EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

30th August 1942

Brought back Bob [to Colchester] today.  The children rode him to Lawford, and I then drove him in tandem with Robin, quite a success, considering that I have not driven tandem for about 5 years.  I very much enjoyed it.  Old Bob went very well, and was glad to see the Donkey when we got back.  Neither Bob nor Robin had ever been near each other before.

29th August 1942

Another very fine hot day.  Raid alarm at half past 1, as I was having lunch.  Heard a little gunfire, and the sound of a plane very high.  Met Miss Parrington and had tea at the Regal this afternoon, then drove her out to Lawford.  She said there had been a lot of firing at Lawford, and when we got back Joy said that Hughes, the schoolmaster (Observer Corps) told her that two Dorniers had come over at 35,000 feet.  They were fired at, but the shells burst 15,000 feet short, and the planes flew away to the N.W.  Only two fighters appeared, he thought either because they cannot go anything like as high or because they did not want to take off and reveal their landing grounds.  I suppose the Germans were photographing the new aerodromes, preparatory to bombing them at a later date.  I hope they were not photographing Colchester.

Driving out tonight we went past St. Annes’, on the Harwich Road, where the Americans are now installed at Pawsey’s old house.   There is a huge sentry in the garden, wearing what looks exactly like a German helmet.  Several American Officers in the town this afternoon.

Thunderstorm far off tonight.  Very few planes over.

The arrival of American troops into the Colchester area began in the summer of 1942.  E.J. Rudsdale's friend and contemporary, Hervey Benham, wrote in his book 'Essex at War' (1945): 'In the summmer of 1942 U.S. uniforms were still sufficient of a rarity to attract attention.  By Christmas they had, in the current phrase, bought the town.'

27th August 1942

Still on holiday.  Spent a lovely day about the farm, feeding animals, carting a load of straw down to the mill.

26th August 1942: Air raid over Lawford

Peaceful night.  Slept very well, and was awakened by the sound of a sad, dreary voice, going on and on, just below my window.  When I got down I heard that this was Mrs. Fisher, the cowman’s wife, relating at great length and with gloomy relish that the Duke of Kent was killed in a flying accident.  I am very sorry.  I believe he was a good fellow.  He was certainly very civil to me when I met him at the Royal Show just over three years ago.

Rode Robin for half an hour this morning, but not well, and gave myself a pain.  This evening took him up to the village hall with a load of plums for jam-making.

Tonight the moon rose behind ragged clouds, and soon after 10 the sirens sounded down the river.  I went outside and heard planes coming in from the sea, fast and low.  The noise turned into the roar of a dive over Bromley way, so I expected to hear the crash of bombs somewhere near the pylons.  Instead however the planes rose again and went to the N.E., then turned S.E. and dropped two lots of flares, just like huge fireworks.  There were about 12 lights in each, descending slowly to the ground.  At first I thought they must be coming down in Stour House Park, but soon saw they were much further away, on the other side of the river.  The light they gave overawed the moon, now temporarily clear of clouds, and cast shadows the opposite way.  The planes then wheeled again, (I believe there were only 2 or 3), and a few shells were fired from the direction of Bromley.  One searchlight flickered.

By this time, Mrs. Parrington, Mervyn, and the cousin all came out, and a plane flew over so low that as it turned W. of the farm some of us could see a light in the cockpit.  Then a second plane dived over East Bergholt and shot out dozens of incendiary bombs, which fell like blazing arrows.  Where they fell a fire sprang up at once, appearing to us as if the woods were alight, so clearly could we see flames and volumes of smoke.  This continued for at least half an hour, during which one of the raiders came back and dropped 3 or 4 H.E. bombs near the fire, shaking the windows of the house.  There was nothing after that except planes in the distance, and “all clears” were sounding soon after 11p.m.

It seems so extraordinary that an attack like that can be made without opposition, although I did hear Harwich guns once or twice.  I mentioned this to Capt Matthews at Dedham last night, and he said he had the greatest difficulty in getting his “new devices” tried out, as many AA officers give orders that no planes may be fired at unless they commit a hostile act, so as not to attract bombs onto the gun sites.  If this is true it explains a good deal.

