EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

31st December 1941 - New Year's Eve

So ends 1941, and so we look into the vague vista of 1942, a year which will no doubt bring as many disasters and terrors as that now finished. Colchester has been very lucky indeed, in fact since those two days in the autumn of 1940 there have been few really terrifying moments, and the wail of the siren no longer turns my stomach. If this luck holds until the end of the war it will be a wonderful thing. There are rumours that aerodromes are to be built at Langham and Colne. If this is done I am afraid the town will be in considerable danger, but they are nothing more than rumours so far.

No bells and no sirens at midnight tonight, only a few distant drunken voices singing “Auld Lang Syne”.

30th December 1941

Felt better today, but considerable pain in the legs. My limbs have a curious tendency to “go to sleep” at odd times. Heart pains quite gone now, but I have been careful to avoid any strains.

29th December 1941

Terribly cold. The office is only half heated. Felt very ill. When I went out at 8 o’clock the sun was just beginning to show in the east, casting a faint pink glow across the sky, while the west was a beautiful egg shell blue. High Street was deep in misty shadows, the tower of the Town Hall and the Water Tower glowing faintly in the light of the rising sun.

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.

27th December 1941

This afternoon it suddenly dawned on me that while wages are as high as they are now the working man will never make any effort to stop the war. Providing things are no worse than they have been this last two years, the working man will be content to carry on for a lifetime.

26th December 1941 - Boxing Day

Fine, cold day. Had to go to the office all day. Only Joanna and Peter Folkard [Capt Folkard’s son] came in, to work on the Farm Survey, which is rather behind-hand. The whole town was very firmly shut, not a shop or a café open anywhere. I rang up Rose, who was there, but she had no food. We all (Jo. Peter and I) went round to the Regal, but that was shut, too, so we were finally driven to going to the “Red Lion”, where I have not been for years. Had a very good lunch, after waiting a while, and I paid for the lot, 14/4 in all.

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.

25th December 1941 - Christmas Day

At home most of the day. Mother still managed to provide a “Christmas dinner”, turkey, plum pudding, everything. She has never failed yet, and I don't believe she ever failed in the last war. Went down to the mill this afternoon, and did a little work. Quite a number of Christmas cards, which Mother set out on the mantel-shelf in the usual way.

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.

23rd December 1941

Went out with Joanna this afternoon to do the survey of Brick Kiln Farm, by the “Lion and the Lamb”. Part of the land is in Langham and part in the Borough, owing to the very peculiar formation of the boundary at that point. Hadley has a nice little farm, with 6 cows and a few pigs. He was complaining that old Mitchell will not take his horses (or rather horse and pony) off the low meadow, where he has no right to put them. I told H. to impound them, but all these men feel that the law protects the wrong-doer, not the complainant, and I know he will take no action. The horse is very old, and Hadley said “If he live on that medder much longer, he’ll die.”

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.

21st December 1941

Up late, after a bad night with considerable pain. Cut a little chaff, did a few odd jobs, lunch, washed and out to Langham. Saw Hadley at Tile Kiln, and inspected Mitchell’s horses. Went on to Dedham, and had tea at Sisson’s.

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.

20th December 1941

Dull day, fog getting thicker towards the evening. Spent the afternoon carting fodder down to Bourne Mill. Old Bob is incredibly filthy, but seems very fit and happy. The donkey bounces along like a great teddy-bear.

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.

19th December 1941

Great rush of work and hurrying around to get everything started before going to Writtle. Went up in Capt. Folkard’s car, with Jean Kemble from the Tendring office. She did not appear to have heard anything about the proposed amalgamation of the two District Offices. There was a thick fog all along the road, which made travelling very bad for me, as I could not have a window open at all.

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.

18th December 1941

Hervey Benham told me today that his eldest sister, Edna, is getting married very suddenly. For some years she has been a private secretary to the Headmaster of Harrow.

17th December 1941

Cold early, with high clouds, and a suspicion of rain. A very busy day, which gave me a feeling of satisfaction.

