Woke at 7. Tremendous wind and rain, the whole house shaking. Never heard such a storm, and it kept on unabated all day. At times the rain eased, but the wind blew until you felt the house must collapse. Spent morning writing. This afternoon had to go to
Colchester to feed Bob. Went up by Humberlands. Elm tree down near Bargate Lane, bringing down the electric power wire with it. Broken glass from forcing-frames all over the road by the Land Settlement. The gale was due S.W., and blew me to a standstill several times. It took me one and a half hours to get in. Fed Bob, home to tea, and then left at quarter past 6. Pouring rain again, but got back in 30 minutes, wet to the skin. Lovely supper, and warm room, made the journey well worthwhile.
Writing until 10p.m. Wet clothes hanging up to dry all round the room.
In the Sunday papers today, the news that Saunders-Lewis, the Welsh Nationalist, has polled more than 1300 votes in the
election, out of a total of about 5,000. He was second in the poll. In the same papers, it reports Mr. Maxton as warning the Scottish Nationalists against violence. Can there be something stirring among the Celts? Welsh University
Wind and rain again with great violence about 9 o’clock tonight, the house shaking and rattling with every gust.
High wind. Had quite a struggle to get into town. Clouds flying over, huge masses, every now and then releasing sudden sharp showers of hail and rain.
Extraordinary story about the Maldon War Agricultural Committee. They apparently appointed a farm-foreman, who in due course was found to be unsuitable. The whole clumsy machinery to dismiss him was put in motion, and some time later the necessary authority was received from the Labour Officer to dismiss him. When this was done, the man appealed, and the appeal was heard by a tribunal of the Man Power Board. This tribunal, without the slightest knowledge of the true facts of the case, ruled that the man was in the right and should not be dismissed. Maldon Committee bowed to this ridiculous decision, and agreed among themselves to employ the man as a ganger; he again appealed, and the Man Power Board ruled that this decision referred to his job as a farm foreman, and as a farm foreman he must remain. As he is quite unsuitable for the work, the Maldon Committee have now had to give him six months holiday, with pay, in order to keep him off the farm. Moreover, they are compelled to let him remain in the foreman’s house. Can the insanities of the Man Power Board go much further? I honestly believe there is no perverse piece of lunacy which they would not do. The men and women chosen for these Boards are mostly Civil Servants, quite ignorant of the most elementary knowledge of industries and labour and all of them quite drunk with the vast power over their fellow creatures which has been put freely into their hands. There is no appeal against any of their decisions, however wildly stupid they may be.
It was a member of the Colchester Board who lodged at Nurse Horwood’s, opposite my Mother’s, who refused to stay there when he found he had to have meals at the same table as two gangers working on Langham aerodrome. It was too, the Colchester Board which took away Pulford’s lorry driver and put him with Wright’s, so that in order to get his work done Pulford had to hire Wright’s lorry with his own driver! Can insanity go further?
Thought I was on duty tonight, and made all arrangements, but when I got to the Castle I found Simons there instead, so cycled out to Lawford just after 9. Bright starlight, but could not see the comet which is now approaching the Great Bear.
Strong wind, high clouds, moving fast. Lovely fine day after 9 o’clock.
Mr. Lucker came down from Writtle again, this time to make an inspection of the actual payment of wages. Nott and Spencer were furious, and made sure that he had to walk miles over wet, heavy fields. The old chap came back about 2, quite exhausted. This continual spying and investigating from Writtle is most irritating. Spencer went so far as to say that he did not care who won the war – German methods could be no worse than English.
There was then a general conversation about
Germany and England (a thing which rarely occurs) from which I gathered that the Ministry of Information and the Press have over-estimated the credulity of the public in their treatment of ’s “total mobilisation” this week. Germany
To infer, as has been done in every paper, that open announcements to the German people that the situation for them is black and that the nation must mobilise for total war, mean that Germany is in a desperate plight, is absurd, for England has been told repeatedly by all members of the Government, particularly Churchill, that this country’s plight is worse than desperate. Some papers even made a great thing out of the “conscripting” of German women for war work, while they printed, (often on the same page), the official announcement that all married women up to 46 are now to be compelled to undertake part-time work, yet other headlines spoke of the mobilization of men from 16 to 65 – exactly the same as in England! I can never understand if the editors of the daily papers are themselves fools or whether they think their readers are.
Heard a very interesting conversation at lunch. At the next table sat an elderly woman, a pretty little red-haired girl, and a young couple, probably man and wife. The exact relationship between them all I could not guess. When I walked in the pretty girl was discussing (very loudly) as to how she could avoid being called up, and suggested that she might say she was a conscientious objector. The elderly woman said briskly “Oh no, you can't do that! You can't be a conscientious objector unless you’re one of God’s Witnesses or something. Of course we all have our objections, and nobody wants to go, naturally, but it doesn't do to set yourself against people, you know, you only get called eccentric.”
The girl then said she would not register, and “they” would never find her, at which the other three hastened to point out that as the possessor of an identity card she was “on the list” already. But, the girl said, how can they know how old I am? Ah, she was told, they know that from the figures on your card. “Oh well,” said the girl, “I’m not going if I can get out of it, anyway.”
All this conversation was quite loud, and everybody in the café could hear.
This afternoon left at 4, and cycled to
. Back to Lawford at a quarter to 11. Many searchlights out, and a few RAF planes. Dedham
In Essex County Standard tonight that Hervey Benham has got a daughter.
