This blog posts extracts from E J Rudsdale's diaries of life on the home front in Britain during the Second World War. Each extract is posted exactly 70 years after it was first written, so follow events through the eyes of a witness to the war.
Low drifting clouds, and NE wind.Rather cold.Bad weather for the bees, in fact Joy says there will be hardly any honey at all this year, and the bees will probably die.
Came in by bus, crowded as usual.Heard today that one of the new girls at the office is a Christadelphian, and is rather unpopular with the others.Hear also that we are likely to have another conscientious objector, Cousins, the man who was sacked from the Town Hall. Some of the girls say they won't work with these C.O.s – they say they don't like Jones, the Welshman.Capt. Folkard says he doesn't care one way or another so long as they dont have any conscientious objections about work.
Cycled out this evening, cool wind but sunny.Saw the American engine at Johnny Bois Hill, huge great thing, pulling a coal train.Had supper alone, with raspberries and cream.
Mr. Craig came in, and says he thinks we ought to reply to the accusations of the Peldon parson, who has written such scurrilous letters to the press about the War Agricultural Committee.Capt. Folkard says no, let the whole thing run its course, and it will all soon be forgotten.
‘Planes going and coming in the early morning, above low clouds.Thought I heard an alarm once.Late in again.Went round by Bruce’s at the Hythe to see how our trolleys are going on, as we want them in less than a month.They are almost done, and look very fine in green and scarlet.
Very busy morning.A Mrs. Thomsett from the Labour Dept, at Writtle came about Mrs. Voake [the Women's Land Army Organiser].They are now very dissatisfied with her.So are we, and have been for a long time.She does more harm than good with the girls.However, looks as though she will now have to leave.Mrs. Thomsett talked a good deal about the utter lack of co-operation between the WLA authorities and Writtle people, although they live in the same building.
Took the Thomas Creffield portrait up to Sir Gurney Benham’s office, to be photographed.He had never seen it before.He told me he had read the “Antiquities of Wheatfield” which I had lent him, and thought if “very childish”.Apparently he had taken this 18th century joke quite seriously.
Row at the office – we all ate some cherries, thinking they were Nott’s, but they turned out to be Hull’s.The girls ate every one, and he was furious.There must have been 4lbs at least, so I shall have to get him some.
Heard by ‘phone that Writtle intend to requisition the house in Straight Road for an office, which will be good.I shall give up Castle firewatching altogether, and have nothing more to do with the Museum.This may help me to stick it out next winter.Wonder if I can get a room at Stanway?
The Sissons came in this afternoon, so I went back with them by car. Had tea there, then walked to Lawford over the field path along by Pound Lane.Walked through fields of oats, barley and wheat on DedhamHallLand, all looking very well.Saw a mole crossing the cart-track.It stopped when it sensed me, and lifted up it’s little blind face, wrinkling its snout.I picked it up by the tail, and saw it was a she, with young somewhere.It didn’t squeak, but pawed the air helplessly with little pink hands, and was so fat as to be almost tubular.Put it down on the hedge bank, and it scrambled away.
Saw Capt. Baines working in his fields, which he has ploughed by the river edge.Everybody said it was too wet, but he did it.At the end of the cart track was a tall slender tree, very beautiful against the evening sky, so made a rapid sketch of it.Felt a bit tired, so sat down at the bottom of the hill, and read for half an hour, with Moorhouse’s big black and white cows grazing in StourPark behind me.
Dull morning, but got brighter.Rather cool.Busy with Committee work all morning, no time for lunch, then rushed to Birch.Joanna was there, looking very well.The Chairman spoke to the District Officer about having “conchies” in the office, meaning Jones. No doubt Joanna must have told him she had seen Jones there recently.Wish she hadn’t.Chairman made his usual remarks about “blasted Welshmen”, and I (as usual) kept my temper.
After the meeting, we brought back one of the Round family portraits – Thomas Creffield - which is to be photographed for an article in the “Essex Review”.
Back to Lawford.Went down the fields, the peas quite ruined by rooks.
At 8am an American tried to get in – I could hear his soft boots padding across the bridge.Dull morning, low clouds.
Streets full of Americans wandering aimlessly, their jaws always moving.Two companies of Canadians marching to St. Botoloph’s Church, Catholics hurrying along Priory Street.
Breakfast and bath.Mother rather querulous, so did not stay to lunch.Went to the Mill, found two more hooligans there, chopping down the fence.
To Higham.Sun beginning to come through.Our field at Brookside looks very bad – nothing done there for weeks, weeds and rubbish everywhere.But these isolated patches are really unworkable.We must persuade Halsall to take this, as it lies right in with his land.It is hopelessly uneconomic for the Committee to try to farm small isolated fields, but it is rarely that neighbouring farmers will come to the rescue, except after a great deal of persuasion.
Suddenly decided to have a look at HighamChurch.Got there just at one – as I went in the clock struck.Never been in there before.Nothing very remarkable, but the N. aisle arcade is rather nice.Slight smell of incense about the place, and silence except for the ticking of the church clock.