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.

16th December 1941

The post was very late this morning, for some reason. There are a good many post-women at work now, all over the town.

15th December 1941

Another week. How little I get done. The days seem to follow each other as quickly as hours. Went to tea at the Regal. Saw a lovely little blonde who sometimes has lunch at Rose’s Café. She smiled and we had a little talk. There was also a gloriously handsome girl, with a soldier. She had a delicately moulded face, and long, thick black hair, hanging down over her shoulders. When she got up to go, she put on a scarlet cloak with a hood.

Beautiful starlight night, but no planes or alarms.

14th December 1941

A horrible, wet, miserable day. It began to rain about 10 o’clock, and got steadily worse, but I was determined to go to Dedham, so in due course I set off, heavily laden with 14lbs of mixed corn on the carrier. It was a fearful journey, with a strong wind blowing across, great clouds scudding along with feathery edges. I looked at Walnut Tree Farm, Bromley. It is quite wrecked, roof off, doors and windows, all blown out. The two little farms on either side are also badly damaged, but I did not go so far. [Walnut Tree Farm had been hit by bombs in an attack on the Bromley Radar Pylons on 27th November 1941].

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.

12th December 1941

Glorious starlight tonight, but cold and blustery. Saw a great meteor fall across the southern sky, while a great star showed just above the tower of All Saints Church. I have so much to worry about just now – possible loss of deferment, loss of job, horses, everything, yet I am still hopeful that it will come right. Had a dreadful nightmare last night, something to do with an air-raid, but I cannot remember it. I know at one time there seemed to be a huge plane flying up the Colne towards Colchester, in that horrible grey mist which so often surrounds my bad dreams.

11th December 1941 The United States enters the War

Went out to Boxted this evening to see the Roses, who were just going off to do their turn at firewatching. I went along with them, getting there just at nine. They were anxious to hear the News, and had brought their radio with them. As it was so near time, they switched it on in the school yard, and standing there under the stars, with searchlights waving far away to the south, I heard the chimes of Big Ben, as clearly as if I had been on the Embankment, followed by the information that the United States is now at war with both Germany and Italy. So another chapter of misery and death begins.

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.

10th December 1941

News today that the “Prince of Wales” and the “Repulse” have been sunk in the China Seas by Japanese planes. Quite incredible. Apparently these huge ships were sent out without air escort into a region infested with Japanese air-craft carriers. There was a large notice in the “County Telegraph” window at lunch time, headed “Naval Losses”. Hervey Benham was at lunch, full of gloom and misery.

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.

E.J. Rudsdale Book Signing at Colchester Castle Museum - 14th December 2011

I will be signing copies of E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester at Colchester Castle Museum's Christmas Open Evening on Wednesday 14th December 2011 from 3pm-8.30pm.

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

8th December 1941

Papers full of the Japanese attack on America, and their great successes.

6th December 1941 - Civil Defence Exercise

Capt. Folkard saw Thurgood yesterday, and he says our deferments are all practically certain, which cheered me a good deal.

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.

5th December 1941

To Writtle today. Took cycle on train to Chelmsford, called at the Market. Fair lot of horses there, and quite a number of traps. Could not wait to see any sold. At Writtle, various business, and tried to see Thurgood about my deferment, but could not. However, Capt. Folkard was there today, and promised he would help.

2nd December 1941

Much telephoning to and from Writtle [ie: Writtle Agricultural Institute near Chelmsford where the Essex War Agricultural Executive was based] all day today. Their telephone account must be enormous. Late this afternoon there was a call from Mr. Thurgood, the National Service Officer, for me, to enquire my age, registration number, military service number, etc., as an application was to be made to the Ministry for my deferment. This sounds rather grim and alarming, so I rushed home to find my cards and telephoned the information at once. He also wants the details concerning Nott and Spencer [EJR's work colleagues at the War Agricultural Committee]. I have a feeling that if one of us is to be taken it will be me. Fine and cold, then thick fog this evening.