EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

31st July 1944

To Post at 1.00am, a fine, brilliant moonlight night.  There was an alarm soon after midnight, just before I set out, and another at 3.30, but nothing came into this area, and there was no sound of gunfire.  Young Carter was on with me, and we talked all night about farming, ghosts, witches, and so on.  Some of his old grandmother’s tales are very good.

Clouds came up, but it was warm.  Felt very sleepy, and glad to get into bed at 5.30am.  Slept until 8.45, and did not get in until nearly 10.  Capt. Folkard furious.  Luckily no meeting today.  He himself works 14 or 15 hours a day, Sundays as well, and has the lowest opinion of anybody who does less.

Vast numbers of planes going out all morning.  Worked hard all afternoon until 6, then to Lawford.  Joy let me have 2 dozen eggs for Father, which will delight him. 

Back to Boxted, fine cool evening, and bed 11.30.

'Young Carter' who shared Royal Observer Corps duty with E.J. Rudsdale on this day 70 years ago is Douglas Carter, who was born in Boxted, went on to serve in the RAF and is now the village's historian.  Douglas has written a number of excellent books on the history of Boxted, which give a wonderful insight into the village.  Boxted's village website gives details of these publications.  CP

30th July 1944

Woke again to find a brilliant fine morning, and by the time I had breakfast and bath it was nearly one, so had to hurry to have lunch with Maidstone and his wife at Layer Marney.

Went quickly by way of the By Pass (noticed a little piebald pony and foal on our grass at Sheepen) and along Straight Road, Peartree Lane and Warren Lane, to Heckford Bridge.  Met Finn, the newsagent from Magdalen St. walking in Warren Lane.  Saw a combine in a barley field at Birch, I suppose Barbour’s, out on contract.  Can't stand the things.

Saw the Home Guard going home to dinner, and horses standing under trees, swishing flies.  At last came to the great red tower above the trees, and found the Maidstones very comfortable in one of the little cottages by the church.  She is a Czech, short and plump, and very charming.  They were waiting for me, and I was most apologetic, saying truthfully that had been out late on duty.

Delicious lunch, then walked out among the fields and round the farm buildings.  All empty, as we keep no cattle here, the men refusing to go so far to feed them, so all these yards, and hundreds of tons of straw, are wasted.  Last year’s straw stacks are still there.  Only 2 horses in the paddock, and one of my Ardleigh trollies in the lodge.

Noticed a field of beans, cut and traved, I should say nearly 50% barley, self sown from last year.  The amount of corn which shales owing to bad handling and the use of machinery is shocking.

Had tea, aeroplanes going over all the time, high in a deep blue sky studied with fat white clouds.  Mrs Maidstone finds the place a peaceful haven after Chessington, where she says the damage is enormous.  Almost everybody they knew there has had damage done or suffered injuries since the flying bombs began.

After tea went into the church, and saw pools of water on the floor of the Marney chapel, standing an inch deep, and filth and mess everywhere.  The east window of the chapel is likely to fall out into the churchyard at any moment, the mullions and jambs crumbling away, while the east wall is a mass of green slime where the water runs down.  The monuments were like little islands among the pools of water.  Am determined to do something to attempt to remedy this, and shall write to O’Neil and Sisson, and to Mrs.  Arundel Esdaile.  This country can spend £13,000,000 a day on a wicked senseless war, but cannot find £300 or £400 to save this church.

It is very wrong that these monuments have been uncovered, as they are now in as great a danger as they have been at any time during the war.

Left at 7, cycling slowly.  Met two pretty girls riding near Birch Rectory, and a group of people in bright coloured summer dresses walking back from church.

At Stanway Hall saw dear Caradoc, my first pony, in the paddock.  He looks very fit, and must be 20 or 25 now.  It is ten years since I sold him, and he has had 10 very happy years there.

To Boxted, then Post.

29th July 1944

Up again at 8, and office 9.15.  Usual Saturday rush and hurry.  Not out till nearly 2, and so no lunch but a cup of coffee.

Horseshow at Chelmsford today, but could not go.  Fine this morning, but rain in afternoon.

Went home to tea, then left for the Post, being on from 9 to 1am.  One of the Horkesley policemen came in for a chat, and was talking about the affair at “Woodside” Gt. Horkesley, some months ago.  This place had been fitted out as a brothel for Americans, when one night some 8th Army men, who had learnt to hate the Americans in Italy, raided the place and smashed it to pieces.  There was not a piece of glass or furniture left.  This was all hushed up at the time, but the general opinion is that it was a good thing.  The English police can't touch these American brothels for fear of upsetting the “allies”.

Quite a dull watch, and nothing to report.  Went off at 1.00, intending to go home, but turned back at the corner and hurried down to the stack by the marshes.  Then wished I hadn’t – felt quite cold with terror, lying on the stack in the silence of the night, and overcome with a feeling of horrid premonition, in fact felt I was expecting the sirens which sounded almost immediately.  Tried hard to lie still under the yellow moon, but could not, in case something crept up on me from behind the stack, so had to get out of the warm straw and stand shivering, listening to the distant guns, and the wailing of sirens over in Suffolk.  Yet the sky was clear but for the moon and the stars. 

But it was soon over, and slept peacefully for 4 hours, lulled by the cries of herons and owls, and the rustling of rats in the stack.  Woke to find a light rain faling, and heard the Nayland church clock strike 5.  A pale yellow glow in the NE, and thin watering clouds drifting over. 

Had a message for Dunsley at White Park Farm, so walked up the driveway and pushed it under the door.  Not a sound anywhere but the rustling of something in a stable. 

Cycled back to “Woodside”.  Near Water Lane a young red setter bitch came trotting along, a piece of cord round her neck.  She refused to be shaken off so I had to shut her in the wash-house with some water.

Then to bed.

28th July 1944

Quiet night, and had some sound sleep, without dreams.  Many ‘planes going out between 6 and 7.  Amusing rumours at the office that these long strips of paper, dropped to confuse the radar systems, are really coated with germs.  Quite a lot of the country folks believe this.  Newspapers printing a lot of stuff about 10 ton “rocket bombs” which may be expected very soon.

The ‘diver’ I heard yesterday evening was at Peldon, near the Reservoir.  Capt. Folkard was at Abberton and saw it crash.  Not much damage though, except for some windows. 

This evening went down to Peldon with Daphne, and then to Copt Hall, thinking we might ride Robin, but the saddles and bridles have gone.  Lovely evening.  Crops mostly look well, but some of the Committee wheat a bit smutty.

