EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

29th June 1942

Monday

Joanna came in today with her left arm in a sling, having fallen heavily on the stone stairs at Birch Hall.  She promised to come along with me on Wednesday to see Llewellyn’s: “How Green is my Valley.”

One of the Committee’s labourers came in this morning, and referred to me as “the chap what drives the fancy ‘oss.”

Poulter tells me that he has recently been talking to the Revd. Knock, who is full of the “American invasion” story, and is quite convinced that Colchester will be evacuated this summer for the Americans' benefit.  This is becoming too fantastic.  Yet the Revd. K. is so convinced he has actually advised Poulter to sell his furniture!  He (K) is leaving for Swanage very soon, so our fate does not interest him very much.

Had old Bob shod today, for the first time for months.

28th June 1942

Sunday

Drove back to Colchester this evening and met a superb turnout at Dedham Heath, sweeping round the corner near Mary’s* old cottage.  It was a large black bodied ralli with yellow wheels and shafts, drawn by a rather large chestnut with white socks and a white blaze, mane and tail on, stepping high, chin well in.  The driver looked like a farmer, as much as I noticed, my attention being taken by the horse, and drove very well.  He had a lady passenger with him, dark and rather good looking.  We swept past each other in grand style.  I have never seen such a turnout outside London.

*Mary Hulbert had been EJR's girlfriend in the early 1930s and had lived near Ardleigh.

27th June 1942

Saturday

Drove out to Lawford this evening.  Lovely weather, and a great gold and scarlet sunset.  A few planes over tonight, going out.

22nd June 1942

Monday

Committee meeting at Birch.  Much talk about Joanna, but nothing else of any special interest.  Joe Percival has a relative named Fisher at the Ministry of Labour, and an effort is to be made by him to get things moving, but whether he is in a position to influence the Man Power Board I do not know.

21st June 1942

Sunday

Up at 9.30.  Lovely day, sunny but cool.  Cycled to Dedham, taking spring onions to the Sissons, and cream to exchange for strawberries with Mr. Wedgwood, who arranged to meet me at the “Marlborough”.

Sissons both full of “rumours”, some they had heard, some invented.  Mrs. S. saw Fletcher, Headmaster of Colchester Royal Grammar School a few days ago, and he seemed to think that the school might be evacuated by September.  Yet only 2 days ago I saw in an evening paper that Southend Council departments, evacuated to Hertfordshire 2 years ago, would be returning to Southend in September.

Other rumours are a) that 2,000,000 American troops would be brought into the district, and the whole civil population removed to make room for them.  This of course is for the “Second Front”.  (One sees “Open a Second Front NOW” chalked all over walls and railway bridges in Colchester)

b) a real Sissons invention – that owing to the shortage of shipping the “Second Front” is to be in East Anglia, as to save transport, the Germans of course being allowed to arrive by air.  (I ought to have told him that for 2 nights running I have dreamt that the Japanese had invaded Essex).

Sisson also suggests that in future, so as to save petrol, each side should bomb their own countries, under the supervision of an international commission to see fair play.

Mrs. S. looked very well, much better than she did last week.  Their garden is gradually recovering from the effects of last Sunday’s storm.

Pedalled back to Lawford just as people began to drift along the village street to church.  (How one misses the church-bells).  The young verger cycled up and opened the door, and I saw old Canon Given-Wilson coming out of his house.

Two fat, elderly men and a young girl in ATS uniform were looking at the sign of the “Marlborough”.  One man said “You can see the likeness to Winston Churchill”.

Went up to Humberlands with Roger to collect stakes and sacks.  After lunch carting hay with Roger and the trolley, although he is hardly man enough for it.

Penelope called in for cream.  Nothing to say.  Last night read Lord Berners’s “Far From the Madding War”, a brilliant little satire.  Emmeline I think is a little like Penelope.

Drove back to Colchester in the cool of the evening.

Robin went very well.  Went down Hawkins Road to see the fields which are to be ploughed, so as to be able to report tomorrow.

