31st December 1942 - New Year's Eve

Thursday
A lot more snow during the night.  The fleecy grey clouds were blowing away as I walked up to the bus, and the sky was blue, the last thin crescent of the moon still strong enough to throw shadows on the snow.  The sun came up pink and gold, and during the whole day there was hardly a cloud in the sky.

Had to draw a full week’s money this afternoon, over £600, as the banks will shut tomorrow.  Stored it in the Muniment Room tonight.

Missed the 5.15 bus, and had to wait at the Bus-Park for the 6.10.  There was a big crowd waiting, and we waited and waited in the queue, but no bus came.  At last, not before 25 minutes to 7, a Beeston and an Eastern National Bus appeared one behind the other. 

Too tired to do any work tonight.  Spent an hour reading Laver’s “Perlustration of the Banlieu of Colchester” – a brilliant piece of work.  I believe that this, together with the Doctor’s Colchester and Essex Indeces, are the most valuable work ever done by the Lavers.

Poulter told me today that Philip Corder was here recently.  I wish I had seen him.  After the war he is going to give up St. Alban’s Museum, and be Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries.  I wonder if I should ever have a chance to get St. Alban’s?  I believe Corder would help me.

So we end another year of disasters and misery.  As a rule I never attempt to foretell the future, but I do not see how the war can end before 1955.  Assuming that the Russians do not collapse, it is quite possible that the Anglo-American forces will invade Greece or Italy this year.  If successful, attempts will be made on Norway, Denmark and Holland.  If these efforts too are successful, the Anglo-American forces will be in a position to attack Germany, but I do not see this at all likely before 1947 or 1948.  Even if Germany is rendered helpless as a fighting unit, the war is not over.  The Japanese will still be active, and Germany beaten can still help by refusing to release prisoners, just as has been done in the case of the French soldiers.  Meanwhile, we shall never be safe from the German bombers.  All constructive effort is absurd until this menace is removed.

A war of extinction against the Japanese will of course be carried out at no matter what cost on the instruction of the big oil and rubber companies, who must recoup their losses.

And so we face 1943, without hope of peace, in fact many of us too bored and apathetic to care what is the outcome of this terrible, disastrous war.

30th December 1942

Wednesday
Up at 7, to see a wild, white, world, snowflakes beating and whirling against the window, and little drifts all along the window-sills.  The trees and hedges were black as charcoal, and great ragged clouds raced overhead, with the moon peeping through them.

Got my breakfast, and walked up to the village to catch the bus.  Cycling was impossible, as there were drifts a foot deep on the roads.  Soon after 8 the clouds drifted away, and the golden dawn appeared in the east.  Every field was a vast untrodden white carpet, and the magic of the snow had changed the cheap, shoddy little cottages in the village into beauty, through which a few labourers moved silently to their work.  Bus was very late, and came along slowly, throwing up fountains of loose snow.  The sun appeared, and the moon paled in a dense blue sky.  Very cold north wind, but everything seemed better and brisker by this sudden change.  Got through a good deal of work today.

Rushed home to tea this afternoon, and then managed to get to Lawford by 6, when it was still barely dark.  The longest nights are behind us now.

Writing all evening.

29th December 1942

Tuesday
Up at 7.   A lovely fine morning, the moon riding high in the sky.  Cycled in early and went down to Bourne Mill to feed Bob.  

New girl began at the office today.  Heather was very late, and did not come in at all yesterday.  I was most annoyed.  Daphne went out this morning to see her boy off to join the RAF. 

All the shops are still shut, except grocers, chemists, etc.  A sort of reluctant holiday air about the town.

No sign of Nott all day, although he was wanted by a good many people.

Came out late tonight, sailing along before a strong S.W. wind.

Received a letter today from the Air Ministry about a plane-crash at Mersea last November 26th, when damage was done to crops at Cross Lane.  Apparently a Mosquito aircraft fell there, killing the crew, but I heard nothing of it at the time.

28th December 1942

Monday
Very dull, lowering, sky.  Except for a gleam of sun yesterday afternoon, there has been no break in the clouds since last Thursday tea-time.

Very cold and bleak.  Cleaned my cycle, wrote letters, and mounted photos.  

Parry was saying that in Frank Girling’s opinion agriculture will be kicked down lower than ever before when the war is over.  He has the lowest opinion of Hudson, and says he has done nothing since he became Minister of Agriculture.

27th December 1942

Sunday
Helped feed stock, and this afternoon writing letters etc.  Frank Girling came to tea on his cycle, and stayed for the Christmas dinner tonight.  The other guests were Mrs. Belfield and Penelope.  It was a lovely supper of turkey, plum pudding and cream, and white wine (Sauternes).  Joy is a wonderful cook.

A great deal of talk about the Beveridge Report.  Mrs. Belfield was most disapproving.  She is a real ‘die-hard’ of the old school, but in Dedham there are even more curious views.  It appears that the Revd. Canon Given-Wilson, and several prominent parishioners, disapproved very strongly of the Red Cross Fund, on the grounds that it is a ‘totalitarian’ movement.  Given-Wilson told Mrs. Belfield so himself.  I have heard that there is a good deal said about the way money is handled in Dedham when collected for various public funds.

Walked home with Mrs. Belfield and Penelope in the moonlight, about 11 o’clock.