Back to Boxted at 11 o’clock, and heard that a Marauder from the aerodrome crashed in Mill Road today, killing the pilot.

Felt very depressed this evening, and sat up until midnight looking up trains in the time-tables.  Hear that Dr Penry Rowland has gone away, just when I want to see him so badly.

27th July 1944

Before coming off at 1.00am heard rumours that 176 out of 260 ‘divers’ had been destroyed in 24 hours, but we hear that damage in S. London is enormous.  ‘Diver’ came on again as the reliefs took over, and the sirens sounded as I came past the “Queen’s”.  Felt very queer, and turned away down to Harrow Corner, went along the path, and slept 2 hours in a ditch until a gentle rain began to fall.  Made my way over the fields to the back of Sprott’s Marsh, and then along the ditch to Woodside, hauling the cycle with me.  At last crawled into bed at 5.30.

However, managed to get to the office early.  Odd incident this morning – Herbert Hardy Fisher, the Deputy Mayor, was sent in from the Labour Exchange with a green card, to be interviewed as a possible clerk.  The position in which he finds himself is quite fantastic.  For better or worse he holds several very important posts in the Corporation, among other things being one of the Special Emergency Committee of Three (The Mayor, Pye and Fisher) who would take over the management of the entire town in event of an invasion or a devastating air-raid.  His only employment is that of an insurance agent, which the Ministry of Labour claim as being unnecessary and propose to direct him to other work.  Fisher himself seemed quite reasonable about the whole business, but pointed out that he had to spend at least a third of his time at the Town Hall.  When he told this to the Ministry of Labour they replied that the Council ought to get “retired people” to sit on Committees!

I ‘phoned the Ministry of Labour, but could get no sense from them, so ran out up to the Town Hall and had a word with Harvey.  He told me that the Town Clerk had done all he could, but the Man Power Board were adamant, and when the Town Clerk pointed out how important Fisher’s committee work was he was told that they must get an older man for that sort of thing!

However, the District Officer has no intention of taking Fisher, as the whole business would be too absurd, so I marked his card “not suitable” and sent it back.  Felt very sorry for him.

Culley had a curious story today.  He says that at about 6.30 this morning there was knocking at the door of his lodgings by the fire station, and on opening it he was surprised to see a stark naked man standing there.  They apparently gazed in some astonishment at each other for some moments, and then the man turned and ran towards the Park.  The police were sent for, and found him near the Rat Ditch.  He had got out of Severalls, and had come 12 miles, quite naked, without being seen.  Curious, when one considers the number of police, wardens, and so on that we have about.

I hear that Tom Turner is cataloguing the Saxon coins in the Museum.

Was in the town again this afternoon, and coming back heard the alarms at 3.15, so went into the Park.  There was a light shower falling, so went over to the trees in the Holly Trees Field and sat down under them.  A lot of people were running into the Castle and the other shelters.  Noise of either ‘planes or ‘divers’ among the clouds not far away.  There was a bald, middle-aged man sitting under the next tree, with his bicycle leaning against it.  He began to call over to me:

“Nice rain.”
“Spoilt my writing,” indicating a letter-pad on his knee.
“Oh, yes?”
There was a noise of something diving rapidly, and people walking over the grass looked up.
“Had my bike stolen three years ago.”
“Oh had you?  Did you get it back?”
No, he didn't.  This was a new one.  After explaining how he bought it at great length he then said:
“I don't worry much about these alarms, do you?”
“Oh no, not in the least.”  Just then the ‘all-clear’ rang out, and the rain stopped.
“Be nice” he said “when we can come out and not hear that bloody thing.  Suppose we shall be able to one day, if we live long enough!  Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Went back to the office until 6 o’clock.  More heavy showers.

This evening went up to Daven Soar’s.  Another alarm at 7.30, while we were in his garden, and a heavy explosion towards the south.  Then we went out to the “Beehive” and the “Leather Bottle” for a couple of hours.  Daven thinks war is going badly, and no sign of end.

Got to Boxted, 10.30 and to bed at 11.15, feeling much better than lately.

26th July 1944

Not up until 8.30, and not at office till quarter to 10.  Capt. Folkard was furious, but said nothing.  Lovely morning, very hot.  Wheat is now a deep gold.  Great flocks of sparrows flying about, always a trouble near towns.

When cycling in had a sudden idea regarding the date of sea-walls – the Mersea block-house was built during the Civil War: would it be worthwhile to examine its conjunction with the sea-wall at that point?  No doubt the wall is earlier, but it would be nice to know.

An alarm this afternoon at quarter past 2.  Heard a few distant bangs.  Opened the window to hear better but all my papers blew away.  Had tea at Last’s.  Hoped to find Diana there, but she was not.  Then home, was delighted to find that Father had slept through the alarm last night.  He often does nowadays.

Had some supper at Culver St Café and then hurried to the Post by 9.  Lovely cool summer evening.  ‘Diver’ came on at 10 o’clock, and we hurried to get the tea put on before anything happened.  Glorious sunset to the NW, behind high cloud masses piled up in fantastic hills and valleys, with a rugged coast-line fretted with deep fjords and locks, dotted with islands set in a greeny golden sea.  Over the ‘phones heard them say that 4 ‘divers’ had just been destroyed over Kent.  Birds singing all round, and then a sudden sharp shot from the copse behind Ridgnalls.  In the distance a gentle hum of invisible aircraft.  Wonder who has been killed in Kent at the end of this lovely day?

Heard them say at Centre that 8 out of 10 ‘divers’ had been destroyed short of London, but one had gone off to a point S.W. of Cambridge.

25th July 1944

Up 8.30.  Fine and sunny.  Heavy ‘planes going out.  Felt rotten during night, but a little better this morning.

During the morning Daven Soar came in with his lovely little daughter.  Arranged to go out with him tonight.

Very tired.  Slept after lunch.  Cycling along Magdalen Street saw Rene and her child going up the steps into the old house.  Didn't see me.  Thought I heard Brantham alarm just after.

Busy all day on the aftermath of Committee.  Capt. Folkard very sad about the Joe Percival row.  Nothing from Chairman.

Tonight called for Daven, and cycled off, first to Layer, then to Fingringhoe, then across the ferry to Wivenhoe, calling at pubs.  All very silly and rather amusing.  Became very fuddled and can't remember where we went or what we talked about it.  Daven is now stationed at Harrogate, and is having a very nice time indeed.  How I envy him.  [Daven Soar was a Post Office Telephone Engineer and had been a school friend of Rudsdale's].

Got back to Colchester about 11 o’clock, still quite light, and left him at the top of Brook Street, with much promising to meet again soon.  He is trying to get a job abroad, at Khartoum or somewhere like that.  Sees no future in this country.

Had to be on duty at 1am so made my way slowly in the direction of the Post.  Somehow found myself at the railway crossing at the old Brickyard and walked in a confused way into the side of an engine which happened to be standing there. 

Felt so tired and dizzy that I lay down on the grass by the cart track, near where the firework factory used to be, and dozed off, only to be awakened by the sirens and the noise of a ‘diver’ roaring over on the other side of the town.  Had no idea of the time, and in a panic hurried to Horkesley, only to get there 20 minutes too early.  However, felt much better by that time, and the other men noticed nothing.  About 1am a balloon came drifting over, lit by the searchlights, and the Bromley guns fired at it as it crossed the coast.  Great flashes showed where the trailing gable dragged across the high tension wires.

Fell asleep twice during the watch, but we had nothing on our sector.  Bed 5.30am, exhausted.  Very hot.

24th July 1944

Up again at 8, and office at 10 past 9, getting in before Capt. Folkard.  Busy all morning on Committee work. 

Birch at 2.15, Col. Round told us that one of the ‘divers’ missed Birch Hall “by feet”, and passed right over Birch Church.  Noticed beds have been brought down into the front hall and the gun-room.  Mrs Round is home, but rather weak, and feels a little nervous.

Meeting was fairly short, and had great hopes of getting off by 5.30, but right at the end a most distressing thing happened.  The Chairman said, as he always does, “Well now, has anybody got anything else?  Claude? Frank? Gardner? Joe?”  And Joe Percival got up and said very quietly “Only this Sir, I want to give you my resignation.  I think you know why.  But I’d like to thank you for all your kindness, and now I’ll be goin’.”  He walked to the door and opened it.  The Committee was quite stunned, and the Chairman called out “I won't take it like that, Joe, you know,” but Joe only said quietly “Alright, Sir, I’ll be writing to you,” and shut the door behind him.

So there we all sat in the gloom, everybody sad and angry, nobody knowing what to say.  At last the Chairman said “Well, we’d best go away and think this over,” so we all went.  Left Capt. Folkard at the Regal, and as I went round Headgate saw Joe and Alec Craig talking in Craig’s car.  Wished I hadn't seen them.  Who can say what intrigues there are.

Decided to go to Higham, felt so very depressed.  Found Jacqui Conran very charming, and spent a most delightful evening until nearly midnight.  Started back to Boxted by way of Langham Mill, and decided to curl up on a stack near the Stoke road for an hour or two.  Suddenly wakened by a ‘diver’ about 4 in the morning, and saw the thing rush past about half a mile away, going west, a most terrifying sight.

Decided to move away, and thought how amazed Alec Page would be if he knew that the Committee Secretary had slept on one of his straw stacks.  Boxted at 4.30, and went to bed, still greatly saddened about Committee affairs.  I had had a slight hint that things were bad between Joe Percival and old Warren, but had no idea that they were so bad as to make Joe resign.  The trouble started with Joe criticising Frank Warren’s methods of dealing with the Committee’s cattle and grazing land.  Frank Warren is a complete dictator in these matters, and does just as he likes.  This of course has been going on for a long time, until Joe took it on himself to complain to the Chairman of the Executive Committee one day last week when he was at Writtle.  Kemsley then spoke to Round, who was furious, and told Joe if he was not satisfied with the work of other members of the Committee he’d better resign, and he has.  It’s very tragic, because Joe and Col. Round have been great friends for many years.

23rd July 1944

Had three hours sleep in bed, then up at 8 to be on the post at 9.  Cloudy and cool.  Lots of Forts circling which kept us busy.  Saw in the log that there were 9 ‘divers’ yesterday, which seemed to come in over Bradwell. 

Forts formed up and went off S.E. then we could hear the sound of church bells faintly all along the valley, - Stoke, Higham, and nearer at hand Boxted and Gt. Horkesley.  Many larks singing.  Field of oats traved near the Post.  Everything is very dry now.

To Dedham this afternoon, where everybody seemed very optimistic about ‘divers’ – considered the damage was not so severe, and that the launching sites would soon be out of use.  Personally cannot help thinking that there must be many more launching sites much further east.

Left at 11.30 to go to the Post again – second watch in 24 hours.  Very dark night, and clouds rolling up from the South.  Had no cycle lamps, but trusted to luck not to meet a policeman.  Searchlights lying low along the valley made a sort of green moonlight against the clouds.

As I went down the hill by Lt Rivers the alarms sounded.  There were many ‘planes about, and masses of searchlights further west, and distant gunfire.  Then heard the chugging of a ‘diver’, some distance to the S., but it went on.  An aircraft carrying headlamps like a car came in and landed at Langham.  Got to the Post before one, and heard that two ‘divers’ had gone over, a little S. of the town.  They had not exploded anywhere on our board.  A few minutes later a huge mass of bombers came in, back from a raid, each batch lit by a bunch of searchlights.  As the warning was still on, thought how terrified people in the town must be, to hear such a roar of aircraft.  Was glad when “all-clear” sounded in about 10 minutes.

Very dark morning for July, and heavy clouds. 

22nd July 1944

Up at 8.30.  Slept well.  Dull morning.  At office heard that there was an alarm at 2am, and that nine ‘divers’ passed over Tiptree, going west.  Seems very odd, can't understand where they are coming from.

Daphne gave me an American cream chocolate this morning – haven't had such a thing for years.

Got out about 11, and went to the Town Hall.  Saw Harvey and was just beginning to talk about the possibility of my leaving the Museum, which he much deplored, when Sam Blomfield walked in.  Very awkward.

An addition to the photo survey today – very nice picture of 6 Trinity Street, taken by an American.

Went on to the market this afternoon, then home for three-quarters of an hour, then had tea in Culver Street.  Greatly miss not being able to go into Holly Trees.  Went to library, saw an account of the last Suffolk Sale at Ipswich – one of Frank Warren’s geldings made 200 gns.  These prices are really too high, and likely to do breeding more harm than otherwise.

Went out to Boxted at half past 6, and then on to the Roses’, but did not seem very welcome.  Dodo is now undergoing some form of medical treatment which necessitates her going to bed exactly at 9.30.  Being in a bad mood, could not understand how anybody could even think about bed, so left, and went cycling, though cloudy and cold.  Went through Stratford, where there was a big patch of blood near the bridge, and then round by the Hall, hoping to see Ann Barry, but nobody there.  Went on to Higham, and up the back road towards Raydon.  Found a lovely stack in a very lonely field, where I sat and dozed for an hour until cold drove me on.  Listened to the strange night noises in the hedges and trees, birds talking in their sleep.

Cycled round by Langham Mill and Plumbs Farm, reaching “Woodside” shortly after midnight.  Wished it were later.  Took some blankets, and went and lay in the cornfield behind the house until 4 in the morning, when light began to come.  Heard badgers moving in the wood.  No ‘planes all night, and no gunfire either.

21st July 1944

Got into bed by 5.30, and was late in as usual, but fortunately Capt Folkard not there.  No time to shave, and felt filthy.

Heavy gunfire towards London all the morning.  Very hot and sunny.

This afternoon a wretched creature called Hull (name of ill-omen) came down from the Ministry of Works to see about requisitioning the big house in New Town Road for a new office.

Went in with him, with my plans and details (seemed strange to stand in the room where I last saw my very dear friend A.G. Wright nearly 17 years ago, and to see the room where he died).  This fellow Hull was very objectionable from the first, and when I said something about the allocation of a room for Committee use he said unpleasantly: “I’m afraid I can't possibly allow you to do that …”  Whereupon I instantly shouted: “Well come and run the bloody War Agricultural Committee yourself!” tore up the plans, hurled the fragments at him, rushed from the room, slammed the door in his face and felt much better.

Walling was there at the time, looking like a sick cat, but the look on this man Hull’s face was even better.

This evening went to see “Snow White” again, first time since 1939.  Enjoyed it.  Called at home, Father very well, then had a coffee in a milk-bar in Pelham’s Lane.  There was an American there, with one of the American WAACs, an elderly grey haired woman who looked well over 50.  He was very rugged and weather beaten, and spoke with a very broad western accent, so broad that the girl behind the counter could not understand a word he said.  He was rude and brusque to a degree, and everybody stared at him as if he was some sort of animal.  He and the WAAC sat close together and nobody spoke to them or offered to help them.

Boxted at 9.30.  Wind rising, almost a gale.  Bed at 11.30, hoping for a quiet night.  Very tired.  Stories in press today suggesting that Hitler is mad or dead.

20th July 1944

Fine morning, after a quiet night, but wakened early by the roar of ‘planes going out.  Got in rather late, but before 9.30.  Labour rows all morning.  Engledow came down, - what an unpleasant creature he is.  Much argument about poor Wratten’s death.  Apparently we are clear of any claim as it happened in her own time. 

Admitted in the press today that the “diver” attacks on London have very much increased.  Situation is getting worse daily.  What on earth is to happen during the winter?  Actual damage is being kept very secret.

Some of our oats are cut at Wigborough.

This evening cycled down to Sheepen to see how the place looked, and went along the by-pass to see some of Mr. Craig’s cows in the water-meadows.  As I stood there a young woman dressed in pink came along on a cycle, and got off to speak to me.  She was smiling in a most friendly manner, but as soon as she began to speak it was clear that she was quite mad.  Could not understand anything she said, and came away.  Her cycle was brand new.

To Boxted, and had a terrible stomach-ache on the way.  Could not move for 10 minutes.  Went slowly towards the Post soon after midnight, as I had to be there at one.  How eerie these lanes are at night.  Many ‘planes going out, their navigation lights shining.  “Divers” on when I got there, and soon after there was considerable gunfire to the south, and we could see with the glasses a “diver” going over Bradwell apparently coming in from the south-east.  Fear that the Germans must be building new launching-platforms right up the Belgian coast, although one would have thought the distance across the North Sea would have been too great.

Clouds came over very thick, and we were busy the best part of an hour, on the alert, in case any “divers” turned northwards into the Foxes’ area. [Rudsdale's Observer Post at Great Horkesley was known as 'Fox One' and was one of three 'Fox' Posts in North Essex].  At last it was over, and we were able to make the tea.

19th July 1944

Day and night no longer have any real meaning.  Time just goes on.

The Hartleys left shortly before 9.  Seemed strange that anybody having such incredible luck should take it so calmly.

This afternoon we all had our annual trip down to Wigborough and Peldon and had a most enjoyable time.  The corn looked wonderful well.  They are still trying to finish the new grain-drier near Bonner’s Barn by the Strood, through can't see how they hope to have it ready by August.

Excellent tea at the Peldon Rose, where Pullen showed us his tame fox-cub.  It was just like a dog, jumping up at him, wagging its brush.  Got back to the town at 7, and went home.  Father very well, and Miss Payne rather calmer.  Went over to the Rallings.  Pretty Joan there, on holiday.  Had a long talk and stayed to supper.  Left at eleven, and had only been at “Woodside” ten minutes when a raid of “divers” began.  Went outside and lay in the ditch alongside the wood, but nothing happened except for dull distant explosions.  After a while a badger came out and came to within a few yards  of me, before suddenly bolting back into the wood with a little grunt.  All clear in an hour, and then went to bed, hopefully.

18th July 1944

Many ‘planes about all day, but no “divers”. 

Home to tea.  Miss Payne very worried.  Apparently thinks the old chap may die any moment, although he seems to have recovered entirely from the Saturday attack.

Went to the Library for an hour, using Ancient Monuments reports, as I am no longer welcome to use them at Holly Trees.  Happened to come across a MS Diary of one Dr Asplin.  Don't know who he was, but must find time to read it.  Had supper at Winnie’s, then to Boxted at 9, hoping to get some rest, but there was an alarm in the dusk at half past 10.  Tried hard to face it, but could not, made an excuse to Miss Bentley, and slunk out, away down to the stack by the Nayland Road, and curled up there.  Very cold, but quite comfortable, and most enjoyable listening to the noises of the birds – a heron croaking down on the marshes, and owls all round.  Far off there were explosions and gunfire.  A spotting ‘plane came over, chugging along invisibly below the stars.

