31st March 1943

Quite recovered.  Lovely morning until 11, but began to cloud over.  Heard a great number of planes going out towards the sea, very high, and soon after there was an alarm for 10 minutes.  Joanna came in again for a few minutes, in fact she was there when the alarm sounded, but simply kept on talking to the other girls.

The clouds continued all day, but nothing else happened.  Rain began about 5, very fine, and blowing before the strong westerly wind.  As I cycled out I thought how the scene looked exactly like the Cymm fach, especially the valley, looking down from Crockleford Hill.  What would I not give to be far away in the Welsh Mountain at this very moment.

In the papers today there were new regulations published about coastal areas.  This year it is not intended to prohibit persons from visiting the East Coast, but from tomorrow certain coastal areas may be closed suddenly and without warning.  These areas may be anywhere within a strip 10 miles wide from Berwick to Lands End.  I don't think this would affect my living at Lawford, as the whole of our District would be within the 10-mile belt, and one would be able to move about within it.

Tremendous gale blowing tonight, the house shaking, and the wind howling through cracks and crevices.  No planes about at all.

30th March 1943

Felt bad on waking.  Headache very bad.  Clouds, but a high wind.  Did not leave until 9, feeling terrible, not made any happier by the news in the “Times” of attacks on the S. Coast yesterday.  Thought I should never reach Colchester.

Felt worse all morning, though the sky cleared, and great white clouds sailed majestically across it.  Could stand no more, called at home, had 3 cups of tea, but no food.  Ella was there.  Heard there was an alarm for an hour last night.  Set off for Dedham to see Sissons, and met them on their own doorstep, just back from Colchester.  They were most kind, gave me tea, and I ate two bits of bread and butter.  Had 2 and a half hours talk, most entertaining, and felt much better.  Going along Pond Lane just after 7, I overtook two pairs of Moorhouse’s horses going home from work, all lovely Suffolks.  The sky was pearl coloured, with great mauve clouds sitting across the valley.

Before I got to Dedham, I stopped to see Polley about the two trollies which he is making.  He was busy with them when I went in, making a lovely job of the wheels, all being cut out by hand, oak and ash.  He lamented that it was impossible to get seasoned timber, and had been for many years.

29th March 1943

Rotten night.  Bad stomach-ache came on about 4a.m.  Quite a new kind of pain, high up under the edge of my ribs.  Terrible griping sensation.  Heard the Town Hall strike 5 and 6, then the watchmen went and some men arrived to make alterations to the emergency exit at the end of the Wheeley’s passage [the emergency exit for the Castle's air raid shelters].  I went over to Holly Trees at half past 7, washed, and opened letters.  The sun was up, shining through layers of thin, high clouds.  

Went to Rose’s for breakfast.  She had just arrived, but looked very ill, and was going back to bed.  Poor dear, she looked very ill, and had a terrible cough.
Wind to S.W.  Warmer.

28th March 1943

Lovely day, light S.W. wind, with great fleecy clouds floating across a deep blue sky.  Spent the whole day writing.  I had intended to have taken Robin out, but became engrossed in my work, and forgot.  Went in to Colchester at 6.30.  Fed Bob, called at home, and then to the Castle for duty.  Spent 3 hours in the Holly Trees Muniment Room, going through Laver’s great “Index”.  Also rearranged all the Colchester and County Petty Session Records in chronological order.  Poulter came down for half an hour, but went to bed early as he has to leave for London again at 6.30 tomorrow.

Few planes about at exercise, and bunches of searchlights playing in the west.  Slight fog, and frosty looking stars.  For some reason did not feel very nervous tonight.  Turned in at the Castle a few minutes after midnight.

27th March 1943

Poulter attended the sale of the Doctor’s books at Hodgson’s on Thursday, but bought nothing.  They made over £600.  The fine Morant which belonged to Philip Hills and contained Morant’s portrait made £6-10-0.  He does not know who bought any of them.  So ends the old Doctor’s library.

Called for a cake at the café but was told that Rose was ill.  Had half a mind to go down and see her, but did not. 

Sun came out this afternoon, so after doing stable chores I had tea in the town.  There do not seem to have been any attacks during these last few days, although weather conditions have been ideal.

Back to Lawford by 6.  This evening writing, and reading a life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, extraordinarily interesting.

Felt depressed that another week has gone, and yet I achieve nothing.  The weeks go by so fast.

Fine tonight, and several planes about at exercise.  When I looked out at 10 o’clock the sky was brilliant with searchlights.

Noticed that troops have left the motor repair depot at Parson’s Heath, and a lot have moved out of Dedham as well.  Nothing but very young boys of 18 and 19, wearing new very ill fitting uniforms, in the streets now.

Met Harris of Fordham and a man with two Suffolk stallions, all decked out in coloured ribbons, frothing over their bits, and calling shrilly to one another.  It was a fine sight, and it is not often you see two stallions like that together.

26th March 1943

Woke at 6, and waited for light to come, but the clouds were thick and low.  I felt very apprehensive and depressed, particularly as the fact that bombers going out last night made a retaliation raid all the more likely.  Started late, and went in as slowly as I could, by Ardleigh, then down Hart’s Lane to Ipswich Road.  Near Langham Lodge Lane about 100 young Americans were laying cable-pipes in a trench, which was being dug by a mechanical excavator, working like a dredger.  The men then laid the pipes and filled in the earth, while two or three behind were consolidating the ground with mechanical rammers worked by accumulators.  As the pipes were put in, the cables were laid out through them.  The whole operation was being done with remarkable speed.