25th August 1942

Three glorious free days.  Drove Parrington over to East Bergholt this morning, by way of Dedham.  The village looked very busy, many cycles and several pony traps, people going in and out of the shops.  Called at the Post Office, the grocer’s, and the Mill, then on to Gosnell’s Farm, a very pleasant little place, with a charming little whitewashed house and a good set of buildings. 

Came back by Cattawade, where I have not been for years.  How desolate the Stour estuary is, grey-green marshes, barbed wire entanglements etc.  Drove up through Lawford Park.  Robin went very well indeed.

This afternoon writing, and after tea down to Dedham again and called at Sissons, and had supper there.  Mrs. S’s brother, Matthews, was there, very nice, most interested in museums and agriculture.  We had a long talk, in fact I did not leave until after midnight.  Cycled back in moonlight with no lamps, but luckily the Dedham policeman was nowhere about.  There was a German plane over just after 10, and the Bromley guns fired several rounds.

Sisson was very despondent tonight.  Among other things, he said that an official of the War Damage Commission had told him that there were 26,000 houses damaged at Norwich, [in the Baedeker Raids on the city] out of a total of about 36,000.  This seems quite incredible, and I suggested that it must refer to every case where there was a tiny crack in a window, but he replied that only cases where the damage amounted to more than £5 came to the notice of the Commission.  Much talk about the “impending collapse of Russia”, but it has not collapsed yet.

23rd August 1942

Very pleasant quiet day, spent reading, writing and feeding stock.

22nd August 1942

Dull, with strong S.W. wind so went in by train this morning.  Very busy day.  Had old Bob out this afternoon and carted hurdles to the “Bull” yard to send out on the Boxted carrier.  Tea at the Regal.  Arranged with Butcher to let in the firewatchers tonight, as I decided to have a night off.

Drove out at half past 6.  Saw 2 boys gleaning in a field at Crockleford.  Nott tells me that dozens of people are gleaning on the Committee’s land at Mersea.  I have never seen gleaners before that I can remember.

Rather cool tonight, some rain, and clouds hurrying across the face of the moon.  I have a sudden longing to go to Wales.

21st August 1942

Got a lot done today.  Some rain in the evening.  Arranged to take three more days leave next week, to help Parringtons with the harvest, but I find it is almost done now.

Some rain this evening, but not very much.

20th August 1942

Went over to Boxted tonight and put the Stuart Roses’ little donkey entirely into harness for the first time.  He was as quiet as a mouse, and made no trouble at all.

Spent the night at Boxted.

19th August 1942

Came in by train this morning, getting up rather late after my walk last night.  

Rose told me she had had another enquiry from the Ministry of Labour about her work.  I warned her to be very careful what she said, but she is so strong-willed it is impossible to tell her anything.  Coming away from the café I saw some American soldiers in Head Street, standing by a lorry.

Nott says the harvest is going well.  Beautiful weather today, although dull in the early morning. 

From my office window this afternoon I saw Corporation workmen demolishing the iron railings round All Saints Churchyard, breaking them up with sledge-hammers.
Capt. Folkard had a story today which is going round the Teys and the Colnes, that a German plane landed on the new aerodrome at Earls Colne, two men got out, inspected the place, and flew away again.  If there is any truth in the story at all, it was probably an American machine.

18th August 1942

Very busy all day, but not unduly tired.  Cycled out tonight by Langham aerodrome.  Great stacks of bricks and timber are dumped in Hadley’s field at Tile Kiln Farm.  It is heartbreaking to see the amount of damage that is being done.  Called at Blackbrook Farm, Dedham, where trial holes opened by the aerodrome contractors, searching for ballast, have now been abandoned.  It was really rather amusing, because it seems the contractor approached Young to enquire whether he was willing to sell this field, to which Young replied “Yes,” although of course having been dispossessed by the [War Agricultural] Committee he no longer has any rights over the land at all.  Poor Freeman, our tenant, there suddenly finds he has an enormous excavator in the field!  Saw Freeman in the other field he hires, cutting tares and oats.  Everywhere I could hear the click and clatter of the binders.  Barker at White House was using a pair horse binder.