Low clouds, strong S.W. wind. Went down to Mersea this morning with Nott, to see how much work the so-called thatcher has done – about 2 squares in 3 months. He must certainly go. When we arrived, he was a mile up the road talking to some Land Girls. North Farm looks better now – heifers in the yard, and the old Woods brothers carting muck.
Back by way of Wigborough. Called at Abbots Wick. Frost, the foreman, mentioned that he had had considerable experience in working bullocks in
. Very interesting. This place is beginning to look really well – a yard full of stacks, a man thatching a straw stack, men carting straw into the yards. France
Capt. Folkard annoyed when I got back. The Chairman had been in, and I should have been there. Committee members in and out about their cropping forms.
About half past 3, an alarm, for which I had been waiting all day. There is hardly one cloudy day when the Germans do not come. The girls were just coming out of school, and from the front windows I saw them scampering gaily into the Park, towards the shelters. The Museum was full of visitors, looking around in the usual way, the Attendant Butcher giving a little lecture. I heard planes coming in low. Nothing happened, and I suppose they were RAF and in a few moments all-clear sounded.
On the way out, I noticed that the barbed wire entanglements round the American HQ at St. Anne’s are now ornamented with tin cans hung on the top wires. Perhaps to jangle if intruders cut the wire?
This evening writing. Heard an all-clear at 8, so there must have been another alarm, which I missed. No planes about.
Lovely morning. Went in by bus, very crowded and most uncomfortable. A lot of work because Mortimer, of Abbots Hall, is going to arbitration on the valuation of his land. This man has been an obstructionist from the very beginning of the war, and did all he could to prevent the Committee from cultivating the 500 acres of this farm. Now we shall have endless trouble to prove our case.
Clouded over for a while this afternoon, but not for long. A man called Ward, a thatcher, has been dismissed at Mersea, and came in this afternoon making a great disturbance. Threatened to beat us up, smash the office, etc.
This morning I went down to Boasts’ on East Hill to see Mrs. Nichols of Lawford Hall drive her phaeton away. It looked very fine indeed, all yellow and blue, and she drove away down the hill at a spanking trot. Half a dozen old stagers stood by Motum’s harness shop to see her go.
Wrote out the précis of short story tonight, “There was Slight Activity over
…”, founded on the bombing of East Anglia Essex Street.
An alarm at a quarter to 9, and all-clear about 10 minutes past. Several planes about, but impossible to say if they were German, as they continued in the area after all-clear had sounded.
Lovely fine morning, the moon brilliant at 7 o’clock. Went in by bus. Busy all morning, but very little done, people in and out all the time. Much to do about the senseless cropping forms, which gave me a headache. Slipped out this afternoon and went home to tea, then back to Holly Trees and found the Sissons there. I was thus able to get a car ride to
, and then, by good luck, met Joy and Parry there, with their car, and so rode all the way to Lawford. This is the first evening I have seen a sign of spring – light until well after 6. It was so nice out I walked up to the buildings to see my little Robin. I shall be able to drive him again soon. Dedham
During high-tea we could hear planes about, apparently going out. Joy said “We seem to be going off somewhere,” and Parry replied “Yes, trying to get another reprisal raid I suppose.” But when I looked out I saw the starlit sky full of searchlights, and several planes flying with their landing lights on, so it was only an exercise after all, and I was very glad.
Writing for the rest of the evening.
Woke early, and got up an hour too soon by mistake, so that I came out of the Castle to find it only a quarter past 7, with low, wet clouds, scudding across from the S.W., the moon showing faintly behind them. Washed and shaved and did an hour in the office until the post came. Then breakfast, the sky clearing, and the sun coming up red.
I had high hopes of getting a lot done in the office before Committee, but a fellow called Lucker, from Writtle, came in, sent by the Finance Officer with a mass of queries to settle. It was a great nuisance, and annoyed both Capt. Folkard and myself. He made several criticisms of this District which I do not think were really justifiable, and I told him so very firmly. He stayed the whole morning, with the result that I had no chance to get any lunch before Committee.
There were a lot of planes flying near Birch during the afternoon, and at about half past 3 four large bomb explosions shook the house, and, as I learnt later, the whole town as well. There was no alarm, and people seem to think that an RAF machine must have been in trouble and thrown out its bombs.
Rain began about 4, a steady drizzle. I begged a lift back to Lawford with Moorhouse, so that I had only to walk down the hill. Home by 6.45. The rain increased, but about 8.30 I heard an alarm, which lasted about half an hour. There were no planes and no gun-fire. The night was so dark and wet that it was impossible to see a yard. What good can any planes do in such weather?
There is a puncture in the rear tyre of my cycle, but when I took it to Langley’s to be mended he told me that his man had been taken away by the Ministry of Labour to work in the Army Ordnance, but that he comes in on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons to work in the repair shop. A most extraordinary state of affairs. One would think they would leave men in the cycle-repair works at a time when more people than ever are using cycles.
Sharp white frost in the night. Fog, and the sun shining orange through it. Very cold. Writing letters most of the morning. The ATS sergeant who rides Robin came to lunch. She said that she was at
Scarborough when the war began, and rushed off next day to join the ATS, as she felt it was her duty. She had been in for two years. Switzerland
After lunch went up to the buildings with her, and saddled Robin, who looked wonderfully fit and well. He bucked and played up in the most extraordinary way when she mounted, but she stuck him very well indeed.
