20th February 1944

Lay in bed until 9.30.  Cold, sunny morning.  Heard on the news that there was a heavy raid on Leipzig last night, and that 79 heavy bombers are missing.

This afternoon writing letters.  Heard the Americans warming up their motor ready for tonight, so determined to stay away from Higham as long as possible this evening.  Went to Dedham to post letters and have tea at the café.  Very cold, sky overcast, and a few flakes of snow falling.

Looked at a cottage belonging to Moy, one I have always wanted, in a little lane near Stratford, but found it occupied.  Then went slowly to Boxted, to verify if there was any damage there yesterday.  There was – a brick house near the Cross, a thatched cottage next it, and another little cottage further along.  Two bombs fell, both some sort of explosive incendiary, and the cottages went up in a flash.  A few people were slightly cut, but nothing much.  Some of the Council houses lost several tiles and one had its end wall down.  About five families are temporarily homeless.  Both bombs were within 400 yards of the Rose’s cottage, but it suffered no damage.  “Granny” King’s cottage, in the hollow below, was very shaken and another ceiling came down.  Poor old Granny was very upset.

We spent a pleasant evening reading and chatting, until about 9.30 my sensitive ears caught the thin wail of the sirens.  In about 10 minutes the attack was going full blast, apparently hundreds of ‘planes coming in, roaring low just above the thick clouds, and tremendous gunfire all round.  We could hear Colchester’s rockets banging and rumbling like thunder, while guns at Langham and some more the other side of the Stour shook the house.  I was trembling a good deal, but managed to go on reading an article in “Time and Tide” by the Mass Observation people on the public’s attitude to bombing (which is not quite so blood-thirsty as the Government hoped).

Sometimes the firing was louder than others, but throughout it all the baby slept quietly upstairs and the Roses played backgammon.  The only creature in the house more frightened than I was the little corgi, who cried and whimpered under the lavatory seat in the bathroom.

Soon after 10 there was a short pause, and then they started to come back, each lot of guns firing as they had opportunity.  It was about quarter to eleven when the ‘all-clear’ came and I hastily departed into the intense blackness.  To the north I could see the scarlet flash of the Higham beacon, whilst somewhere in the direction of Nayland a big fire flickered, showing a yellowish-reddish glare against the thick, low, clouds.  Another farm gone, I suppose.

Had no lights so had to walk most of the way.  Too dark to risk riding.  Decided to go by Langham Waterworks, but wished I had not.  Just after I had crossed the footbridge, I caught sight of what appeared to be a cycle lamp coming along the narrow lane from Higham direction.  I saw it appear and disappear as it went behind trees and stacks, and I thought it would soon come round the last bend to where I stood, but nothing appeared, and as I went further and further along the lane still I saw nothing.  It was very eerie, and I tried to reach the hard road as soon as possible, but owing to the intense darkness I wandered off the track onto the muddy path leading to the farm opposite Rushbury’s lane.  It was sometime before I noticed this, so that it was too late to turn back, and I was very soon quite lost, wandering round a ploughed field for about half an hour.

The beacon was a real beacon to me then, and I kept my eye glued to it, finally finding the farmyard and setting all the dogs barking.  The fire to the N.W. died way, after a final flicker. 

It was getting on for 1 a.m. when I got to the cottage at last.

Feel I cannot stand much more, but must go away again.  But where?  Perhaps to Scotland, to Edinburgh or Inverness.

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