.