31st October 1942

Saturday
Busy all day, and had to do duty tonight, which I have not done for one reason or another since October 3.

To the Castle at 7, and began my supper early.  At 5 past 8 the sirens blew.  

Went on the roof.  No planes to be heard but screams and shouts of soldiers in the streets, and the everlasting grind of lorries coming up East Hill.  Near at hand I could hear the voices of wardens in the Park.  A train was shunting at North Station.

Another train came in down the Ipswich line, and I thought how it must have come by Sherbourne Mill less than 10 minutes ago.  The stars came out.  Ghosts and witches stirred as they should on All Hallows Eve.  Perhaps what we fear from the tangible terrors of bombs are the same as the intangible ones of bewitching and other black magic, which must have been very real in olden times.

30th October 1942

Friday
Dull, but high clouds.  Very warm tonight, and as I cycled out I noticed insects and bats flying about.

29th October 1942

Thursday
Fine day, few clouds.  High wind, and leaves falling in great clouds.

28th October 1942

Wednesday
Last night’s promise of a fine day failed to materialise, for the morning was overcast, though clouds were high.  However, the weather became worse, and there was a steady rain by lunchtime.  For some reason I did not feel very nervous today, not even when the sirens sounded just before 4 o’clock, although conditions were ideal for an attack.  Nothing happened.

Went back to Lawford on the bus.  Saw Robin up at the buildings.  Don't know what do with him.   Sometimes I think I shall sell him, but it seems a pity.

27th October 1942

Tuesday
Had to see one or two people at Dedham, so left early and called at Sisson’s.  Showed Mrs. Sisson “Inman’s Journal”, and took her some old corn samples to feed her chickens.

Some of the entries in Inman’s and Carr’s [18th century Colchester] Diaries are of considerable interest, especially Carr’s description of the arrival of the Stadtholder [of Holland] at Colchester in 1795.  Inman tells us Queen St. was so called in 1765 (perhaps after Queen Charlotte?), that there was a lamplighter in 1777, and street lamps proper in 1783.  This last compares with the remark of Celia Fiennes that there were sidewalks in the town in 1710. [Later note: 'Now known to be 1698 – new edition, 1947'].  One of his most interesting notes is that about the man and horse being drowned in Bourne Pond in 1763.  My Mother has so often repeated this tale to me as her mother did to her, as a warning to keep away from the Pond.

If I am spared, I intend from material such as this, to build up a picture of old Colchester such as has never been done before.

Mrs. Sisson had a letter from the Penroses [in Canada].  Mrs. Penrose seems very glad to be where she is, where low clouds don't mean Heinkels or Focke-Wulfs.

The papers seem to be preparing the public for another disaster in Egypt, and tremendous “combings-out” are threatened for all men between 25 and 30 and for all “black coat” workers.

Lovely night.  Searchlights all over the sky.

26th October 1942

Monday
Woke at five.  Lovely moon in a clear, cloudless sky.  Alas, by 6 there were heavy low clouds, with a few faint gleams to the S. and E., where the rising sun showed red.  Caught the 7.30 bus, weather growing darker.  Could not stop myself from continually looking up at the sky.  Heard a girl in the bus say “This is Monday, don't forget, Jerry’s day!”

All morning I expected an alarm, but it did not come until nearly 1 o’clock.  No planes came, and the all-clear soon sounded.  Committee at Birch this afternoon.  

Rain became heavier.  Got wet through tonight.

25th October 1942

Sunday
Beautiful morning.  Heard an alarm about 9.30, and a plane came over, very high.  I suppose an observer to see what damage has been done last week.  A Spitfire came circling round, and then the all-clear sounded in 10 minutes.  Had to go up to Humberlands to chase the bullocks out of the garden, Mrs. Parrington having gone to church.  
  
This afternoon Penelope and Joy went riding in Lawford Park, Penelope on the big old horse from the hall.  I cycled up with them.  Roger looked splendid, going across the Park in a flat gallop, Joy very tall and slim, riding him beautifully.  Back to the Mill and did some writing.  Did no Castle duty this week, as a temporary man is there, relieving Simons.

Very cloudy tonight.

24th October 1942

Saturday
Dull, cloudy and raining when I woke, but as I went up the hill the sky became a delicate pink, with bluey grey clouds moving swiftly across it.  The roads all covered with leaves.  Caught the train at Ardleigh.  The pink became golden, and I had great hopes of a fine day, only to find immense black clouds at Colchester.  You could see the [bomb] damage at Mason’s from the train – just one shed.  About the middle of the morning the sky really did clear, and my nervousness subsided as the sun came out.

