30th November 1943

Very bad night.  Throat felt almost closed up, and began to wonder if I had got diphtheria.  Had about 4 hours sleep, and did not wake until 8.  Got in very late.  Planes began to go out towards the coast at dawn, and kept on for about an hour.  High wind, and scudding clouds with blue sky between.  When I got to the office heard that a Flying Fortress had blown up in the air and crashed somewhere towards Fordham.  Captain Folkard had seen 5 men floating away on parachutes, at a great height, and thought that they would probably come down in the sea.

Called to see Mary Ralling at the Essex County Standard office.  She told me that Ella was very annoyed at not seeing me today, and that unless I meet her at the house, she will come to the office.  Asked Mary outright – how long could Father stay?  She said no limit at all.  She and her sister have done more for the old man than I would have believed possible.  Tomorrow I am to see a prospective housekeeper.  I hope to be able to get him to Margery’s for a month, if she will have him.

29th November 1943

Throat a little queer and painful to swallow.  Heard on 8 o'clock news that there has been a hit and run raid – harmless – on the SE Coast yesterday, under the usual cloud cover.  Looks as if that sort of thing will be starting again.

Called at Rallings soon after 9.  Took Father some apples.  He seemed very well.  Busy all morning on Committee work, and barely had time for lunch.  Usual Committee meeting.  Gardener-Church was not there.  There seems to have been some sort of row, I think between him and the Chairman.  Nothing very much done.  Lot of talk about the setting up of a dairy herd, but nothing can be done as we cannot get any buildings repaired.

Saw Joanna and her husband.  Joanna looked wonderfully well.  They are going to Ulster for a holiday.  I wonder how they managed to get permits?

Finished early, and got back to Colchester at 5.  Saw Poulter.  Hull is again ill in bed.  Called at Dedham on the way out, feeling very bad.  Bright starlight night, and a thin crescent moon on its back, and a lot of planes and searchlights at exercise.  Collected two book boxes from the Sissons and finally reached Higham at 11.30.  Very cold.  Had bread and milk.  Throat very painful.

28th November 1943

Lovely quiet night, thick mist.  Rain most of the day.  Stayed warmly in bed until midday, reading “Quiet Street” by Elliot.  Most interesting.  Rest of day writing journal, letters, etc.  Not a soul came near.  When I was in the bath this afternoon heard a lorry near at hand.  Thought it must be the Yanks, but when I went out could see no sign of them.

27th November 1943

Wakened by sirens shortly before 2.  Nothing happened for nearly an hour, then I heard a distant plane, and the Colchester guns fired a salvo.  The plane passed on un-harmed.  Fell asleep and did not hear all-clear.  The Germans are now threatening the most terrible reprisals, but I don't think much will be done before early spring.

Wet, muggy day, fog coming up at night.  Ella was in the house this afternoon, but I managed to dodge her.  Her incessant nagging is unbearable.

Back to Higham at 6.  All set for a thick foggy night.  No sign of the Yanks or the light yet.

26th November 1943

Late again.  Another lovely day.  About 3am this morning I heard All Clear sounding, the first siren for more than a fortnight.  Most people fear that great raids are in the offing.  Many planes going out about 9, white trails in the sky.

25th November 1943

Another brilliant sunny morning, though cold.  Got up rather late, and did not get in until after the District Officer had arrived, which always annoys me.

On the Suffolk side of the river, great mounds of sugar beet, like long barrows, are accumulating by the roadsides, and in every field horses and tumbrils come silently through the mist with fresh loads.  As I went by Langham, Thunderbolt planes were taking off.

The majority of the letters written to myself and Father during the last 10 days say in effect “We are sorry to learn of your Mother’s death – but how lucky she is to be dead!”

Went back to Higham early to have tea there.  Heavy shower of rain as I cycled through Stratford.  All the English radio stations faded at 6.30, so I listened instead to Calais, where the news in English was giving bloodthirsty threats of what is going to happen to us in return for these dreadful raids on Berlin.  

24th November 1943

When I opened the door at 7.30, I found it was a lovely clear morning, with a thin crescent moon hanging just above the leafless trees, and a bright star nearby.  Got in early, as the Chairman was in to interview a farmer.  Then Engledow, the Labour Officer from Writtle came, a most unpleasant fellow, and was with Folkard all morning.  He is trying to get rid of Spencer, on purely personal grounds.  Actually Spencer is extremely hard-working and conscientious.

Another terrible raid on Berlin last night, absolutely pointless, and of no military value whatever.  

Heard that Stuart Rose was ill so decided to call at Boxted, but found it was only a slight cold.  He was recently hit on the head by a chain snapped when tree pulling, and I feared it might have been concussion.  Dodo was watching the baby roll before the fire.  Soon left, and called at Stratford, where Ida gave me a little fish for the cat.  Bright clear evening, brilliant stars, many searchlights playing all over the sky.  No sign of enemy raiders.  When will they come?

10 o’clock – wind getting up, and booming down the chimney.  German stations on the air strong tonight, so no raid on Germany.

Great excitement about Mosley being released.  Thousands of workers howling for his blood.  Seems likely there will be serious trouble in Parliament.

23rd November 1943

Some cloud, and ground mist.  Sharp frost this morning.  Heard on the 8 o’clock news that there was a frightful raid on Berlin last night.  Without doubt the reprisals which the Germans will make during the next few months will destroy many towns in England, and perhaps result in the final destruction of London.

Read “No Rain in the Clouds” by David Smith, an excellent story of farming at West Hanningfield during the last 100 years, very well written.  Father came into the office this morning, looking very well.  

Went out to Higham at 6.30.  Clouds coming up again, and rain beginning.  No planes about and no Americans.  These are the sort of nights I like.