At Holly Trees Poulter was very depressed about the capture of Tobruk and the surrender of 25,000 men.  I cannot raise any interest. What possible value to England are these ruined towns and limitless deserts?

Stayed talking with him until 11 o’clock.  Lovely balmy evening, the new moon showing gold through a thin mist, the laughter and voices of men and girls in the streets, talking in groups under the trees.

19th June 1942

Friday

Beautiful morning.  Cycled in.  Still a few cuckoos calling, and the swallows are sweeping about.  Great clouds of mist rising out of the Vale of Dedham.

Very busy day.  No time for lunch.  Went down to Mersea with Joanna, and had two sausage rolls on the way.  How ill and sick I feel in cars.  Went to Peldon “Rose” to arrange tea for the Committee next week, then to Abbot’s Hall, up to Layer Breton, and on to Fingringhoe.  Saw the little grey [pony] standing in the yard at Layer Wick.  The Land Girls look browner and more gipsy like than ever. 

From there we went to Mrs. Furneaux’s at Fingringhoe Hall, where I saw a Canadian A.A. gun unlimber and set up on the track at the back of the Hall.  Then on to Batteswick, where was the beautiful Miss Cole, browner than ever.

Office until 5.45, and then tea at the Regal.  In the papers tonight nothing but military disasters.  The Premier is in America again.  One article describes “mass produced” houses which are to be made after the war, a most attractive prospect.  There is a good deal of “after-the-war” stuff in the press now, I suppose to encourage the people.  It would be interesting to know what proportion of people now living will take part in any “after-the-war” developments.  (I hear that Nichols of Lawford Hall, Ambassador to the Czechs, thinks the war may end this year).

Bought some strawberries.

16th June 1942

Tuesday

Went out with Mr. Stanley Webb [of the War Agricultural Executive Committee at Writtle] and Captain Round [the Chairman of the Lexden & Winstree War Agricultural District Committee] this afternoon, to inspect farms at Mersea.  

We went to E. Mersea Glebe field, which was in a terrible mess.  Possession will be taken here [by the War Agricultural Committee].  The Chairman talked to Webb about Joanna.  Webb said he knew nothing about it, and had not known the appeals had been turned down.  Yet both these appeals had been made (I was told) direct from the Executive Committee, of which Webb is a member!

14th June 1942

Sunday

A beautiful morning, and the cuckoos still calling in Stour Park.  Fed Robin and carted mangolds with Roger from Humberlands Farm.  Little Rosemary Parrington came by with her nursemaid with the lovely corn coloured hair.

After lunch ground some flour and then cycled over to Dedham.  Mrs. Sisson made a few remarks on this ridiculous “united nations” day.  Several houses in Dedham had a few pathetic flags hanging out of the windows, Union Jacks, Scottish Lions, and a Stars-and-Stripes, drooping limply in the sunshine, apparently hoping by this means to prove the patriotism, solidarity etc. of the inhabitants.  There were no red flags.  Dedham would not sink as low as that!

Mrs. Sisson asked my advice regarding her ex-cook who volunteered for the WRNS but has now managed to get her discharge on health grounds.  She is going to work on the land and do cooking for Mrs. S. in the evening. I said I thought she would be alright, but that she should get work on a local farm first, so as to be able to present the Labour Exchange with a fait accompli.

Went back to Sherbourne Mill, harnessed up, and drove over to Holly Lodge in the wake of the Parrington’s car, arriving within a few minutes of them.  The country looked well, crops good, especially on Girling’s land.  I noticed he has had all his gates made double width, so as to allow for the passage of large tractors.

Had tea.  A Capt. Dalgetti was there, of the R.A.S.C., [Royal Army Service Corps] who apparently has charge of the licensing of fishing boats and that sort of thing on this part of the coast.  We talked about the Colchester Oyster Fishery.  Frank Girling had a very nice paleolith, recently found at Badley Hall.  I left at 6.30 to go back to Colchester, and had a wonderful run, in fact we were going up Hythe Hill at 10 past 7.

Near the “Trowel & Hammer” I saw a charming little turnout in a tub-cart with a little grey pony, a lady, gentleman, and two children in the trap and another cycling behind.  I gave them a gracious salute as we swept past.

