15th April 1943

Awakened by firing at 25 minutes to 1.  At first sight thought it was 5 past 7, and wondered vaguely why guns should fire at such an hour.  Got out of bed and looked out.  Soon saw an attack was developing.  Very heavy gunfire towards Harwich, and some in the Colchester direction.  I could hear shell fragments hissing and whistling through the air.  Felt terribly alone, there in the dark.  The dogs below began to whine, and Fisher’s dog barked continually.  In lulls in the firing you could hear screech owls calling, and every now and then a heavy train came grinding past, very slowly, drowning all other noises.  This always makes me very nervous, as I fear a train will be attacked one night just as it is going by the house.

The noise of planes increased.  Some flew right over, others dived and turned.  At last decided to get out of bed and dress.  As I did so, a plane dived hard and fast, apparently right over the house.  I got under the bed, and blocked my ears, but nothing would keep out the whistling, howling shriek.  At last it died away, and there was a flash and the dull thud of a bomb.  I had had enough by this time, and throwing all decency to the winds went downstairs.  Comforted the dogs.  Joy and Parry came out, and Joy made a hot drink.  Looked out once, and saw a bunch of flares towards Lt. Bromley, sinking down below the hill.  Strange how few bombs were heard.

Planes were continually circling and diving, but no more bombs fell.  Firing died away about 2.30, and we went back to bed.  For the next hour or two continually planes came over, apparently R.AF retuning, as there were no more guns.  Lay half asleep, listening to them, and imagining that one was piloted by George Farmer, and another by my cousin Maitland.  Waited to hear all-clear, but none came.  At last fell asleep until 7.  Woke very tired.

Heard that a plane had been brought down at Layer Breton, and 3 of the crew rescued alive.  It fell in cottage gardens, yet hurt no-one.  Nothing much said in office, but Dyer mentioned that he had seen an RAF plane dropping flares when it was fired on as it returned home.

Culley, Pests Officer, rang through to Writtle, and was told that his chief, Lake, had had his house destroyed, and that other damage had been done at Chelmsford.  A few minutes later a man from Writtle came in, and said there had been several lots of bombs on Chelmsford, blowing out windows in the main street, and destroying two or three houses.  A suet factory near the station was burnt out, and damage done at the prison.  He did not know if anybody was killed.  

Capt Folkard had a war-damage claim from Mr. Betts, Gt. Oakley, where stacks were burnt and some stock killed.  It was in that direction that I saw flares dropping.  He mentioned that the noise of the diving plane had alarmed him just as it had me, yet he  is 9 miles from Lawford.  How foolish we are to be scared of these noises.  Nobody knows what caused the heavy explosion.   

Overheard the 1 o’clock news - “Activity over E. Anglia” – “bombs dropped,” “some casualties, a few dead.”  Heard at lunch that bombs fell at Witham, but I do not know exactly where. 

This afternoon sunny and warm.  Holly Trees lawn full of mothers and children, soliders and girls, sitting and playing under the deep blue sky.  One would think they had not a care in the world.  Were any of them worrying about tonight and the thousand other nights to come?Somewhere out of sight a plane dived and climbed.

Evening papers gave very little news, and that hopelessly garbled.  I saw the “Star” and “News”, and also tomorrow’s “Essex Standard” (which is now out on Thursday).  All were different.  Some say 9 dead at Chelmsford, some 9 injured.  Other details do not tally, either.  The Layer Breton plane contained 2 live and 1 dead German, while a fourth came down safely by parachute, yet the E.C.S. says they are “believed to have perished,” while the survivors are in the local police station and the military hospital.  It is absolutely fantastic that papers should publish this wild, inaccurate rubbish.

Tonight calm and lovely.  Went to bed early, hoping to get in sleep before anything happens.  This sort of thing is terribly wearing, the continual strain and uncertainty.

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