There is a monument in the chancel, on the N. wall, in memory of Patty Stutter, of Higham Hall.She was born in 1795, and died in 1832.In 1824 she married a Mr. Crawford of East Grinstead, who survived her, dying at the age of 82 in 1883.What an extraordinary picture of English country life – Mr Crawford marries the lovely heiress (I’m sure she was lovely, with a wide straw hat) 6 years older than himself.She dies, (unexpectedly?) at only 37.No mention of any children.He lives on, for another 51 years, all alone, in his comfortable house in the valley bottom.How peaceful and quiet that half century must have been at Higham.
There is an interesting original door in the S. wall of the tower, with incised strap hinges, and just inside the main door there is a fine early font, with escutcheons on the panels, dug up in the Rectory garden in May, 1941.It is described as a “holy water stoup, c.1450”, but is quite obviously a font.
Came out and walked round the churchyard, but no stones of any particular interest.Behind the fields run very green down to the banks of the Stour.‘Planes from Langham were flying over, and wheeling back to the aerodrome.
Glorious morning.Late again, but had a wonderful night, slept until 7.30 in perfect peace.
In Dead Lane saw a man struggling with two goats and a bicycle, the chains all tangled together.Further along, by Johnny Bois Hill, saw a man on a cycle leading a little donkey, and just behind an old man pushing a hand cart, a tatty man from the Hythe, going out into the country to sell his goods.I often see him on this road.
Busy all morning, not out until 1.30.This afternoon to the Mill, and found some louts in the boat, yelling and screaming.Went back to the office about tea time, and found Harding had opened all the windows, though I have told him not to.Results – masses of papers blowing all over the floor.
Home to tea, and stayed until 8.On duty tonight, so went along at 10 o’clock, to Holly Trees, went up into the Library, and worked there until Poulter came in.Talked until after midnight, then went back to the Library until 2am.Slept peacefully in the cell from 2 until 7, except when woken by the noise of the firewatchers moving about.
Fine, bright and cool, S.W. wind, fat white clouds sweeping over.News of a raid on Hull, with “many casualties”, and another of the city’s museums destroyed.Poor Tom Sheppard. [Tom Sheppard was Curator of Hull's Museums and saw much of his work destroyed in raids on the city].
Went in late, Capt Folkard out all day at Chelmsford.Joanna came in to help, very much “enceinte”, looking pale and rather tired.Told me a rather good story – a few weeks ago, the “Standard” published an extract of 100 years ago, recording the building of Birch Hall by James Round.A woman from Birch was sewing in the WVS shop in Colchester, and a customer remarked that she was surprised to see that Mr. Round was building a new house at a time like this, particularly in the Italian style “after all Mussolini had done”.The Birch lady said she was sure there must be some mistake, but the customer said oh, no, it was true all right – she’s seen it in the paper.Joanna’s husband has gone to American now.
Went to Lay & Wheeler’s to get some sherry for Joy, but was told that I could not take any away as it had gone 5, after which hour it could only be delivered.This seems a fantastic thing, but it is the law.
Cycled out slowly in a lovely evening to see Smith’s horse put into harness again.Coming along Harwich Road, saw Smith himself riding the mare along from Manningtree, the sun shining on her fine ruddy coat.He put her on the old clover-ley, and cantered her round 3 or 4 times.Then Joy came along with Mike’s sister and two Wrens, carrying the harness.Smith’s man George arrived on his cycle, and they were all ready.They put the harness on her, and drove her on long reins on the plough for5 minutes, and then decided to put her in right away.She went to the cart steadily and easily, but she did not hitch herself and would not more except to plunge and rear.We were all standing only a few yards away when Smith suddenly tried to lead her forward by the bridle, but she reared and with a little snap the bridle broke.For a split second the mare’s head, with her wild eye, appeared through the broken straps, and she seemed to hang in mid-air.Nobody spoke.Smith reached up for her forelock, George hauled on the useless plough-line, but they might as well have tried to stop the wind.In a flash she was gone, hooves drumming on the hard ley, heavy old cart rattling and banging behind.Her heels came up again and again, crashing on the cart bottom.She headed towards the buildings, towards the hedge at full gallop, jumped the bank, cart flying behind, and landed with a crash in the cart track, the farm-horses in the little paddock rushing away in alarm.I thought she was down, but no she recovered and was away down the track in a great cloud of dust.Now we all began to run, but still nobody spoke.The cart vanished down the hill, there was a great crash, and we saw it suddenly in the air, turning over in a slow arc, then silence.By the oat field gate was the cart on its side, shaft broken, shattered harness everywhere, but no sign of the mare.At last we found her at the bottom of the next field, looking over the gate towards her home, and although she was trembling and blowing there was only one mark on her – a graze on the off hind.Poor old Smith took it well – simply said: “Well, I wouldnt have had that happen for the world”.Thank God it was he who held her head when it happened.