26th December 1942

Saturday, Boxing Day
Cold and dull.  Reading and writing all day in great comfort, but took Robin for a run after lunch.  Heard an air attack in the distance as I was driving near Goddard’s Farm, at the rear of Frank Girling’s Farm.  Felt most uncomfortable as I was so near the [radar] pylons, and sheltered behind a straw stack until the noise of firing died away.  Robin went vey well.  There is no greater pleasure in the world than driving a good, willing pony.

Felt queerly ill tonight.  Joy and Parry went out to supper at the Minneys’.  R.J. Minney now says the war will be over early in 1944, and that Japan will be ‘finished’ by the end of that year.  He is engaged (or has been recently) on a film scenario of the play “Dear Octopus”, and speaks feelingly of the difficulties in dealing with film ‘stars’, especially Margaret Lockwood, who demanded that the whole play should be re-written as she did not think her part was sufficiently important. 

25th December 1942: Christmas Day

Friday, Christmas Day
Grey and overcast.  No wind.  Very cold.  A deep silence everywhere.  Joy and Parry went off to lunch at the Wedgewood’s at Stratford, driving Roger, and I cycled in to Colchester, to have lunch at home, - turkey and plum pudding.  

Back to Lawford in the cold grey twilight.  Saw only two people between the Royal Oak and Sherbourne Mill.  This evening finished reading “West Wind to North”, volume 4 of Compton Mackenzie’s great story, which I much enjoyed.

Bed at 11.30, thankful not to have to go to work tomorrow.

24th December 1942

Thursday
Christmas Eve, a lovely sunny day that might have been March or April.  

A tall, gaunt beggar has been singing in the streets yesterday and today, with long grey hair and flowing beard, dressed in a filthy macintosh, his bundle on his back.  Another beggar I saw today in Military Road had a box tricycle with a gramophone on it.  With this he played carols and sang an accompaniment.  About 3 o’clock a military band marched through the town, playing lively music.  Huge queues waiting to get in the cinemas. 
  
Noticed that Wilson the baker at Scheregate, who bought my uncle Shepherd’s business at St. Mary Magdalen, now has a motor van instead of box-tricycles, and Littlebury’s bakery have a new electric van.

Mrs. Lyon-Campbell sent down various books and papers today, or at least Harding [the Museum Attendant] had to fetch them in a sack, dropping them in the mud on the way down.  Very typical of Poulter that he refuses to spend 2/- on a taxi.  The “Perlustration” is included, and also Ald. Wilson Marriage’s “Colchester Illustrated”, which is a gift to me, and I am delighted to have it.

Cycled out by Harwich Road, the voices of the children singing carols all around in the dusk.

23rd December 1942

Wednesday
Glorious sunny morning, but very cold.  Rushed up to St. Clare Drive this morning to see Doctor Laver's books.  Poulter was in one of his usual scatter-brained moods, hurling books into tea-chests in no sort of order, and only making a very inadequate list of them.

So ends the old Doctor’s life-work.  Mrs. Lyon-Campbell was very nice, but she has no idea what she is doing.   The poor old thing is nearly 82 now.  She put on one side a large number of odd drawings, notebooks, extracts from the Court Rolls, Colchester wills, copies of church registers, etc., and at my request added the “Perlustration of the Banlieu of Colchester”, a rare collection of notes on the place names in the borough, begun by Henry Laver and finished by the Doctor.

I insisted that Poulter should look inside the cover of every book to see if it had the Museum or the Essex Archaeological Society’s bookplate, as once the books go to London we shall never see them again.  The Morants, Salmon, Newcourt, etc. which I brought away to Holly Trees in February 1941 are to go, including the fine copy of the Colchester volume which belonged to Morant’s grandson, Philip Hills (formerly Astle) of Colne Park.  This has many extra notes, and a pencil portrait of Morant, apparently similar to that in the Morant MSS.

This book should of course be bought by the Essex Archaeological Society, so I ‘phoned Benton [Secretary of the E.A.S.] tonight to tell him of it.  To my surprise he was not in the least interested, and thought it not worth more than £3.  I will give £3-3-0 for it myself, if I can get it so cheaply.  Benton says that the Society is much too hard up to think of buying books.  They are likely to be poorer next year, as I shall not continue my subscription after this year.

In the papers today it states that 6 were killed in “an East Coast town” yesterday.  There were alarms at Ipswich and Colchester, so it may have been at Felixstowe, Harwich or Dovercourt, but we never hear.

Taylor from New Hall, Lt. Wigborough, came in today.  In the course of conversation about milk, he mentioned that old Mr. Aldred of Moulshams never had fresh milk before the war, always tinned stuff, because he regarded it as being much “cleaner”.

Lovely moon tonight.

21st December 1942

Monday
Lovely fine morning, but clouded over at lunch-time, and rain began at 6 o’clock.  Committee meeting at Birch, very long and very wearisome.  Birch Hall looked more than usually ghostly in the gloomy twilight as we came away.  Two new members attended for the first time – Mr. Macauley and Mr. Gardner Church, both of Birch parish.  G.C. is a real old Essex farmer and Macauley a Scotsman. 

Joanna’s little dog Shorty suddenly came back this afternoon, having been lost for 8 days in a fox-burrow.  She was stained bright yellow from sand, but looked very well.  How can an animal exist for such a length of time without food or water?

Writing all evening.

20th December 1942

Sunday
A lovely sunny morning.  Spent most of the day outside cleaning Robin, washing trap, etc.  After lunch drove over to Lawford Hall, and called on the Nichols.

They both came out of the old house, and I spoke about Sir Walter Monckton’s coach and phaeton at Bonner’s Barn, Peldon.  Nichols knows Sir Walter, and said that there was little reason why the phaeton should not be brought over to Sherbourne.  Sir Walter is apparently soon to go to Sweden.

Mrs. Nichols told me that she saw a trap-accident at Colchester yesterday on the By-Pass.  Five fools in a ralli had tried to drive a 3 year old, only just broken, with the result he had smashed the trap to pieces and lamed himself.  I would have left the fools there, but Mrs. Nichols brought some of them along to Ardleigh in her car.  She did not know who they were.

I drove away down the long avenue, the great naked trees glorious in the winter sun.  A great plane came wheeling overhead, turning towards the river.  I thought of Simonds D’Ewes coming here to see Jemima Waldegrave. 

Delivered the washing, and drove round by Bargate Lane down into Dedham.  Saw Sisson, who told me he had bought a very good 15th century house near Dedham and would give me details later.

Back by Pound Lane, and saw a lorry just ahead of me suddenly tip a load of ballast by the road side, dash off, turn in Moorhouse’s yard, and come back.  I realised this must be one of the aerodrome lorries engaged in the “gravel racket” so as he came by I took his number – AMK 906.  It was a grey lorry, rather old.  These gravel carters are paid by the load out of the pit, so instead of going all the way to the site they tip the stuff in quiet lanes and go back for more.  I don't know whether to report it or not.

Back to the Mill at 4.  Fed Robin and caught Roger.  Heard an alarm at Wenham or Raydon, but it only lasted 3 or 4 minutes.  Probably a mistake.

Cycled in to Colchester to do duty.  Very cold.  Spent two or three hours in the Muniment Room.

19th December 1942

Saturday
Low clouds sweeping over, but not rain.  Several enemy attacks yesterday, according to the morning papers, but all on the South Coast.  Went home to lunch.  Mother was a little annoyed, and said “Ah well, you won't have me here to work for you much longer.”  To my surprise Father went rather red, said “Ohhh! Dammit” in that furiously angry way he has, and left the room, refusing to eat the rest of the meal.  Mother got out her handkerchief and sniffed into it a bit, and said “Really, I can't speak now without him going off like that.”  I made no reference to the scene with Father, and he soon cooled down.  His annoyance arose solely at the idea of losing Mother – he will not consider such a thing to be possible.  

This afternoon got a quarter ton of straw and 2 and a half cwt of hay to Bourne Mill.  Had to pay 33/9 for the straw, that is £6-15-0 a ton, although it is only £3-10-0 on the farms.  Many farmers are unable to sell straw, and don't know what to do with the amount they have.  Littered almost the whole yard on the road side.

Writing all evening, with a warm fire, and rain pattering on the roof.

18th December 1942

Friday
Dull, but as the sun was rising as a yellow smudge behind the hill, I hoped it would be a fine day.  Unfortunately, the sky became more and more overcast, and rain began at midday.  It was ideal weather for an attack, but I was so busy all day that I had no time to think about it.  Anyway, the papers today say that most of the French airfields nearest to England have been abandoned by the Germans, so perhaps we shall have a little peace for a time.

Poulter called me down this morning to see Councillor Sam Blomfield, who had come in with the news that Mrs. Lyon-Campbell had decided to sell the whole of Doctor Laver’s books, the entire collection to be put up at Hodgson’s auction.  So his library is to finally disappear.  How sad it makes one feel and how futile my efforts seem when I worry how to preserve my miserable collection of oddments.  The results of almost 100 years of research in Colchester have gone, and now his own books, which he guarded so jealously, are to go as well.

Arranged that I should go up to St. Clare Drive next Tuesday with the Councillor and Poulter to see if it is possible to rescue any further MSS.  I am especially keen to get hold of Henry Laver’s “Perlustration of the Banlieau of Colchester”, a priceless work of local research.

Among the rest, the old lady intends to sell Phillip Hills’ interleaved copy of Morant’s “Colchester”, full of notes, with a pencil sketch of Morant in the corner.  This should be acquired by the Essex Archaeological Society, and it will be a scandal if it is not.

16th December 1942

Wednesday
A dull, miserable day.  Office work not going at all well.  I have very little control over the girls.  Interviewed another one today, from my Father’s old school, Hamilton Road.  I think she will be useful, and she promises to start after Christmas.  This lack of control worries me.  I know I am very weak with them.

No cycle lamp batteries to be had anywhere, so I had to go back to Lawford by bus.  Heard a woman tell another that on Sunday night, when the German plane was being fired at, three shells landed quite near her house.  She said “I was that frightened I got in the lavatory, but my brother said ‘Don’t you worry, the’re not bombs, only shells!’”  I have heard a good many stories about AA shells falling without bursting, or else exploding on impact, due to the fuses being set wrong.

Very low clouds tonight, and a thin drizzle of rain falling, blowing before a S.W. wind.

In the “East Anglian” today it was reported that several youths have escaped from the Borstal settlement at Hollesley Bay, Suffolk, and have been roaming about Ipswich district armed with grenades and tommy guns.

15th December 1942

Tuesday
Dull day, the sun just breaking through about 1 o’clock.  The siren sounded as I was going down towards Bourne Mill to feed Bob, and a plane flew over, going south, quick and low.  Bill Watts was coming up the hill, and said “That’s him! That’s the German” and I believe it was.  Not a gun fired, and the plane sailed away unharmed, no doubt to come back and attack us another day.  

Poulter has been in a very bad temper all this last week, and for three or four days there has been no heat at Holly Trees.  I have complained frequently to the Town Clerk’s Office, but nothing whatever is done.  

Sadler, Deputy Executive Officer, and Wall, Finance Officer, came down this afternoon to address the staff, mostly on efficiency, or rather lack of it.  I am sick and tired of these infernal talks, which only result in irritation and loss of tempers.  There is ever increasing bureaucratic control, exercised by people who have no understanding whatever of country folks.

When the clouds had all cleared, there was a lovely golden sunset. Are not trees more beautiful when they stand naked in winter than when fully clothed in summer?  The view from the Holly Trees windows was very lovely, the bare tree branches making exquisite patterns against a golden haze.

14th December 1942

Monday
Finished reading “The Story of San Michele” tonight, for the second time.

The Revd. Knock has been here for the weekend.  He spent the night with Poulter, the first person who has been allowed to sleep in Poulter’s flat for years, as his housekeeper does not approve of visitors.  I went upstairs at lunch time to have a word with him, and found he and Poulter listening to a German music programme on the radio.
 

13th December 1942

Sunday
The fireguards went before 7.  I went outside soon after, and found it as black as hell.  Bren-gun carriers were rattling up High Street.  Went over to the office from 8-9.30, then to post.  Dull day, scarcely light even then.

On the way home, saw soldiers with band, marching to the Garrison Church.  Behind came a platoon of ATS, with a solemn looking little sergeant, squeaking out her orders in a very military manner.

Had breakfast, then carting hay and straw with Hampshire’s pony.  Sky became clearer.

Lunch at home, then cycled away up to Mile End Road, to pay one of the Land Girls.  Got to Lawford by half past 3, and went up to see Robin.  Wished I had been there earlier, to take him out.

After tea, went over to Dedham to see the Sissons.  There was gunfire at about 9 o’clock, and a plane went over a little to the E., very low, going north.  We looked out, and could see the shells were nowhere near it.  Mrs. Sisson said she was very nervous of shells, since hearing that one of the Colchester guns, firing on October 19th, had sent a shell into Bures, where it struck a slaughterhouse, killing two men and a cow.  This is the first I knew of it, but Sisson says he was told about it when in Bures recently.

Back to Sherbourne Mill at 10.15, and glad to find all safe and well.  The plane had passed directly over the house, and shells were bursting all round.  Joy heard several pieces whistling to earth.

Hot milk, writing for an hour, and then bed.

12th December 1942

Saturday
Low racing clouds, with the sun behind them, then a fine brilliant day.  Not at all cold.  This afternoon I decided to go to the Repertory Co., as I had not been for a good many months.  A play called “Other People’s Houses.”  Quite well done.  

Fed Bob, and then went home to tea.  This evening decided to make a call at Seymour’s, as I had not been there for quite 9 months.  They were most kind, and were very pleased to see me.  We had a talk about the state of farming, etc.  It was interesting to find that Seymour does not consider a stable agriculture in any way necessary to the country.  He thinks it is quite a reasonable idea to build it up as a war-time measure, and then throw it down again.  This man is a Cambridge graduate and a schoolmaster in a country town for 25 years.

Fantastic sight in the town early this evening – two girls in ATS uniform, dressed as military police, red-caps, leather belts, gloves, all complete, patrolling slowly through the crowded streets, amidst jeering from the soldiers.

To the Castle at 9.  Had supper at Culver Street cafĂ©.  Fine night, but few planes about except in the early evening, going out.  At 10 o’clock, the eastern sky a blaze of searchlights, exercising.

My cousin Maitland was married at Reading today. 

11th December 1942

Friday
Strong wind, great ragged clouds.  Decided to go by bus, as being less trouble.  Clear sky most of the day.  Very busy.  There seems no chance to get any extra help, the only girl on the books of the Juvenile Employment Bureau having just got married at 16 and a half.  When I called there I noticed a good many cards were in, but was told they were no use in an office, being young factory girls who took a week’s holiday every month, quite regularly.

We had papers today regarding a suggestion that the Government would build 250,000 cottages for farm workers next year.  As it is at present quite impossible to get existing cottages repaired, it does not seem very likely that such a scheme will be very successful.

10th December 1942

Thursday
Dull all day, but warm. Went down to Lt. Wigborough with Nott and Charlie Baldwin.  Then we walked across the fields to the Lower Barn.  There was once a house at Lower Barn, long since gone, but you can see its garden still.  Charlie said he once knew a man who lived there.  Its remoteness from any other habitation must have made it very attractive.  I have no record of its name.

It was not, however, the “edge of the world”, for there was once yet another house, a tiny cottage right down by the sea-wall itself.  Its site is now indicated by a little triangular earth-work, surrounding a few very stunted fruit trees, all bowed over by the wind.  Who can have lived in such a wild spot?  Probably some marsh-man.
  