22nd November 1943

Sharp frost this morning, but got warmer later.  Thick fog, with the sun rising through it, burnished orange.  Busy all day, as work is very much behind.  Went round to Rallings at tea time.  Father seemed very well.  Then went up to Ginger Smith’s in Maldon Road, and spent the evening there, talking over old times at the Fire Office, 16 years ago.  Left at 10.30, stars shining bright and frosty, very dark, but no planes about.

Went up to the Cemetery this afternoon.  The grave flat, with a mass of wreaths covering it “Frank and Lydia”, “Douglas, Het and family”, “Father and Eric”, “Mary and Annie R.”  Poor darling little mother.

20th November 1943

Peaceful night and a glorious morning.  Late again, through oversleeping.  As I cycled past Birchwood, I heard the rhythmic thump of wings, and three swans, flying in line, flew over under the pale blue sky, and across the face of the rising sun.  There was mist on the fields, and the tree boles were black against the haze.

Still no sign of Nott this morning.  He must have gone to London for the weekend.  

Father seemed rather feeble today.  Went to see him this afternoon, and sat talking for a while.

Tonight went over to Lawford.  Magnificent red and gold sunset spread across the valley.  Mrs Snow, one of the WRNS and Commander Richardson were there, and we all had a lovely supper.  Joy let me have four eggs.  Mrs Snow is most charming, and full of most amusing stories.

To Higham at half past 10.  Bitterly cold, some ground mist, and the stars glittering frostily.  Not a plane about.

Had a reply today to my advertisement in The Gazette for a housekeeper – a woman who keeps the refreshment room at Witham Station.  Does not sound very suitable.

19th November 1943

Thick white frost this morning.  Got a lift in by the Horticultural van.  Put in a full day, and worked late.  Folkard furious because Nott has calmly gone away for the day, without telling anyone, and entirely neglecting the wages.

Suddenly realised, as I was packing up tonight, that I have nowhere to go to lunch tomorrow except up town.  Never again shall I hear Mother say “Come along, you are late of a Saturday.”

Went into the house today.  Cold and dreary, with a damp mouldy smell.  Mother’s hat is still on the hall chair, where she put it that Wednesday morning, ready to go shopping, but she never went.

Cold and a little misty tonight.  No light at Higham, but the stars twinkling, and a few meteors falling and fading away.

Quite a good piece in the paper tonight about Mother’s funeral.

About 9 a lot of planes began to come back, the Raydon light signalling.  Most of the German radio stations were very dim, then about half past 10 the English stations faded in their turn.  So we go on.

18th November 1943

Lay awake this morning, thinking about Mother.  Got in early, to go to the ploughing match at Olivers.  Went over with Daphne.  It was bright and clear, but very cold.  The eight horse teams, all Suffolks, moved slowly up and down the field, and the cries of the ploughmen as they turned came down the wind.  The caterpillar tractors, Cases and Fordsons chugged up and down between the pegs, each on his own strip.

There was a good crowd there, and the chairman came riding up the field on his bay horse.

Daphne went down to the buildings to wait for the YMCA tea van, which came rather late.  Then everybody went down to the buildings and had plenty of hot tea at 1.5d a cup.  I had ordered 7 dozen meat pies from the Coop, which went very quickly.

The old Chairman was in great form, and thoroughly enjoyed himself talking to the old ploughmen until about half past 3.  The horse teams were unhitched and the 2 Committee teams started back to Wigborough and Mersea, the huge shining Suffolks trotting like ponies, the ploughmen bobbing on their backs.

Got back to the office soon after 4.  Walling rather annoyed because I had kept Daphne out so long, but she does so enjoy going out onto the farms.

Went to see Father and told him all about the match.  He seemed very well.  Left the town at 6, and cycled to the Roses’ at Boxted.  Dodo Rose told me that E M Delafield, the writer, is dying in Oxfordshire.  I have enjoyed her writing for many years.

Was again overcome with sleepiness, and finally curled up in the blankets.  Fine and starlight, but few planes about.

17th November 1943

My Mother’s funeral.  Got up at 8, had a leisurely breakfast.  Fine and cold, fleeting thin clouds.  Dressed in my best blue suit, left 9.30.  Went up to Becket’s to see the wreath Mary had ordered for myself and Father – chrysanthemums, quite hideous.  There was another there, even more repulsive from Uncle Frank and Lydia.

Went to Winnock Lodge, Father seemed very well.  Talked to him cheerfully, told him how lucky he was to be indoors on such a cold day.  To office rest of the morning.

Got back to Winnock Lodge by 2 and found Uncle Frank, Aunt Het and Margery [Rudsdale's cousin] there, with Uncle Bob just coming down the road.  Margery looked just the same, but poor old Bob was very shaking, and seemed on the verge of tears.  I had not expected them to go to Rallings, so as there was only one car Margery and I walked down to the church.  Half the blinds in Winnock Road were drawn, but I had forgotten to lower our own.

Just as we got to Magdalen Street, the old cracked bell clanged out, as I have heard if for a thousand times.  Solomon Sadler, the verger in his black apron, stood by the door, looking like a little wizened rabbit.  There were a few old women in the back pews.  I walked up to the front, into our old pew, where I sat as a child.  It must be 20 years since I was there.  It seemed so small, from what I remembered.  Just in front of me were the two tall trestles.  We knelt, but I could not think of my prayers.  I looked through my fingers at the hideous stained glass window, with my grandfather’s name at the bottom.  Nothing seemed to have changed in 20 years, except that the transept windows are patched with boards, owing to the bombs which fell behind the Alleys a year ago.

The parson came in from the Vestry, and spoke to me to tell me to go out with him when the time came.  I felt terribly cold, and shivered, Margery’s teeth were chattering.  In a very short time, it seemed, the parson signalled to me and walked down the aisle, underneath the gallery which my Father decorated one Christmas long ago.  There were about 20 or 25 people in the church – old Mrs Adams, Mrs Cheshire, Miss Polly Browne, Miss Horwood, all old friends, all sitting there thinking of 40 or even 50 years ago, of coffee in the mornings up town, or chats in the butchers.

