EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

6th September 1943

Rudsdale left for a holiday in Scotland on 6th September 1943 and wrote this unfinished diary entry detailing his journey by train on that day.  There are no further diary entries for his holiday and the wartime diary will resume again on his return to Colchester on 20th September 1943.  CP
Up at 5, in a pale golden dawn.  Joy got up to make me some tea, looking very tall and handsome in her pink dressing-gown.  Got everything strapped on the cycle, and then away up the hill, through the Park, with the dark face of Lawford Hall graciously lovely in the early light, and so to the station in good time.

Took a “monthly return” to Edinburgh.  Booking-clerk seemed quite surprised when I asked for it, and paid £4 odd.  A big flight of American ‘planes went over towards the sea, and I thought with satisfaction that I should not see or hear them again for a fortnight.

Train came in dead on time, at a quarter to 7, the porters shouting “Ipswich, Edinburgh and the North!”  Very few travelling, and had no difficulty in getting a seat.  It seemed quite unreal to find myself actually going at last.  Over the Stour into Suffolk, the roofs of Manningtree glistening in the morning sun under a deep blue sky, with plumes of smoke hanging from the chimneys of Brantham factory.

So to Ipswich, and waited there nearly half an hour.  Several people got in, a Women's Land Army Forestry girl, and a dreadful woman who seemed to be going to Doncaster.  She was being seen off by an even more dreadful woman, who insisted on standing on the carriage step for the whole half hour, with the door open, so that we all froze into blocks of ice, while she carried on an endless and repetitive conversation.

At last we got away, up the Gipping Valley, past Fisons’ huge fertiliser factories.  The Sproughton Sugar beet factory in the distance.  There was field after field of traved barley, which ought to be good money for somebody.  In some places carts were just moving into the fields to begin the days carrying.  More horses than tractors.

So on to Bury St. Edmunds.  Big crowd on the station, including a group of Italian prisoners, dark handsome men, wearing green battle-dress uniforms with round yellow patches on the backs. 

Here a family fought their way into the carriage – father, mother, and two dreadful children, a boy and a girl.  The parents were stunted, faded and ugly, looking as if they always ate the wrong kind of food, and the children were fat, pale, and even uglier than the parents.  They all shouted at one another in strident Yorkshire accents, arguing whether they had to change for Selby or not.

Soon the children demanded food, and were given beetroot sandwiches which they tore to pieces, scattering the fragments all over the carriage, while the mother shouted vainly: “I’ll smack your bums, you see if I don’t!” and the father gazed vacantly at a photo of Durham Cathedral on the opposite wall.

The country soon changed after Bury, and the fields became larger and flatter as we ran into the Fens.  The next stop was Ely, and as the train swung round the bend I saw suddenly that amazing cathedral, rearing up its glorious Norman towers from the level plain, the town clustering around it.

A lot of people got in here, and the children became more and more objectionable, the little girl keeping up a doleful chant: “I want a wee-wee!” and the mother shrieking: “Nonsense!  You’ve just been.  If you don't hold your row I’ll sting you.”  I waited in alarm for disaster, but her holding powers were good.

Now we were rolling through the endless Fens, mile upon mile, sugar beet, potatoes, orchards.  Far away to the right were a few windmills, stunted trees, a sharp hard horizon, and I knew that beyond there lay Wisbech, King’s Lynn and the Wash, where I have never been.  The whole appearance of the scenery became more and more rectangular, scored with dykes, drains, ditches, all as straight as rulers – New Bedford, Old Bedford, and the Wash between them, Vennatt’s Drain, South Forty-Foot – all stretching away like long silver streaks.

Here and there Fordsons were breaking up the stubbles, turning up the lovely black soil as easily as a child drawing its fingers across sand.  Then huge fields of traved barley, pink tumbril-carts with ladders and pairs of horses moving slowly across.  More tumbrils than wagons are used.  Many Land Girls at work, who stood up and waved as the train went by.  The Fens seemed quite endless. I thought at one time that the train would go round by Boston, but it turned to Spalding, and then to Sleaford, a curiously dull looking little town, surround by glass-houses. 

On to Newark and to Lincoln, where I had quite a shock to see how fine and magnificent the Cathedral appeared, perched up high on the hill, with the houses crawling up towards it.  They had a raid here on the same night that Langham aerodrome was bombed, and I saw a wrecked house near the station.  The Ruston-Hornsby Works make a tremendous target, and so dangerously near the Cathedral.  Much want to go to Lincoln to see the Jew’s House.

Then on to Gainsborough, leaving the Fens behind, and at last to Doncaster, where much to my relief, the awful family from Selby got out.  In Yorkshire now, and about half past one saw the great towers of the Minster above the houses.  No signs of raid damage except a house or two down near the station, and the shattered glass roof.  Had to change here, and having half an hour to wait hurried out to send a telegram to Meg [MacDougall of Inverness Museum].  Saw part of the city walls, and the cathedral front, but had not time to see anything more.  Strongly tempted to break my journey here for a night, being most anxious to see this great city, but decided not to and hastily sent the telegram, hurried back to the station and bought a bun and a cup of tea, having had nothing since 5 in the morning.

