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.

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