This evening I went down to Bourne Mill, and although the clouds looked threatening there was nothing unusual in their appearance.  Suddenly, at about quarter to 8, a tremendous storm burst without the slightest warning.  The thunder claps were earsplitting, and great sheets of lightning tore across the heavens.  This kept on until about 8.15, and then eased a little, but the pond, much swollen by then, came over in three places so that a great pool formed in the lower part of the field.  Pulford is much at fault for not allowing me to have a key to open the overflow on such an occasion as this.

I went home [to EJR's parents] wet through, changed, and hurried to the Castle, only to find that I had come unnecessarily, as Simon had arrived thinking I was there last night!  This is the second night since October 1940 when there has been nobody at the Castle.

12th June 1942

Friday

Joanna is still very depressed [about the threat to her work as a Land Army Supervisor].  We wrote to [the Essex War Agricultural Executive at] Writtle the other day, setting out the full facts of the case, but have so far had no reply.

11th June 1942

Thursday

The Newcomen Society visited Colchester today, and Poulter showed them Cannock Mill and various other places in the town.

9th June 1942

Tuesday

Serious news about Joanna today – the Local Man Power Board have definitely refused to allow her to continue her work [as a Supervisor for the Land Army], and she has received notice for a medical examination for the ATS [Auxilary Territorial Service] next week.  This is a most scandalous thing, as she is doing excellent work and I do not see how she can be replaced.  The poor girl is very upset, as well she may be.  I am trying by every means I know to discern who the Man Power Board may be.  I suspect though that they are permanent Civil Servants and quite out of reach.

Busy all day with Agricultural Returns.  The great “Tractor Immobilisation” exercise began at 1.30 this afternoon, and if it had not been for the fact that Joanna was in the office at the time and answered the ‘phone we should have known nothing about it.  As soon as I got in I ‘phoned to all Committee members and Parish Representatives but several were out and several more were at Ipswich Market, so I don't think the exercise will be very successful.

When I got back to Lawford tonight Frank Girling was there, and I told him all about Joanna.  He was surprised and horrified.

Rather cool today.

7th June 1942

Sunday

Got over to Lawford in time for lunch.  Spent the afternoon carting hay.  Very hot.  Two Poles came to tea.  Very talkative and quite incomprehensible.

6th June 1942

Saturday

On duty tonight [at the Castle].  Very hot, but the Oven was cool and dark.  I went to the Regal Cinema this afternoon because it was really too hot to work.  Such a waste of time, though.

5th June 1942

Friday

Overslept.  Up at 7.15.  Stayed to breakfast at Lawford and then caught a bus at half past 8.  Terribly hot.  The bus was very full, schoolchildren, factory workers.  I saw Lieut. Smygelski, one of the Poles near me, reading the life of Edward VII in French.  The bus had no ventilation at all (no modern vehicles have) and the atmosphere was foul.  I managed to reach Colchester without getting a headache.
Prepared the agenda, and then had to rush down to Mersea to meet Fred Hodges, as Capt Folkard had to go to Writtle.  I had to go on a bus, but was lucky to sit immediately against the open door, and so survived.  This Fred Hodges, was, as a boy, living at Copford, and Capt. Folkard knew him well.  About 10 years ago he returned to these parts in a very different state, and bought the house at Mersea which old Bacon built and which has the celebrated “wheel foundation” in the garden.  He also owned the barn and stables, and was a great trouble to poor Grubb when she was there [running her horse riding stables], being an overbearing, bullying type.

As the Committee are now occupying the barn, Hodges decided to come down to settle various details, particularly about his beastly boat, upon which he sets great value.  He is at present living 15 miles the other side of Exeter, but this distance does not deter him from telephoning to us right across England, two or three times a day if he wishes to.  When I got to the Barn, Mrs. Johnson, the storekeeper, told me he had already ‘phoned twice, once from Bishops Stortford to say he had lost his way, and once from Stanway to say he was lunching with Harvey Cant and would be delayed another hour.