This afternoon carting with old Bob, then harnessed Robin and went to the “Bull” to meet Penelope.  Drove her to Dedham, and met Joy on Roger in Bargate Lane.  Went down the long drive to Humberlands in the dusk, and put Robin in the farm buildings.  I think I shall leave him here for a while.  As I finished feeding him, the moon rose huge and ruddy in the east.

After tea, we heard planes going out for some time, and then at 7 I heard sirens at Brantham.  I looked out in time to see two enormous red flashes to the east, which I thought must be two land-mines, but there was no explosion.  Joy thought so too.

The rest of the night was quiet and peaceful under a dazzling moon.

Capt. Folkard told me this morning that the Chairman [of the District War Agricultural Committee, Captain Round] is now a Colonel (in the Home Guard).

Just before I went to lunch today, little Mary Tovell suddenly appeared, here for her brother’s wedding.  When I last heard of him a year ago, he was very ill with pneumonia, but he is now in a Royal Artillery Officer Cadet Training Unit on the South Coast.  Mary is now continuing her training at Gravesend Hospital, and will be there another 18 months.  Mary Tovell had worked at Colchester Castle as the Bookshop Attendant before the war.
  
More wind today, and the leaves falling faster.  Full moon, but cloudy.

23rd October 1942

Friday
Finished reading A.C. Benson’s Diary last night.  What is the value of all these diaries and journals?  Fine day.  Felt happy.  Called on Mrs. Sisson this evening to give her an account of the bombing on Monday.

22nd October 1942

Thursday
Woke at 5 to find heavy rain, which ceased before 7.  Sky overcast, although a few gleams of sun were coming through.  Felt very nervous.

As I came over Hythe Bridge I saw the old shunting engine, the one with cow-catchers and a bell.  I always used to be thrilled with this as a child, thinking it was exactly like an American engine.  At the bottom of Hythe Hill I saw a gipsy caravan, with three young gipsies riding in the front. 
The sky was clearing as I cycled back to Lawford, with a wild, red and yellow sunset.  There was a shower, and a wonderful rainbow appeared in the north-east.  It was glorious, giving out a radiance of its own.

Wind tonight, and leaves coming down fast.

21st October 1942

Wednesday
The war assumes a more political aspect.  Nationals of enemy countries, if they are opposed to the elected Governments of those countries, are regarded as allies, as is now the case of the Italians in America and Austrians in England.  The war, as the public are told, is really aimed at changing the form of Government in Germany and Italy.  Will it be permissible, after the war, to conduct all political business by warlike methods? 

20th October 1942

Tuesday
Glorious fine morning, much to my relief.  Cycled in along the By Pass.  Damage does not look so bad in morning light.  About 18 or 20 houses have broken windows or tarpaulins over their roofs.  Workmen all very busy, hammering up bits of wood, chipping out broken glass.  Some houses had all the windows broken, but the chimneys were smoking merrily.  A big convoy came along, running west.

Clouded over after lunch, and I felt very nervous.  I heard planes several times, and once guns, but there was no alarm.  When I got to Lawford tonight I found there had been several alarms at Manningtree during the afternoon, and gun fire all round.  Heavy rain at 4.  Very wet cycling out.

Yesterday’s attacks were at Tiptree (17 hurt), Southend, Chelmsford, Ipswich and Needham Market, besides other places up in Norfolk.  Defences were of course non-existent, although one or two planes were brought down, more or less by accident.

St Dennis Fair [today], but forgot to look if the customary notice was posted on the Town Hall. 

St Dennis Fair was originally a week long Medieval fair to celebrate Michaelmas and was held  in Colchester from at least 1318.  It is still commemorated today at the annual Colchester Oyster Feast, which is also held in October.  St Dennis Fair was last proclaimed by the Mayor and Town Council from the Town Hall in 1938.  CP 

19th October 1942: Daytime Air Raid on Colchester

Monday
Just going into the cafĂ© for breakfast when the sirens blew.  Rose was quite unconcerned.  As Chapman has now left the Museum, I thought I had better go down to the Castle to see what was happening. Felt I wanted to move about.  

Only Butcher was at the Castle, and the vaults were locked.  It seemed wrong to me, but I did not feel like interfering.  No planes came over.   Back to breakfast.  