Hurried back to the house at quarter past 5, and slept in bed until 8.15

17th July 1944

Lay too long on the stack last night, not waking until the cows were brought into the sheds a quarter of a mile away at 6.30am.  Result was I did not get back to Woodside until 7, and walked into a scene of great confusion.  Wendy’s husband went over to Severall’s yesterday, and after a lot of argument with the doctors brought her away, and was going to take her up to Lancashire today.  When I walked in I could hear Wendy sobbing and crying and Hartley talking to her very kindly, while Miss Bentley was saying “Don't be so silly, Wendy, for goodness sake.”  Apparently she had suddenly decided that she could not face the journey north, and refused to get out of bed.  The taxi came to the door, and had to be sent away again.

Early to office, then called at home.  Found that Father had been ill on Saturday night, with heart pains, but was alright now.  Miss Payne was very worried and irritated me with her fussiness.

The fog was very thick until 10 o’clock today, but a lot of ‘planes were going out.  Heard more of the great damage being done in London today – Bank, Liverpool Street Station and Trafalgar Square have all been hit.  On Sunday one diver scored a direct hit on a home at Margaretting, killing 2 or 3 people. 

This evening saw Alderman Blomfield, and had another talk about Museum matters, but got nowhere at all.  Just a waste of time.

To Boxted at 7.30.  Lovely evening, and a fine copper-coloured sunset. 

Heard that one of Stuart Rose’s orchard women, Eileen Wratten, was killed in Lexden Road on Saturday afternoon by an Army ambulance.  She was epileptic, and apparently had a fit while riding her cycle.  Some time ago she had a child by a sergeant who had promised to marry her but then disclosed that he was married already.  The Roses were very good to her over that trouble and helped her a lot. 

16th July 1944

To the post at 1am.  A still fine night, with traces of the sun still faint in the N.W.  “Diver” was on when I got there, and we could hear them at the Centre talking about “ten” or “a dozen” coming in over Kent.  Heard a girl’s voice say: “My goodness!  Look at that!  Poor Bromley!”

About 2, several divers came into Essex, and I heard them being plotted over Southend and Rayleigh.  Began to feel very alarmed and expected to hear sirens at any moment.  Once there was a great yellow flash to the S.W., and about 20 seconds later a low rumbling roar.  Reported it, and was told that it was a diver at Baddow, 25 miles away.

“Diver” was off at 2.30, and I felt better and made the tea, but it was on again at half-past 4.  Nothing happened this time.  Began to feel very tired, as this was an eight hour duty to make up for the one I missed on Friday.

A golden dawn broke slowly, and the birds began to sing.  At 5 one of the “A” men arrived, and I still stayed.  “Diver” was off again soon after 6, and then a fog came in from the sea, rolling along in great clouds until the sun faded again and we were in the midst of a dark wet night.  This lasted about an hour, and before it had cleared the Flying Fortresses began to come down from Suffolk, circling and climbing.  As they left, glittering in the sunlight, heard somebody at the Centre say there were 1700 in the air.  No doubt they arrived over some French or Belgian town about the time of early Mass.

By 8 all the fog had gone, and the wet corn was sparkling.  Saw a Co-op milk van drive down to Kersey’s Farm, delivering bottles of milk.  The civilisation of 1944 – Co-op milk on a farm.  Of course, Alec Page does not keep a single cow on all his 1000 acres, so his people naturally have to get their milk from somewhere.

At last got back to Woodside at 9.15, very tired.  Miss Bentley never knew I had been out all night.  Felt dreadfully tired.  Slept this afternoon, had tea, then cycled over to Lawford.  Lovely calm evening, no ‘planes about.

Found Mrs Knibbs at the Mill, and heard about conditions at Beckenham and in South London.  The damage is indescribable, hundreds of thousands of houses destroyed, and many thousand people dead, yet the Press still speaks of the attacks as being far more of a nuisance than a real danger.  Mrs Knibbs has been living in an Anderson shelter for weeks. 

Went down to Dedham at 9.30, and stayed at Sisson’s until half past eleven.  Cloudy then, and fog coming up.  Six months ago this meant a quiet night, but not now.  Now it simply means the divers won't be attacked at all, because they will fly noisily but invisibly in the fog.

Cycled slowly along towards Boxted, and as I got near Little Rivers suddenly decided to go down to the stack again.  Curled up very comfortably, and quite warm.  Went to sleep in spite of the rustling of rats beneath me.  Awakened, perhaps about 1 o’clock, by the sirens and saw three terrific flashes far to the S., but heard nothing.  Slept again, but had a fearful nightmare, consisting of rows of galvanised buckets full of blood, and a pair of severed hands in one of them. 

On Saturday morning, between 6 and 8 o’clock, I had two very curious dreams, but not at all unpleasant.  The first was about the invasion of Africa by the British and American troops, and the second seemed to be about the evacuation of Colchester people to Lavenham in the time of Napoleon.  It was just as described by Anne Taylor, the long covered wagons, the folks riding on their baggage, babies crying, children running along the roads.  Wished it had lasted longer, it was so interesting.

15th July 1944

Cloudy but warm.  Got my haircut this morning at a little barber’s near North Bridge.  It is increasingly difficult to get a haircut at all nowadays, as all the barbers’ shops are full of Americans, who go there for want of anything better to do.

Bought the “Daily Herald”, and at once saw two local items of interest, first, that the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths has been fined for stealing clothing coupons from the dead, and second that a box of “dangerous poisons” has been stolen from the army exhibition now at the Castle.  Very glad to see about the Registrar, a most unpleasant brute in any case.  As for the Castle theft, well, it’s just another one, that’s all.

This morning a scissors-grinder came outside the office, with one of those old-fashioned grinding machines worked by treadles.  There he sat, intently pedalling away n the sunshine, sparks flying from the grinding wheel, looking just like one of those German toys which used to be sold years ago.

Beautiful afternoon, saw pretty Ann Barrie as I went into the Park.  Lay down on the place where the bomb fell behind the Castle [in December 1943] and went to sleep on the warm sand, while Thunderbolts went over in an endless stream.

Military band marching up and down High Street, through admiring crowds.  Called at the Cups and saw Uncle Frank and Aunt Lydia, but stayed only a few minutes.  Home to tea, then called at the Seymours’ not having been there for a long time.  Talk on Museum matters.  To Boxted at 10.  Goodbody came in and sat talking about Ireland for an hour.  Told some quite interesting stories. Miss Bentley was sitting up waiting for Wendy’s husband, who is coming down from Yorkshire, not knowing that his wife is in the asylum.

14th July 1944

An alarm in the night, about 3 I think.  Curled up under bed and went to sleep.  Heard nothing.
Up early, roused by noise of preparations to take Wendy’s baby away to Morecambe, going cross country by Cambridge, Rugby, etc. so as to avoid London.
Warm day, with high clouds, the Langham Thunderbolts out early, going past the bedroom window in pairs.  At breakfast, suddenly realised I had forgotten to go on duty at 1am, thinking it was tonight, ie – 1am Saturday.  Felt an awful fool, and telephoned to Pawsey as soon as I could.  He took it very well, laughed, and said I could easily do that turn on another night, to relieve somebody else.

Capt. Folkard very pleasant and affable this morning, perhaps because he did not have to go to Writtle today.  Had a busy time.  Went round to the Food Office and had a lot of trouble trying to get a ration for a driver called Mills.  Quite lost my temper with the stupid fools.

Saw Hervey Benham coming out of the “Standard” Office back way as I was going back.  “Hullo”, said he “quarrelled with anybody else?”

Heavy bombers began to go out soon after tea, circling over the heads of the men working in the fields as they slowly gained height and disappeared to the south east, leaving the sky clear and quiet.  Even now the evenings are beginning to draw in a little, a few minutes each night. 

13th July 1944

Wind S.W. again, warm and cloudy, with the glass going back a bit.  Late again, but felt so desperately tired.  An alarm at 10.30, only 10 minutes, but made me sweat.

Heard some girls in the café at lunchtime talking about identity cards.  The police now stop every girl seen about the town, and ask to see their cards.  If they are London prostitutes they are arrested and charge with being in a prohibited area, but they are really, of course, being charged because they are loose women.  In this way the highly moral magistrates and police hope to teach the prostitutes a lesson while they have the chance.  Apparently it has now become regarded as an insult to ask a girl for her card, as this implies that she looks like a prostitute, and this girl was saying to a friend how she had refused to show her card to a policeman outside the Hippodrome, saying: “… and I told him, if you speak to me like that, I’ll tell my mother!  I’m a respectable girl, I am.  I don’t go about with Yanks.”

Rain this afternoon.  Soldiers marching by carrying ammunition boxes back from the ranges. 

This evening went to see Councillor Smallwood, and had a long talk about the Museum.  No good done whatever, but of course the poor chap is really very ill.  Once again he spoke of his firm determination to get rid of Hull, but I have no doubt that it is all talk.

Went to Boxted by way of Turner Road, for the sake of seeing the view, with the setting sun shining along the smoke-filled valley.  When I got to Woodside, Miss Bentley told me that Wendy, the engineer’s wife, had made a terrible scene today, and had gone into Severalls for treatment.  Seems very strange way to act.  She is terribly nervous, but I know she has a home near Morecambe, and I cannot understand why she does not go there.  Her nerves can never improve here with this continual racket of ‘planes and bombs.  Her sister has been sent for to see to the baby.

Wish I had a home in Morecambe.

Fine tonight, and warm.

12th July 1944

Cloudy today, and westerly wind.  Got in early, and went to Peldon on my cycle to see the new cattle.  Went down to Sampsons, and Newpots, met Frank Warren, Joe, and Nott there.  Cannot understand Warren’s methods of choosing animals for sale, and I don't think anybody else can, either.  Joe looked rather disapprovingly most of the time.

Saw little Robin, looking wonderfully well and fit, fat as a pig.  Wish I could use him.

Went into the tiny church to eat my bread and cheese, as there did not seem to be anywhere else to go.  Sat quietly eating in one of the pews, and was rather taken by surprise when Pearse, Duncan Clark’s partner, walked in with some architectural students.  He seemed equally surprised to see me.

Started back about 3, and went round by Abbots Wick to Birch.  Stopped to drink out of the Reservoir, as had had nothing since breakfast.  Suddenly saw Sisson coming along in his car, on his way to inspect some bomb-damage at Wigborough. 

Just as I got to Layer ‘Donkey & Buskins’ heard sirens all round.  One or two fighters came about, but nothing else happened.  ‘All-clear’ came very soon, only a few minutes, but there was another alarm at Shrub End at 7.15.  Decided to call on Hilda Smith, getting there just as the ‘all-clear’ went again.  Stayed half an hour, went to the office, called at home and then to Boxted, very tired indeed.

Looks like rain tonight.

11th July 1944

Had a few hours sound, quiet sleep, and then woke at 5, went back to Woodside, and crept quietly into bed, no one knowing I had not been there all night.  Slept again until 8.

Cloudy morning, but clear later, and the sun came out warm.  Saw the old cat who was asleep in the garden yesterday walking slowly across the road, with such an intensity of purpose, obviously looking forward to another sleep in the same place.

Busy all day.  Cool, pleasant evening, with dancing on the Holly Trees lawn to the dreary noises blaring out of an amplifier.  Going down North Hill saw a very old Chelsea Pensioner walking up, and the martial airs played by the Technical College Cadets band came wafting up from behind the school, making a sort of accompaniment to his walk.

Got to the Post at 9, young John Page on with me.  Rather cold, few ‘planes up.  “Diver” was off at 10.  So tired tonight that at one o’clock was only too glad to get back to Woodside and bed.

10th July 1944

Three alarms during the night.  Got under the bed and stayed there until dawn.  Did not hear where these fell last night.

Went over 31 New Town Rd this morning, regarding the possibility that we might have the place now that the ATS have left.  Wandered about the echoing empty rooms, thinking of my very dear friend A.G. Wright [the former curator of Colchester Castle Museum], who died there 18 years ago.  The walls are plastered with ATS notices about lights out, baths, equipment, etc.  The garden is wild and derelict with a large underground shelter dug for the girls.  Was going down into it when I noticed a little, thin, old tabby cat, curled up in the warm grass fast asleep.  Had not the heart to disturb him so came away. 

Committee at Birch this afternoon.  Felt ill and tired.  The Executive Officer was there, talking drivel about “our plans for the next four years”, and what an important part the War Agricultural Committee’s would have to play.  Everybody became so depressed that it was like the aftermath of a funeral.

When coming past the Market today, noticed six artillery wheels in the sale-yard, with very thick rubber tyres.  They must be from old funeral gun-carriages.
Felt terribly nervous tonight.  Back to Boxted for supper, then went down to Nayland to see Mrs Pickard, who is staying at the butcher’s in Nayland until she can get a cottage somewhere.  As Nayland is outside the Defence Area, the people there are strictly not allowed to go to Colchester, but a concession has been made that they may continue to go in for their ordinary shopping.  Mrs. Pickard ‘phoned the Colchester Police and asked whether she might be allowed to go to the Public Library when shopping in the town, but was told no, the visits are allowed for shopping only.  Told her she was very silly to ask such a question.
Stayed there until after 10, then went along the Lower Lane to a half-cut stack near White Park Farm, and settled myself there for the night.  Snuggled down very warm and comfortable.  A few ‘planes about, and clouds drifting slowly over the stars.  Scrabblings of mice and rats in the straw.

9th July 1944

‘Planes going out in hundreds between 7 and 8.  Rain began about one, just as I got to the Post, and kept on all afternoon.  Lot of bombers went out, and one Liberator, marked 4NK, circled round for 2 hours, passing low right over the Post a dozen times.  We thought he was in trouble, and reported, but Centre apparently made enquiries and were satisfied that there was nothing the matter with it.  It flew at less than a thousand feet, and we could see the crew at their places quite clearly.

“Diver” [V1 flying bomb] was on most of the time and there was an alarm about 4.  We could hear them talking about “divers” over S. Essex but nothing came this way.  When they travel in the clouds there is no possible means of defence against them.

Weather cleared, and when I got off at 5 went to Lt. Rivers.  Pattinson, the fruit farmer was there with an extraordinary pretty girl there called Jacquetta Gordon-Fox, who is in the Ministry of Information in London.  There was an alarm soon after 9, the sky clear and blue.  We could hear the diver thumping, the cut-out, and the crash.  Nobody took the least notice of it.  Had a lovely supper, Pattinson brought cream and butter from his farm, and we had strawberries.

Back to Woodside at 10.30, lovely calm evening, yet felt unusually nervous.  No ‘planes before midnight.

8th July 1944

Brilliant sunshine, warm.  Had another curious dream about Wales this morning, but can't remember any details.

The Chairman came in this morning, apparently some row about Nott, as he was sent for and closeted with the old man for nearly an hour.  Maybe Frank Warren has been making a complaint about him.

At lunch time saw O’Neill, (His Majesty's Office of Works) and Sisson.  Took O’Neill round to the Britannia Works extension, on the Priory church site, and showed him what had been done there.  He agreed that it was a terrible shame, but said that the Office of Works were only notified quite by chance, long after the work had been started.

Suggested the possibility of excavations on the site of Blomfield’s shop, and he fully agreed that this would be well worth doing.

He told me that the alarm at lunch time yesterday was for a diver which went straight over Harwich and crashed somewhere in the Chelmondiston area.  We had no alarms at all today.

Went to Ralling’s this afternoon, to see the two girls, who had just cycled over from Southend.  They say that any number of “divers” can be seen from Southend going over Kent.  With very few breaks the bombardment keeps up night and day, the noise of guns and explosions is continuous.  Yet neither of them showed the slightest sign of all this.

Went home to tea, and spent an hour with Father.  He seems very well.

Back to Boxted for supper at 8.30.  Lovely evening, the small-holders working in their orchards, children playing in the roads.  Have no duty tonight, so hope for a quiet time. 

Was thinking about the mediaeval stone buildings tonight, when I suddenly remembered the fine cellars under Bunston’s and the adjoining premises in High Street.  Have not been in there for more than 10 years now, but I distinctly remember that there is a stout stone wall, pierced by a large arch, set back about four feet from the building front, and I was very puzzled to think why this should be.  It now suddenly occurs to me that perhaps the intervening space was a stairwell, with steps leading down from the street level to an underground shop, such as was common in Mediaeval times.  This would explain the fine archway, now seemingly underground and invisible.  Must make further investigations there at a later date, and perhaps prepare another note for the “Essex Review”.  Trouble is to get any decent illustrations for these things, especially as I no longer seem to be able to draw as I did when a boy.

7th July 1944

Rain at 8.  Dozed again and did not get up until quarter to 9.  Two curious dreams. both blurred, the first about Careddoq, and the second about Finland.  So late in that I was afraid to go to the office, and went up to the cemetery instead, to see Mother’s grave.

Then went up town and called on Hervey Benham.  An alarm while I was in his office, and I got up with affected nonchalance to go out.  He said “You’re just in time to go out and be killed.  I think I’ll come too, I’ve never seen one of these things yet.”  Left him standing in Culver Street and cycled up to the Abbey Field.  Crowds of women going into shelters.  A distant thud, and then ‘all clear’ in a few minutes.

Called at the Ministry of Labour to see Spivy about a matter in which Mrs. Sisson is interested.  There are rumours going round Dedham that a certain man, a disbarred doctor, who has a criminal record, is employed by the Ministry of Labour, and it is said that he is black-mailing people at Dedham on the grounds that he can have them directed to coal mines, farms, etc.  It is in fact said quite specifically that Griffiths, the antique dealer, has been sent to work on the aerodrome because he refused to bribe this man.  Spivy told me that there was not a word of truth in the whole thing, and that this man is not and never has been employed by the Ministry.  Griffiths was certainly reported as a person who should be directed to useful work, and the man who reported him was his own brother.  Spivy told me that more anonymous letters are received from Dedham than all the rest of the district put together.

Called to see Aunt Lydia at the “Cups” this evening.  Have not seen her for nearly 20 years, but recognised her at once, grey, gaunt, and rather severe.  Uncle Frank was out.  She was very kind, and talked for about an hour on her experiences as a temperance lecturer.  I had hard work to keep a straight face.  At last managed to get away by promising to see her again, and went to supper and then to the Post at 9pm.

Lovely red and purple sunset.  A few bombers went out, but there were no divers coming in.  Cycled back soon after 1, through sweet smelling night, owls screeching and little animals running about in the hedges.  Felt quite reluctant to go to bed.

6th July 1944

Lovely warm morning.  The corn is yellowing fast.  The Committee went on their annual “pre-harvest” tour of land-in-possession today, but I was not invited.  It never seems to occur to Capt. Folkard that I should like to see the farms occasionally.

Thinking about the Museum a good deal today.  Phoned to the Borough Treasurer’s Office and told them not to send my pay envelope to the Holly Trees anymore.  I will collect it from the Town Hall myself. 

Had lunch with Daphne and tea with Diana.  Told me that Larry Silverstone, the actor, is dead.  He was acting her not very long ago.