When the Newcastle train came in I found it was the “Flying Scot”, and was already packed to suffocation, but the huge crowd on the platform all got on board somehow.  As we pulled out, jammed tightly in the corridor, I wondered if I shall ever come to York to live.  [Rudsdale's father's family originated from York and Rudsdale hoped to work at York Castle Museum].

Lot of barley in the York district not yet cut but things are much later in the North.  Aerodromes everywhere.  The noise must be dreadful.

Through huge, black Northallerton and Darlington, with the railway works.  No visible signs of raid damage.  To the west were blue hills and moors, with pit-head gears here and there.

Just after we got through Aycliffe, the train slowed down and finally stopped.  The delay grew longer and longer, and heads began to poke enquiringly out of windows.  I saw the guard and two of the train crew climb down and walk along the track towards the engine, where the driver and fireman were standing looking at the wheels.  Apparently one of the oil boxes had become hot and finally caught fire, so that the train had to be pushed onto a siding, where we sat for 2 hours staring at a field of potatoes.  The only variety in the monotony being when women and children fought their way down the corridors to the lavatory, which then had to be emptied of its occupants before they could use it.

I despaired of ever seeing Scotland today at all, but at last another engine arrived and we moved slowly out of our siding towards Newcastle.  I had hoped to have seen Durham, but we were too far away, and moved on slowly through a maze of pit-heads, factories and railway sidings.

At last, at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, we crawled through Gateshead and across the Tyne, with a brief glimpse of the great river far below, as if at the bottom of a canyon, the sun a great glowing gold ball through smoke and mist.  Across more bridges, above streets of black, sooty stone buildings, and into a vast echoing station, where even at this hour of the day the lamps were alight.  Noticed electric local trains similar to those at London, painted green and red.

And so at last I was over the ancient frontier of the Wall, onwards through Northumberland, an ancient Kingdom, of which I know nothing.  The train was now running near the sea, so that every now and then one caught a glimpse of tossing grey waves, yellow sand, and steep rocky cliffs.  Through Belford, where Hull came from and where his incredibly ancient father is still, as far as I know, the rector.  A few minutes later I saw to the right, Holy Island, grey and green across the narrow water.

Then to the Borough and Town of Berwick on Tweed.  Must come here at some future date, a most interesting town.  Believe that until the beginning of the 19th century the town gates were still locked at night, to prevent the Scots from getting in.  Up to the time of the Union the place retained the full panoply of a state, complete with a Governor, and is still a sort of British Danzig, neither in England nor Scotland

Across the high viaduct, the swift Tweed far below, the estuary full of fishing boats at anchor, and so passed over the border into Scotland.  It was now dusk, and there was little to be seen, but suddenly everybody in the coach stirred and sat up and pointed, and there, battling northwards in the cold dark grey sea, was a convoy of some dozen or more merchant men, rising and falling on the choppy waves, dim and blurred through drizzling rain, with destroyers rushing up and down on the flanks.

On the other side the sun sank below the Lammermuir Hills, we ran through Dunbar, left the coast and turned inland.  Near here, at Gullane near Aberlady, that Joanna Round lived when she was first married.  Then through Inveresk, Portobello, and the outskirts of Edinburgh, the dim black shape of Arthur’s Seat, just as Father described it from his visit half a century ago.  Great blocks of tenement houses, many windows showing friendly blue lights, just as if there was no war at all.  It was half past 8 when we ran into Waverley Station.

Having no definite plans, decided to push on to Inverness if possible, so asked if there was a train through tonight.  There was, starting almost at once.  Ran to buy a ticket, and was startled to find it cost £1.6.0, and then realised that Inverness must be further from Edinburgh than I thought.

Found the Inverness train, (LMS), loaded up the cycle, and could not understand a word that the guard said when he spoke to me.  Train packed, so sat in the corridor on my kitbag.  As the train pulled out, there was just a glimpse of the Scott monument high above the line, looking very unreal in the gloom, yet so exactly like the photograph in Mother’s bedroom.

A few miles more and the train rattled onto the Forth Bridge, the patterns of the gigantic girders sweeping slowly past the carriage windows, foaming waves …


Anonymous said...


What a fascinating post!

His ticket cost the equivalent of £154 today.

Most interesting is the behaviour of the other passengers, when we are always led to believe how polite and well behaved everyone was!

Mike Dennis

Unknown said...

What a shame, I shall miss my daily dose of Rudsdale. But what a fascinating account to end upon.

Maybe one day the lost Rudsdale holiday diaries will come to light!

Keep up the good work CP,



E J Rudsdale said...

Thank you, Mike and Rob, for your kind comments. I very much like Rudsdale's travel account - it is such a vivid description and it's a shame that he either didn't continue it or that the travel diaries were lost.
Thanks Mike, as always, for the information on the equivalent ticket price today. It seems that a similar ticket today would cost about £150 so some things don't change! CP