Outside stood the motor hearse, and there was my little Mother in a shiny oak coffin, so tiny, almost like a child’s.  There were two or three wreaths on it, and several more on the roof of the car.  Behind the hearse was a car which had brought Mary Ralling, Aunt Het and Ella.  Uncle Frank and Uncle Bob had decided to walk and we had to wait a few minutes, standing in the cold wind, while Aunt Minnie’s old shop, shuttered and closed because it was a Thursday, looked down on the pathetic little scene which must have been enacted there countless hundreds of times.  At last the two old gentlemen came hurrying across the road, their faces red with cold.  The hearse was opened, the undertaker’s men slid Mother out quietly and smoothly, old Mr Becket steadying the coffin and we went across the churchyard, the cracked bell slowly tolling.  Aunt Het walked with me, Ella and Mary Ralling came behind.  

I showed Ella, Aunt and the Uncles into our pew, and the coffin was placed on the tressles.  Becket and his four men retired to the south transept, where they sat on one side and he on the other.

The service was short – first the 23rd Psalm, then some prayers, then a hymn.  Mother was less than a couple of yards away, her head towards me.  It all seemed very dream like.  Every few minutes, tears welled into my eyes, and I had to stare over the top of the coffin at the Crucifixion in the window.

Suddenly I saw Becket’s men come forward again, raise the coffin, shuffle round and walk slowly down the aisle.  We all walked behind again, I and aunt first.  So Mother went out of Mary Magdalen for the last time. 

Outside, the old men who spend their time sitting on the churchyard wall raised their hats as we all got into the cars.  Uncle Bob was not coming to the cemetery, and said goodbye on the pavement, his voice shaking.  I had to sit between Aunt Het and Ella, making chatty remarks about the weather.  Ella, apropos the cold, said “Well I’ve got my winter woollies on.”  Becket drove and the parson sat with him.

We went slowly up Wimpole Road, past the butcher’s and the grocer’s where she so often shopped, past the old house, as it has always been called in the family, where she and all the others were born, past No. 63, past No 1 Harsnett Road, where she began her married life, and where I came into the world.  It is almost exactly 29 years since I peeped round the edge of the blind in the front bedroom of No. 63 and saw my grandmother’s funeral go by, the pall-bearers walking each side of the hearse, the top-hatted drivers high on the box-seats.

As we went past the parked ambulances at the Recreation Ground, an old road-sweeper raised his cap.  Against the railings of Bourne Pond were two Italian soldiers in prison uniform, idly stroking the jennet.  They stared curiously at the little cortege as it swept round the corner.

And so into the Cemetery, up the left had carriage road.  We all got out, myself, Uncle Frank, Aunt Het, Ella, Margery, Mary Ralling, Nurse Horwood.  Mr Wolsey stood nearby, and the two grave diggers, in brown dungarees, were a few yards away.

In a few moments the little coffin was laid on two balks across the grave, and the parson was uttering the words of committal – “… man is born of woman …”  All round us lay the forgotten dead.  I found myself reading the names on nearby stones.  Every name meant suffering like this.  Then, in a few seconds, the four bearers lowered the coffin into the grave.

When the parson came to the words “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” Wolsey stepped forward, picked a few crumbs of soil from beneath the green carpet and dropped them into the grave, so that they fell rattling on the coffin.  

By now I was near tears, and felt I could not bear to ride home, so I asked Marjery to walk with me which bless her she did.  I shook hands with the parson and thanked him and the organist – “my wife”, he said, thanked Becket and Wolsey, who gave me a white card, inscribed –

“Borough of Colchester                       Cemetery Dept.”
Agnes Rudsdale                                  Age: 76 years
Section                        Division          Space              Date of Int.
    M                               9                    45                 17/11/43
Purchased 6ft.

You take your Mother to the Cemetery, and they give you a receipt, that is all.

Walked with Margery, talking, and she was most kind.  Offered to take the old man, but I know this would be most inconvenient for her.  I know too that she has a real affection for him.  At the house they were all having tea in the sitting room, while Father stayed in the front parlour, as he felt he could not face them.  The Rallings could not have been kinder.  It was now only half past three – the whole business had taken no more than an hour – and they all decided to catch the 4 o’clock train, so as not to be in London after dark, in case of a raid.  Much tearful kissing, and they went, Aunty clinging to my hand, and said, “You will write, wont you?” 

I decided to go as soon as I could.  Father looked tearful, and I am sure that if we had both stayed together there would have been a complete breakdown.  Went up to the Essex County Standard Office, and checked the list of wreaths, etc for this week's paper.  Saw Hervey, who was most sympathetic.  Then left for Dedham, cycling in the dusk.  At Dedham, was made welcome and fed.  Marjorie Sisson let me talk unrestrainedly.  Left at 10, and went to Higham, where I found the light working.  A few planes were about, and searchlights wavered against the clouds, but there was no raid.

Well, tomorrow is another day.

16th November 1943

Late again.  Fine, but bitterly cold.  A quiet night, in fact there has not been a siren since Monday week.  

15th November 1943

Did not sleep well owing to intense cold.  Woke at 6.30, pouring with rain but the rain stopped before 8.  Changed into my riding breeches for the first time for months.  Left rather late, and cycled slowly to Dedham, fearing my chain would break at any moment.

Left cycle at Cottee’s [the cycle repairers] and called on Sissons.  Went into Colchester on the bus, borrowed Poulter’s cycle, went home, collected letters.  Went to the Registrar’s Office, but half an hour late, so Marsh rudely refused to register the death.  Then on to Becket’s, the undertaker's.  He told me that Jones, the schoolmaster, is dead.  He was only 49, a huge Welshman, born at Tregavon, near Aberystwyth.  I liked him very much at school, and frequently met him at the Seymour’s.  I shall always remember his deep rumbling voice, kindly smile and short black hair “embrosse”.   He played the cornet very well.