Another alarm at 10 o'clock.  Wilcocke made the girls go downstairs to the basement but they soon came back as nothing happened.  Capt. Folkard and I stayed in the office, listening to every car and lorry which came up East Hill all of them sounding exactly like planes.  Suddenly, soon after 11, we heard guns and five tremendous bomb crashes.  A man on the doorstep said that something had fallen in the road outside Dr. Butt’s, but I looked and saw nothing.  Before I could get across the lawn I heard the plane returning, and another burst of machine gun fire.  I ran back round the side of the house, where two old men stood talking.  One said “My potatoes aren't what I hoped they’d be.”  I called “Look out!  He’s coming back.”  One old man said “Who is?” looking at me dully.

Went into the Holly Trees field.  Taylor was there, just coming out of the Warden’s Post.  A warden ran by, towards Roman Road.  Taylor called “Where is it?”  He replied “Somewhere near Mason’s” [a local printing firm].  “My God,” said Taylor, “I’ve got a daughter down there.”  I said No, I thought they were more to the east.   

All-clear came at 11.30.  Wilcocke said he actually saw the bombs explode, as he happened to look out at that time.
  
To my great joy the sky cleared [at lunchtime], and by three o’clock the sun was shining.

Went round by the North when I came out at 6.  Nothing much to see but broken windows and tarpaulins over roofs.  A bomb hole in the road, near the path next to the Rat Ditch.  Little groups of people coming away with suitcases and bundles, bedding and bits of furniture.  There are no houses down, although bombs fell within a few yards of them.  It must be admitted that [these modern houses] stood up to blast much better than the 100 year old houses in Essex Street.  Nothing to be seen at Masons from the outside.  They say a man had his hand blown off.

The Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive [War Agricultural] Committee came this afternoon to see our Committee on cattle business.  The Executive Officer said there was an attack at Chelmsford this morning, two or three people killed, and Nott said there was another at Tiptree, I suppose on the jam factory, and a number of houses were badly knocked about.  

At last to Lawford – such a change of atmosphere, warmth, food, laughter.  Praying for a fine day tomorrow.

18th October 1942

Sunday
Had a very quiet, pleasant day in bed.  Did not do a duty this weekend at all. 

Rain in the morning.

17th October 1942

Saturday
In bed until after lunch.  Felt better, but weak.  Went in by train this afternoon to see to ponies.

Fine day.  Some cloud.

15th October 1942

Thursday
Lay late.  Breakfast in bed.  Joy took my temperature, which was just over 100 degrees.  The weather was good, and the sun came out, so I thought I would go in.  

Fear we are going to have a row with Poulter.  He is becoming more and more irritable with the War Agricultural Committee staff since Joanna left.  Wrote to the Town Clerk today, applying to have the Essex Archaeological Society Office [at Holly Trees Museum], which is never used, nor has it been ever since Holly Trees was opened [ in 1929].

Fine evening.  Warmer.

14th October 1942

Wednesday
My usual winter cough seems to be developing.  Felt bad, but went in to the office.  My legs are very sore and painful with rheumatism.

In St. John Street I saw a Czech Army Ambulance, the driver of which was asking the way of a policeman.

Felt worse tonight, so rang Folkard and told him I was sorry but could not get in tomorrow.

13th October 1942

Tuesday
Fine day, dull at first.  Our daily anxieties about the weather [and, consequently, the likelihood of air raids] are really pathetic.  Felt rotten, sick and ill all day.

12th October 1942

Monday
Grand surprise this morning – a letter from Meg [MacDougall], very depressed about the future of her museum [at Inverness].  Must write to her about museum affairs here.

Lot of searchlights out tonight, making a fine sight.  Did not feel very well, and spent a quiet warm evening in my cosy little room, then bed after drinking hot milk.

11th October 1942

Sunday
Fine day.  Drove out to Lawford this afternoon, and decided to leave Robin there for a time, as I am rather nervous of having him next to Paxman’s in these days. 

About 5 this afternoon I heard an alarm sound at Brantham, followed immediately by an all-clear and then another alarm.  No planes came over.  Perhaps a mistake.

9th October 1942

Friday
Fine early, but rain later, so I did not go to Boast’s to fetch my trap, as the varnish is scarcely dry.  The trap was being varnished in preparation for Rudsdale to drive to Joanna Round's wedding which was held at Birch Hall on 10th October 1942.  An account of the day of the wedding is available in E.J. Rudsdale's book.

Long statements in the “Standard” tonight about the air-raids, especially with reference to the treatment of the dead.  In the Council Minutes for last Wednesday’s meeting there was a lengthy report from the Mortuary Officer regarding the people killed at Severalls in August, and long discussions about the urgent necessity of having a large communal grave ready for the next lot.  The ARP people delight in these morbid details.