Called at Hall’s the coach builder in Greenstead Road, to see if he would build a new trolley for us, but he declined, as he has all the repair work he can manage.  He seemed quite surprised that anybody should want a new horse-drawn vehicle.  He and his mate, both quite elderly men, thought that horses would be used for years after the war ended, as the army would have all the motors and would have to be kept up to full strength “in case any one else should get up that we might have to knock down.”  

Called at Dedham to report about Poulter.  Sisson told me something of his trip to Exeter.  The damage done there last year was very considerable, and was greatly increased by the indiscriminate demolition carried out afterwards.  In one case the local panel of architects had, with permission of the Regional Commissioner, begun emergency repairs on a badly damaged block of Georgian houses.  During the week-end the Borough Surveyor’s men pulled down the entire block!

This afternoon I went into the lavatory at the Horkesley “Half-Butt” and saw some remarkable writings on the walls, some in chalk, some in black pencil.  They were as follows:

                        STOP FINANCIERS WAR.
                        THE BRITISH GOING TO THE YANKS.

I have never seen such sentiments written up in public since the war began.

The young soldier who murdered the old woman in Audley Road was hanged on Wednesday morning.  The jury had recommended mercy, but as he was only a poor soldier no notice was taken of their recommendation.  I see in the “East Anglian” that there has been a murder in Ipswich recently, also done by a soldier.

Had a curious dream in the early hours of this morning.  Dreamt that I was reading in the papers that Russia had made peace with Germany and that England had at once declared war on Russia.

Cloudy again tonight, only a few planes about.

25th March 1943

Woke at 5 to hear rain falling.  By 10, sun began to break through.  Air very clean and washed.  Lovely daffodils on the grass bank below my window.

Apparently a big attack yesterday on Kent, twelve planes, and only 2 brought down.  Great damage and “many casualties”.  This was done in broad sunlight.

Got a lot done.  Went home to tea, and then to feed Bob.  Got caught in a heavy shower.  The rain last night, followed by sun all day, had a wonderful effect, and hedges looked bright and green in some parts tonight.  Parry’s spring oats showed through at once.  It will bring the grass on too.  Everything looks wonderfully green and clean.

A few planes went out tonight, above clouds.  These must be from aerodromes in Suffolk.  They are the ones which go over regularly every second Thursday.  It is interesting to note that one group of aerodromes can apparently only carry out a raid once a fortnight.  This will be worth remembering when the Langham field is in use.

Curious flashes to the S. late this evening, but no sound of any explosions.

24th March 1943

At 6am the moon was quite obscured by clouds, but they cleared and the sun came through by 8 o’clock.  Saw several yellow-hammers and finches by the Land Settlement as I cycled in.  The trees and hedges are throwing out green buds, and in Colchester the flowering cherries are putting on a fine show.  Lovely cool morning, although the wind is S.E.  People are speaking of a change in the weather, as the glass has gone back a little.

Fletcher came from Writtle this morning to see D’Arcy House.  We went all over it, and he seemed to think there would be little difficulty in getting the place put right.  I would dearly love to get in there and hold the place until long after the war, but how can I be happy there under the constant threat of air-attacks?  I saw in the evening paper that even on a lovely day like this there were dreadful raids on towns in Kent, doing tremendous damage and killing a lot of people.  Any day it may be Colchester.  How can one settle to anything in these times?  I provisionally picked a room for myself, at the back, in a new part of the house, which ought to be as safe as any.  If we do get it, we will hang on as long as we can.  I saw Hervey Benham this afternoon, and he agreed that it was a scandalous thing for a Borough Council to buy a fine house like this to destroy it.  Hervey Benham is becoming much more “aggressive” now, and has taken up the recent case of a woman being fined £60 for helping her son to escape from the Asylum.  Worsnop is trying to raise money to pay her fine.  The whole affair is a first class scandal.

As I was out of the office, took the opportunity to go home to tea.  Then back, and did letters.  Just as I was finishing there was an alarm at about 5 to 6, but the all-clear came in 3 or 4 minutes, so it may have been a mistake.

Joy told me tonight that there was a plane crash last night at Bradfield.  Nobody hurt except the crew, all killed.  This was the bump I heard at 9 o’clock.

Dyer says there was a stack fire at Fordham Hall last night, great excitement in the village.  Bell’s threshing drum was also destroyed.

Walling, Chief Clerk, was rather a trouble today.  These people tire me.  I would dearly like a month’s holiday.  I feel ill.  Heart pains are very bad at times.

23rd March 1943

Another lovely day.  Very busy.  Walling, new chief clerk, anxious to learn the ropes of this office.  I think he will be useful, but too early to say yet.  Home to tea.  My dear Father’s birthday, 71 years old.  Took him quarter pound tobacco, which now costs 9/6.  He had had a letter from his brother Will, to say all are well in the North, but are growing very old.  What a pity all the old people cannot get together again for a few years.

Beautiful evening, with the noise of planes, very high, over the town.

Back at 7.30.  Mrs. Symonds, Joy’s mother, there.  About 9 o’clock, a few planes began to move about, apparently British, but I suddenly heard one dive, ending in a dull thump which shook the house.  I thought at first it was bombs, but I believe it was a plane crashing.  Soon after several more began to dive and rise over the farm, searchlights trying to pick them up.

Benton came into the office this afternoon, and wanted to know where Wire’s Diary was.  Unfortunately Sam Blomfield borrowed this ten days ago to read in his own home, and had not returned it.  I did not quite know what to say, realising that if I denied all knowledge of the diary’s absence Benton would at once rush to Hull and the fat would be on the fire.  At last I said I believed Blomfield might have it.  Benton was very annoyed, and pointed out that the manuscript was actually the property of the Essex Archaeological Society.  I had forgotten this.  I shall have to see the Councillor in the morning and get this back.

Wire’s copy of Morant is still missing, and no steps have been taken to trace it.  Poulter is positive that it was not sent to London with the other books by mistake, so I suppose it is either in the Castle or at Hull’s house in Elmstead. 

Hull is now “back on duty”.  That is, he arrives in the morning about 9.30 and leaves about midday, after which he is not seen.

22nd March 1943

Woke at 5, to find the moon shining, a rich orange colour, through thin mist.  Thick fog when I set off, but soon cleared, and a lovely day.  New chief clerk began duty today, very inconvenient, as we were all busy getting ready for Committee.  Long meeting, but nothing very special.  All worried about the shortage of equipment.

Back to Colchester at 7, then had to feed Bob, so did not get to Lawford until after 8.

Churchill’s speech was published at full length in the “Times” today.  Very depressing, as usual.  Suggests that Germany may be beaten by 1945 – then we tackle Japan.  This must be very pleasant for those whose relatives are prisoners or are serving abroad.

Lovely evening, with some fog beginning to come up.  The moon huge and red.  Still no planes about.  Why is this?  The great offensive which was to obliterate a city every night seems to have faded out.  Can it be that some powerful persons have made an effective protest against the piecemeal destruction of European cities?  I am afraid that is too optimistic a suggestion.  It must be only the weather.

21st March 1943

Up at 10.  The sky still quite overcast.  After breakfast, writing, and then had to go in to Colchester as I had promised Mother I would be home to lunch, and I also needed clean shirts, etc.  Rather cold, but got warm cycling.

Had lunch, changed, and left again at 3.30.  Went to Dedham, and had tea at Sissons.  Much talk about Poulter, the Museum, and the sale of Laver’s books on Thursday.  I went out to try and get Mrs. Sisson some cigarettes at the “Marlborough”, but the place is so badly managed that nobody was there, although the doors were open.  Got them at the “Sun” instead.

Left at 7, and went on to Lawford.  The sky was beginning to clear at last, so hoping for a fine day tomorrow.

The Premier and Hitler are both making speeches today, the Premier being on the radio tonight after the 9 o’clock news.  He is expected to speak for about an hour. 

20th March 1943

Grey skies, rather thick cloud.  

A new chief clerk came this morning, a Mr. Walling, son of old Walling who is manager of Benham’s printing works.  He seemed quite a decent sort of man, and I think would be a help to us.  He would certainly keep the girls in order.

Poulter introduced me to a Lieutenant Thompson, son of Prof. Thompson,Pprofessor of Latin at the University of North Wales, Bangor.  Poulter said I knew “all about North Wales” and understood Welsh, at which Lieutenant Thompson smiled rather pityingly and said “I’m afraid I don't.”  Miss Camilla Wybrants came in, wearing a green nurse’s dress, and looking very charming.  Poulter was greatly taken with her, and became very facetious on the subject of hospitals and nurses.  I wondered if she could guess what was the matter with him.  He goes back to London on Monday, but is very cheerful and happy about it.

Home to tea, and then to see Hampshire about hay etc.  We have got a little, but it is still very scarce.

Back to Holly Trees at 6, and finished some letters.  Went off to Lawford via Ipswich Road.  Just as I got to Skipping Street I heard the sirens, but I hurried along under the low clouds so as to get as far away from Colchester and the aerodrome as I could before anything happened, but nothing did and the all-clear came in ten minutes.  The moon showed through thin cloud for a few minutes, and then faded away as thicker clouds rolled up.  Some drops of rain fell, and a flight of rooks flapped over, heading for the great rookeries by Dedham Gun Hill.

This evening spent a lazy time reading by a roaring wood fire.  Not a plane about, the only sounds being an occasional train rumbling by.

19th March 1943

Cloudy all day, but the sun came through every few minutes.  Very cold.  Drove Robin over to the Little Bromley blacksmith, Kent, to have his feet pared.  He had not been in harness for two and a half months, but went very well.  Very badly behaved at the smithy, and it was all I could do to hold him.  Did not get back until 2 p.m., and so had a very late lunch.  We are right out of hay again, and I cannot get any more either here of Colchester.  Dont know what to do.  Feel like selling the cob.

This afternoon really wasted – sat by fire and read “Pickwick Papers.”  I wish I could force myself to work hard when I have time off from the office.

Clouds prevailed all day, yet no alarms.  Few RAF planes about.  Noticed today how many trains came through hauled by two engines.  Are the engines becoming old and worn-out, so that two are needed?

Extraordinary case in the papers – a colonel of a training regiment at Matlock apparently went quite mad, and issued ludicrous and insane orders, so that his men were the laughing stock of the whole town.  After a lot of trouble, and agitation by M.P.s, he was removed from his command – and given an appointment at the same rank on the Staff. 

Tonight clouds still cover the sky, the moon behind them throwing a sort of twilight over everything.

18th March 1943

Just as it became light, the sirens wailed out.  I was still in bed, and lay there dozing until the all-clear just after 7.  No sound of planes or bombs.

Lovely fine day, blazing sun, but two more alarms this afternoon.  A few Spitfires flew round, but nothing happened.  Heard that it was on the radio that five girls were killed during the alarm this morning, in “an East Anglian town.”

Mr. and Mrs. Sisson called to see Poulter, and I came back with them in their car.  Sisson had been to Exeter to report on damage to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.  Said a great deal of wanton damage had been done by the demolition squads.  He promised to give me full details later. 

Frank Girling came to supper tonight.  He seemed to think that RAF raids on Germany were a very good thing, and must have a very wonderful effect.

Another alarm just after tea, and for a few minutes there was heavy gunfire towards the N.E.  Two or three planes flew about, but they seemed to be English.  Then there was silence, although there was no all-clear until 11.30.  I think the long-drawn note of the all-clear is the finest sound in the world, especially when it comes wailing through the cold night air.

Clouds came up this afternoon, about 4 o’clock, but now the moon is shining in a clear cold sky.  Feel very pleased that I have a day off tomorrow.

17th March 1943

Very thick fog, which did not clear until past eleven.  There was a yellow haze above, and the farm horses going to work were just ghostly shapes.  Very raw and cold.

Find that I got up in my sleep, took a fresh candle, put it in the candlestick and lit it.  Second time I have done this lately.  Previously I had not done it since last June.  

This morning had to go down to Hythe Quay to the “Naafi” Institute, about sacks of savoys which we are sending in.  Called at Bruce’s about our new trolleys, and at the station about sending off potatoes to the Ministry of Food.  Had to go right down to the coal-yard.  I much enjoy these excursions about the town, although they put my work back a good deal.

Poulter was very bright today, and his voice better.  He told me Dr. Cowan had said that the growth was considerably smaller.  He went on further about the meeting yesterday.  Apparently Sir Gurney Benham accused Hull of removing Samian pottery to Elmstead, which Hull flatly denied.  It is of course Samian moulds which he has got there, (and has had them there for 5 years at least), but the poor old Chairman of course always gets hold of the wrong end of the stick.  Hull was warned that next month a “disciplinary matter” will be considered, which Poulter thinks must be with relation to his drinking habits.  The Chairman is at last roused, but I am afraid nothing will come of the whole affair.  The only hope is to retire Hull on the grounds of ill-health, as was done with Fred Spalding [a previous curator of Colchester Castle] 40 years ago. 

Another glorious night, but still no planes.  Very curious.  I fear that some frightful affair must be in preparation somewhere, perhaps an invasion of Europe.

16th March 1943

Woke at 6.30, and watched the light creep over the earth.  The sun was coming up in a pink and yellow haze when I heard the Colchester sirens at half past 7, then Mistley and Brantham a few minutes later.  Could not feel alarmed, with the sun rising, and the sky clear and blue.  Had breakfast, and heard all-clear at 5 to 8.  Lovely riding in, people working in the fields, children running to school, some playing marbles in the road.
This afternoon went down to Sheepen Farm with Mr. Craig to meet a representative of the Fairhazel Estates Ltd., who bought the farm about 8 years ago to build on it.  Had it not been for the war, the whole of the Potter’s Field would now be covered with houses.

The firm’s representative was desperately anxious that the Committee should not take possession, as his firm wish to be free to begin building as soon as the war is ended.  Mr. Craig warned him that there might be legislation which would prevent them from doing so, and I said that I thought it a scandal to consider building houses on such a spot.  The principals in this firm own building estates all over the country.
Back through Dedham in a lovely cool evening, the birds singing, lambs frisking in the fields.  Surprising how many sheep there are about.

Glorious moonlight night, yet no planes about.  This is very curious.  Perhaps the great British “Air Offensive” has already petered out.

This afternoon Poulter told me that there had been a flutter at the Museum Committee Meeting.  Hull came back in a fearful state.

15th March 1943

Up at 6.15.  Thick fog and hoare frost.  Got away just before 7, and cycled as quickly as I could, though heart pains soon troubled me.  At Parsons Heath, near the railway bridge, saw four horses of Wyncolls going out to work, great dark shapes, their harness jingling.

Got into Colchester by 20 minutes to 8.  Opened post and then to breakfast.  Rose said she wished the war was over.  How little I know of what she really feels.

Very busy all day.  Took eggs to Mrs. Fletcher at the Grammar School, and was shown into the room where I waited with my Mother when I first went to school there in 1918.  Noticed two large bookcases, one full of German books and the other French.  Fletcher must be a considerable linguist.

Saw Hampshire.  He is off work this week, and offered to feed Bob and the donkey until Saturday.  Called at home.  Old people seem very well.

This evening saw a placard reading “Essex Coast Towns Bombed: 6 dead” and “Berlin Caught Napping.”  I was most depressed at the thought of another of these senseless raids on Berlin, with their inevitable consequences, but when I bought the paper I could find no reference to either of the items mentioned.  Apparently small but dangerous attacks are now being made in broad sunlight, with just as great success as they have formerly been made in rain or cloud.  Opposition is negligible.  In the “Evening News” tonight it states that a south-coast Mayor has sent a protest to the Air Ministry, and complains that people in coastal districts live in an atmosphere of alarm and uncertainty.

When I got back tonight Joy told me there was an alarm at Manningtree this morning, and that she heard planes and machine-gun fire.

Great field of plovers on the big field as I cycled past.  I shouted, and they all rose up, showing their white bellies.

Heard today that old Johnson, of Lion Walk, died on Friday.  He had a very narrow escape as a boy in the Earthquake, when the spire of Lion Walk Church fell at his feet.  He told me the story several times. 
The Colchester Earthquake of 1884 was the most destructive that Britain has known.  Further details about the events that day and the young Mr Johnson's miraculous escape are given in this article from the Colchester Archaeologist.

Lovely clear moonlight night, but not a plane about.  How strange that neither side moves in such fine weather.

14th March 1943

Glorious sunny morning, with cold east wind.  Up early, and got ready to go on a picnic with Mrs. Nichols and Mrs. Belfield.  Went up to Lawford Hall at 11, and helped harness the pony to the tub-cart and the big old horse to the phaeton.  

Then along to Higham, Mrs. Belfield pointing out the houses of various friends and acquaintances all the way.  Through the village, down the hill, over the Bret, and then right along the lane past Rushbury’s house.  All this land looks very well, all farmed by Alec Page.  Mrs. Belfield was very keen to go through Gifford’s Park.  I wanted to see the house, but I was rather uncomfortable at the idea, although the place is now a County Council convalescent home, so that our intrusion was not so bad as if it were still a private house.  We drove in boldly, up the long avenue, and right past the front of the house.  The last time I saw it was 10 or 12 years ago, when I went there with Poulter, to see the painted panels which [the then owner] Brocklebank gave to the Museum.  Brocklebank and his charming young wife were both there, both very kind to us.  Yet she left him, and went to America, and he shot himself in Hyde Park

The old mansion looked mellow and lovely in the sunlight, and we just got a glimpse through the gateway into the courtyard. 

13th March 1943

Dullish, but clearing, and what clouds there were very thin and high. 

Very busy morning, as the District Officer was in Chelmsford for a weekend conference.  At 11am, Mabbitt [of the Essex Rural Community Council] phoned to remind me about a meeting of blacksmiths, saddlers, and other craftsmen at Chelmsford this afternoon, which I had forgotten, so he arranged to take me.  Lovely afternoon, and quite enjoyed the ride, although Mabbitt and his wife both insistent on having the windows shut.  At Hatfield Peverel picked up Mr. Clarke, the smith there.  In the course of conversation, he mentioned that 300 bombs had fallen in the parish since 1940 but with very little damage.

Was glad to see that all the Chelmsford balloons were up, but even so I felt quite uncomfortable all the afternoon, and was determined to get out of the town before dusk.

The meeting was in the YMCA hall in Victoria Road.  I was introduced by Gifford [of the Council for the Protection of Rural England] to the Chairman, Mr. Crittall, as “one of my staunchest supporters”, and found to my horror that a fauteuil was reserved for me in the front row, marked by my name.  Leslie [Executive Officer of the Essex War Agricultural Committee at Writtle] was there, and I felt rather embarrassed when he spoke to me, and wondered what he thought.  Maude Fairhead, now with the National Farmers Union, came to sit next to me, for which I was very glad.  We sat on ordinary chairs in the front row, not in the fauteuils.  Several War Agricultural Committee officials sat at the opposite end of the row, but took no notice of me.

The meeting was very well arranged.  On the platform were Leslie, Cosmo Clarke, the Rural Industries Organiser, Hollis Clayton, the big farmer, Pash, of Brittain & Pash, agricultural engineers, Hulton, a saddler, and old Wingrave from Brentwood, a smith.  The Chairman asked each of these in turn if they thought there were enough rural craftsmen, if they thought enough were being trained, and how they would attract new comers into these trades.  Wingrave gave splendid answers, concise and to the point.  He blamed the educational system for teaching boys never to take up trades, with the result that boys now only want a “white-collar job”, as he called it.  I noticed Leslie and Crittall laughing heartily together, with very much of an air of aren’t-these-country-chaps-amusing-when-they-speak-in-public.  However, the crowd was strongly with him, and he was clapped and cheered loudly.  The saddler and Hollis Clayton were both very good, too, the latter saying that he could not believe that Englishmen would ever allow horses and breeding them to die out.  I could.

Both Leslie and Cosmo Clarke gave long-winded replies, quite beside the point.  Any meeting where a speaker talks sense feels me with the greatest enthusiasm.  When they speak the truth as well I am quite overcome with joy.

Several craftsmen spoke, and all told the same tale – decay, decay, decay.  There are only 6 farrier-apprentices in the whole county, and Mabbitt tells me that he has records of 60 shops which have shut during the last 10 years.  I know of 5 in Colchester district which have shut since the beginning of the war.  Cosmo Clarke said that a recent census gave the number of blacksmiths in England and Wales as 8,000.  As there must be still 1,500,000 horses in the counties, there is about one smith to every 190 horses, which ought to be a fair living for any man, with all ordinary repair work as well.

We had tea served, (in curious white mugs – Maude said they looked like small chamber-pots) and Mabbitt asked me if I would speak on behalf of Colchester Smiths.  The Chairman called me, but unfortunately a man named Adams got up at the same moment, and talked for so long that I had no chance. 

Leslie then summed up the whole meeting, in a speech which gave very little hope to anybody present.  He said that the War Agricultural Committee was now considering the establishment of central “depôts” for all country craftsmen in each large village (This created considerable protest – what they all wanted was help, not opposition).  He went on to say that nobody could prophesy what would be the state of farming after the war.  Then he said he had no doubt it would be a “stable” farming, but would consist largely of market-gardening and dairying.  Then he said that we were only on the edge of mechanisation, and that in 25 years every farmer would have a combine harvester.  (If there was nothing but vegetables, what would they use it for?)  Finally he said it was obvious that less craftsmen would be needed in all the country trades.  I thought it was a very unsuitable speech, and must have sent everybody away a little sadder than when they came in.