Committee at Birch.  Nothing very much.  Went back to Dedham with Moorhouse, and collected a cycle.  Went to Sissons', and they again gave me supper, as much as I could eat.  Afterwards looking at Caldecott’s drawings, Weever’s funeral monuments, a 1st Edition of Sylvia Sylvarun etc. Seven Pillars.  Mrs. Sisson mentioned that the Lawrence’s father was an Irish baronet, who ran away with his daughter’s governess, a girl named Lawrence.  They went to live at Oxford, and adopted the name of Lawrence.  The former governess is still alive, a very fierce old lady interested in missionary work.

Left at 10, driving rain, and went over to Higham.  Searchlight not on tonight.

14th November 1943

Father had a fair night.  I woke at 6.30, and could hear Mary Ralling moving about below stairs.  She is always a very early riser.  Lay thinking about Mother.  I am tormented with the thought that I ought to have stayed at the Infirmary all through the night.  Yet what good would it have been when she was unconscious?

Fine morning.  Funny to see the other side of Winnock Road, or rather our side.  [The Ralling family lived opposite the Rudsdale family in a house called Winnock Lodge].  From the back I can see the house where Aunt Kate lived, the Blomfield’s old house, where Molly lived as a child, the rectory of Mary Magdalen and the office roof in the distance.  It is almost like living in a village street.

Bitterly cold, and rain came on.  A few planes about.  Had a lovely breakfast, read and wrote until lunch.  Then went over to the house, which looks horrible, decayed, neglected.  Mother’s chair where she left it, dirty linen and crockery all over the place.

To office and wrote letters to the family.  Tonight called at Holly Trees and saw Poulter.  Went back to Winnock Lodge, and then to Higham.  Tearing bitter wind.  Cycle chain almost broken, must get it mended.

Found the red light flashing but no planes about.

13th November 1943

My mother is dead.  When I got up this morning, I wondered if I had a mother or not, and cycled in in a sort of dream.  Tried to phone from a box in Ipswich Rd, but got a wrong number.  Went onto East Bay, and had to wait while a lorry driver had a lengthy conversation.  The man finally left the box, I went in, dialled 3259, (burring tone) a brisk voice said “Yes?”, and I asked “How is Mrs. Rudsdale?”  The voice said “Well, old chap, I’m sorry to have to tell you your mother passed away in the night.  I don't know quite what time, but somewhere about 2.”  The traffic went through East Bay, and I could see the plume of smoke from East Mill chimney.  Nothing changed, but Mother was gone.  I said, “All right, thank you I will come along right away.”  The voice replied “Oh, no need to hurry you know.  Any time.”  I hung up.

Went up the hill wondering how to tell Father.  Poor little Mother, poor ‘darling dear’.  Decided to phone Uncle Frank.  Rang Purley and got through in a minute.  Frank said “Oh, poor Dot.  Did she pass peacefully?” and asked me to make arrangements to bury her in Grandma’s grave.  I had never known that he owned this.  Phoned Dr Rowland, who seemed surprised.  Warned me to be careful in telling Father, suggested I should say she was very bad, and then later tell the truth.

Phone office to tell Daphne.  She asked after Mother at once, and my voice broke when I answered.  Phoned Rallings, and told Annie, begged her to say nothing to Father until he had had his breakfast.

Went to the Infirmary.  Sister Palmer there, the same noise, babies, crockery.  I could see through the door the little cot being stripped, the other cots looking just the same, the old jibbering woman etc.  The Sister began “I’m sorry to say – “ but I said “Yes I know”. She handed me a little bundle of clothes, - pink dressing gown, night dress, woolly coat.  “These are her’s.  Will you take them?”  I looked at the pathetic little things, so tiny, quite speechless, tears running down my face.  At last I managed to say “Yes – later.”

Sister said “They took her wedding ring.  The Master has it.  I’ll send you over he wants to see you.  Nurse, go with Mr Rudsdale.”  A young nurse came forward, her scarlet lined cloak on her shoulders.  We went out into the yard, rain was falling.  She said “Horrid weather, isn’t it?”  I said “Yes, but it’s been so very good up to now.”  Through the corridors, an aged pauper, sweeping the stone passage said “Good morning, nurse, good morning Sir”.  I said “Good morning” very firmly.

Collins (the Master) was in his office.  He said “Oh good morning Mr Rudsdale, I’m sorry to say” – I said “Yes, I know.”  He said “Here’s her wedding ring, I haven’t got the certificate yet.”  I took the little gold ring, that had been on Mother’s finger for nearly 40 years, and put it in my pocket case.  I could not speak for tears. Collins picked up two bits of shell casing from the mantelpiece.  “Nasty things those.  Fell in the grounds the other night.  I should imagine they’d go right through a tin hat.  Shows you can’t be too careful.”  I agreed.

We went out into the yard, where the Porter stood, a becomingly woe be gone look on his face in drizzling rain.  Collins said "Well, goodbye old chap.  Keep your pecker up.”  He shook hands and left.  

I cycled round Manor Rd and Rawston Rd for 10 minutes to regain my composure, and then called at Beckett’s [the undertakers] in Balkerne Lane.  Old Beckett was most kind, and looked as distressed as if a friend had died, yet how many thousand times must he have had these hideous interviews.  I left everything to him, but asked for an oak coffin.  He will take her direct to the church.

