7th October 1943

High clouds, wind dropped, weather rapidly clearing.  Got in early today. 

In the papers this morning there is news about 3 Yanks who escaped from a Detention Camp in the Midlands.  One was serving a life sentence for desertion, another 10 years for being absent without leave.  I suppose the American authorities impose these savage sentences so that both English and American publics may think that the U.S. Army is ruthless and efficient.

Went down to Hythe this morning to see Captain Chambers on the “Gold Belt”.  The little barge was lying at Parry’s Quay, near the Neptune.  The tide was right out and I had to get on board with a ladder.  Just opposite was the M.S. Gladonia, unloading timber from Inverness – I believe this is the first timber brought to Colchester direct for nearly 2 years.

Capt. Chambers was very glad to see me, and took me down into his cabin.  I have not been in a barge's cabin for about 25 yrs, when my old uncle George took me on board one of Beckwith’s boats, one Sunday morning.  Everything was packed into an incredibly small space, a fixed table, swinging oil lamp above, two bunks like Scotch wall-beds, oil cans lying about, a smell of paraffin everywhere.  We had a long talk about labour problems and the extraordinary habits and manners of young boys, their unwillingness to learn, etc.  I told him I longed to make a trip with him, but it could not be done at present.  He suggested mildly that next summer would be a better time.

Chambers is certainly a most amazing man, and must be one of the youngest barge shippers now afloat.  He told me that he did not think sailing barges would carry on for more than a year or two after the war.

While I was there P.C. Bennell came on board about Chambers taking photos.  Apparently there has been a hell of a row yesterday, and Chambers had to see Col. Stockwell [Head of the Police in Colchester].  Stockwell of course refused to give him a written pass.  I advised him to get a War Damage pass from the “Listener”. 

Had tea at Culver Street.  At Stratford, noticed that Ida was back, so called in.  She believes Blair [Hughes-Stanton - her partner] may be repatriated from Germany under a new arrangement which is at present being worked out.  

Just after nine we heard sirens, planes, and distant gunfire.  I was very nervous, and was without trouble prevailed upon to stop for supper.  Shortly after 10 a considerable number of planes began coming in over Harwich, very high, and passing S.W. towards London.  There was a half moon, very thin high cloud and mist.  We saw several planes gleaming in the searchlights, but the firing was as wild as usual.  As one plane passed somewhere south of Colchester, the Colchester guns fired in the opposite direction.

A lot of curious rocket shells went up, looking for all the world like a firework show.  This is the biggest raid I have seen since the attack on Chelmsford last May.  Once we saw a huge slow red flash towards Colchester like a mine explosion.  I left at 10.30 when all was quiet, except an RAF plane dropping crimson flares.  Got to Higham and fed cat when the All Clear rang out, surprisingly loud, from Raydon, I think, immediately followed by the church striking 11.  Glad my old people now get to bed.  Sat listening to radio until 1am.  Heard on midnight news that 2 planes were brought down this evening – 2 out of about 100 I should think.

No comments: