This morning I had to go to the Labour Exchange as a witness in an appeal by Emerson, the farrier, who has been forbidden to leave Paxman’s to open the old shop at West Bergholt. The appeal board was under Proudfoot the solicitor, who had with him two other men whom I did not know. Ulting, the National Service Officer, was there, two other men from the Ministry of Labour, and a fellow called Neep, representing Paxman’s.
Proudfoot rather disconcerted me at the start by saying that he was the legal representative of Paxman’s in many matters, and suggested we might like to have another Board. Naturally, I could only say that I was sure the appeal would be heard fairly and without prejudice, but afterwards I wished most heartily that I had asked for a postponement of the hearing, for whatever board we got next time, it could not possibly be as stupid and pig-headed as this one turned out to be.
Proudfoot first questioned Emerson, very fairly, and then asked Neep to state Paxman’s case. It seems that this man, a skilled agricultural farrier, is employed merely as a striker, and actually works only 3 or 4 hours a day. Neep denied this, but admitted that he knew nothing of the conditions in the tool-room where Emerson is employed.
Then I was asked for my views, which I gave at length, and pointed out how necessary it was to get more smiths in these county areas. Proudfoot showed a complete ignorance of rural conditions by saying (a) that no farriers were needed as there were no horses, and (b) that farmers could easily get their repairs done by bringing them in to Colchester, to Joslins’ or Williams’s. He spoke several times of “the days when blacksmiths were needed,” as if they were a feature of the remote past. The other two on the board never said a word. How is that such ignorant persons are invited to so this work? Well, I did my best, but I am not at all optimistic as to the result. Meanwhile there is no smith between Colchester and Bures or between
Colchester and Earls Colne. Some Bergholt horses have to go to Stanway now.
Tonight writing until 10.30. There was an alarm at about half past eleven, but it only lasted about 15 minutes, thank God, so no doubt the old folks at
Colchester soon went to bed.
It is strange that I become more and more scared of raids as the war goes on.