I saw two huge Redhills, the biggest I have ever seen, quite bare, and brick-red in colour.  Both are full of rabbit burrows, but I could find nothing in the upcasts but the usual fragments of briquetage.  Charlie said “Many years ago some clever men came down from London and dug holes in these Redhills, but they were no wiser when they’d done it.”  I asked him what he thought they were for?  He said the old Romans built ‘em, to stand their cattle on in times of flood.  They were certainly used for that in times of flood, and the finds on Canvey Island included medieval potsherds on the top of the hills, showing they were certainly being occupied 600-700 years ago.

We talked about the ever increasing high tides about these coasts.  Charlie said he had been told it was due to the increased amount of shipping on the sea, which must naturally squeeze the water out onto the land!

When Charlie Baldwin was a boy he tended sheep and cattle grazing on the saltings, including the Ray, because, as he said, it was all arable then, so that the saltings had to be used.  So they should be again, but also the cattle-tracks have all gone.

He spoke too of sending away hay, straw, and timber by barge up to London, the barges then bringing back chalk from Purfleet.  There are wharves at both Copt Hall and Abbots Hall, and I said I should like to see chalk brought there again.  He replied that no men would ever undertake unloading chalk in these times.

Back to Colchester at one o’clock.  Weather still dull, but improved towards tea-time.  Left office early, and went round by Dedham, but the Sissons were out.

Joy gone to a sale-of-work and whist-drive in the village tonight.  Lovely clear starlight, but no planes over.  Yet on recent nights we have heard them going out in the very worst weather.

9th December 1942

Wednesday 
Lovely morning, fine and sunny, with a warm S.W. wind.  Had to call at Marriage’s Mill on my way in, about a cheque.  I noticed that Marriage’s ledgers are posted under Quaker dates – “10 mo”, “11 mo”, etc.  Interesting.  I suppose a good number of the staff must be Friends.

At lunch time, I went to Bourne Mill, and cleaned poor old Bob, and put some straw down.  He looks very worn now, and I begin to wonder if he will last the winter.

This afternoon I went to Wigborough with Capt. Folkard.  The Chief Drainage Officer was there from Writtle, Terkelsen, who was interested to see the attempts now being made to mole-drain the heavy clay at Abbots Hall.  Half one field has already been done, and the leads are running freely.  Moreover, you can see a distinct difference between the two sides of the field.  That drained is now obviously drier.  I had previously told Terkelsen of Arthur Young’s firm opinion that this heavy land could not be moled, but he now considers that Young is quite confuted.  We shall, however, see whether the moles run for a second winter, after being broken when the ground cracks wide open in summer.

The noise of tractors in the distance.  The great barn at Abbot’s Hall is now being repaired, the broken end being built up.  Even as it stands it is a huge building, although only half its original length.  I don't know when this set of buildings was first put up, but by the look of the bricks I should say about 100 years ago.  There is no doubt from their size that it was intended to produce a considerable amount of food on that land at one time, and, it shall be done again.  But what a mess.  There is not a hedge or gate on the farm, and the bullocks grazing in the field behind the house have to be watched all day by two Land Girls, like ancient cowherds, to keep them off the sown land.

They brought the cattle into the yard while I was there, and littered them down for the night.  I went in to see the stables, which are quite palatial.  There were two pairs of Suffolk horses, all we have on this huge farm.  Found from the horse-man that he has been taking them to Peldon forge to be shod, and of course we have received no bill at the office at all.  I knew they must be shod somewhere, but Nott told me they were going without shoes!  He knows nothing whatever about horses.
 

7th December 1942

Monday
Awake on and off all night.  Felt very nervous.  Went outside at half past 6, and found lovely starlight, but at 8 there were low, heavy clouds, driving before a strong S.W. wind.  Went home to wash and change.  As I was putting on a clean shirt, in my old bedroom, I heard one of the sirens give a sort of moan, as if about to start, but it died away at once.  A woman at the back of one of the Kendall Road cottages called out to a neighbour “Was that a siren?” and the other answered “I think it was an accident.  They must have touched something by mistake.”  A few seconds later I heard the sound of a plane in a fast dive.  It swept down very low, but was English.  I expect the observers recorded it as an enemy, and then corrected their mistake.  

Committee at Birch.  Great flurry to get ready.  Very cloudy all the afternoon, and soon got dark.  Heard a number of planes about, but no alarms.  The meeting was unusually grim.  The Chairman reported that one of his tenants had gone quite mad with worry and anxiety about the state of his farm, which had been inspected several times lately.

Last week the whole Committee went to Home Farm, Peldon.  The tenant has nearly 50 cows, 100 pigs, and several horses, on a holding of 100 acres, of which only 20 are arable.  He never asks for rations, and swears he feeds the stock on hay, brewer’s grains and swill.  It is quite obvious that he is getting feeding-stuffs from some illicit source or other.  The Chairman was so amused at the obvious deceit of the man that he quite liked him.

Tonight reading Simonds D’Ewes Diary.  His visits to Lawford are most interesting.  Coming from Langham he must have gone right past Sherbourne Mill, and up Mill Hill to Lawford Park.  It is also interesting that Joy Parrington’s maiden name was Simonds, and her family come from the same district, round Bury, where the D’Ewes had estates.  Another point is that he at one time borrowed the Cartulary of St John’s Abbey from Lucas.  This historic document is now part of the collections of Essex Record Office.