Put down clean straw in his stable, and then went back to the house to do some more writing. I had intended to go into
Colchester early, but finally was tempted to stay for tea. At last got away at 7 o’clock, after having trouble with a flat back tyre. Night very dark, with stars faintly shining.
Down to Bourne Mill and fed Bob, then home for half an hour, up to the post-office and into Holly Trees at 9 o’clock.
Awoke to heavy rain at 7 o’clock, depressing me considerably. However, a strong wind was blowing the clouds along fast, so I had breakfast as I decided to go round by Blue Barns, Ardleigh, to see a thatcher. Left Sherbourne at a quarter to 9. A great golden vent appeared in the clouds towards the east, and as I approached the
Ipswich Road the sun came glaring through, a fierce orange disc, turning the woods almost brick-red. Saw the thatcher, old Elmer and his son. They live in Wick Lane, Langham, now. Some few years ago they thatched the bastion in Priory Street, the one which has always had a conical thatched roof on it. [This forms part of Colchester's Town Wall]. I had a chat with them, and they agreed to train one of the Committee’s labourer’s later on. They told me they had thatched about a hundred stacks this year, which I thought very good, but many were never done and were quite ruined.
Noticed how the aerodrome is progressing fast now. Horrid little huts and sheds all the way from Ardleigh “Crown” to the Borough boundary. What a shame this thing is being done. Noticed that old “
Flood Lane” is now being made up in concrete. This should have been done years ago for the public benefit. Now that it is done the public will not be allowed to use it.
Got to the office at a quarter to 10. Out to Bank and to various shops on queries in our accounts. Called on Hervey Benham regarding some books he is throwing out for salvage. He told me a nice piece of scandal. In the “Gazette” on Wednesday there was an account of a youth of 16 being charged with theft at the “Red Lion”, where he was employed. In his evidence, the boy said that a policeman had offered him a pound if he would sign a confession. This allegation was ignored by the Bench as being unworthy of notice. Now, when the “proof” of this particular item came forward for the “Standard”, Hervey noticed that “pound” had been altered to “pen”. He asked why this had been done, and was told that Chief Inspector Clear had telephoned personally to say that he noticed a misprint in the “Gazette” – “pound” should be “pen”. Hervey checked the original statement with the Clerk to the Justices, who also had “pound”. Now, if the boy was simply lying, why did not Clear abuse the paper for what, in that case, would be a very serious mistake? Yet he only points out that it is a “misprint”. Hervey is wondering whether to tell his father, as Chairman of the Watch Committee, but I advised him not to. He said he has had several instances of this sort brought to his notice.
This afternoon carting hay and straw. Put down clean litter in the yard, which looks very well. Old Bob went wonderfully well. Carted some logs home, also. A major and a very pretty girl came by, and stopped to chat about Bourne Mill and the Lucas family.
Home to tea, then cycled to Lawford in front of a vast black cloud. Got inside just before a violent storm broke, which lasted only a few minutes.
The local papers this week full of the
Audley Road murder. The man Turner seems to have been extraordinarily calm about the whole thing, going to the pictures within an hour or two after. Curious to be sitting next to a man who has just committed murder.
As I sit writing I can hear the Colchester Sirens blowing (it is just on 9). Every sign of a cloud has gone, and the moon is rising behind the hill. There is a sound of a plane far away. How strange that I so rarely feel alarmed out here, although there is just as much chance of being killed here as there is in
Colchester. No sound of firing yet. Now a few minutes after 9, I hear another alarm nearer at hand probably Wenham, which turns into an all-clear and blows steadily. Is this a mistake, or is the alarm now over? There is no means of knowing. (Planes about now, very low, but no firing). Poor Civil Defence people. When the sirens get muddled like this they have to wait hours sometimes, not knowing whether to remain on duty or not.
Cloudy, but the clouds thin, with the sun rising behind them. Got in at a quarter to 9 for once. Clouds high all day until late in the afternoon, when they came lower and looked like rain.
Slipped out at 4 o’clock and went with Poulter to have tea with Diana Davis [Stage Manager for Colchester Repertory Company] in
. What a lovely place this is, but how spoilt by the wretched tin garage. Poulter seemed to be very bright and cheerful and his voice is certainly better today than for some time. Balkerne Gardens
As I cycled up
Harwich Road near the on my way out tonight, about half past 5, I heard a plane going east, and at once the sirens sounded. How glad I was to be going out of the town and not coming in. All-clear sounded after I got through Ardleigh. As I passed the church there in the gathering dusk, I saw a little bent old woman opening the churchyard gate. I wonder why she was going in there in the dark. Royal Oak
Received a memorandum from Writtle this morning praising my “news items” which had been sent for the monthly news-sheets. I was very pleased, as the officer in charge was quite unaware that I was the author of them.
Heavy rain again at 8 o’clock tonight. The land is getting very sodden. At Wigborough they can do nothing now.
Glorious morning, brilliant moonlight at 7 o’clock.
There was an alarm in
Colchester at 1 p.m., but the weather was so very clear I could not believe any planes would come, nor did they. The all-clear went as I reached the Avenue, [near Lexden] and shortly after a few RAF planes came over from the direction of the coast.
The War Agricultural Committee are now clearing about 4 acres of land between
Fitzwalter Rd and St. Clare Rd, being part of the ancient park. It is quite derelict, and will require a lot done to it. I am hopeful we might find something there, being so near to the Tumulus.
Went out at 4 this afternoon, and home to tea. Then cycled out by way of
, and called at the Sissons. He was in Dedham yesterday, during the raid. He says some of the balloons were up, but not very many. There was a good deal of firing, but he saw no planes as he was lunching in a pub near Holborn. A man came in and said a shell case had fallen into a trolley bus in Gray’s London Inn Road. I cannot understand how a man as nervous as Sisson could remain eating his lunch under such conditions. Sisson said that there was damage and people killed at Wood on Sunday night. St. John’s
Mrs. Sisson was talking about the balloons at
Ipswich, and said they were fakes, not intended to fly. Seems very unlikely to me.
Over to Lawford at 7. Eversley Belfield came to supper. He has only just got back from
, where he has been training as a pilot, only to be told finally that he was not suitable. He had been to Canada New York and Montreal, besides several towns in . It seemed to me to be absolutely incredible that this quiet, good-looking young man was, less than 3 weeks ago, 3000 miles away, in safety and comfort, passing the days and nights in peace, never having the fear of bombs and machine gunning over him. Yet he was anxious and willing to come back to Ontario . He talked a good deal about flying, and said that with modern machines it was really very easy. He has flown solo both by day and night. I believe he is genuinely disappointed at not being passed as a pilot. England
Bed at 11p.m. Rain.
Fine, S.W. wind, quite warm. Thin, high, clouds. Very busy. The “cropping programmes” work is not going at all well.
An alarm shortly before lunch, which rather surprised me, as the sky was fairly clear. No planes appeared, and an all clear came in 20 minutes. Heavy firing all morning up on the ranges.
Poulter seems rather better since he went to the hospital, and I think he is cheerful.
came back yesterday, and made a considerable disturbance because old Simons had two nights off from the Castle to go to Southend to bury his sister. I told Poulter on Saturday morning, but I suppose he thought no more about it. There was a Museum Committee yesterday, and Hull did all he could to get Simons into serious trouble, the matter being referred to the Chief Fire Guard. I went to the Fire Guard Office this morning and explained the whole matter to Manning. He accepted my explanation and intimated that he quite understood how matters are in the Museum. Hull
Became cloudy this evening, and rain began about 8. At 9, a German plane came over, very low, and was fired on as it went towards the coast. At 10, just as I was going to bed, there was some more firing, over Bromley way, and the sound of planes. I suppose there has been another attack on
Harold Poulter had been operated on for throat cancer and was released from hospital to await the results. More details on Poulter's progress can be found in E.J. Rudsdale's book.
Harold Poulter had been operated on for throat cancer and was released from hospital to await the results. More details on Poulter's progress can be found in E.J. Rudsdale's book.
Overcast, but clouds high. Warm S.W. wind all day, so that sky cleared by evening. Encouraged by the complete absence of any alarms today, I went to the Regal Cinema just after 5, to see “The Great Mr. Handel”. Very charming, many of the scenes beautiful. Acting on the whole good, although not the smaller parts. The opening theatre scene I thought excellent. Out at 7.15, to find brilliant moonlight. Cycled out in 45 minutes, a lovely ride, quite a warm night. Late supper, then writing. Col. Hooper talking a good deal about preservation and planning.
I became so engrossed in the County Sessions Rolls that I lost all count of time, and had quite a shock when I went in the Plaster Room to get a drink and was just in time to hear 4 o’clock striking. I thought well, thank goodness there’s only another four hours to daylight, and decided to go through one more volume before going to the Castle to get a little sleep. Just as I was finishing the sirens sounded. They sounded very faint and far away through the thick walls. I packed up the book I was using, locked the Muniment Room, and went out. It was quite light, with the moon sinking away among clouds behind the Castle. The sky was speckled with bursting shells, and there was a concentration of searchlights towards Ardleigh.
A solitary man in the Castle Vaults was taking a great deal of interest in a curious form of mould which covers a lot of the woodwork in the Vaults. I asked him the time, and he said it was twenty-five to six. The noise of the firing died away, and no more planes came. Everybody seemed to agree that they were returning from
I felt the most extraordinary relief when the long wail [of the all-clear] broke out. The fire-guards, being thoroughly roused from their accustomed sleep, decided to get ready to go home, and walked about overhead very loudly. I dozed off, but woke to hear them leave at 7, then dozed again until almost 8. Over to Holly Trees, in a thick fog with blue sky above it, and washed and shaved. Then breakfast. Lovely fine morning, the sun creeping up gradually through the mist.
This evening showed the Hoopers some of my old photographs, in which they were most interested. We could hear another alarm at Brantham about 8, but all-clear followed shortly. Clouds heavy and low tonight. Bed at 10, dead tired.
Up at 9.30. Scattered clouds, sunny, quite warm. Apparently the big flight of bombers which circled over the town on Wednesday last made a daylight raid on
. I think these affairs get more and more terrible, and there seems to be no possible means of stopping them. I suppose this will call forth a “retaliation” raid on some peaceful English town, (if there is such a thing now). Lille
Had a wonderful lunch, including a really rich “Christmas pudding” with plenty of cream. More writing this afternoon, and then left at 5 for
Colchester. Took eggs, butter, and cream for Mrs. Fletcher, Mrs. Pat Green, and Miss King.