Glorious sunny morning, clear sky, light S.W. wind, but I got up very late.As I went up the hill to Lawford, the cuckoos were calling everywhere, along the valley.
Capt. Folkard was at the office before me, but said nothing.Heard today that on Tuesday evening two of the Womens' Land Army girls left their billet at eleven o’clock at night, taking their luggage, and drove away with two Americans in a jeep.Their landlady called to tell us this, and said that she would not have them back if they returned, as they had been in the house 10 weeks and had not had a bath during that time.
Busy all day, and did not get back until late.Lovely evening.
Fine, some clouds, strong S.W. wind.Heard a little firing early in the morning, but had a pretty good night.
Long ‘phone call this morning about harvest carts.Writtle do not understand the position in the least, and cannot see any difference between carts and tractor trailers.We have 1900 acres of corn to cut and cart, and now have 16 horses, 12 wagons or trolleys, 4 more being built, 10 Fordsons and 11 trailers. Capt. Folkard reckons we want another 10 horses and wagons, and 6 more tractors and trailers.We shan't get ‘em, but I suppose can make do with coal-carts again, as we did in 1941.
To Wigborough this afternoon, to see Nott and to check up the wagons, etc.Country looked very well indeed.
At Abbots Wick they were cutting hay with a pair of horses and carting with a tractor.The War Agricultural Committee can always be relied to do a job cack-handed.Seemed to be more hay about than I thought, and looks well.Checked up at the Wick, and then to Abbots Hall, and drove along the track right down to Marsh Barn, remote and lonely on the edge of the desolate marsh.Yet in olden times men had to come down here in all weathers to feed stock.
Alarm about 1.30 a.m., for 15 minutes.Heard distant bombs and gunfire to the east, shortly before the sirens sounded.After 3 and a half years of war we are still not only unable to ward off an attack but cannot even give an alarm until it has begun.
Felt better, and went in this morning.Fine and sunny.Alec Page came in, and was talking about Barker, at Whitehouse Farm, Langham, who is having a terrible time with the Americans.A few nights ago he heard a noise outside and found an American in the calf-pen at half past 11, trying to catch a calf.There are several thousand Americans at Langham now, and on other aerodromes in the district, and the town is full every night. Poulter told me that on Saturday he found one drunk and unconscious in the Park, sometime after eleven o’clock, so he went down to the Police Station, but was told that there were no police available, as they were all standing-by in case of trouble between American and British troops.
This afternoon went down to Bourne Mill, and found Sisson there, making a survey.He said that he was quite convinced that there was no alternative but to remove all the machinery and to convert the place into a dwelling-house, which seems to me to be a very great pity.The machinery is mostly about 120 years old, and is in excellent condition, having been put in order only about 10 years ago.If it has to be removed, what is to become of it?I am sure the Museum authorities will not be prepared to take any action. [The machinery was saved and can still be seen in working order when visiting Bourne Mill].
Sisson says that the position regarding the National Trust’s attitude is quite simple – they are only concerned to find a use for the place, and as it is most unlikely that it will ever again be used as a Mill, the only alternative is to turn it into a house.He suggested that I might like to live there, and said I should no doubt be able to get it at a very cheap rent.I’m sure I dont know who would live there, with the pond in its present state, especially after houses have been built all over the Barn Hall land.
Away tonight at 9.30, through streets crammed with Americans, raucous voices, pushing, jostling, calling out to girls.Lovely cool evening.The hay is nearly all cut now, but it will be a light crop.What am I to do about the ponies this next winter?
Throat still sore tonight, and fear I must have some infection of the tonsils.
‘Planes flying from Langham tonight, circling round very low, making a deafening noise.Pilots learning the lay of the land, I suppose.
Felt ill, getting worse all day.Joy very kind.Throat seems to be closing up, and can eat nothing.Temperature high, headache, and violent pains in every limb.Went to bed this afternoon, but could not sleep.Had arranged to go in to Colchester tonight to do duty, and had promised to see Molly Blomfield, but could not do it.Phoned Molly at teatime and asked her to let Poulter know I should not be in.Impossible to ‘phone him direct, as he refuses to answer telephones under any circumstances.
Lovely day.Busy all morning, as Capt. Folkard suddenly became very worried about harvest carriages, so I had to make out lists of everything we have or are likely to have by harvest time.At any rate we shall have one trolley, wain, or road-wagon for every horse available, to say nothing of the Fordsons and 2-wheel trailers, although they are not really very satisfactory for harvest carting.It is surprising how little one can load on those trailers.
Nott still maintains that it is useless to have more horses and wagons as we have nobody capable of using the horses.It is at any rate true that we have nobody capable of teaching anybody to use horses.
Saw Poulter evening, who for some reason is now convinced that the war is almost over – gives it about another 3 months at the outside.
Back to Lawford in the cool evening.Heard that the man and woman who were hit by the cannon shell a fortnight ago are both dead.
