23rd January 1943

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.

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