Colchester at 6, and it was hardly dark, the moon shining through thin, high clouds, and the sun only just set. Fed Bob, and then went home for an hour. Delivered eggs etc to Mrs. Fletcher at the Grammar School, and decided to call at the ’ for an hour or two. Mrs. Seymour was alone, and told me that Jeffrey Saunders [a schoolfriend of Rudsdale's] was there yesterday, back from Seymours , where he much enjoyed himself. He had had several weeks in America New York, and had seen . Washington
Mr. Seymour came in. Just before 9, we heard planes passing over, and then suddenly guns began firing. Mr. Seymour said “Only a wandering Jerry” and went on talking about other things. Just after the firing stopped, dear old Pepper [a teacher at Colchester Royal Grammar School] came in, having walked along the streets quite regardless of any falling shrapnel that there might be. Planes were still going over, but there was no more firing, so it was suggested that the shots had been aimed at an RAF plane which had not made signals, perhaps because its radio was broken.
Alan Seymour [the Seymours' son and a schoolfriend of Rudsdale's] is doing very well, and lives at Harleston, near
, in a very fine Georgian Rectory there. He has had a great deal of very good luck. Cambridge
Back to Holly Trees at 10, and went into the Muniment Room, to go through some more of the Doctor’s papers. I love this place late at night, it seems so secure, and is so silent. You can hardly hear a sound, not even the Town Hall Clock.
Got in early this morning. Went to Bourne Mill with Bob, [after taking him to the blacksmiths]. Old Bob, blowing hard, trotted along in grand style, his action just the same as when I first saw him more than 13 years ago. I have never seen a cob with such a beautiful, compact action as he has got.
Home to lunch, then walked Bob round to Boasts’ and paid him £10-0-0 for a little flat trolley, which is not really worth it, but I felt I needed a 4-wheel vehicle again. I have a vague idea I might let Grubb have this, and draw my old van back again. I wish I had never let it go.
Having got the trolley, I went to Matthews’ and to Marriages’, and managed to collect 6 trusses of hay altogether, which ought to last about a fortnight, with care. Then to
Port Lane, and got 4 bundles of straw from my store there and took them down to litter the Mill yard. I reckon the straw I have used there so far has cost me about 68/-. I hope I shall be able to get that much for the muck. I reckon I want another half ton of straw, about 60/-, to make a job of it, and then I shall want to sell 14 loads of muck at 10/- to make it pay. I rather doubt if there would be that much.
After this, went home again and had tea. Left at 5.30, and went by
. Talked to Sissons until 7.30. Mrs. Sisson is very worried about Poulter, and so am I. We also had general conversation about agriculture, etc. Neither she nor Sisson could believe it when I said that the Dedham Essex wheat acreage last year was no greater than in 1938, but that is the fact. On thinking this matter over, I realise just why the authorities are as worried as they are now.
Back to Sherbourne at 8, just in time for supper. After supper, felt worn out, and did hardly any writing tonight.
More rain in night. Felt very much better this morning, and had some food before I went. Weather cloudy, but improving rapidly, and the sun soon came through. A strange, empty, feeling at Holly Trees because Poulter is not there. Nobody mentioned him. This afternoon I phoned the Hospital, and was told that his condition was “satisfactory”, but that Dr. Rowland would phone me tomorrow. Went home to tea early, and then all round trying to find hay. Mr. Craig let me have a hundredweight bale, but that is all I have.
To Lawford by six, for high-tea. About 7, Fisher came round to the back door to say there was an accident outside. Joy ran to get cotton wool, and I went out with a lantern. Near the railway arch were two men standing in the road, and on a the ground a young boy lying, supporting himself on one elbow, his face covered in blood. A cycle and a cap were nearby. Neither of the men had thought to move the boy, who had apparently been lying in a pool of water for half an hour. One of them had gone so far as to fetch Fisher, who came to fetch us! Had an army lorry come down the hill, as they so often do, the boy would have been killed. Mr. Hooper and Fisher came along, so I said “better get him inside” which they did, half carrying, half dragging him. Mrs. Hooper then washed his face with Dettol, and Joy phoned for a taxi to get him home to
. Everybody else stood round to watch. Cookson’s taxi, was very soon at the door, the dogs all barking and great excitement. The poor boy was led out, by now quite blinded with bandages, and put in the car, while his cycle was tied onto the running board. Fisher went with them, in case the boy collapsed on the way. Stratford
Later I phoned the Sissons about Poulter. Mrs. Sisson apparently knew what was going on. I said I would ‘phone Dr Penry Rowland tomorrow, and would let her know what was happening. Writing, and then to bed rather gloomy.
Woke at 4 to torrential rain and a heavy gale, fortunately blowing behind me from the N.W., as I had to cycle in. The wind was blowing so hard that I was sure the low clouds could not last long, and I was right, for great patches of light soon appeared, and the rain became intermittent showers.
At 10.30 a meeting of the Committee and all the parish representatives in the Grand Jury Room, when Sadler spoke at great length on the 1943 Cropping Programme. He went on until well after 1 o’clock. I was very bored, but slightly amused when he admitted that several errors had been found in the forms after they were printed. He also admitted that it had been pointed out that the allocation of hay for farm-horses – 30 cwt for six months – was perhaps not sufficient, but the figures had been prepared by people who did not know anything about horses, only cows! I had noticed this mistake as soon as I saw the form, and mentioned it to the District Officer.