By this time it was a quarter to 6, and was coming up cloudy, so I decided to go by train at once.  As I went to the station I could not help thinking of all the sweet shops in Chemsford where I used to buy sweets, now alas impossible.  Got evening paper – big raid on Essen last night.  Also a German raid on Newcastle, but no details given.  Heather was lucky she went there two weeks ago, and not this week.  At station, found the 6.1 did not go to Manningtree, so bought ticket to Colchester.  Charlie Brooks, Curly Bruce, and Smith all came along from the meeting.  Travelled with them in a packed train, talking horses all the way.  Bruce and Brooks were still fairly optimistic about the future.  At Colchester found I had missed the last East Bergholt and the last Harwich buses, but by great good luck found a Lt. Bromley bus ready to go.
At last away we went in the gathering dusk, through Crockleford, past the Bromley blacksmith, past the ruins of Carrington’s Farm, where the naked rafters showed as black ribs against the setting sun, past the ruins of the hall, burnt out long years ago, along the road where Robin nearly upset me. 

Just as I finished supper tonight there was an alarm for half an hour, but nothing whatever happened.

Writing until 10.30.  I find it more and more difficult to concentrate.  I find too that I cannot think of the words that I want, and sometimes I write absurd things quite unwittingly such as “A” for “I”, “attacks” for “attics”, and “that” for “quite”.  I do not feel at all well, and have recently had more curious heart sensations, as if blood was being pumped into my lungs.

12th March 1943

Glorious day, a clear, limpid dawn.  At half past 7, the Brantham siren came wailing out of the mist, but not a plane or a sound of one anywhere, Joy was up early, so I had breakfast before I left, and while I was eating it four Spitfires rushed over, going towards Harwich, then the all-clear came a few minutes before 8.

As I cycled by Ardleigh Heath, another alarm came drifting on the wind, although the sun was so high.  No planes to be seen or heard.  The alarm lasted only 10 minutes.  This is a new thing, or rather an old thing revived, for we have not had enemy planes in broad daylight since 1940.

The office made no reference to my behaviour last evening.  Very busy all day, but slipped home to tea, as it does seem to please the old couple so much.  Left the office at 6, and cycled along in a glorious, still, calm evening.  Three big bombers went over towards the S.W., quite low, the setting sun glinting on their wings.  People working in the gardens, and men and girls cycling home from factories.

Just as I thought we would have a clear evening, the sirens again sounded at 7 o’clock, and in the distance there were two dull explosions, but whether guns or bombs I don't know.  No planes appeared, and the sky was a deep, clear indigo, with the crescent moon riding high in it.  Alarm lasted only a few minutes.

The morning papers were full of Sir Archibald Sinclair’s speech on the RAF, a vile brutal harangue, which apparently aroused only one protest – from Stokes, M.P. for Ipswich, who said that the destruction of Nuremberg made him feel sick.  As if to support his view, an article appears in the “Evening News”, by one Cyril Birks, in which RAF raiding methods are described.  In this he states that the destruction of the ancient town of Lübeck last year was by nature of an experiment, in order to try out the new method of bombing.  Sir Archibald Sinclair was then Secretary of State for Air.  As Hansard records, Sinclair's speech aroused a protest from another MP, Mr Frederick Montague.  CP

Also saw in the evening paper that the early alarms today were caused by two attacks on the outskirts of London, mostly on the Essex side, although apparently no very serious damage was done, nor were many people killed.  From Sir A. Sinclair’s remarks it would seem that there is little hope of providing adequate defences against these daylight attacks, so I suppose we must expect them to get steadily worse.

A quiet evening, hardly a plane across the sky.  Parry went to Dorothy’s funeral this afternoon.

11th March 1943

Thoroughly unpleasant day.  Clouds early, but the sun came out at times.  

Very busy all day.  Phone going incessantly.  Did not get very much done, the girls seemed very unsettled.  Wonder if they too are waiting for an attack?  Stanley Nott came in about 4.  He has been more of a nuisance than ever recently, since he decided to get married, and soon began teasing and playing with the girls.  I got more and more furious, and at last, without saying a word, slammed both doors as hard as I could and rushed out of the building.  At first I thought I would go back later and finish the post, then I decided not to, and set off for Lawford.  The clouds were thinner, and the sun sent down great golden rays.  It was such a nice evening that I decided to cycle on to Manningtree, just for the sake of seeing the place.  As I went past Lawford Place I heard, very faintly, the sound of sirens.  It seemed to be an “all-clear”, but was very far away, either Ipswich or Hadleigh perhaps.  Some children playing called out “There she goes!”

Manningtree is a very curious little town, with narrow, winding streets, perched on the side of the valley.  Noticed a shop with the old name of O.H.S. Tice.  I must really make a careful examination of the place one day.

Went back by the station, and up the footpath to Lawford Church.  A plane was diving and turning over head.  

Wrote a long letter to Joanna tonight, very bright and chatty, office gossip, etc.  No mention of raids, bomber crashes, or rows in the office.

Still cloudy, but the crescent moon showing through.