Up rather late, feeling very tired and sick.Lovely sunny morning, but clouds came up by eleven.How we watch the weather.
At the office everybody very bad tempered.The old feeling of frustration and helplessness very strong today.Did very little work.To Holly Trees to report to Poulter about my Oxford journey, but Hull came in and I slunk out in a shame-faced manner.
Funny that during the two days I have been away, there were no alarms here, so I have not missed anything.
Rain began after lunch, and the weather got much worse.Joy rang up to say that Penelope Belfield would be coming to supper.Felt so nervous I could settle to nothing, expecting an attack at any moment, and finally left at 4.30 “to see about some carts”.A ‘plane flew over the Hythe, very low, and I was sure it was a German.Called at Dedham to talk about Oxford, and saw some maps.Suddenly felt I would rather stay there all evening, but could not hurt Joy’s feelings, so went.
When Penelope arrived, could not bring myself to talk to her, and hardly said 10 words all evening.She is as strikingly beautiful as ever.
Came upstairs directly after supper, and worked on the photographs.Am sending all non-Colchester photos to Godfrey at once.
The wind howling tonight, very strong from the S.W., driving low grey clouds over the hill and across the valley, reminding me of dear Wales.Ach, Cymm fach, how I wish I was there.
Thought I heard gunfire at about 4.30, and woke with a start.Could not sleep, and watched the dawn brightening.Up at 7, went out to explore.Saw the old Palace, St Aldates, Brewers Lane, mediaeval buildings, churches, colleges.Went to Blackwell’s, in Broad Street, then along the Turl to All Soul's.Saw some more photos, and discussed final details.There is a tremendous lot to be done in Essex, especially in the coastal towns and in Colchester, as the National Buildings Record have been given a confidential hint by the authorities that heavy bombing is expected in the coming winter.
Went round to Somerville, to say goodbye to Joan Petre.Was allowed in by a very suspicious porteress, and walked through grassy courts and gardens where innumerable very good looking young women lay about reading and writing.Most cautiously raised their eyes as a man walked boldly into the nunnery.Went up to Joan’s room, very pleasant, comfortable, excellent library of Celtic and Scandinavian literature.
Left there and went into the Ashmolean for a few minutes.How very delightful to see a museum in full working order, not hiding behind blast-walls and sandbags.Naturally a great deal of the best material is away, but enough remains to give the place a very much peace-time air.Went below to the Haverfield Library and saw Miss M.V. Taylor.Asked if I might check a reference to Colchester in Vetusta Monumenta, which she allowed me to do.How I wish I could come here to work in this place.
Had lunch at a cinema café, then caught the 2.5 to London.Heard my name called from the train, and saw Capt. Brown from Colchester, who used to be at the TechnicalCollege and is now education officer at the Brecon depôt of the Welsh fusiliers.He told me several stories about his work, and said how surprised he was to find so many young Welshmen spoke no English.Did not like to suggest that the Welshmen were probably equally surprised that an education officer in a Welsh regiment spoke not a word of Welsh.Told me also about a Welsh Nationalist who refused to wear his uniform, and walked about the barracks in his shirt and pants.This man had been imprisoned several times, but still refused to speak a word of English.
Good journey to London, and got in at quarter to 4.Left Brown and went to the Polytechnic in Regent Street to see a film illustrating the history of the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham.Excellently done.
Liverpool St. to catch the 6.40.Saw Joanna Round, going back to Colchester, but as she was with several other people did not travel with her.
More rain coming.Cycled to Manningtree, very tired.
To Oxford today.Fine, warm, and sunny.Caught the 10.40 at Colchester, rather taken aback to meet Major Round on the station.Chatted a few minutes before the train came in.
Clouds came up and rain began as we drew in to Liverpool Street.Big crowds in all the streets, lined up for buses and cinemas.People must waste half a lifetime in these queues.
More crowds on Paddington, and the train jammed to suffocation.Through Maidenhead, could see Grenfell Road, BoyneHillChurch, etc. and the roof of Aunt’s house by the bridge.Stopped at Reading, and a lot of girls going to Wolverhampton wedged themselves in, yelling and screaming in harsh Midland voices.
Oxford at last, about 4 o’clock.More enormous crowds.Where on earth are all these people going?
Cycled into the city.Have only been here once before, when I came with Poulter for one night about 8 years ago, so it was all new to me.Immense crowds in the streets, Jews, French, etc.Traffic lights, stone walls of ancient buildings, vulgar modern shops.Horse traffic, hundreds of cycles, RAF lorries, American lorries.Went along the High, past rows of Colleges, the Clarendon (which Woolworth’s intend to destroy), past Magdalen and over MagdaleneBridge.All incredibly lovely, green trees, flowing river.Suddenly a very heavy shower came on, so sheltered under the trees by the bridge.Asked a woman if she knew where All Soul’s was, but she replied in a Cockney voice “All Souls what?”At last steeled myself to go to the porter at Magdalen ask him.Was directed politely and quickly.
