29th January 1944
Up late, lovely morning. Had intended to go to Fordham, but finally went to
Colchester by way of Langham and
Boxted. Cycled slowly by the ‘Shepherd
& Dog’, along Hundred Lane,
and passed Boxted Chapel to the Straight
a lot of little thatched cottages there are in that area, all like Little Rivers
and the Higham cottage. The majority
must date between 1500 and 1550, and seem to indicate settled arable farms at a
fairly early date. It is interesting to
see that these houses do not occur in the heavy land parishes south of Colchester, and I hope to prepare a map of the district
showing their distribution. Surely their
absence on the heavy land must show that it was not cleared in the 16th
century? Worth looking into.
at 12.30. Looked in at the market, very
little there. No fat stock for grading,
a few calves, about a dozen cows and a score of pigs.
This afternoon went on the Market to see one or two Committee members and then to the ‘Regal’ to see ‘ThisDemi-Paradise’, the experiences of a Russian in
England. Quite good.
Called at home, saw Father, then called at the Rallings. Annie is far from well, and has great pain in her back and one leg. It seems very ominous to me, as she has had it a month now. I have known two other cases with the same symptoms, both cancers.
Fed the donkey, and then decided to go to Lawford. Thick, low clouds, so I thought we might reckon on a quiet night, but just as I turned into the mill drive a plane flew over and then sirens began to sound all around. I walked up to my old perch on the hill, rather nervous. Saw two cars, Frank Girling’s and Mrs. Snow’s, and felt I had come on the wrong night. Decided to wait outside until the ‘all-clear’ came. A few more planes hummed over in the cloud, then suddenly guns began to fire, and a great mass of planes came over, flying west and N.W. The searchlights by the buildings came on with a blinding flash, so that the house and trees glowed like some scene in a nightmare. I was terrified that one plane, which seemed to be right overhead, would bomb the searchlight. I saw the flash of torches by the house, where people had come out to see what was happening, little knowing that I was on the farm.
More and more planes came in, a dozen searchlights wavering against the cloud-base, everywhere the menacing roar of straining engines. I have never felt so restless, yet almost all my fear was bombs, although guns were firing madly in every direction and there must have been a good deal of shrapnel about. I heard one or two pieces fairly near.
Several trains came by on the line, very slowly, the glowing fire boxes of the engines looking enormous. Heard
clock chime 8.30. Went up the hill
towards Lawford. Fisher was standing at
his gate, and I said “Good evening”, but I don't think he knew me. Manningtree Church
At the top of the hill I lay on the ground for a time, while several planes dived and rose again. Guns boomed, shells whistled, and fragments came sighing down in the darkness. Again restless, went across the road and found a corn-stack in one of the Lawford Hall fields. Here I felt comparatively safe. The stack was large and firm, with a heap of coal at one end ready for the threshing machine. As planes approached I moved round the stack, keeping it between myself and possible firing. When they seemed unusually threatening I lay down close to the bottom of the stack.
Suddenly, far to the S.E. I heard a plane diving, louder, then out of control, then something red fell, a few seconds, then something larger, redder and redder, glowing and sparking, giving off a thin distant whine. It disappeared behind the horizon, and almost at once a huge fire spread up, brilliant yellow on the clouds, and violent flashes flickered and died. I thought, “That’s one less.”
In quiet intervals I could hear dogs barking – Fisher’s down the hill, Snippet more distant, and far away little Snuff at the Belfield’s in Bargate Lane, with Fred’s big spaniel in the foreground so to speak. I could hear voices up by Moorehouse’s, and voices shouting orders on the searchlight site. A train came very slowly over the long river bridge and pulled up at the station a mile away. To my left I could see the dim outline of the pines on the tumulus, silhouetted by the glow of searchlights. To the S.E. the fire still burned.
Planes were now coming out very fast, and I wondered where they had been, as there seemed to be hardly time to have reached
London. struck 9 o’clock. Manningtree
At last, about half past 9, it seemed that the end was in sight, and I walked down to the Mill. There was one more burst of firing, then the ‘all-clears’ rang out at 9.45, much to my relief.