Saw Parson Spray, arranged Wed 2.30.  Had lunch up town, then to Infirmary and collected Mother’s little things.  Ella there when I got back, very bossy.  We went over to the house and she put me through various questions – where would we live?  why did I go to Beckett?  how many cars would there be?  why had I chosen Wednesday? – a bad day, Stanley couldn’t come.  As if I cared.  Then she said “What are you going to do with her clothes?”

Tea at Winnock Lodge, then decided to go to Dedham.  It was unpardonable to go as a wet blanket and hang oneself out at the Sisson’s but I had to.  Mrs. Sisson was wonderful.  Sent Sisson out and let me cry in comfort gave me a wonderful supper, soup, liver, red wine.  Left at 11, very dark and damp.  No planes tonight.  Father in bed, sleeping peacefully.

Ella told me that at 2.15 this morning she was awakened by 2 loud knocks, and opened the door, but there was no one there, just the empty moonlit street.

12th November 1943

Had a good night, no dreams.  Wakened by Stuart Rose at 7.30, wet, windy morning.  Got in by 9.  Busy on agenda etc, and designing poster for ploughing match.  Went out 11.30 to see Father.  This afternoon had tea with Daphne and then went to hospital – Mother very bad.  The old woman in the next bed still murmured to herself.  Told Matron that if she died in night, not to send a message.  Let Father have one more peaceful night.   A nurse told me that last night she suddenly spoke quite clearly, and said “Has Gordon come yet?”  I have never heard of anyone of that name.  What distant ghost is this that she meets in the shades?

Went to Winnock Lodge – told Father there was no change, and told the Rallings the truth.  No sign that Ella had made any arrangements to take him.  Stanley has doubtless prevented her.  The old saying – “You can choose your friends, but not your relations”.  

Went up to office, and phoned Uncle Frank Webb (Rudsdale's mother's brother).  Got through in less than a minute.  A woman’s voice, Scotch accent, answered – my Aunt Lydia, whom I have not seen for 14 or 15 years.  Frank came on the line, and I told him little hope, and asked him to let Aunt Het know.  Phoned Dr Rowland, but he was not very perturbed, and said he would visit tomorrow.  Felt just a little relieved. 

Back to Winnock Lodge for an hour, and then went to Higham.   Huge full moon, and some clouds floating across.  Few planes about, but the lighthouse at Higham not working. Strange.

11th November 1943

Again slept well.  Fine, sunny morning.  Mother better, chatted to me naturally for a few minutes.  To office, and then to Dr Penry Rowland’s.  Had to wait an hour, during which heard most interesting conversation between 2 patients – a woman and old Mr Buckingham, whose house was blown up in Essex St. last year.  Old Buckingham wanted to know why, if you killed a lot of men you didn’t know, you got the VC, but if you killed one you hated, you were hung.  “There’ll be a lot of murders done when our boys come home, they’ve been trained for nothing else.”  The woman agreed, and went on to say that her son had volunteered when he was 18 – “silly little fool”, and now he wished he hadn't.  In the Essex St raid old Buckingham’s wife was killed, and his daughter injured, but I gathered from the conversation that she had recovered.

Got a letter to the Infirmary.  Rowland urged the necessity of getting Mother in at once, and said he was convinced Father was on the verge of collapse.  Went straight down to the Infirmary.  I kept thinking this is the end, this is where we all come.  Aldous Huxley, “The Brave New World”.

Mr Robson at the Infirmary said he would send for the ambulance at once, so I rushed home to warn Father.  He took it very well, but cried a little.  Mother was lucid, and I told her gently what must be done.  She said “No, no, it’ll kill me” but I insisted on how Rowland had advised it, and she agreed, saying “I want to get well quick”.  I said “Yes, you shall be back by Christmas.”  “Christmas!” she said.  “I should think I shall”, her voice quite strong.

I did not know quite what to do, as I wanted to see Ella about taking the old man for a few nights, and I felt I could not bear to see her taken away, so I went quickly across the Abbey Field, the AA guns shining in the sun, and saw Ella.  To my surprise, she and Stanley were not at all keen, and made excuses, Pat coming home, no bed aired, etc.  I was surprised, and worried, but went to phone box and phoned Miss Ralling at the Essex County Standard Office, who at once asked Father to stay there.

To town for lunch, then back to the Infirmary.  I found the matron’s office.  She was a pleasant, kind woman and sent a young girl clerk to show me the way to the ward, along more miles of cold concrete, green paint, and water pipes.  I felt terribly depressed.  At last found the place, and there was Mother.  In the next cot an old woman with bright brown hair stirred grumbling to herself.  Mother knew me, and asked after Father.  I said “Do you want anything?” and she said “Yes, some licorice all-sorts”.  I stayed half an hour and then left.  I spoke to the sister, a very pleasant young woman, and told her not to let Mother know where she really was.  Poor darling, how she would hate to know.  Cried a lot both there and on the way home.

Left at 7.30 and suddenly decided I must talk to someone and went over to the Roses at Boxted.  As I went along the Straight Road, under the brilliant full moon I heard the sound of Boxted Church Bells, pealing over the silent misty fields, to celebrate Armistace Day.  How well I remember this day, 25 years ago.  Dodo very kind, listened to all my troubles, fed me, and then, as I dozed off as I sat, put me to bed among warm blankets with a hot water bottle.

10th November 1943

Raw, foggy morning.  Called in at midday, she lay with her eyes open, and spoke in a whisper.  Asked me again if I had enough to eat, ran her hand over my head and said “You’ve had your haircut” which I had.  

When I went up town, I thought of all the streets and shops where Mother loved to go, the cafes where she drank tea and coffee, where she will never go again.

Papers full of gloom today over Churchill’s speech at the Guildhall yesterday.

This evening went to see the May’s about a housekeeper, but nothing doing, then called on Molly Blomfield at Trinity St, where my distress overcame me and we had a highly emotional scene, as I wept unrestrained, tormented by vain regrets.  She was very kind although she has obviously suffered terribly over the death of her brother.

Later on phoned Dr Rowland, and he advised Mother being sent to the Infirmary.  Tonight, in bed, I told Father, and he took it well, but said “Oh, it’ll kill her” and that he wished he was dead.

Brilliant moon tonight, yet no raids.

8th November 1943

This morning Aunt Het and Uncle Frank came.  Aunt looked dreadfully cut up.  As she walked in, dressed very smartly, I thought of all the times she had walked in to come to stay with us.  Mother knew them both but was very weak.  I wanted them to stay overnight, but they would not because of the raids on London.  

Went up town at 6, and found café shut.  A grey evening, a light mist beginning to fall.  Went out to Rose’s cafe, through the ghostly churchyard, but she was shut too.  The streets full of wandering crowds, soldiers and girls, heading for cinemas.  Went into the milk bar in John St.  Very full, wireless blaring out news “… heavy casualties when a London dance hall and milk bar was struck last night.”  2 WLA girls next to me, with a Canadian.  4 women behind the counter, one quite young and good looking, who served me, and an elderly dishwasher with feathers like a Red Indian Squaw.  Had beans  on toast, v. good and coffee.

Back to Culver St. to collect items for Mother from St John’s Ambulance.  The lady in charge was little old Miss Johnson, who used to teach me drawing in 1919.  These medical requisites are lent out at extraordinary small charges.  I must make a reasonable contribution.  Misty now, and quite wet, grey, dream like landscape.  Went home and found Aunt and Uncle both gone – I was sorry.  Mother seemed to be much improved, and talked rationally about the visit.

Rain quite heavy tonight.  At 11, to my surprise, a siren.  One plane came over, but I think RAF.  Are they coming every night, no matter what the weather?

7th November 1943

Curious how I sleep so well now.  Had a lovely night, and when I woke had to think a few minutes before I realised what was happening.  Bright sun, but bitterly cold with a NW wind.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Mother quite sensible, talked about Uncle Frank and Aunt Het.  Seems no reason at all why she should not get better – her colour good, her voice quite firm.  Nurse Horwood thought she was decidedly better, but everybody only says “Dr has no hope – 3 or 4 days at the most”, but I refuse to give up hope.  Father was upset after breakfast, and cried a bit.

The poor little dear looked dreadfully frail as she lay in bed, listening to the church bells.  She said “There’s Magdalen bell.  I must go to church as soon as I get a new hat”.  Poor darling, she’ll never go there again.  She keeps complaining that she cannot sleep, yet she dozes most of the day. 

Washed and shaved and went over to Rallings.  Phoned Ipswich, to give Douglas a message for Uncle Bob.  His voice came through clear and I recognised it at once.  Have not heard him or seen him for something like 14 years.  He promised to give Uncle Bob the message.

Went to see Poulter.  He said “Don't give up hope.  Dr Rowland is always pessimistic”.  Listened to radio, had a laugh and went home to lunch.  There was a ceremony at the War Memorial – Armistace Sunday, British Legion, with three banners a lot of elderly civilians, wearing medals, two trumpeters, who rang out the Last Post and the Reverill under the cold blue sky.

Poulter says he heard from Hull that 18 planes raided Ipswich on Wednesday.  They are said not to have been recognised as enemy until the bombs fell.

All day I was hoping for a cloudy wet night.  Ella came in, and said she had found £8.10.0 in Mother’s wardrobe, a little hoard for a “rainy day” and a little box full of pathetic “In Memoriam” cards – who was Ann Rix, who died in 1889?  She must have been a girl friend of Mother’s.  Also a few little bits of Victorian jewellery.  There was her engagement ring, a gold brooch and an amethyst pendant.  Ella said “I don't want to say anything now of course but your Mother did say that if anything happened to her, Pat could have that brooch, and of course the amethyst was your Aunt Julia’s and I was her god child …”  And Mother not yet dead.  However, I let her take the stuff for safety, to lock in [her husband] Stanley’s safe.  

Went to the office at 5.30 and phoned Maidenhead Police.  Got through in a few seconds, and asked the phone girl to send a message to go to Aunt Het, for her to come tomorrow.  Whatever happens, she must come, as Mother wants to see her.

Darkness came on, with a few signs of clouds, but they drifted away, and the brilliant moon hung in the sky.  Feel terribly nervous about another raid.  Oh for pouring rain.  Had tea at café.  Wireless full of Russian victories.  3 planes down last night over E. Anglia, so there must have been quite a raid somewhere. 

Have human beings ever gone through quite such a hell as this before? 

Went to Parsons Heath to see a Mrs Birdewell, as housekeeper.  She agreed to come, but will not sleep in, as she is terrified of raids.  She gave me great details of the terrors which she suffers, while I listened with polite superiority, every horror being exactly the same as I suffer myself.  Told me about her son being killed, a radio operator in a bomber, and showed me a photo of a group at his station, all boys of 18 and 19.  Everyone now dead. 

As I left I mentioned that a fog was creeping up.  She said “Thank goodness, we shall have a quiet night”.  Then, after a pause, “but it wouldn’t do every night, because our boys couldn’t go out.”.

6th November 1943

Wakened by Father at 5, and heard it raining hard, which made me selfishly glad.  Father was trying to say something but could not, and he struggled so hard to get it out that I was frightened he would make himself ill.  [Rudsdale's father had suffered a slight stroke in 1936 which affected his speech]  Later he said “Where are we?”  I said “In the middle bedroom you old silly”.  He must have been dreaming.

Got up at 7.30, pouring rain, dark and cold.  Mother sleeping, breathing easily.  Is she really sleeping or is she getting weaker?  Called in at 12, just as District Nurse arrived.  Mother lay, quiet, breathing gently, with her eyes not quite shut.  I believe she is unconscious, not asleep.