Saw Bob at Dedham, looking well and very much cleaner, and called at the Sissons.  Back at Lawford at 8.30.  Just after supper Penelope called, on her way to the station, so I walked there with her through the Park and the churchyard.  

Hear that the dead from Severalls were buried yesterday, but do not know any details.

Also hear that planes that came over Birch very low yesterday afternoon were American Boeing machines, on their way to attack Rouen.  I wonder what are the feelings of the people of Rouen, having had their town attacked by Germans, English, and now Americans.

17th August 1942

This morning Mr Brown, formerly of the Technical College, came in.  He is on leave from the Welsh Fusilier Depôt at Brecon, where he appears to be permanently established.  Why an old officer of the Essex Territorials should be drafted to the Welsh Fusiliers, only God and the War Office can have any idea.

He has a great many interesting tales, but unfortunately I was in a great hurry to go to a Committee meeting at Birch and was unable to hear many of them.  One thing he said was that they had at Brecon a Welsh Nationalist from North Wales, who refused to speak English and refused to acknowledge any military discipline.  He had been removed from the list of Conscientious Objectors, as his objections were on political grounds only, and had already served three months in Swansea Gaol.  He was now back at the barracks, but refused to wear army uniform.  The case naturally interests me a good deal.

Another story was that a month or so ago a German plane crashed in the hills near Brecon and was found to have an Italian crew.  One of them was hurt, and was brought to hospital by some of Brown’s men.

Brown also told me that there were quite a few men [at the barracks] from North Wales who spoke no English at all.  These had to attend special classes where a certain amount of English was taught them so that they could at least understand army commands.  I wonder what we should say if we heard that the Germans were conscripting Poles into the German army, and then compelling them to learn German?
Had a better opportunity to examine the picture brought in by Griffith’s of Dedham.  It is inscribed on the back “By an Officer in the Barracks,” in a 19th century hand, and is undoubtedly by Col. Cockburn.  It is a charming view, right across the valley from the back of Dilbridge.  The church towers and spires are easily identified.  In the foreground is a girl milking cows in the field.

This picture belonged to old Mrs. Pine of Dedham, the widow of Pine the artist.  It is cheap at £3.  What a pleasure it is to find a thing like this which is new to me.

A most unpleasant scare just at midnight last night.  I was in the Oven, reading, when suddenly I heard a plane going into a dive, followed instantly by the crash of bombs.  I went up on the roof, but there was nothing to be seen, no smoke or fire, only a searchlight or two towards Brightlingsea, where the sound of the plane receded into the distance.  I hear today that four bombs fell in or near Bullock Wood, doing no damage.  Of course, no alarm was sounded.

16th August 1942

Woke up at times during the night by torrential rain.  Got up at 9 in a grey streaming world.  Very bad for the corn.  Wondered how they got on at Colchester last night.
Breakfast, then feeding the animals and went down to Dedham to see Bob.  The children came over and rode him.  He looked well, although he had not eaten all his hay.

This afternoon I had intended to write a long delayed letter to Meg McDougall but alas I sat reading, and then dozed off, only waking at 4 o’clock.
Started back to Colchester at 6.  Went round by Dedham, and took Bob some rather better hay, for which he was very grateful.  Got to Colchester at 7.15.  Finished business letter, and then on duty at the Castle, the Oven being more than usually damp and miserable.

New moon tonight, and the old watchman at Holly Trees says a fine spell ahead.

15th August 1942

Great “combined exercise” in Colchester this weekend.  All shops had to close at 1p.m. and the public were asked to keep off the streets.  I had arranged to take Bob to Dedham, and as Shelter Wardens were not required in this affair I thought I would go as quickly as possible, and got out of the town just after 1.  Bob did not come behind the trap very willingly, and it took me two hours to get to Dedham.  When I arrived, and met Sisson, I found that the only stable available was a rather decrepit shed belonging to Mr. Griffiths, the antique dealer, who I had just met this morning at the Museum.  He brought in a most interesting watercolour of Colchester from Dilbridge Farm, which I at once recognised as the work of Col. Cockburn in 1815.  We already have his very charming notebook, and I have never before seen a large drawing by him.  Griffiths wants £3 for it, and if the Museum will not buy it I will.