6th December 1942

Sunday
Cloudy and windy.  Many planes went over this morning, and passed out to sea, invisible above the clouds.  Joy said she could hear machine guns, but I think it was the noise of their engines.  There was AA fire near Manningtree about the same time, but I think only practice.

High tea.  Fog coming up.  About 20 planes went out towards the sea soon after 6.  At half past cycled into Colchester, and heard planes coming back, so I expect they had been minelaying.

To the Holly Trees at half past 8.  Talked to Poulter until 10.30, when I went into the Castle.  Same old stuff, over and over again.  He tells me Hull does not come in now for as much as 4 days at a time, and when he is there never stays for more than half a day.

Very dark tonight, stars glittering sharply, and a smell of frost in the air.  Hope it is a fine day tomorrow.

5th December 1942

Saturday
Howling S.W. wind, with low scudding clouds.  Joy and Parry went off to London today, on business.  Caught the bus, rain just beginning, and came on harder every minute as we travelled towards Colchester.  For some reason I did not feel very apprehensive, perhaps because we have never been bombed on a Saturday.

About 10 o’clock there was a violent cloudburst.  The sky went quite black, as dark as 6 o’clock at night, and the rain fell in one gigantic cataract.  However, by 11 the rain stopped, and the clouds gradually cleared, so that at lunch time there was nothing but blue sky and sunshine.  Home to lunch.

Hampshire helped me with hay and straw.  Then I bought rations, and got an extra pot of marmalade this week, which I was not really entitled to have.  As I walked past Winnock’s Almshouses, the sun was shining all over the spires and towers of the Borough churches, the gilded weather-cock on Holy Trinity swinging glinting in the wind, and a few fat grey-blue clouds sailing over the town.  I could hear the Town Hall clock chime half past three.  Every church in Colchester should have a chiming clock, so that the sound of their bells would drift away down the valley.

The streets crowded with Saturday shoppers going home to tea, and soldiers going up town for an evening’s amusement.

Bought a cake from Rose, and went to catch the 4 o’clock bus.  St. John Street was packed solid with soldiers, sailors, country people, WAAFS, ATS, etc.  The bus was not very full, so I managed to get a seat.  Walked from the Harwich Road across to the farm buildings.  The land looks very well, although all the stubbles are not yet ploughed.  Looked at Robin, who seems very well.  I must do something about him.  Caught Roger, made tea, and had a very comfortable and pleasant evening.

Wrote a few notes on the “Appearance of Roman Colchester” for the “Prospect of Colchester”.  [Rudsdale's collection of old photographs and illustrations of Colchester]

Joy and Parry came home at 9.  J. rather sick from the train journey.

Rain began again about half past ten, but not very hard.

4th December 1942

Friday
Cycled back by Ipswich Road tonight.  Fine red sunset.  Near Dilbridge Farm, heard the voices of child carol singers, almost drowned by the noise of American army lorries going past.

3rd December 1942

Thursday
Winter.  Hard white frost this morning.  Very dark and cold, hardly any light at all at half past eight.  Fog, and heavy low clouds.  Soon after 7, I heard planes coming in from the sea.  I suppose British coming back from Germany.

Colchester seemed to be more foggy than the country.  Later the clouds thinned, and the sun came peeping through.

Went up to Barn Hall at 11 o’clock, to buy tumbrels from Ken Young.  The farm buildings there are now in a dreadful state.  I can well remember when this was a prosperous farm, only a mile from High Street.  I can even just remember the old Cockwatch Farm, about 300 yards to the south, the last of which was gone in 1916.

Young said he had too many stock, and could not spare me any more straw for Bob, so I shall have to buy some.

Bought three tumbrels at £20 each, fed Bob, and went home to lunch.

No alarms today, but I hear there was one at Hadleigh.
 

2nd December 1942

Wednesday
Glorious fine day, bright sun in a clear, cloudless sky. 
It is published today that the army will be demobilised “very gradually”, according to length of service, so I suppose if a man joins in 1943, and the war did, by some accident, stop in 1950, a man who joined in 1939 would come out at once, while the 1943 men would have to wait until about 1955.

Working at office until 6.15, and late for supper at Lawford.

1st December 1942

Tuesday
By lunch time, the sky clouded over, and by 4 o’clock there was a fine cold drizzle beginning.  There was an alarm at 4.30, as I was half expecting there would be, but nothing came over.  I did not fear bombs very much, as the Germans seem to be only machine-gunning recently, which is nothing like so terrifying.

Joy picked me up at 5 o’clock with the car, and we stopped at Marriage’s Mill for a moment.  I then heard a plane go over very low in the rain, but nothing happened.  The ‘all-clear’ sounded as we went through Parsons Heath. 

Heavy rain now, and has been all the evening.  Hope it is a fine day tomorrow.

27th November 1942

Friday
Endless trouble today getting the pay out.  Everything seemed to go wrong.

Finished reading “The Golden Ass”.  Wrote to Joanna tonight.  Felt tired.

Becket, the architect, was on the phone today about the thatchers working at Mersea.  He said that if they did enough to North Farm barn to make it watertight for 5 or 6 years, that would be quite sufficient, from which I should assume that Mr. Becket has very little faith in the future of farming.