Found the place and found the National Buildings Record offices on the right hand side. Mr. Godfrey was very pleasant, and introduced me to his assistant, Farthing.Mr. Summerson was not there.Left Godfrey at 5 to see Molly Blomfield's sister at the Berkshire Arms, who gave me an address in Abingdon Road where I could get a bed for the night.Joan seemed very well, and asked me to supper with her extraordinary husband, who is none the less quite a nice fellow.
Had an excellent supper, and then went to the lodging house, which was only a few doors away.Rather smelly, but it will do.Then went down to All Souls again for an hour, looking over photographs.
Left the town at 11, still dusk. Got to bed in a little room at one side of the house, lay listening to ‘planes cruising about, clocks striking in the city, voices in the street.Pulled the curtains and watched the moon rise.
Still fine.Got in early, to get as much work done as possible before going to Oxford [to attend a meeting about the National Buildings Record, a wartime photographic survey of Britain's historic buildings].Worked late tonight, and did not leave the office until after 7.Everybody seemed sour and irritable today, as they so often do after a holiday.
Up at 8, feeling very tired.Awaked two or three times during the night by ‘planes going over.Joy said there was an alarm about half past 2, but I heard nothing then.Hope this means that I may begin to sleep through alarms again, as I did a year or two ago.
Brisk W. wind, clouds blowing away, and the sun coming out.Caught the 9.32 to Chelmsford.Extraordinary medley of rolling-stock on the lines now – N.E. engines, very old, one or two American engines, GWR and SR coaches, all mixed up together.There is even an L.M.S. coach on the sidings at Colchester.
The corn is coming on well, the whole landscape a symphony in green, the grass dark, the wheat almost emerald, and the oats and barley a sort of yellow-green.In some places there are patches of scarlet poppies on a brown fallow field.Train was not very crowded.
Had the pleasure of going through Colchester, and seeing the town from the north.What a glorious view this was before the wicked mess of the By Pass Road was allowed to happen.Even now the town continues to look grand, with its spires and towers on the sky-line.
Huge crowds at Chelmsford, waiting to go up to London.Three “Redcaps” on the platform, and two more in the booking-hall below, all heavily armed, apparently looking for somebody, deserters I suppose.Every soldier was stopped, and their papers were examined very carefully.Few seemed to be travelling today.
Had an hour to spare, so cycled quickly round the town to see the extent of the raid damage.The damage is really very considerable, and if it is really true that only 12 were killed it is little short of a miracle, but of course nobody believes the official figures.
At least 100 houses were destroyed, particularly in one or two streets between Hoffman’s Ball Bearing Factory and the station, and thousands were damaged in varying degrees.A few shops in Duke Street have their windows out, but not many, Cannon’s Restaurant has gone, and the block opposite on the corner of Victoria Road.At the other end of the town there are several houses destroyed off the Baddow Road, near the Corporation Depôt, the Bus Station has no glass in the roof, and no back wall, but the mess has been cleared up and the buses are running in and out normally, with the usual huge queues lined up waiting for them.Part of the north wall of the railway station was blown down, just on the bridge, and some sheds were wrecked, but the damage to the track was very slight.No harm done at the Shire Hall or the County Hall beyond broken windows.Great crowds in the streets, intent on Saturday shopping.Hundreds of Americans.Saw two civilians walking arm-in-arm, one of them steering an American by his belt.His cap was gone, his eyes were tight shut, and he was quite drunk on his feet, moving like a doll.
Called at Clark’s bookshop to see if they had Morant’s “Colchester”, but all they had was one volume of the Essex edition of 1768, including Colchester, for which they wanted 50/-.Too much.Mr. Clark told me that Morants are now fetching good money.
Cycled out to Writtle [the War Agricultural Executive Office], to find the place almost deserted.Saw Skinner, the Land Commissioner, wearing corduroy shorts, the inevitable cigarette end between his lips.
The meeting [about the proposal for a 'Farm Sunday' National Church Celebration] was not a great success.Everybody was very annoyed at having to come up here on Whit Saturday, to discuss a matter in which they had not the slightest interest.Leslie opened the meeting, and told a long story about the Bishop of Salisbury and the Minister, how they had decided to revive old customs, etc. etc. and what a nice thing this would be for the farmers and the Land girls and everybody else.The whole thing is quite fantastic.The idea is about 50 years too late, and why on earth the Ministry should invent an entirely new day, and why they should expect farmers to give thanks for a harvest which they have not yet had, is beyond all comprehension. "Farm Sunday" is quite meaningless, and is not wanted by either farmers or the farm-workers.
Harvey came in, and thanked me for my agricultural notes, which he said were “excellent”.(They weren't).He wants me to write for the Bulletin regularly, but don't see how I can when Capt. Folkard makes it so difficult for me to get out and see anything.
