14th May 1943

Awakened from a light sleep just before 2 a.m. by the roar of high flying planes, and the wailing of the Brantham and Manningtree sirens.  Got up, and looked out.  The moon was sinking in the west, casting long shadows across the fields, birds were twittering, and a cuckoo calling.  There seemed to be a great number of planes overhead.

I had had enough, and put on a coat over my pyjamas and hurried down, everybody getting up.  I was in such a hurry that I forgot to put any shoes on, so all the others laughed.  Pepper and Snippet were barking violently, Pep particularly in a great state.  Can dogs feel intangible terror as much as we can, or are they only barking at the noise?
I went back upstairs to get my shoes, in case I should have to run out, and as I reached the top of the stairs there was a great sheet of flame outside, lighting the house even through the curtains, and a violent explosion.  I flung myself down.  Joy made some hot Ovaltine, but I was trembling so much I could hardly drink it.

‘Planes came over every few minutes or about three-quarters of an hour, and then gradually the noise died away.  I looked out about 3, and saw the procession back to the coast, each plane escorted by bunches of searchlights, accompanied by a little intermittent firing.  In the west were immune flashes and low rumbling, but it was God’s doing, not the Germans.  The thunder lasted half an hour, setting poor Pepper off barking again.

I became calmer, but felt anxious, and wondered if there was any damage at Colchester.  Got into bed and lay listening to the storm.  What a pity it had not come an hour or two earlier.  At last the all-clear rang out about 4 o’clock, and I dozed off thankfully, glad to know that Mother and Father would at last be getting back into bed.  It was a warm night, and should do them no harm, but what of the coming winter?

I meant to go in v. early, but did not wake until 7.  Lovely morning, clear cloudless sky.  Felt too nervous to eat anything.  As I went up the hill towards Long Road, cuckoos were calling, and I saw a Bomb Disposal lorry going down the Lane by Stour House onto the marshes, so I suppose some bombs fell there.

Went by Ipswich Rd, staring about anxiously for signs of damage.  Great relief to see everything normal – Hiron’s cart from Boxted, a girl from Claudius Rd. driving a Co-op: lorry, vans and coal-carts – East St., Marriage’s, Brook St., a glance up Winnock Road – such a relief! – Bourne Mill.  Not a sign of damage anywhere.  To office, and opened letters.  One or two people mentioned the raid, but it was not until we found that we could not telephone to Chelmsford that we realised where the attack had been.  Obsessed with a horrible feeling of uncertainty.  What has really happened?

This afternoon had to go down to Pete Tye, to a bungalow on the far side of the common, which has now been taken in possession.  There was a lot of furniture there which had to be moved out of the house.  Went into the garage and found two swifts had got shut inside.  One dashed out as I opened the door, but I caught the other as it flashed by me.  It was a beautiful thing, like a little jewel, and its little heart thumped like a tiny hammer.  The free bird would not fly away, but stayed wheeling and swooping, uttering plaintive cries.  I let mine go free, and they both swept away crying together.

Broke into the cottage through the lavatory window.  The place had been used by the army, and I saw from various notices pasted on the doors that it had been a “detention barracks” for 6 men, who had been confined in the front room, about 12' x 12', with a curtain of barbed wire across the windows.  On the mantelpiece was an empty tobacco tin, the brand it had contained being appropriately called “Captive”.

Two men came, and we moved the furniture.  Then I went out onto the edge of the Common to wait for a Mersea bus.  A very charming lady of about 45 came out of the Rectory chase, also waiting for the bus, and we got talking about last night’s attack.  She said she had just come from Criccieth, where raids were unknown.  Awful temptation to bolt there.  She told me that Langenhoe Rectory had been sold to an Air Vice Marshall, but that the police would not allow him to live there as the place is within a defence area.

Went to Mersea, saw Martin the builder, and then back to Colchester.  Planes were machine-gunning a target over the estuary.

Called at home for tea.  Mother’s first words (as usual) were “Oh! What a night!”  Nurse Horwood had come over as soon as the noise began.  Mother had heard that Hill Farm, W. Bergholt had been completely destroyed, but nobody hurt.

Back to office, and got away at 6.  Called at Springate, Ardleigh, and agreed to sell Robin - £25.  Dirt cheap.  Could get £35 in open market.  I hate selling horses, but I must let him go.  It is too expensive to keep him any longer, and I no longer feel competent to drive him.  I shan't sell either trap or harness.

Mrs. Clayton had just come back from London, and said there was a lot of damage round Chelmsford Station, and only one line was working.  The evening papers say 7 dead, but it is rumoured that there is really about 40.

To Lawford by 8.  Kippers had come this evening.  Lovely supper, but an air of strain.  Laughing talk about “the next raid” – “Colchester next time.”  Very warm tonight.  A few planes going out about 11 o’clock.

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