This evening Joy told me a frightful story of an occurence at her cousin’s place, in Sussex.  It appears that there is a large estate called Yew Lodge, East Grinstead, belonging to Mr. Margary, F.S.A.  The place was very largely taken over by the army, and it so happened that a certain unit there had orders to go abroad at very short notice, either in July or the beginning of August.  They had a certain amount of stores, including a quantity of tinned foods, which they were unable to take with them, and they offered to give these to any of the farm workers of the people on the estate.  There had been a good deal said about stealing army rations, so all refused.  The soldiers then dug a large pit and buried the whole lot!  Later, a sack of rice was found, and was left in a shed belonging to Mr. Margary’s foreman.  I am not quite clear whether he knew it was put there or not, but at all events an informer tipped off the police, and a search was made in every house on the estate.  During this search, every tin of foodstuffs from every house was removed, as the owners could not prove that the stuff was their own property!  In one case, an old woman lost the whole of her little store.  The foreman was arrested and sentenced to a month’s imprisonment.  There was no censure on the military authorities for a wicked waste of foodstuffs, and as far as I know the owners of all the food taken out of the houses received no recompense.

The foreman has since been released, after serving his time, and states that Pentonville seems to be full of postmen and policemen.  So far no effort has been made to get the whole case reviewed, nor has the local M.P. done anything.

26th November 1942

Thursday
The best time of the day now seems to be between 8 and 9 in the morning, when the rising sun throws pink and golden lights on the clouds, and the moon and stars fade away in the west. 

Fine today.  About 10 o’clock there was an alarm for 8 minutes, but nothing came over.  This is the first alarm for ten days, and the first in daylight for a month.  Did not feel particularly nervous.  Nobody else in the office took any notice of it.

Late out tonight and called at the Sissons, whom I have not seen for some time.

25th November 1942

Wednesday
Dull day, but fine, and clouds high.  Trouble this morning about Land Girls working at Wakes Colne.  Six of them came marching into the office because they refused to go to work unless their bus fares were paid in advance.  They had no money at all, having apparently spent the whole of last week’s pay since Saturday. 

24th November 1942

Tuesday
Cloudy but fine at first, and a lovely sunny morning later on.  

Mr and Mrs Parrington went to Needham Market today to take a pig to be cured.  The old bacon factory there is still working, although in ruins, but one drying house survives and 2 or 3 tanks.  There is no roof.  The houses opposite are down.  One bomb hit the road and bounced along, just as the one did at Essex Street.  Mr. Quinton, the proprietor of the factory actually saw it coming, and was knocked unconscious by the explosion.  Few people were hurt because most of the houses nearby were timber framed and did not collapse.  

While the Parringtons were in the factory, a plane came over very low.  A little boy working there said rather anxiously “Is that one of ours?”  The foreman reassured him, and remarked “You must excuse us being a bit bomb-shy here.”  It turned out that the boy had been buried in the factory ruins and dug out almost unhurt.

23rd November 1942

Monday
Cloudy but fine.  Committee at Birch today.  Got a lift all the way back to Lawford in Stanley Webb’s car.  Talked about blacksmiths and harness-makers.  He is very keen to get travelling smiths established, and mentioned the work done by Ruston of Bradfield, who covers a wide area.  Cold shoeing can never satisfactorily take the place of hot shoeing.

Spent the evening mounting photos.

22nd November 1942

Sunday
Fine day.  Took Robin out into the big field and rode him on the plough for half an hour.  Cycled in to duty tonight.  Lovely moon.  No planes about at all.

21st November 1942

Saturday
Going up East Hill this morning, I saw a young Chinese girl walking down, while just behind, on the other side, was an American.

Heard that Martin, in the Town Clerk’s office, has been called up.  He is about 31 or 32, I should think.  This leaves only Buxton, Brown and Harvey, and I hear he will have to go in January.  It is strange that these men like Harvey and Martin, with 10 or 12 years experience in highly skilled work, should be taken, yet War Agricultural Committee men, even under 30, are not generally taken.  All the Borough Treasurer’s staff have gone except about two, but some of the Engineer's are left, waiting to deal with the aftermath of the great air attacks on Colchester.  One of them, “Frenchy” Blackmore, was an R.A.F. pilot before the war, and left the service to come back to the Engineer’s office.

I cannot help wondering if, behind all this, there is some plan of the Regional Office at Cambridge to so reduce Local Government staffs that they will have more power and control over Local Government affairs in the future.  It is now being said openly that Town Councils will be almost abolished after the war, and their powers taken over by Regional officers.  

Fine day, high clouds and some sunshine.  Cycled out to Lawford this afternoon.  Wonderful cloud effects over the Colne Valley, full moon rising on the right.  By half past 8 there was a lovely clear blue sky, the moon fairly blazing in it, not a cloud or a sign of mist anywhere.  A few planes diving about, playing in the moonlight.  

Writing until 10.30.

16th November 1942

Monday
Cold.  Lovely day, with great sheets of cloud hurrying across the sky from the North East.  Had to go down to Mersea this morning to fix up lodgings for the thatchers and a new ganger.  Went in Capt. Folkard’s car with Nott.  Had to go to see Cecil Baldwin, who wants to quit his job as he is becoming a nervous wreck.  Stood in the cold at Mortimer’s Farm and argued with him.  I believe he will stay.  The land there looked well.  Saw one of the trolleys built by Bruce last Spring come into the yard.  

Then to the Hall Barn.  Everybody there at loggerheads.  Mechanic, tractor drivers, Mrs. Johnson, all in a muddle, all hating one another.