Harvey then lectured us for an hour and a half on how this “Farm Sunday” is to be organised.Each town is to have a procession, a service in the main church, or in the open air, the Bishop, Rural Deans, etc have to be dragged in, every village church must have a special service.I made very few notes, as I have little intention of doing anything about the matter at all.The Committee Labour is to be “told” to attend, so I asked if the men and girls were to be paid?Harvey said oh no, they would be quite willing to come.This is absolute nonsense, and I said that they would want double time, as it would be Sunday work, especially if tractor drivers have to bring tractors all the way from Mersea.
Out at one, and met Maude Fairhead cycling to Writtle.Stood and chatted with her, and ate some strawberries which she had.Went on to the “Horse and Groom”, and had some cider.Heard some men talking about gunfire last night, but a Home Guard who was there said he had been on Chelmsford Battery and there was nothing about.
Back to Chelmsford.Glad that the Library has not been hit.Nothing but a few broken windows there.Then went to the Ritz to see Rene Clair’s film “I Married a Witch.”Good, and most entertaining, but not up to his old standard.Had tea at the cinema, then back to the station.Evening paper posters – “Biggest Ever Raid on Germany”.Bought paper, and see that the Allies have now taken both Pantelleria and Lampedusa in Sicily.
As we waited in the station, the Cathedral bells rang out in the summer evening with the westering sun shining on the silvery balloons, and lovely clouds drifting across the sky.The train when it arrived turned out to be made up of very old-fashioned coaches, such as I have not seen for years.
Got to Lawford by half past 7.Supper, and then writing for an hour.
Lovely morning, got in by 9.Very busy all day, Committee members in and out, ‘phone calls from the Air Ministry etc.Col. Furneaux came in, very worried about Nymann and his cows.Thinks now that we are being very hard on the man, yet he above everybody has been agitating about his wretched cows for months.There is no doubt they must be got rid of, as he cannot possibly keep the things on the remaining strip of Pete Tye Common, or they will be doing endless damage to the Committee’s crops.Spent a long time trying to find out how to get a permit to buy wood to repair our wagons, but nobody would tell me.Strange that we put through scores of applications for other people, yet there seems to be no machinery for a Committee to get wood for their urgent jobs.
Noticed at the entrance to the Culver St. lavatories the following notice written in pencil:
“All Military Pers:
Pros: Given here.
Can only imagine that “pers. pros.” Are “personal protectors”, i.e. – American for “French letters.”An amusing light on the social customs of the Americans, wonder how many people know that the Corporation Public Lavatories are being used for such a purpose.
Back to Lawford early, fed all the animals, chopped the mangle, spread straw, etc.
Up late, (not unusual!)Thick fog, which cleared gradually, and the sun came out about 9.A strange mysterious silence in the little valley, as it lay under mist, then the sound of a man and a pair of horses coming out of the buildings on the hill.
Nott and Dyer had quite a quarrel this morning about an elevation which Nott borrowed for Wigborough and refuses to send back.Went down to Mersea with him, to see the pea-picking at Cross Lane.
Back to Colchester on a bus.The country looks wonderfully well, the crops ripening.Noticed a pie-bald horn sheep among those grazing on the Government land near Ball Farm.Soldiers marching to and from barracks and the ranges.
Poulter told me with a great air of secrecy that ‘planes had come in and landed at Langham this morning, and that Earls Colne is to have fighters instead of bombers.Hull told him this.He also said that Orchard, Richardson, and Willi Blackmore are to be called-up at once.He is very fond of making these sweeping statements, which are generally incorrect.Hope this is not true, for what is to happen to me if such men as these are taken from a Borough Engineering office?However, Harvey was expected to go from the Town Clerk’s office 6 months ago, but is still here, and I have managed to survive in a “de-reserved” state for 18 months.
Wonderful crop of hay in a field at Whitehouse Farm, opposite Severalls’ land, the field so full of enormous haycocks that it looked impossible to get a cart between them.
Just as I got to Park Lane [near Langham/Boxted aerodrome] 6 ‘planes came in from the north, circled round a few times and landed, or rather 5 did, the 6th making off towards the north again.A crowd watched from the barrier which has been put across the lane near the thatched cottages, as each ‘plane roared down the runway just in front of them.As they touch the concrete, their tyres set up a high scream and little columns of blue smoke appear from them.I suppose they must be landing at about 140 mph.
Wonder how long these little cottages in Langham and Park Lane will survive?Will they be wiped out by German bombs or by crashing aircraft?
Such a nice evening I decided to go round by Margaret’s Cross to Dedham Gun Hill.Noticed that the old barn at Langford Hall is quite down now, just a heap of timbers and dirty thatch, blown over in the recent gales.
Went cheerfully on to Lawford, whistling and singing.Feel though that something dreadful if shortly going to happen.
Chased the calves in, fed them, had supper by myself, and to bed.Lovely golden evening.