Put up Robin at the “Marlborough” and had tea at Sisson's, driving over the Lawford about 8 o’clock.  Sisson was very despondent about the destruction of Mainz Cathedral.  He feels these things dreadfully.

Beautiful evening.

14th August 1942

The removal of iron railings in St Mary’s Churchyard is a very great improvement.  This churchyard is the most beautiful in the town, although the church is probably the most ugly.  Had the Queen Anne church not been destroyed in 1871 it would have been one of the town’s finest monuments, set in a lovely spot.

Dull tonight, but no rain.

St Mary's Church was rebuilt in 1872 and is a redundant church today, which houses Colchester Arts Centre. CP

13th August 1942

Fine at first, then dull and rain later.  Bad harvest weather.  I heard today that there are 41 dead at Severalls Hospital, or at least 41 coffins have been ordered from the Co-operative Society’s Funeral Department.  One of the dead was a sister of Miss Adams who used to play the organ at St Mary Magdalen Church when I was a boy.

Many people at Severalls did not know that damage had been done until they were called out, as the noise was not very great.  Already arrangements are being made to rebuild the destroyed block, and a contract will shortly be put out.

12th August 1942

Quiet night last night.  Trained from Ardleigh this morning, lovely sunny day.  All along the line men were traving corn, most of the cutting is now finished.

Joanna came in early, to say she was finished [with her work as a Women's Land Army Supervisor for the Essex War Agricultural Committee].  Her father saw Bevin’s Secretary, McCorquadale, yesterday, and had a most unpleasant interview.  McC. refused to be in any way helpful.  His sister-in-law happens to be a best friend of J’s, and it is of course possible that he is afraid things might be said.  He practically admitted that the Man Power Board had taken notice of the local gossip in the town [about Joanna's Women's Land Army work].  The result of all this is that the Chairman is enraged and embittered and Joanna does not intend to do any more work.  She is particularly hurt because a report sent up from Writtle [the Essex War Agricultural Executive Committee] stated that she did no manual work.

At lunch time today figures were put on the Casualty Board showing that 36 patients were killed at Severalls Hospital, 4 can't be found, and 19 were hurt.  Every one women, all patients.  

Heavy rain this afternoon.  Very bad for harvest.  Went out with Mr. Craig to see Maypole Farm.

This evening cycled to Lawford, and got in at 8.  Cloudy, and looks like more rain.

Pasted into this page of E.J. Rudsdale's Journal is a handwritten letter which had been sent into Rudsdale's office at the War Agricultural Committee by one of the Committee's farm labourers.  In the letter, the labourer informed his employers: 'I am having 2 days off because of loseing my dear young daughter at Severalls.'  Rudsdale must have felt the poignancy of this tragic family story to preserve the note in his journal and it still maintains its resonance today.  CP

11th August 1942: Severalls Hospital Bombed

As I write this a German plane is flying over Lawford towards the north, rather low and very fast, while there are gun-flashes far in the south.

This morning was cool and spring like, with thick bands of white vapour in the Vale.  At the office Nott and Harding both said that bombs had fallen on Severalls Asylum.  After lunch Spencer told me a Reserve Squad man had been dug out, and that 30 were missing. 
The same plane dropped incendiaries at Fordham, some of which fell on Bulbanks Farm.  Many did not go off, and old French rang up this morning to ask if they were safe to pick up.  I said I thought so, but advised him to get in touch with his local warden.  He said, “Oh well, I must find out who he is.”

This afternoon I went down to Mersea with Capt. Folkard.  Went to East Mersea Hall to see a ploughed field, and looked out to sea with Capt. F.’s binoculars.  Rain storms were marching away down the estuary, and I could see two motor patrol boats heading up Maldon Water.  I could just see St. Peter’s Chapel through the mist.  While I was looking we were accosted by a farm labourer, who seemed to think my behaviour very suspicious.

Back at 6.  The town very full.  Big queues at the cinemas.  We both had tea at the “Regal”.  Crowds, blaring music.  Ipswich “Star” placard outside – “East Anglian Hospital Bombed”.  The whole of the victims are women.