If an equal amount of care and worry was given to the protection of the living, the rescuing of furniture and the repairing of houses, it might be better for all of us.

The Civil Defence Committee Minutes now take up more space than any other Committee of the Corporation.

8th October 1942

Thursday
Cloudy but fine, with high wind.  The first thing I think about when I wake in the morning is whether or not it is going to be a cloudy day, [which might bring air raids] and I spend a good deal of time staring out of the window, hoping the weather will not get too bad.

7th October 1942

Wednesday
This morning interviewing gangers for the [War Agricultural] Committee.  Rather a poor lot, nothing suitable.

Tonight there was a small thunderstorm, with a good deal of lightening, and in the midst of it we could hear many planes going out to sea.  I felt sure that one of them at least would crash with its load of bombs.  We could hear several turn round and go back when they reached the coast.

5th October 1942

Monday
Dull all day until teatime, but no attacks.  This morning towed Joy’s trap in to Boast’s Yard, as she is bringing in the Lawford Hall phaeton [for repairs], and wants something to drive back.

4th October 1942

Sunday
Woke at 6.  Up at 8, a thick fog, very damp.  Went to the office for an hour and a half, writing letters and doing tracings.  To the stables.  Catholics going down Priory St. to Mass – they always seem to be in a hurry.  Went to Spalding, down Hythe Hill, to borrow his trap. Paxman’s Home Guard Company was parading on the Hill.  Two little choir-girls, carrying their surplices, hurried out of Artillery Street towards St. Leonards’.  Went down to Bourne Mill and had a look at Bob.  Can't make up my mind whether to drive tandem next Saturday or not [to go to Joanna Round's wedding].

Went to Watts’ to pay stable rent.  Amazed to see the Garrison Church guarded by two Bren guns on lorries, while the service was in progress, as a protection against dive-bombers. There was one near the Royal Mortar, and the other on the pavement outside Dr. Clendon’s near Albion Grove.  This is the first sign of military “preparedness” I have seen in Colchester since the Australians left.

Had to go to Holly Trees again after lunch, and walked back through the Alleys.  Most of the houses in Portugal Terrace have been vacated, but the damage is not very serious.  There was a “Special” on duty at the corner behind the Terrace, smoking a cigarette while his steel helmet hung on the railings.  I could see several overturned goods wagons on the sidings below.  Two bombs had entirely destroyed three or four allotments behind the Magdalen Almshouses.  Chatted with the “Special” and remarked how fortunate the men and horses in the coalyard had been, and how calm they were.  He said “There’s a lot of advantage in being in horse work in times like these.”

Had an early lunch at home, and then drove over to Lawford in Spalding’s trap (mine is being repainted).  This ralli used to belong to old Dan Abbott Green of Donyland.  Very pleasant drive.  All fog gone, a lovely warm, sunny, afternoon.  Ardleigh Park looked lovely, great masses of fallen leaves making a complete carpet across the road.  Just as I arrived at Sherbourne Mill, pretty Margery Watmore came down the field path with the two Parrington children, her yellow hair gleaming in the sun.

This evening writing and drawing.  Mounted some photos.

3rd October 1942

Saturday
Fog cleared, but low clouds continued.  Some Hurricanes flew over this afternoon, when it cleared a bit, but there was no alarm all day.  The town was as crowded as usual.  Immense queues waiting to go in the cinemas.  Either the people have no apprehension of attacks or else they are past caring what happens.

Saw our two Land Girls from Fingringhoe riding into town on their own horses, looking very smart.  They tie-up at The Bull. 

On duty tonight.  A thickening fog seems to promise a quiet time.  Michaelmas Horse Sale today – three entries.

1st October 1942

Thursday
Awakened at 5.30 by heavy rain.  Up at 6.45, to find dull lowering clouds, and at once felt anxious and afraid [owing to the recent air raids on Colchester on cloudy days].  The rain ceased.  Cycled to Ardleigh, and just caught the train.  All the way anxiously scanned the sky for a break in the weather, and was glad to see a little blue sky showing in the west.  Had breakfast, and was just going to the lavatory when the sirens sounded.  A plane came over from the east at once, well above the clouds.  I went into the St Mary’s Churchyard, and saw the Gas Company men preparing to go into their shelter should anything happen, but nothing did.  Went back, had another cup of tea, and cycled down to the office by the back streets, feeling very much on edge all the time.  There seemed to be several people in all the shelters, and wardens were on duty.  All clear came 10 minutes after I reached the office.

Then the clouds all blew away, and there was a lovely clear sky.  How glad I was to see it.