Another lovely day, and a quiet night last night.Whole office in turmoil about pea-picking money.Chief Clerk says there is no authority for paying people on the field, what about receipts, etc?Nott says (and quite rightly) that peapickers must be paid daily, at so much per bag, according to custom.Could not stand the wrangling any more, so went home for an hour and read the newspapers.
Lawford at 7, fed the animals after supper.Bed 10.30, rather tired.
Wind and clouds, getting thicker, then rain beginning.Working all day.Mrs. Snow, the WRNS Commandant from Harwich, and Commander Richardson came to tea.She is a most charming woman, about 35 I should think, full of the most delightful stories about Royalty visiting Harwich, and about riotous parties on the destroyers.The Duchess of Kent was down there not long ago, and when crossing the harbour in a launch got very smutted by smoke from a destroyer.She was urgently in need of a powder compact, and the only one to be found on the boat belonged to a little WRN rating, so this had to be handed along to HRH’s lady-in-waiting.
Left at 7, under dark driving clouds. To Holly Trees and saw Poulter.The night silent and starry, one or two searchlights flickering, but not a ‘plane in sight.
Quiet night and a fine day.How delightful when there is only 5 or 6 hours of darkness, and soon there will be only 4.
Not so many on the bus, being Saturday.Home to lunch.Mother had a most amusing story about some man whom Ella knows, living in Gladwin Road.He cycled down the town, went to Kent & Blaxill’s, came out, forgot he had a cycle, and went home by bus.When he got there he remembered the cycle, rushed back in a panic and was delighted to find it still standing where he had left it.Being a religious man he at once walked over to St. Nicholas’ Church and put 2/6 in the poor-box as a thank-offering for the recovery of his cycle.When he came out the thing had gone.
On the market this afternoon for hour and a half.What a cruel, hard, mean looking lot these farmers are when you see them altogether.My notes, three paragraphs, were published in the Agricultural column of the "Essex County Standard" this week.
Got puncture mended and went to Lawford early, fed calves and chickens, chopped mangle etc.They will be cutting hay soon if the weather holds.
Lovely morning, with slight haze.How we pray for clear weather.Few clouds rolled up from the west at midday, but not much.
Busy all day, then went up to Maldon Road, to tea at old Smith’s.Hilda was there, and it was very pleasant.Poor old man, he is very feeble, but I think he enjoyed my visit.We talked horses solidly the whole time.After tea the old boy made a determined effort to sell me a driving whip for 30/-, in real dealer-like fashion.Finally agreed for a £1, but he said he would put a silver band on for me.Hilda says he will have forgotten the whole business in a day or so, but if he doesn't I’ll certainly have the whip.
In the Council report in tonight’s “Standard”, the Chairman of the ARP Committee is reported as warning the public always to go to shelters whenever the alarm is sounded, and always to get up in the night.Mother and Father will be delighted, as they have done this quite consistently since Sept: 1939.
Got a puncture, so came out on the bus tonight.Clouds came up again, and it began to rain.About 8 heard Colchester sirens, and some distant gunfire.All-clear in less than 10 minutes.
Poulter told me today that the Engineer's Department had been very worried a week or so ago because a considerable number of small worms had been found in the water-mains at Parson’s Heath and one or two other places.Great secrecy was maintained, as Collins did not want the Water Supply Committee to know anything about it.Apparently the worms were not considered dangerous to health.
This evening went to cinema, but there was an alarm at 7 and I came out.Can not sit through alarms in cinemas.Fine clear evening, nothing about, crowds idly wandering in the streets.When I got back to Lawford Joy said there had been gunfire in Harwich direction.
Lovely sunny morning, birds singing loudly under a clear blue sky.Then heavy clouds came sweeping over from the S.W.Went to the station with Joy to catch the 9.22.
The merchant seamen in the carriage were talking very wildly about ships being sunk in the estuary of the Tyne, one said to be an air-craft carrier.
Saw the damage at Chelmsford, not so bad as I had expected.The bus garage, which I had been told was “flat”, is in fact now in use again, although the glass of the roof has disappeared.The Y.M.C.A. where I went to the blacksmith’s meeting a few months ago, had a direct hit and is totally destroyed.Saw one of Poney’s horses outside the station, so his place must be alright.Huge battery of rocket guns on the Recreation Ground, and more damage to a house near Crompton Parkinson’s.Very few balloons up, although a cloudy day, very suitable for an attack.Near Shenfield a plane suddenly swooped down over the engine, but I saw it was an R.A.F. machine as it flashed past.The other people in the carriage only heard it, and wondered if we were being shot up.As we went past BrentwoodSchool, I saw 5 men pulling a lawn mower on the cricket field, while another man steered it, I suppose they have never heard of horses.
Rain was now falling heavily.Country looked very well, although there is still a good deal of rough grass in the London area.Raining hard when we got to Liverpool St., but by the time I got to Holborn by tube it was over.Walked up Coptic St. and saw a book in a shop window there – “Coach & Sedan”, a reprint of a pamphlet dated1636.Interesting, bought it for 6/-.