To Lawford at 6.30, but did not feel up to work so spent the evening reading.  Read Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” from beginning to end.  Looked through Osbert Lancaster’s “Home Sweet Home”.  Brilliant satire.

Bright moonlight.  Planes flying at exercise.  Cold.

As we came back from Mersea this morning we found two of the swans from Bourne Pond, one old and one young, lying stunned and helpless at the bottom of Broom Hill, having flown into the telephone wires.  With the help of a soldier I put them into Deane’s field.  Had we not happened along they would be there yet, as nobody was doing anything to help them.  When I got them on the grass the other old bird came waddling up and muzzled them affectionately.

15th November 1942

Sunday
Had a curious and unpleasant dream this morning.  I seemed to be dozing in the Oven, and heard footsteps hurrying across the bridge, then somebody rattling and banging on the Castle doors, crying out weakly for help.  Then there seemed to be the crash of a tremendous bomb, and I woke up, sweating, but all was silent.  A few moments later the Town Hall struck 5.

Dozed off again, and woke when the watchman went out at 7.  Ate some dry bread, all I had by me, and left at 9.

Dull morning, overcast.  Had a bath, and went off at midday to Lawford.  After lunch took Robin for a run for the first time for 3 weeks.  He went well, and was no trouble, but got hot.  Strawed his yard and box.

Mrs. General Parrington came to tea with her children.  She had a story about a Flight Commander, known to her, who was a DFC and had been in the RAF for some years.  He took a gallon of petrol to go to see his wife, was caught and dismissed the service. 

Writing all evening.

14th November 1942

Saturday
Had to go to [the Essex War Agricultural Executive Committee offices at] Writtle today, for a staff-meeting.  We all went in Butterworth’s car.  The London Road did not seem to have changed very much since I last came along it, about 6 months ago.  The autumn colours on the trees were very lovely.  Crix Park, embowered in vast trees, all gold and brown and yellow, looked most striking.  

Chelmsford was packed with people, the balloons all up, shining in the sun.  The meeting was long and weary.  The Executive Officer talked for two hours, the gist of the matter being to make it quite clear to us that we are employed by the Executive Committee at Writtle, and that our allegiance is to them and not to our District Committees.

Got away at 4.30, and did not wait for tea.  Glorious sunset behind us, and a fog coming up.  Went down to Bourne Mill, and then home to tea. 

On duty tonight.  Only one of the other men turned up.  Spent the evening reading old Essex newspapers, early 19th century.  An alarm at 10 o’clock, with distant gunfire to the east.  All-clear came in half an hour.  Very cold tonight.  Moon rising among clouds.

13th November 1942

Friday
Surely a day on which one expects to be bombed or machine-gunned!  But it has been fine, and nothing came.

11th November 1942

Wednesday
“Poppy day”, as the cheap press calls it.  Many women and children selling them in the streets.  A big wreath of them was put on the Memorial at 11 o’clock. 
 
Writing tonight for 3 hours.  It is wonderfully cosy in this little room, with a roaring fire.  Even when planes pass overhead I do not worry about them. 

10th November 1942

Tuesday
Up at 7.  Lovely pale blue sky, and a glorious dawn.  Went up to the buildings to see my hay which has now come.  Robin looked very well.  Luckin, the horseman, was just getting the plough team out.  Parrington has a lot of stubbles not yet ploughed.

Caught the 9.30 bus.  Fog coming up thick, and the newly risen sun vanished into a ruddy gold haze.  Very thick fog at Colchester, which did not clear until 11, when the sun shone brilliant.  Not at all the sort of weather for enemy raiders.
Down to Bourne Mill this morning.  One of the old swans and the three cygnets were on the pond.  Suddenly the whole brood spread their wings and thrashed noisily across the water, taking off towards the west.  As they rose one of the young birds realised that he could not clear the trees on the far side, swerved, lost height, and crashed into thick rushes, from which he fought his way back onto the water.  The other three came swooping back, their wings making a tremendous noise, flying in V-formation.  They disappeared down the valley, no doubt going to Wivenhoe Park lake, leaving the unlucky cygnet behind, squawking and crying.  It made no attempt to fly by itself.

The pond is now in a dreadful state, perfectly filthy with weeds and rubbish.

Very busy all day.  Out at 5.30, and cycled to Lawford.  A mist rising, and the stars coming out.  Busy all the evening on notes and journals.

9th November 1942

Monday
Woke at 5, and lay reading until 7, listening to stirring noises of lorries starting up, men whistling in the High Street etc.  Fine morning, but foggy, which got much thicker by 9 o’clock, very cold and raw.  Began to clear at 11, and buildings gradually emerged, while the sun sat up in the sky, a great crimson disc.

To Birch for War Agricultural Committee meeting.  Nothing very special, and all over by 5.30.  Lovely autumn evening.  The scene from the dining room windows was all in pastels – distant woods grey, the lake slate blue, and the trees russet, ochre and green.  The sun sank into a fog bank.

Back to Colchester with Mr. Percival, talking about Women's Land Army. labour.  Decided to take 6.15 bus to Lawford.  Very full, uncomfortable journey.  Walked down from the blacksmiths.  Smell of frost in the air.  Felt tired.  Bed early, and very little writing.

Mayor making today, Alderman Sanders elected for the 4th year.