Called again at 2.30, and found her being fed, and apparently no worse.  This afternoon called on Sissons, and told Mrs Sisson all my troubles.  She was most sympathetic and will try to help.  Her cat has been poisoned, it is thought through picking up War Agricultural Committee rat poison.  Thousands of cats have been killed in this way, by sheer wicked carelessness.

Went on to Higham, in bright moonlight.  Very cold.  Did not stay long.  On the way back there was an alarm as I reached Mile End Hall chase.  I panicked.  I cut through the path to St John’s Road, and went down to Parson’s Heath.  One or two planes came in from the east, one showing lights, but in spite of this guns from Wivenhoe fired at it. 

Went to the phone box by the Royal Oak, and tried to phone the Rallings, but their number was engaged.  I was at once filled with the fear that they were phoning the doctor because Mother was worse.  More planes came in, and there was a lot more firing, but no bombs dropped.  My teeth were chattering.  Then I went back along to Severalls Lane, and so right down to North Station.   The All Clear went as I went along Turner Road.  At the station I again tried to phone Rallings, but the number was still engaged.  This put me in such a state that I cared for nothing but to get home, and even another alarm as I went down Botolph’s Street – no further tremors.  As the sirens died down a plane dived down low across the town.  I didn’t dare go home, so I went to Rallings.  The reason why I could not reach them on the phone was that a neighbour had been using it for half an hour.  I said “How is she?”  Both the Miss Rallings looked sad, and Mary said “The Doctor says there’s no hope.  He says 3 or 4 days.”  I felt horribly depressed.  Poor darling little Mother.

She was asleep when I went in, and had taken no notice of the alarms.  We all sat up until the all clear, which was not until half past one.  Father looked very tired.

5th November 1943

Strange to wake up in the middle bedroom at home.  I have not slept there since I was ill in 1920 – 23 years ago.  Mother was asleep when I went down, and pulled the curtains.  She woke, and spoke to me very sensibly, and asked what was the nurse’s name.  I told her Mrs Low, and she said “She’s got a nice face”.  A grey morning but signs of the sun behind the clouds.  Nurse Horwood came over, looking very glum, and said she thought Mother was worse, yet her colour is better.

A lot of bombers went over this morning, above clouds. Went up town to lunch, at Rose’s.  She was most friendly.  At Headgate, saw a great confusion of traffic, and then through the middle of it came Mr and Mrs Law from Horkesley, with a beautifully painted Suffolk cart and a young bay horse, which they were breaking, he running alongside.  Some Americans passing by stopped and stared.

Saw Mother again.  She seemed fairly comfortable.  Went off early to Ministry of Labour to try for a housekeeper.  Then to Higham, alarmed to see the sky clearing of clouds, and the moon shining out.  Feared another attack tonight.  

Spent a few hours at the cottage, writing and thinking. Pleasantly bilingual touch in the Essex County Standard, an advert for a tin bungalow at Tiptree called “La Clacham”.
Listened to the radio, mostly to hear if it faded, but nothing happened until after 9 when Home Service died away.  I had to go then in any case, and as I hurried away a great scarlet light was still flashing on top of the hill, although planes were about.  The moon was misty.  Called at the pub. and saw George, who told me this apparatus was permanent.  Most alarming.  Can't even lock up the house.  All my stuff and Conran’s in there.

The All Clear sounded as I went by Ardleigh Crown.  I felt horribly nervous and depressed as I neared Colchester, wondering about Mother, but when I got in she was sleeping peacefully, and they said she had slept since 6 o’clock.  She woke for a few minutes and talked sensibly to me, although she did not know Rowland had been.

4th November 1943

Had a good night, slept well.  Up at 7, foggy cold morning.  Streets full of Paxmans men and girls going to work.  Home to breakfast.  Mother had a good night, slept quietly.  Nurse Horwood with her all night.  She seemed very clear this morning, and talked to me.  Miss Bevan came in to do out the house, and Ella came in.  Washed and shaved.  It seemed strange to be using the old bathroom again. 

Snowball, who lives at Ipswich, was very nonchalant about last night's affair.  Said there was great damage, a good many houses damaged.  Snowball had 5 windows blown in, and thinks Bartholomew’s Church was badly damaged.  Another bomb fell in the road at the junction of Nacton Rd and Gainsborough Rd.

This afternoon went over to Higham.  The tree had been cut up and the electric light was on again.  Made myself tea, and sat listening to radio.  Unfortunately dozed off, and missed Tommy Handley which I always enjoy.  There was a Welsh programme on, and I cried openly when I heard the dear Welsh voices.  Cymn fach, o Cymn fach.

About 9 the Germans came over again, but only for about half an hour.  The clouds were very low, obscuring the moon.  After the all-clear, some RAF planes came about to give the searchlights practice, as many as a dozen lights coming on at once, casting an unearthly glow, like giant candles, reflecting from the clouds.  It was so quiet I could hear the words of command being shouted in the valley of Blackbrook.

Home 10.30, praying for a quiet night.  Phoned Dr Rowland who said glumly that he thought Mother was not holding her own.  

3rd November 1943

On this day 70 years ago, Eric Rudsdale's mother suffered a severe stroke.  The main account of this sad event is published in the book 'E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester' but I include some additional details here, which for reasons of space could not be included in the book.

Spent most of last night writing, and slept in the armchair by the fire.  Lovely morning, sun rising through the mists.  Got in in good time and was getting well into my work when one of the girls brought me a letter [to say that Mother was not well].

I felt quite cold.  Capt. Folkard was just going out, so I left as soon as he had gone, hurried down the road and went in the house.  She was on father’s side of the bed, her face pinched.  Her right hand clutched mine, and she said “Oh Eric dear, I’ve had a fall”, her voice was thick there were tears in her eyes.  I saw at once what had happened – a stroke, her left hand and leg were quite dead.  