Mr. A.W. Page raised great objections to the proposed order prohibiting the feeding of oats to sheep or bullocks. He pointed out that it would be quite impossible for him to carry 2000 sheep throughout the winter, and if they went the “sheep-land” farms would suffer considerably. Stanley Webb agreed in principle, and said he would take that point back to the Executive, but he said, as did Sadler, that this was the “vital year”, and every ounce of food must be produced, for, he said, even if the land suffers, “it’s no use keeping the land fertile and having Jerry here.” Several of the men in the audience called out “Hear, hear.”
Sadler made a great point that although the wheat acreage is to be increased by 25%, barley must be the same as last year. The most extraordinary thing is that the wheat acreage in Essex last year was the same as in 1938. Of course, it is generally understood that the maintenance of the barley acreage is due to pressure being brought by the brewers, although the Ministry say they want it for bread.
Just before one o’clock the Chairman signalled to me with some anxiety, and when I went over to him, said in a piercing whisper “Would you run up to Cook’s and get my fish? They’ll be shut in a minute!” Which I did.
Only time for half a lunch, and then round to the Co-operative Hall for the workmens’ meeting, to be addressed by the Executive Officer. I saw all the men and Land Girls come in. I have not been in the “Co-op Hall” since the old Hamilton Road School Concerts. One of the Land Girls began playing a piano, and all the rest sang in shrill Cockney voices. I felt I could not stop here the whole afternoon, as I had so much to do, so I went back to the office to tell the District Officer all was ready in the hall. As I went upstairs, Poulter came down, and asked me to come below and check the Doctor’s Morants, Newcourt, etc., which he is sending to
with the rest of the books. I said that before they went they should be checked off the list I had sent to Mrs. Lyon-Campbell, and he answered “But I can’t go up there any more.” I said “Why not? Have you quarrelled with the old lady?” He looked at me rather oddly, and said “Don't you know? I have to go to the Hospital at 6 o’clock to be operated on for cancer in the throat,” and his face went queerly flushed. London
He told me to come up to the office, and gave me various instructions for Councillor Blomfield. At last I said “Look here, does
know about this?” He said he had told him on the phone, but Hull had only laughed in an idiotic manner. He had told Butcher, but had not then told Mrs. Blake. “I suppose I shall have to” he said. Hull
He said he had just made a new will. He had previously, as I know, left the Museum £1000, but he has now cancelled this, as he feels, just as the Doctor did, that the place is incapable of benefitting by any gifts, so long as
is in charge. It seems to me an exceptionally grave criticism of the institution that two very sound men should behave like this when believing themselves to be on the brink of death. Hull Colchester lost the Pollexfen Collection in just the same way, and the town shall certainly have nothing of mine. [The bulk of Rev. J H Pollexfen's collection of antiquities from Colchester were sold to the British Museum towards the end of the 19th century].
Soon after 4, the Executive Officer, Executive Chairman, our Chairman, and General Barker walked in and took possession of my office. I was not asked to leave, but there was simply no room to remain, so I left my work and cleared out. The Executive Officer is very fond of doing this sort of thing, without any notice to District Offices whose premises he intends to use. It is very bad manners.
About 5, I began to feel thoroughly sick and tired, but determined to go to see the film of “Queen
” to relieve my mind. It was made up of the two films “ Victoria the Great” and “Sixty Glorious Years,” but was not quite so good as either. Individual scenes were excellent – the arrival at Kensington Palace in the dawn, the House of Commons scene, the old Queen at Balmoral, the Jubilee, especially the return to the Palace, and the last scene, with Lord Salisbury and Edward VII pacing the lawns at Osbourne, waiting for the old Queen to die. The Queen was well portrayed all through. The railway scene I thought poor, and it had such possibilities. Victoria
Out at 7, and back to the office in glorious moonlight. Began to feel really bad. Finished letters, posted them, and set out for Lawford. When I got there I was so weak I could hardly stand. Mr. and Mrs. Hooper had come, and supper was just beginning, but could not face it and went to bed. Joy most kindly brought me a hot water bottle and a cup of tea.
Awakened this morning about 6 by the sound of planes coming in from the sea. On getting out to look, I was amazed to find a lovely starlight sky, with two planes crossing it towards the N.W., carrying lights. About a dozen came over altogether, so I suppose some poor creatures abroad must have spent a miserable night.
A lovely day, the wind S.W., and quite warm. Going in, I passed the 8 o’clock bus from
, stuck on John de Bois Hill, just past the bridge, with the conductor, driver and most of the passengers standing round in an anxious, forlorn looking group. Although they were only a mile from the Corporation bus terminus not more than half a dozen had begun to walk that far, the majority prefering to wait until help arrived. I was struck by the fact that one of Matthews’ lorries came along, quite empty, and soon after several army vehicles, but not one made any attempt to pick up the stranded passengers. Dedham
This afternoon rushed home to get some tea there and to please Mother.
Early in the afternoon about 48 heavy bombers circled over the town, gaining height, and finally went off out to sea. When I got to Lawford Joy said that she saw 36 come back when she was at Bromley.
I am not at all impressed by the Arthur Young biography. It is badly written and does not give anything like sufficient details. I was unaware that his
Essex farm was at Gt. Sampford. It would be interesting to know who is farming it now.
Wrote another chapter (or part of one) of the “Camchester Chronicle” tonight.
Butcher told me today that
accident was caused by his falling through a trap-door at the [Observer Corps] Report Centre. He said “It was a lucky thing he didn't drop five storeys” Then, as an afterthought, - “For him, at any rate.” Apparently he injured his ribs, and has now got a touch of pleurisy. As usual in his prolonged absences, the letters pile up on his desk, and nothing whatever is done. Hull's
High wind, and rain beating against the windows at 7 o’clock this morning. Rather late starting, and did not get to the office until 9.15. Tremendous hurry all day to get the 1943 Cropping Forms off. Managed to get some 500 posted but about 100 were held up by lack of forms, to send with them. We phoned Writtle, and the Managing Clerk was very rude about our failure to get the whole lot posted on one day, although it is entirely the fault of Headquarters that insufficient forms were sent.
Dull all day, and rain at times, but for some reason I did not feel nervous. It was in point of fact an excellent day for an attack, yet I felt no sense of alarm. Why is this?
Out at 5, and called at Boasts’ to see a little trolley. It is not very good, but I thought I might as well have it at £10-10-0. I think it will come in quite useful for me. Also bought an old chaff cutter from some gypsy dealers in a yard next to Boasts’, for Eileen Grubb. Agreed to give them £1 for it, after offering 15/-
Got back to Lawford early. Drizzle starting.
It is said that bombs yesterday morning fell at Heybridge, killed 3 or 4 people, and damaged the church, but how seriously I do not know. Hope to get information later.
In a recent book on post-war reconstruction, G.H. Cole wrote very slightingly of British corn growing. Parry took great exception to this, and wrote to him, offering to send him a loaf made from best English wheat, to let him see how good it is. He replied gratefully, and said he would be glad to try a loaf made from “old-fashioned flour”.
Parry got a biography of Arthur Young today, called “Sheep & Turnips”, by A. Defries. Began to read it tonight.
Heavy rain during the evening, and the wind very wild.
Heavy rain all night, and continued this morning. Went in by bus. It was so dark that at 9 o’clock vehicles still had their lights on. I felt there would probably be an alarm, and sure enough at half-past 9 the sirens sounded. A few minutes later there was a burst of gunfire to the south. The traffic was making so much noise I could not hear any planes. From the front windows I could see frightened women scurrying across the street in the rain, their white faces turned up to the sky, coming into the shelters in the Park. A few minutes later there was much heavier firing, which lasted about 3 minutes. After the second firing nothing happened at all, but the all-clear did not sound until after 10 o’clock.
The rain stopped, and the clouds became thinner and higher, the sun coming through about 12.30. Went to feed Bob, and had no lunch in consequence.
Shorter [War Agricultural Committee] meeting than usual. Moorhouse came for the first time. Mrs. Round was worried because her two sons are now likely to be in danger - both going to the
Middle East. How lonely she must be in that vast house.
Came back with Nott, and went to catch the 6.10 bus. Saw a most odd-looking character in the bus – a fat, dissipated looking man, very poor and shabby, with a huge flabby face, wearing a black cloth cap and a dirty grey overcoat. He sat just in front of me, and turned round to ask if this was a Beeston’s bus? I replied, very shortly, yes not wishing to get into a conversation with him. He then asked what route it took? and I again had to answer. I was much struck by his voice, which seemed to be that of an educated man, although his appearance was that of a labourer. I noticed that he took a single ticket to Lawford, asking for the village hall, but did not know the fare. A girl got in and sat beside him, and he at once got into conversation with her. I thought he was a most extraordinary character, and mentally decided that he was an educated type of man, perhaps an old actor, who had come down in the world and was now a labourer, probably on an aerodrome somewhere.
When I got back to Lawford I described him fully to Joy, who at once said "Why, that’s our Rector, the Revd. Fynes-Clinton!"
I was quite amazed.
More rain tonight. Spent the evening writing.
Woke about 6, to hear a tremendous storm breaking against the house, wind roaring, hailstones battering the windows. I got up at 7, and found another fall of snow, and a driving blizzard from the S.E. The wind died down, and although there was some rain until eleven it faired a little. We all walked over to Holly Lodge, as the roads were too bad for horses.
The little dogs came as well, and caught a rabbit on Goddard’s land. Parry killed it with his stick. It squeaked only once. I was sorry to see it killed, but I liked the idea of our poaching it, on a Sunday too.
We walked past a little farm called Riddlesdale, now forlorn and empty. It is situated at the end of a long track, far from any road or other buildings, but unfortunately not more than a mile from Bromley Pylons. I should like to live in a place like that.
Had a very pleasant lunch at Frank Girling's house, in a room hung with pictures by Rushbury and Munnings. Girling talked about the War Agricultural affairs. His grasp of the principles of farming politics is very sound, but he knows little of what actually goes on in the District Offices and at Writtle.
This evening writing journal, a chapter of “The Camchester Chronicle”, notes on recent history of the Museum, etc. Very cosy in my room, with a roaring fire. I love my fire, but I can't help poking it about like an old woman, to see if I can make it burn a bit brighter.
Another lovely day. A lot more cropping forms arrived, and the girls were hard at it all morning. This afternoon trying to get hay, but none to be found.