These affairs make me very gloomy.  Strange contrast to Colchester to get back to Lawford, and have supper in the candle lit room, with everybody talking harvest and farming.  Only the most casual mention was made of Severalls, and Mrs. Parrington rang up the Local Warden to tell him about the suspected shell by the buildings.  He mentioned that four houses were burnt at Ipswich last night.

Planes still humming about among the stars, and a few gunflashes to the south.

More information about the tragedy at Severalls Hospital, when 38 women patients lost their lives, can be found here.  CP

10th August 1942

Meeting of threshing machine contractors at Holly Trees today.  Sadler [from the Essex War Agricultural Committee Executive] came down from Chelmsford to try to get some scheme worked out whereby there will be less overlapping and waste of time than there was last year, but I do not believe for one moment that the pig-headed old fools will make the slightest effort to improve matters.

9th August 1942

Drove over to Lawford this evening, not feeling at all well.  Mrs. Parrington says they think an unexploded AA shell came down near the buildings last night.  At any rate, something heavy crashed through the trees and disappeared.

8th August 1942

On duty tonight.  There was an alarm and some gunfire at 10 o’clock.  It gave me quite a feeling of nostalgia, especially when Taylor came in, just as he used two years ago.

Harvest in fully swing now, and the prospects seem very bright indeed.

7th August 1942: Bomb damage at Hoffman's Factory, Chelmsford

Had to go to Writtle [Essex War Agricultural Executive office] today.  Noticed sentries, in pairs, patrolling the railway near Chelmsford Station.  Little damage to see at Hoffman's, only holes through the roofs where bombs were dropped early last Sunday morning.  They say 7 men were killed and the works quite put out of action by damage to the power units.

Chelmsford Market a wonderful sight, so full of horses and traps.  There must have been 150 horses there, and I counted 35 traps and carts in the sale yard.  Saw Frank Warren there.  “My gosh,” he said “there’s every rogue in Essex here.  It’s just like it was when I was a boy.”

Spent the afternoon at Writtle, and then caught a train right through to Manningtree.  On the train I met Michael Somebody-or-other, Joy’s cousin, on his way to stay at Lawford for the harvest.  He and four other boys from Haileybury are going to do 6 weeks with Frank Girling at Holly Lodge.  At Manningtree great efforts to unload five cycles and heaps of kit, all of which had to be carried through the subway.  Joy came rattling into the station yard with Roger in the luggage cart.  They were waiting to meet another boy who had cycled all the way from Haileybury to Felixstowe with two cycles, and was now cycling to Lawford.

Lovely day, sunny, but not too hot.  Fed all the animals before Joy got back from Holly Lodge.

Hoffman's was a ball-bearing factory in Chelmsford and the town's largest employer.  Owing to its strategic importance it was a target for German bombers as was the nearby Marconi factory.  Hoffman's closed in 1989 and the factory site is now home to Anglia Ruskin University.  This photograph shows the site today with the remaining Hoffman's building, Globe House, on the right, now converted to flats, and the University buildings on the left.  CP

5th August 1942

Lovely day.  Wheat is being cut at Rowney’s [Farm] Wakes Colne.

3rd August 1942

Monday, Bank Holiday
[War Agricultural] Committee today, so drove in from Lawford this morning.  Cycled back this evening.  Some people say Colchester was machine-gunned last night, but I cannot find whether this is true or not.  No sign of damage anyway.

Alwyne Garling's Wartime Colchester Diary entry for today - 3rd August 1942 - confirms that Colchester was machine-gunned during the night.  CP

2nd August 1942

Heavy rain this morning.  Mrs. Parrington and the Canadian rode over to Frank Girling’s to see the crops, she on Robin and he bareback on Roger.  He rode very well indeed, and has been used to horses all his life.  He tells me that Canadian farming is by no means mechanised, and that it is unusual to have tractors on a 600 acre holding.  He comes from near Saskatoon.

1st August 1942

Arranged that I did no duty at the Castle this week, so as to have both Saturday and Sunday night at Lawford.