24th February 1944

Up at 7, in a lovely pale blue dawn, and cycled back to the cottage.  Had breakfast and got to Colchester by 9.15.  Busy day, but felt rotten.  Beside bad pains in the head, am coughing very bad, every cough being agony.

Demolitions have been going on all day at the ruins.  The roadway is open, and I went down there at lunch time.  One odd thing is that the “Woolpack” Inn, in the very middle of the fire is quite un-harmed, yet everything is burnt out all round.  The top floor of the “Plough” is burnt out, and Bare’s fish-shop, near the station.

The café is open, everybody looking at the hole in the ceiling and the scorched mark on the floor.  Two soldiers who had just come from Aldershot that morning, said there was an alarm down there at about 8, and that on Tuesday night there were fires at Staines and a bomb on a house near Virginia Water.

After lunch cycled to Layer to see Mrs Roger’s “cottage”.  Very disappointing.  Really nothing but a derelict shed, situated just behind the “Donkey and Buskins” at Layer.  Could make it do, but should have to spend quite a bit on repairs, blackout, furniture etc.  Seems to be quite remote, and not in any particular danger.  Must consider what I shall do.

Went to see Poulter.  Showed me several very bad photos which he had taken of the great fire, all quite useless.  Also showed me an excellent lot of prints, drawings, and photographs of Harwich, from Carlyon Hughes’ collection, which he has just acquired.  I regret bitterly that I know so little about the place.  Poulter is thinking of buying more property there.  His interest in Colchester seems to be nil.  Heard that Sam Blomfield has made arrangements to re-open immediately, in the shop which used to be Daldy’s, at the top of John’s Street.  While I was in the Holly Trees, Hull walked in, in Observer Corps, uniform, and gave me a barely civil “Good morning”.  Felt an awful fool at being found there.

Father went out to see the ruins, and met Mrs.  Dennis, an old friend who lives next to Bare’s, St. Botolph’s, and she told him how they broke into a little café near there and made 200 cups of tea.  Everybody expected the petrol in St Botolph’s Station yard to go up.

Noticed that the “Empire” Cinema was open tonight as usual, with ruins all round, wisps of smoke still rising.

Worried because I still have no home next week.  Heard distant gunfire 9.30-10, but felt too ill to bother.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Certainly a lot of Colchester business wiped out in one incident. Would be interesting to know if the shops/factory recovered and started up business again.