I wandered about the barn and stables, thinking of the countless sunny afternoons when I had driven into this yard, baited Bob, and eaten my lunch sitting on the hay.  There are still a few pathetic notices in Grubb’s writing on the walls, and mysterious times, no doubt representing rides booked by various pupils – “Two at 2.30; one at 4pm.”

At last Hodges arrived, in an enormous American car with a gas generator on the back, accompanied by his wife, a rather subdued and faded blonde, and his chauffeur.  Hodges himself was gorgeous.  His lavender coloured suit was spotless, his buttonhole rose elegant, his yellow spats the last word.  The moment he came in he took complete charge of everything and everybody, issuing orders right and left.  I have never taken such a dislike to any man before.  He told me what everything cost – money was the only subject of his conversation.  The boat cost £1000, the steam yacht to which it belonged £200,000, his car £3,000, the gas plant on it £190, and so on.  He was positively indecent.  He spoke to his chauffeur and our workmen as if they were slaves and not very nice slaves either.

After he had gone, Mrs. Johnson, who is Irish and very talkative told me various bits of scandal which she thought I might like to hear.  She sees a good deal of the Executive Officer and of Sadler, Capt. Skinner and various others from [the War Agricultural Committee Executive at] Writtle, as they are continually down on the island for the shooting, and use Mrs. Johnson’s cottage as a kind of headquarters.  Mrs. J. seems to get endless quantities of chocolates, biscuits, and tinned food from Leslie [the Executive Officer], and is only too happy to give them away to anybody.  She gave me six bars of chocolate today.

Joanna [Round] came along with her car, paying wages [to agricultural workers], so I went back with her, doing a round of Land Girls on the way.  All the Land Girls looked very brown and well, although they do not seem to work very hard.  We went to Fingringhoe, and I hoed weeds in the sugar beet for half an hour while I was waiting for her.  Then we went on to Batteswick, where there was a very pretty girl named Cole, helping stack hay.  (It was much too green in my opinion).

Got back to the office at 6.30, worked till nearly 7, then fed the pony and cycled out to Lawford.  Called at Spring Gate, Ardleigh on the way, and had a chat with Molly Blomfield.  She had been talking to her father, [Councillor Sam Blomfield] and said he was very bitter against Hull.  But what good is bitterness?  How will that help the Museum?

Lovely calm, sunny evening.  Pretty scene of children feeding a horse through a gate at Ardleigh as I came through.

2nd June 1942: An Air Raid on Ipswich

Tuesday

About 2 o’clock this morning I was awakened by explosions and gunfire.  I felt very ill, and was only half awake.  I could hear several planes flying fairly low (there were light clouds) but whether English or German I could not say.  Guns were firing fairly near at hand.  I dozed off again, only to reawaken and find I had a considerable fire in the bedroom, as the candle had burnt down, igniting matches and grease in the candlestick.  The whole thing was blazing a foot high, considerably endangering the curtains.  I did not know what on earth to do, but finally smothered it with a cushion, with the result that a perfect silhouette of the candlestick was burnt into the cushion.

By the time I got the fire out, guns were still going off all round, and when I looked out of the window I could see a very considerable fire towards the N.E., and could hear more gunfire in that direction.  I felt horribly sick and tired, and could not be very interested in what was going on.

Got up early, left at 6.30, and was glad to find Colchester intact.  I heard a woman say to another as they went into Paxman’s, “What a night!” And the other replied, “I never slept at all!”  However, nothing had happened in the vicinity of the town, except that the guns at Lexden and Bergholt fired about a dozen rounds.  The attack was on Ipswich, but not very much damage seems to have been done.  Mr. Craig came in this afternoon on his way back from Ipswich market, and said that about 5 people had been killed in a house near Foxhall Rd., and that a factory had been set on fire.  That was the glare I could see.

1st June 1942

Monday

Very pleasant drive in to town this morning.  There was a fine white mist in the Vale, and the tower of Dedham Church stood up like a lighthouse, pink in the morning sun, while the tops of large trees looked like wooded islands in a calm motionless sea.  The cries of the cuckoos are just beginning to change.