Outside women went past with prams, a milk cart, and the dust men came down the road.  The sun shone in a clear blue sky, and a big flight of American planes went over, out to sea.

Dr Rowland came in at 1 o’clock.  He said her blood-pressure was enormous, and there was nothing to be done but to keep her quiet and hope.  I suggested, and he agreed, that she ought to sleep downstairs, and in less time than I could have imagined Ella and Nurse got her out of bed into a chair, I got the bed to pieces and downstairs.  Then we carried her down in the chair, crying quietly to herself.  As we came slowly down the stairs, I remembered the day in 1914, when as a tiny boy, I saw old Grandma Webb being helped down the stairs at Wimpole Lodge, by Mother and Aunt Het, muttering “I want the little dear” meaning grandfather.  Mother said “Old Mr Rose [her neighbour, who had recently died] was brought downstairs, wasn’t he?”

The great worry is to get a permanent housekeeper.  There was an advert in The Gazette, from a woman at Boxted, so I thought I would go over and interview her.  Also I had to go to Higham, to feed the cat.

The sun sank into a bank of fog, and the crescent moon hung in the southern sky.  I felt sure there must be a raid, and prayed for the fog to thicken.  I wondered what Mother would do, and was glad the bed was at last downstairs.  At 20 to 7 the sirens wailed out.  I had no fear, but intense anxiety.  I went down the road like the wind through gathering mist up East Street, up Ipswich Road.  A plane went over, very high, searchlights feeling for it.  Crowds of Americans going up the town, and children playing outside their houses, stopping to gaze into the sky.  I cycled as fast as I could, my heart very painful.  More and more planes came over from the E. and heavy firing began, hundreds of shells bursting in little pinpoints of fire.  Then flares fell out of the sky, far ahead.  One lot were red and yellow, and formed a V, one leg red and the other yellow.  I thought it was over Stratford, but as I got to the top of Gunhill I saw it was really much further away.  The firing was deafening, and I was terrified that shell splinters might come down.  A despatch rider pulled up and shouted “OK for Colchester?”  I shouted “Straight on”, and he roared away in the mist.

It was obvious that the attack was on Ipswich, and was pretty bad.  I should think at least 2 dozen planes must have gone over.  Now the noise was dying away, but there were vast flashes lighting up the sky.

Went down the chase by the cottage, and found it blocked by a huge fallen tree.  My first thought was that it must have been blown over by a bomb, and I wondered vaguely if the cottage was still there, but when with difficulty I had crawled over and through the fallen branches I found the trunk had been cut through.  Got into the cottage, only to find the electric light was dead.  Everything happens at once.

The firing had stopped now.  Fed the cat, left a note for George, and away again in the fog to Boxted.  The moon had gone, and the stars were dim and faint.  As I went towards Rivers Hall, I heard sirens again, and firing, and the sound of planes in the fog.  Saw the Roses.  Dodo knew the woman I was looking for, so after a mug of tea and a piece of bread, I went down the hill, and up to the village.  Found the house, but the woman refused to take a job in Colchester “because of the raids”.  Who can blame her?  Away to Colchester, the night black fog thickening.  Far away in the distance I could hear the rumble of the naval guns at Harwich.  At North Station the lights were on, and a light under the bridge, throwing great arcs through the fog.  Soldiers and people just come off a London train.  In Head Street an American lorry went through full of police, armed with tommy guns, one of whom swung a powerful light from side to side as they went slowly through the fog, picking up dim figures standing in shop doorways.

Home at 11.  Mother sleeping.  Went over to sleep at the Rallings, as I had no bed.  Nurse Horwood and Father sitting up with Mother.

2nd November 1943

Up at 6.30, pitch dark, clouds and fog.  Surprised to hear on the news that there has been an attack last night at dusk – at the very time when I was in Holly Trees, thinking myself quite safe on account of rain and falling darkness. 

Very low clouds, drifting across from the SE, but they cleared, and the sun came through at times.  Great excitement, as were moving the office today to 96 Military Road.  The house is on the corner of New Town Road, a pleasant place about 40 years old, facing Camp Villas.  I am sharing an office with Capt. Folkard in front.  From the back window you can see the roof of 66 Winnock Road (Rudsdale's parents' house).

This evening the sky cleared, and the crescent moon showed and I was most anxious to get away as soon as I could in case of attack.  When I reached Higham just after 7 the radio was dead, but came on strong before 8.  As I walked up the hill I thought I heard a very distant siren and a bump, perhaps Ipswich.

1st November 1943

A very rushing day.  Mist and high cloud this morning, rather damp. Went over to Wormingford in Young’s lorry, cycle in the back, and put the men on to loading up timber from Ball’s Farm.  Got there just in time, as the Americans were about to take everything remaining for firewood.  Saw Chief Engineer about the demolition of Harvey’s Farm, and then cycled back to Colchester by 11 o’clock.  Took Father some apples, back to the office, and then to Birch for the War Agricultural Committee.

The arrangements of the ploughing match proposed at Olivers were discussed, and the Chairman was furious because the War Agricultural Executive Committee at Writtle had tried to take over the whole thing.  Finally agreed that we should carry on without any help from Writtle at all.  It got dark early, and a wet drizzling mist came up, which I was glad to see, as it probably means a quiet night.

I hate the cat to catch mice, although I know she must, as the place is overrun with them.  Tonight she caught and brought one into the sitting room to play with.  I tried to hit it with a shoe, but she would not let me, and finished it off in a few minutes.  Then she caught another, and there was a most horrible scene as the tiny thing fought back at her.  Every time she put it down, instead of running away it staggered towards her, nipping with its tiny jaws, once actually made her cry out.  At last after what seemed like hours of squeaking and growling it died and she ate it.  A few minutes later she was sitting on my knee, purring.