16th June 1944 - Arrival of the V1 Flying Bombs

Two alarms during the night, one about 4, and the other after 6.  Most unusual to have one so late.  During the first, just before 4, heard what seemed to be the scream of a falling ‘plane, and a heavy thud.  When I got to the office, Capt. Folkard told me that this was one of the long-expected “rocket planes”, sent over from France, and that it crashed in a field near Baker’s Hall, Bures, passing over Fordham. There are more details on the arrival of the first V1 flying bombs in E.J. Rudsdale's book.

Fine morning, but cold and windy, cumulus cloud drifting over from the N.W.  Early lunch, as I had to go over to Chelmsford for a secretaries’ meeting.  All talk at lunch about the “rocket”.  Winnie said “Awful, isn’t it?  Whatever will happen next?” and went on to say that Sainsbury had sent her 4 and a half pounds of sausages and had charged her for 6 pounds. 

To the station at 1.30.  Big crowds.  Ida Hughes Stanton was there, with an officer.  Called out to me, but felt I could not face a conversation with her and pretended not to hear.

Train came in very full, and changed engines.  While we waited some Liberators came droning over back to their bases, in and out of clouds disappearing and re-appearing.  Longed for the train to move.

Near Witham, a field full of pea-pickers, wearing brightly coloured skirts and gaudy handkerchiefs on their heads.  Nearby was a field of roots with sheep folded, men spreading lime from carts where the sheep had already been.  At one end was a brand new water-cart, brilliant red and green, and a shepherd’s pony-and-cart. 

There was a stream set in a newly broken grass field near Hatfield Peverel.  Several fields of hay were cut and cocked, and at Boreham, on the Fordson estates, they were carting clover with, of course, Fordsons.

Train half an hour late at Chelmsford.  Town very crowded, market day.  News boys calling “Oaks Result”.  Looked in at the market, full of young store cattle.  In one pen were two short horn bulls tied against each other, busily goring each other’s flanks.  Why do the auctioneers allow this stupid cruelty to go on?

Cycled on to Writtle, only to find the meeting had been postponed for half an hour, without of course any notice whatever being sent to secretaries.  A few sheep are penned on the little clover patches outside the Institute.  The whole of the ground in front is laid out in experimental beds of grasses and wheats.  A labourer stood motionless, like a figure in “The Angelus”.

In the men’s lavatories the following notice:
“Switch off the light before you pass out.”

Secretaries’ meeting was incredibly boring, everybody wanting to argue silly points of no importance whatever.  Felt more and more annoyed and depressed. 

The meeting dragged on until 5.30, then at last got away.  Called at County Hall, and saw Emmison [Archivist of Essex Record Office] for a few minutes.  Told me that Colonel Round had sent in a tremendous quantity of stuff, including 83 plans of farms on the Birch Hall estate, and among miscellaneous papers there are several relating to the Castle.  Could not see these as he had to rush off to an emergency ARP meeting, arising out of these new bombs.  Much impressed by the care with which all the important archives are kept, massive steel safes, concrete vaults, etc.  Compares very favourably to the shoddy lackadaisical methods at Colchester.

Had sausage tea at the Cinema.  Found trains from London very late, owing to bombs somewhere on the line.  Got in a panic, and decided to cycle home.  Saw two big convoys on the By-Pass – Americans going East, AA guns going towards London.  Fat cattle grazing on the Chelmer marshes.

Large National Fire Service [N.F.S.] barracks near the junction of the old London road, and not far away was a gun mounted on a tower of scaffolding, the figure of the gunner dark against the evening sky.

At Boreham was horrified to see that the great elm avenues on each side of the lake, leading up to Boreham House, are being cut down.

Called at Crix, as I had not seen Miss Hope for so long.  The lawn in front of the house is now ploughed and sown with peas.  Miss H. looked very well, and was glad to see me.  Her father is now very old, and is getting rather deaf.  Was told that shortly before 4am a rocket had missed the house by a narrow margin, falling in an orchard about a mile away.

Miss Hope also told me that in 1940 they had two land-mines near the house, and in 1941 a large bomb fell near the east drive gate.  Yet there is no sign whatever of any of this, just a lovely gracious house, standing peacefully among the trees, the dying sun glinting on the myriad window-panes.  And all through the endless nights of terror this crippled woman stayed there alone with her old father and an elderly servant.

They asked me to stay to dinner, which I did, although dirty from travelling.  We had it in the lovely dining room, looking out into the garden, all the furniture gleaming and polished as if servant problems had never been heard of.  The old man produced a bottle of port, and handed round the glasses.  We had fish and asparagus, and then peppermints, and like a fool I ate mine before I had finished the port, and felt dreadfully gauche.

Left at 9.30, with two copies of ‘Antiquity’ which Miss H. gave me.  Cycled along easily before a S.W. wind.  Witham seems to be full of semi-derelict houses and policemen.  One called out to a fireman cycling by: “Hurry up, hurry up.  Are we going to have another night like last?”

Just over the railway bridge was startled by sirens blowing all-clear.  A lovely calm evening.  Never heard the alarm.  At Rivenhall End there were four more policemen outside the station there, who looked at me very suspiciously.  Noticed two fire-party notices, two in a tiny street of a dozen houses and a pub.  A fire-party consisting of two old labourers and two women were walking away, wearing their idiotic helmets.  Fantastic.

At Kelvedon the pubs. were still open, but at Marks Tey it was almost dark, and the sun was disappearing as a huge red ball, with clouds coming up from the west.  Lexden with crowds of firemen and N.F.S. girls outside the N.F.S. barracks at the Horse Show Ground.  Heard one girl say “Well, if anything happens here, I shall clear out”.

Down the By-Pass, and up Spring Lane, lovely in the dusk, full of flittering bats.  Cut through Braiswick to Mile End, and so to Boxted by 11.30.  Felt very nervous tonight, so took my rugs and lay in the ditch on the edge of the wood until 1.30am, listening to the sounds of the little animals rustling and crawling.

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