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.

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