13th February 1944

Knocked my clock over during the night, and broke it.  Have to rely on the radio to know what time it is.

Fine day, warmer, and sunny.  Reading and writing until 4 o’clock, then went to Dedham.  At the Sissons’ heard surprising news - he has been offered a post in Italy, to work on the salvage of historical material.  Mrs. Sisson very distressed, but he feels he ought to go.  This is true, as he is a brilliant man who should not be wasting his time on bomb-damaged cottages.  He expects to hear any day that he is to go.  He is to work under Sir Leonard Woolley, with the rank of major.  This is a great shock, and I shall miss him a lot.

Left at 7.30.  Bright stars, very cold.  Radio faded at 8, and ‘planes began to come over.  About half past 8 an attack began, due south, probably Langham Aerodrome.  There was a tremendous lot of firing, and ‘planes came in rapidly.  A mass of incendiaries fell, and great sheets of yellow flame shot up into the sky behind the trees.  Then three great “chandelier” flares appeared, and hung motionless in the sky.  I thought my God – that’s Colchester.  Heard a ‘plane diving, and the cottage shook from the vibration of bombs.

The yellow sheets of flame flickered, sank, rose again, and the sky was a mass of searchlights, with shell-bursts, like little Bengal matches.  Felt absolutely sick, went back into the sitting-room, lay on the floor in front of the fire, turned the radio on loudly to a German station, but the thump of guns still came to my ears through the music of Franz Lehar. 

Gradually the firing died away, the sound of ‘planes receded, and only the “marker” searchlights, like huge altar candles, flicked on and off dimly through the haze.  To the south an arc of light still remained.  Went in and looked at the map, trying to estimate where the fire was.  Felt it could not be Colchester – too much to the south.

Stoked up the fire, had supper, and settled down to write, radio on, BBC stations now normal.  Weather becoming very cold.  Feel ill, beginning to cough.

No comments: