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.


Anonymous said...

Personal memory: Rev. Spray (Rector of St. Mary Magdalene) and his family were our next-door neighbours - two rectories side by side - and Geoffrey Spray (where are you now?) was my best friend at this time.

Rob Little said...

Poor old EJ.

This blog is really wonderful, both the local history, and the personal story combine to make it a daily treat.

E J Rudsdale said...

Many thanks for sharing your memories - much appreciated, CP

E J Rudsdale said...

Many thanks for your kind message, Rob, so glad to hear you are continuing to enjoy the blog. Poor old EJR - I always find his account of this tragic time so moving. Best wishes, CP