This evening I was looking in my “Journal” for 1927, and I noticed that on April 3 I made a long cycle ride into
Suffolk, by way of and Lawford. A very inaccurate map shows that I went by Jupes Hill, and I can distinctly remember the feeling of surprise I had when I saw Sherbourne Mill, which I had so often noticed when going past by train. I never thought that 16 years later I should be living there. Dedham
Although during the same journey I went to Wenham, I never saw Lt. Wenham Hall, for some reason or another, and I have never seen it to this day. Some years ago I was invited there by Mrs. Crisp, but I never managed to go.
Lovely fine day. Not a cloud in the sky. Very cold, with four degrees of frost. For some reason I did not feel at all like work, and did very little all day. The girls were hung up in getting the cropping forms ready, as there are no more forms available.
Shortage of hay. I have very little left at
Colchester or Lawford.
To my surprise, the rain which began last night kept on all day. However, I dislike the bus so much I decided to cycle. Capt. Folkard was away all day, as he had his teeth out yesterday.
Troubles in the office all day. Nott makes a great nuisance of himself on these wet days, and spends most of his time inside. The girls are very annoying, especially Heather. (Heather said this morning that the bombs yesterday fell at Ramsey, without damage, but a woman was injured with a bullet.)
Left at 6, being delayed doing the pay. I keep the money (about £400) in the Muniment Room on Thursday nights.
has no idea of this. Hull
Cycling back, I had just got to John de Bois’ Bridge when a train came along from
Colchester. It was a magnificent sight, roaring over the high embankment, sparks and flames leaping from the engine, the long tail of carriages flashing behind, the lights in their windows almost “pre-war” in brilliance. I think trains are the only good mechanical conveyance ever invented.
Awoke to find snow beginning to fall, and went in on the bus amidst a driving whirl of snow flakes. By the time we got to
Colchester the whole landscape was two inches deep in snow. How beautiful it is. Of all the phenomena of the weather, the snow is the most lovely. It kept on all morning, but before lunch turned to fine rain, so that very soon the streets were black and sloppy, the traffic throwing great spouts of water over the pavements.
Went down to Bourne Mill. Everything very wet, most of the paddock under water. Stayed there to put down more straw, and had no lunch in consequence.
About half past two there was an alarm, and within a minute of it, a heavy bump, which shook our windows. About 4 minutes later the army warning sounded, this being the time-lag between the Observer Corps “crash warning,” on which our sirens are now sounded, and the regulation warning from
. I heard this evening that the Manningtree and Brantham sirens were also about 4 minutes late. Three bombs were heard at Lawford, quite near from the way the house shook and rattled. Cambridge
Who could believe that after nearly 3½ years of war, the “official” system of giving the public warning of an impending air attack is still quite useless?
Tonight, heavy rain beating on the roof and windows, while I sit warm and cosy in front of a blazing log fire, looking through Laver’s extracts of
Colchester wills. There are many very valuable references to local place-names.
Heard Joy say that Parrington’s brother (a prisoner in
) had written to say he hoped to be home by next Christmas. Germany
“Gazette” tonight is full of the
Ardley Road murder. Our local police are making the very most of it. The murderer, Turner, is pleading “guilty” and makes no trouble about it.
Up late this morning. Very cold, dark and cloudy, but the wind had gone. The sky gradually cleared, and was bright and sunny by lunch.
In the papers this morning, stated that a plane was brought down near “S.E. coast” last night. Perhaps this was the cause of the alarm.
Story quite true about the murder – the victim is an old lady of 84, named Mrs. Wade. She lived in
Audley Road, a most unlikely place for a murder – a quiet respectable suburban avenue, with decent class modern houses along it. Among other people living there is Sergt. Clarke of the Borough Police, who must be rather shocked to find a murder committed on his very door-step. The man arrested is a soldier named Turner, who is only 19. As a matter of fact, he was arrested on another charge entirely, something to do with a robbery, and when taken to the Police Station he was found to have Mrs. Wade’s identity card. He was then asked how he had come by this, and replied that he had murdered the old lady. The police went up to the house, and found the woman’s body under a bed in a downstairs room. No doubt the poor old lady had been sleeping downstairs in fear that she would be killed by the Germans, only to be killed by an Englishman instead.
Sky fairly clear tonight, and weather very cold.
No Committee meeting today, thank goodness. Capt. Folkard rather irritable. Very busy all day, yet nothing seems to be done.
Very tired tonight, and did very little after tea. Joy said she heard sirens about 9, and two explosions, but I did not. These are the first sirens for a week or two. She said she heard Manningtree, Brantham; Wenham and
Rumour in the town today about an old lady being murdered in
Audley Road by a soldier.
Bright and sunny, but bitterly cold. Fed some of the animals this morning, and went up to the buildings to see Robin, but otherwise did not go out. Spent the day writing and arranging photographs. Left at half past 6 tonight and went on duty. Cycled by
, and called at Sisson's for an hour. Sisson has just missed the chance of buying two fine cottages in Stratford St. Mary, not far from the church. He was very keen to be able to put them in order, but some other buyer has stepped in. A very great pity, as he would have made a good job of them. Dedham
Cycled in under the glittering stars, watching the occasional fall of meteors. No planes about at all. Fed Bob, called at home, and then up to the Castle through black streets full of shouting, singing, soldiers. Went into Holly Trees Muniment Room, and settled down to read through some more of Laver’s papers.
Became so immersed in the books and papers that it was 3 o’clock on Monday morning before I went over to the Castle, and got 4½ hours sleep.