10th March 1943

Yet another glorious day.  Mist in the morning, and a sharp frost, but the sun blazed all day.  Dyer said “Ah, it’s breaking fast.  Glass is going right back.”  I said (thinking of increased chances of attacks) “Oh, I hope not.”  “Yes,” he said “When the moon comes in on her back (as it was last night) she generally spill water time she’s full.”

People in the office today talking about American hints of a future war with Russia, unless the Bosheviks are “appeased” by the Democracies.  This is now openly mentioned in the papers.  

Very busy all day, and got a good deal done.  Went down to Bourne Mill at lunch time.  A military funeral came down the hill, towards the Cemetery.  First there was the undertaker (one of the Co-op men) then a huge army lorry pulling a gun-carriage, bearing the coffin covered with a Union Jack and some yellow flowers, with six soldiers marching on each side, swinging their arms, an N.C.O. walking behind.  Then came a Daimler funeral car, with surpliced parson on the front seat, and the blinds drawn.  Then another with a major on the front seat, and lastly a small army van, driven by an ATS girl, an officer beside her. 
Left at 6.  As I crossed the East Railway gates, a fireman standing on duty at the entrance to the depot called to a woman over the road “I’m browned off – not a cup o’ tea all day.”  At that moment the sirens sounded, and he said “Well there, would you adam-and-eve it?  I’d do something for a fag.”  There were children playing in the streets, taking no notice whatever, although a woman came to a cottage door by St Anne’s Church and called two of them to come inside.  A Grammar School boy was cycling along just in front of me, flirting with a very pretty High School girl, neither taking the slightest notice of the alarm.  My own days for that sort of thing were at any rate happier than these.  The sun was sinking red behind the spires and towers of the town, and the prospect across the valley was fading rapidly.  I made all haste I could to get away before anything happened, but nothing did.  All clear sounded as I left the Borough at Fox Street.  I suppose Clacton, Frinton, or Walton has had a load of bombs.  How I hate this whole filthy business.  

Lovely calm evening.  Writing etc. until 10.30.  Poulter was very despondent today.  Hull had been in for five minutes, and obviously will do nothing about the Navestock site.  It is most depressing.  He made no suggestion as to when he might be back.

Big flight of planes went over this afternoon, towards the sea, so low that their shadows swept across my desk.  They came back in about half an hour, so they had probably been attacking enemy ships.

A little thin clouds tonight, and the crescent moon showing through them. 

9th March 1943

Another lovely morning.  Slight frost.  The land all seems alive now.  This morning saw two teams drilling, and heard the noise of tractors all round.  Saw trolley loaded with seed potatoes going into one of Edward’s fields at Ardleigh. 

Disturbed morning, an official in again from Writtle, being a great nuisance, talking about unpaid accounts.  It is now regarded as the District Officer’s business to get in all bad debts, and Capt. Folkard refuses to do this.  He was phoning Writtle this morning about a farm labourer at Messing who was in danger of being called-up at 37.  

After lunch, a man from the Air Ministry came in, about taking another 40 acres at Langham, mostly on Park Farm, for a bomb store.  The Americans say they want this area, and it seems that the British Air Ministry have to give them exactly what they want.  This official did not like the Americans at all.

Out at 5.30.  Called at Library, and then to post.  Evening paper placards – “Germans Still Retreating”.  Cycled out by Crockleford.  Lovely evening.  Saw several teams drilling and harrowing on the way.  Huge bomber going over Bromley, towards the N.E., the fuselage glistening in the evening sun.  Small boys playing near Ardleigh Park pretended to be an AA battery, one of them shouting “Dont shoot until I say!”  And another “Look!  Look!  Friend or Foe?”

An old man and an old woman were talking over a garden fence near the Trowel and Hammer, a very ancient man with a beard sat in the sun at his cottage door, other men dug their gardens, and children played in the road.  A lovely peaceful evening.  All round the Settlement, children were rushing about the lanes on ramshackle bicycles.

Went in by the buildings and saw Robin.  He looks wonderfully fit.  Not much hay left.  I don't know what to do about getting any more.  Seems to be plenty of straw.

Fred’s cottage silent and deserted.  How strange that I shall never see Dorothy come out with her gay scarf over her head, carrying her milk can down to the farm.

Lovely sunset reflections in the pond, moorhens swimming across making wide ripples.  Joy was shutting up the hens.  Stopped to see the new calf.

Poulter called me down today to see four Bronze Age bronze bracelets, found at Navestock.  One is quite perfect, the others broken.  The complete one is about 3” across, and one of the broken ones is ornamented, the marks being lightly engraved.  All are made of heavy bronze, but of different thicknesses.

Benton came in while I was there, and saw them.  He then told the long story of the Berden beaker find, and how it was said that the skeleton had a bronze bracelet on its arm.  The men who found it were all in the army in the last war, and B. said “I prayed that they would all come back alive, so that I might question them about the find!”  He then went on to describe how he eventually interviewed each man seperately, and that their stories all agreed.  The bronze bracelet was never seen again.

This Navestock find is of course of great importance but I don't think Hull will take any notice of it.

Lovely night.  Heard some bombers going out.  When will this wicked war cease?  There is no sign of the end, in spite of all this talk of “post-war planning”.

8th March 1943

Glorious morning.  Saw in the “Times” that there was an attack on the S.E. coast yesterday, in brilliant sunshine, by 12 planes, of which only two were brought down.  Ten people dead, and great damage.  So even in the finest weather we are not safe.

Committee this afternoon.  Nothing special.  Out at 6.  Came back to Colchester with Mr. Page, got there just after an alarm, which had lasted about 10 minutes.  Saw a very elderly warden leaving the Post at Drury Road corner.

Joy told me tonight that Dorothy died just before 6 this morning.  What a tragedy.  A young couple, far from all war dangers, in secure work, and the girl looking so strong and healthy dies like this.  Poor Fred must be in a terrible way.

Joy told me that the railway men in the village are saying that the damage last Wednesday was as great up the line as in any of the raids two years ago.  It this is true, the papers have been lying even more than usual.  Poulter says the line was still shut on Saturday afternoon, and there was a bus service from Shenfield to Ingatestone.  One of the Harwich men who was killed, the fireman, was uncle of the boy who drives Joy’s salvage van on Wednesdays.  The deaths of these men were mentioned in the “East Anglian [Daily Times]”, but there was no hint that they had been on a train. 

Bombs had fallen on the main line near Ingatestone in Essex on 3rd March 1943 and a passenger train from London to Harwich fell into the bomb crater killing both the driver and fireman.  More details on this tragedy appear in E.J. Rudsdale's book.  CP

7th March 1943

Reading in Muniment Room until 1.30, then to the Oven [in the Castle] and to bed.  Very cold.  This morning bright and sunny, although there were clouds last night.  Home to breakfast, then a bath.  After lunch, down to Bourne Mill, and was surprised to hear an alarm at about half past one, in brilliant sunshine.  Several RAF planes about, but nothing happened.  All-Clear at 2.  Curious how many alarms here last about half an hour.

Called at Holly Trees, and then over to Boxted.  Along the Boxted Straight Road, several small holders working in their fields.  To the Roses and had tea.  Baby did not seem very well.  Went on to Dedham, saw Mrs. Sisson and gave a report of Poulter, then to Lawford at 6.30.  Lovely night, but few planes about.

6th March 1943

Another lovely morning.  How much is this fine weather appreciated.  Took 6 eggs in for Poulter.  Went down to Mersea with Nott.  North Farm looks very well now, with the yard full of bullocks, and new thatch on the roofs.  Wish I could spend more time down there.  Mrs. Johnson gave me a dozen eggs and 4 packets of chocolate.  Can't understand how she comes by so much.  Had to hurry back, and could not go down to see the new horses.  Called on the harness maker at Abberton, to ask if he would like to make a contract to repair all our harness, but he refused, saying he had enough work already.  It is almost impossible to help these men.  (We bought 10 more sets today, from the Bury dealer).

Home to lunch, then to stables.  Suddenly decided to cycle to Fingringhoe.  Very pleasant ride.  Called on Grubb, to find her in as big a muddle as ever.  Old Blackie looks very bad, and can hardly eat now.  He will never see another spring.  The younger horses looked quite well, and ought to be broken into harness, but Grubb is too feeble to attempt it.

Cycled back by Rowhedge, and then along the river-wall.  I don't know how many years it is since I was that way.  The small drifters being built in the Rowhedge yards, and the tower of Wivenhoe Church showing up round the bend of the river.  A train came along from Colchester, the white smoke showing up against the steep fields behind the line.  How many hundred times have I travelled that line to and from Walton and Frinton?  I remember the first holiday we spent there in 1919, after the last war.  How long ago.  Never again, I suppose.

And so along by the Sewage Works, cattle on the marshes, every now and then a concrete pill box, sea birds wheeling and crying.  The ancient barge wreck still sticks out of the mud near Old Hythe meadow.  At the Hythe, a steam boat called “Spirality” unloading coal at the Gas Works.  One of the crew was cutting a man’s hair at the stern.  Got to Hythe Church just after 5.  Sparling’s nice cob came trotting down with the bread van.

Home to tea, then got rations, fed Bob, and went up to Culver Street for supper.  Went into Holly Trees at 8.  No sign of Poulter.  An alarm just before 9, which I had half expected to come.  I felt anxious more than frightened.  Went over to the Castle.  There was a searchlight south of the town, but no planes or guns to be heard.  Many cars and buses going up the street, all with very bright lights.

The woman who always comes into the Vaults from Queen Street was there, just inside the gateway, talking to one of the firewatchers about the hopelessness of the British defences.  She said the Germans were much better defended than we were, and were always bringing down British planes, “and how many do we bring down?  Three!” (Referring to the two raids on Wednesday – Thursday).  The man agreed, and said “They can do just as they like over here, it seems.”

I waited in Wheeley’s Passage, which I feel sure ought to be the safest place in the building, and examined again the joint between the Roman and Norman work.  I remember being shown it by A.G. Wright, some 20 years ago, never thinking of the circumstances I should one day be looking at it.  The air of the vaults has a queer smell, and reminds me of those long nights in 1940.   Funny that I should be more frightened now than I was then, as it is always assumed that one becomes hardened to danger as time goes on.

The all-clear came before 9.30, and I was glad, as it would let the old people at home go to bed peacefully.

Went back to Holly Trees, to find Poulter had come in and had gone to bed.  How he can calmly go to bed on the top floor in the middle of an alarm I do not know.  Old Septimus Alexander, 70 years old, goes up onto the roof every time.

Poulter seemed rather better.  The surgeon told him this morning that the growth was reacting slightly to the rays, and that his chances had improved.  We had a general chat.  He told me that the Tube disaster on Wednesday was at Bethnal Green.  Must have been a tremendous panic.

I have recently been hearing faint noises, especially when sitting in the Muniment Room, like people talking very quietly.  Most curious.  Ghosts?