Plenty of horses about in Bloomsbury.Gt. Russell Street looked lovely, with all the plane trees in front of the BritishMuseum in leaf.Walked through Bedford Square, still unharmed by either bombs or the London County Council.Even the railings have not been stolen.LondonUniversity, [Senate House] now full of Ministry of Information, still untouched.
Went into Chaucer Place.Chaucer House [the Museums Association's headquarters] untouched, but buildings on either side have been destroyed, including the A.R.P. station.Went in, walked up stairs, and could not remember the name of the Museums Association's Acting Secretary until the office girl spoke of her as “Mrs. Bond”.She was very glad to see me, and we had a long talk on museum work.She was bright and cheerful, full of “post-war planning”,I full of gloom and misery, pouring cold water in gallons on every suggestion and refusing to believe that there will be a “post-war” time for which to plan.At any rate, it was quite clear that Colchester does not figure in the post-war museum world.
Walked round to Tottenham Court Road.Horses everywhere, and a tremendous number of taxis and buses.Quite a lot of damage along here, especially on the east side.On the west side, an extraordinary new police station has been built, with a huge blank wall to the street, broken only by half a dozen tiny windows and a little door, screened by a blast-wall.The place looked most sinister.
Went down Charing Cross Rd. to Foyle’s, and found that the Welsh Department had been amalgamated with the Oriental Dept.Saw Griffiths.Said he had no “Herald Cymraeg” left, but that so far as he knew old Carreddoq [who edited this publication] was still alive.
Walked on to Piccadilly through huge crowds of every nationality.Saw a good many white girls walking arm-in-arm with black men.Eros boxed in, and covered with posters – “Lend to Defend”, “More bombers” “Stop Careless Talk”, etc.Everywhere American soldiers standing about, always spitting.
Had lunch in St. James’ St.The ancient façade of the Palace still looks up the hill to Piccadilly.To Burlington House, with a ceaseless stream going into the Royal Academy.Sir Joshua Reynold’s statue has been taken away.Kathleen Kenyon’s little red car in the courtyard, a reminder of happier days than this.
Annual Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute, much the same as usual.Old Prof. Hamilton Thompson in the chair.Hawkes, O’Neill, Philip Corder, Miss O’Keefe, all there, about 50 all told.Hamilton Thompson very old, and liable to wander a bit.Hawkes reported on a conference recently held, at which a “National Archaeological Council” was set up.Wonder if anything is likely to come of it?Lot more talk about “post war developement”, so remote as to be quite uninteresting.Three good little papers were read, and they served us with an excellent tea.Heavy rain all the afternoon, and so dark that we had to have the lights on all the time.
Went out across the courtyard to the Academy, first time I have ever been.Struck me as very curious, such an odd mixture.Far too many wishy-washy pictures without character at all.Several portraits of extraordinarily beautiful women, especially Patricia Napier and Mrs. Stephan Hope-Wynne.Another portrait was that of that arch-scoundrel Sir Charles Portal, who is responsible for the systematic destruction of the best cities in Europe, and the murder of countless thousands of defenceless people.
Saw old Sir Gurney Benham’s portrait by Codner, and Rushbury’s lovely drawing of St. Paul’s.He also shows several very charming drawings of little Yorkshire towns.Algernon Newton has two very fine pictures of Beck Hole, near Goathland.Not so many war pictures as I thought there would be.
In almost every gallery the glass roofs leaked, cracked by bombs.When I got out, the weather was clearing up.No balloons up all day, so I kept wondering if there would be an attack.
Went along to the “Monsignor” Cinema at the Marble Arch but the whole place was closed and deserted.Caught a bus to Liverpool St. driven by a very reckless driver, who skidded and lurched in a most alarming way.Had tea at Liverpool St.Huge crowds in the station.Caught 6.40, Manningtree soon after 8.
Worked hard on the [War Agricultural Committee] Minutes, and got the lot done, ready for a day off.Went up to Kingsford to see old Mr. Russell, who has bought a good deal of Doctor Laver’s books.He appears to have been a book-binder, and knows little about the books which he has bought.He has Philip Hill’s copy of Morant's 'History and Antiquities of Colchester', with the annotations, which Mr. Russell thought were Morant’s own notes for the second edition.I looked through the volume again, and suddenly found a section and plan of “Le Stonhous”, which I had quite overlooked.This is of the greatest importance, and is the only record of this very ancient house.Now I shall have to go to considerable trouble to get a copy made.The plan does not, unfortunately, show any orientation, but the house seems to have stood at the High Street end of Pelhams Lane, with an open yard behind reaching back to Culver Street.Hill’s note on the plan states that the place was pulled down about 1730.
Lovely evening.Got back at 8, with a strong following wind.We have had a good deal of wind this year.
More details on the 12th century stone houses of Colchester, to which Rudsdale refers to in this diary entry, can be found on the British History Online website, see 2nd paragraph of the section: 'The Early Middle Ages'. CP