E.J. Rudsdale Talk

I will be giving a talk as part of the Chelmsford Ideas Festival on E.J. Rudsdale's Journals, entitled 'Creating History: A Civilian's Experience of the Second World War in Essex' on Thursday 30th October from 7.30-9.00pm at Anglia Ruskin University. Tickets are free. Book your ticket here. Many thanks, Catherine Pearson

30th September 1941

Went to Bill Watts’ place to see a new trap which he has got, a little governess car, only built last year at Bury St Edmunds. He wants £9 for it.

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.

29th September 1941

Michaelmas

Cold and wet all day. Committee meeting at Birch. Mr. Craig was talking about the sale of Severalls Hall Farm.

28th September 1941

A beautiful day. Drove over to Lawford with Bob, then put Mrs. Parrington’s Roger in my trap, and she drove Parrington, myself and Penelope Belfield over to East Bergholt. Penelope and Parrington sat behind. Roger went very well, this being the first time he had ever had breechings on. He turned round once, on the Ipswich road, but fortunately a car which was behind us had good brakes. Home to Colchester, and took three eggs for Mother.

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

27th September 1941

From the office window this morning I saw a man going up High Street pushing a hand-cart filled with tall brilliant coloured flowers, red, yellow and brown. I don't know what they were.

Two alarms tonight, the first for a week. Nothing happened.

25th September 1941

Dull warm day. Rushed to the stables at 6 o’clock to cut chaff, rushed to the Mill, rushed home to get clean and changed in case I met the Welsh girl.

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.

New evidence for EJR's wartime account

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 and his sighting of the Northern Lights in Essex on 18th September 1941.

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

23rd September 1941

Bad stomach pains all day. Have not felt so ill for years.

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.

22nd September 1941

Went to see “Love on the Dole” tonight. This is a splendid play, well made, and well acted. It was originally written before the war, and is prefaced by a short explanation which states that it is thanks to the generous forbearance of our wonderful government that we are allowed to see this exposure of working conditions five years or so ago, and which makes it quite clear that the types of workers depicted are now enthusiastically toiling for the war effort. No doubt they are earning £7 or £8 a week. When one realises that these were the conditions in the North, until quite recently, it is clear that the working people will put up with any hardship and danger of war rather than go back to such a state.

Felt very ill tonight, with bad head pains.

21st September 1941

Up at 8. Misty and warm. Breakfast, then down to the Mill to fetch Bob. The sun came out, and the wreaths of mist drifted away over the pond as I led him trotting up Bourne Road. Harnessed up, and away to Westfields to call for Maura Benham. We went along Spring Lane, Lexden, where the Home Guard were blocking the bridge. Met a man riding. Drove up the track opposite West House Farm, under the railway, onto the fields near Bergholt. There were thousands of lovely blackberries. Hedges’ pony was in one field, and began calling loudly, Bob answering. Climbed over to see the pony, a nice looking little beast. I think I might try to buy it. A Canadian despatch rider came along on a motor cycle, and tried to get the machine across a narrow plank bridge over St. Botolph’s Brook, where I had such a battle with Bob some years ago.

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.

18th September 1941: Aurora Borealis Sighted

Beautiful fine day. Cold and misty in the early morning. Frightful muddles in the office today, chiefly about letting land, owing to “red tape” and careless mistakes.

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

17th September 1941: News of a German Plane Shot Down near Clacton

Heard today that the glare which I saw last night was a German plane shot down near St. Osyth. I believe this is true.

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

16th September 1941

Penelope phoned this morning, in a great state because she thought the pony had got mange. I cycled over at 6 o’clock, leaving Hampshire to feed Bob. The pony was quite alright, but had grazed her back through getting hung up. I do wish P. would not leave a trailing rope on her – it is very dangerous. We walked through the fields behind Lufkins, and I ventured to put my arm round her. Had supper, and heard the noise of RAF planes going over, then the sound of a siren at Brantham or Mistley. Left about quarter to eleven. There was a glare in the sky towards Clacton,* and two searchlights which soon went out. The glare was visible until I got almost to Colchester. Very cold, the sky clear and starry, but a thick ground mist. The air smelt more like November. Strange and unearthly to ride swiftly and silently through the mist, not a soul to be seen anywhere. Walking up Johnny Bois Hill I could hear the water gurgling in the brook at the bottom.
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.

15th September 1941

Very long Committee meeting today. The Executive Officer [J.C.Leslie] attended. Met Woods outside the “Lamb” this evening, and had a long talk about horses. He is still reserved and is very lucky, as he is only 28 now. Another alarm tonight at half past 8, but nothing came over. All clear very soon.

14th September 1941

Rain all day, but determined to cycle to the Rushbury’s at Higham, as I had arranged to do so. Had some very pleasant conversation with Mrs. R. [Mrs. Rushbury was the wife of the artist, Sir Henry Rushbury].

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.

12th September 1941

Awakened from a bad and confused dream at a quarter to 4 this morning by an alarm. (Funny how, when awakened like this, one always hopes it is the “All clear” of an alarm one has missed, right up to the first wavering warble).

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'.

11th September 1941

The ghosts seemed very active early this morning – knockings, footsteps, and creakings all over the [Castle] building.

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.

10th September 1941

The news of the Spitzbergen raid is horrifying. To deliberately go to a little remote community, forcibly kidnap the whole of the population, destroy their homes, livestock and belongings, seems to me to be an evil deed.

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

9th September 1941

Cycled over to Hill Farm, Langham tonight, to see if I could hire a room there. Quite hopeless. Called at the Roses and had supper there. Home at 11 o’clock.

Dull and cloudy all day.

8th September 1941

Dull and cold all day. Felt very ill and sick this morning. The office very trying, full of silly people asking silly questions. Saw three pure white pigeons sitting on the roof of the Gatehouse, heedless of the traffic roaring past.

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.

7th September 1941

Fine, sunny day. Strong wind, and great fleecy clouds blowing across from the N.E.

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

6th September 1941

On duty alone tonight. Glorious moon. About midnight, I crept out and went over to Farmer’s shop, where Maisie and Betty made some tea. They had only just got back from a dance. The town was still and silent. No planes over at all.

3rd September 1941: Memorial to the Lavers Unveiled at Colchester Castle

Annual meeting of the Essex Archaeological Society this morning, but I forgot all about it. I could not have gone in any case. This afternoon a memorial tablet in memory of P.G. Laver [formerly Honorary Curator of Colchester Castle Museum] and his father [Henry Laver] was unveiled in the Castle. It was fixed in the most easterly arch of the arcading along the Prehistoric Gallery. The affair was “stage-managed” by Poulter, who provided a little table below the stone, on which he set out a bowl of flowers and photos of the two Lavers. The tablet itself was covered with a dark red cloth (actually one of P.’s table-cloths), with a white tape sewn on one corner.

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!

Two years into the war ...

On the eve of the 2nd anniversary of the start of Eric Rudsdale's Second World War blog, I would just like to thank all of you who have been regularly following the blog and to welcome new readers as well. Those joining us from the Orwell Diaries are especially welcome as we will be missing Eric Blair's wartime blog entries for the time being. Hopefully 'the other Eric' will help to fill the gap! Also do have a look at the other wartime diary blogs that are linked to this site as well.

Best wishes, Catherine Pearson

1st September 1941

[War Agricultural] Committee at Birch. Nothing special, but very long. Not back until nearly 8.