Evening papers admit that the damage and casualties caused by the flying-bombs is enormous.  No “Daily Telegraphs” today, as their press is said to have been destroyed yesterday.

To Boxted, 9.30.  The moon rose full, like an orange, and four Thunderbolts got up from Langham and made off to the S.W.

5th July 1944

Glorious day.  For some reason felt no nervousness at all.  Busy day, then to Holly Trees this evening.  Had a serious row with Poulter.  He had piles of museum reports, pamphlets and things in the office, which had been left about there during the last 4 years.  Since I left not a single report or pamphlet has been filed.  Poulter had in his hand three reports of the Oxford University Museums, most important publications, of which we have a complete run for about 30 years.  He said “Are these wanted?  I’m going to tell Harding to throw them out.”  I said: “Why don't you throw out all the Reports?”  and he replied “Well, that’s an idea, it would save dusting.”

I shouted “You and Hull between you have just about ruined this Museum.  I think I’ll leave you both to it!”  He snarled “Yes, do, and don't bother to come back”.  I rushed out, sweeping a stack of books off the table, slamming the door sufficiently hard to shake plaster down in the lobby, and rushed away up the street.  I was absolutely furious.  Now, of course I am very sorry, as there is no one I wish to quarrel with less than Poulter, but I was really justified in my anger against this wicked destruction.  Since I have left there has been a complete cessation of museum routine.  Nothing filed, nothing numbered, no letters answered.  The whole place is in chaos.

Cycled out to the Post, still furious.  A mass raid came down from the north soon after dark, and took nearly an hour to go over.  Hate mass raids, as I always expect a crash.  We could see some of the ‘planes in the moonlight.  “Diver procedure” was cancelled before midnight, so Kent and London will have a few hours rest.  Another drifting balloon came over, lit by searchlights, and went out to sea.

Got to bed before 1.30, owls hooting and crying, and distant cattle lowing away on the river meadows.

Very sorry about Poulter, and don't know what I shall do.

4th July 1944

Fine, lovely, cool morning.  Thunderbolts flying past my window at 5am, in pairs, so that I could see them as I lay in bed.  Very late in, so called at home first and found Uncle Frank there.  He and Aunt have had a terrible time at Purley, and have come down to stay at the “Cups” for a week.  Apparently they had no difficulty in getting into the town, although there are police at the station all day now.

Put in some work today, while I was alone, on the design of ‘le Stonhous’, preparing a paper on the Norman houses in the Borough for the ‘Essex Review’.  Fortunately had a quiet couple of hours this afternoon, so could get something done.

Walling had a frightful row with Daphne and Thelma today.  These continual bickerings are most upsetting to everyone.

Snowball brought in some strawberries from Tiptree, which we ate.

This evening went to Holly Trees.  Found Ald. Blomfield there.  Talked about Gurney Benham’s books and papers.  Hervey Benham has apparently not got authority from Gerald Benham, as executor, to dispose of these yet.  Told Ald. Blomfiel about Col. Round’s Castle MSS, and emphasised that they must not on any account be left in the hands of the Curator.  He apparently knew already that the Colonel had sent a lot of stuff to Chelmsford [Record Office], although Emmison [the Archivist at Chelmsford] seems to think it is a profound secret.

Lovely evening.  Saw Diana walking down the High Street.  Went to the Stockwell Arms with her and drank beer.  Boxted at 9 o’clock, sat listening to radio.  An alarm about 1am.  Heard Goodbody waking up everybody, but felt tired and stayed in bed.  Nothing happened.

3rd July 1944

High, light clouds, and cooler.  Wind S.E.  Went in early, but unfortunately there was an alarm at 5 past 9, as I was going down North Station Road, so felt I could not go in until the ‘all-clear’ came.  Went along Serpentine, across King’s Mead, along the Roman Wall.  Heard a heavy bang, and then the ‘all-clear’.  Went through Land Lane and up East Hill, but there was another alarm just as I was about to go up Winnock Road to the office, so I went off down Morant Rd, round the Recreation Ground, where people were going into the shelters, down to the Distillery and so to Bourne Mill, where I waited until the ‘all-clear’ at quarter to ten.  Fortunately Capt. Folkard was out when I finally reached the office.  Quite absurd behaviour, but cannot bear to be inside a building while an alarm is on.

Heavy rain most of the morning, and felt too nervous to go to lunch.

Had to leave at 4 today to get to the Post at 5.  Heavy rain all the way, got soaked, and no tea either.  A diver came up at 6, we could hear it quite plainly, heard it cut out, and the crash of its explosion.  Centre told us that it was at Marks Tey, near Burmans Farm.  Hope Frank Warren’s horses are alright.  There have already been two in the Marks Tey area.

Was on with one of the “A” men tonight, a most unpleasant bad tempered brute.  After the “diver” nothing else happened the whole evening.  Wind shifted to W. and N.W.  Got back to Woodside by quarter past 9, and had supper, thoroughly tired and very hungry.  Sirens again at 11.  Went out into the rain, and heard aircraft come over, but nothing else.  Miss Bentley had gone up to bed, but she came down and got in the cupboard under the stairs until ‘all-clear’ sounded.  Goodbody up too.

To bed myself at midnight, determined not to get up again whatever happens.

2nd July 1944

Cycled slowly along the main road to the Cross, so as not to get to the Post too early.  Heavy clouds, the moon peeping through at times.  Saw searchlights to the S.E., focused on a drifting balloon, and every now and then there was a great flash as the balloon’s cable trailed over high tension wires.

Got away at 4.50am.  Low clouds, but the larks had begun to sing.

Bed until 10.30am.  An alarm at 10, and another at 12.30, nothing happened.  This afternoon writing, bath etc.  Then to Lt Rivers after tea, and got some spring onions.  Nice rural scene at the Cross – two little cows being driven into the meadow behind, and a pony trap waiting for them to cross the road.  Carter’s apple trees a mass of blossom, in spite of the frost.  Headache better tonight.  Back to bed at 11, under a hazy moon.  Very hot, stuffy, day, and a plague of flies all over the house.

1st July 1944

Woke to heavy rain.  No sound of ‘planes moving at all.  Voices calling in the field behind something about a dog.  Headache.  Intolerable morning at the office. 

Took a map of Wales to the office to show one of the Land Girls who is going there for her leave.  Daphne very interested, wants to go also.  Says she would like to go with me.  Looking at the map makes me feel an irresistible longing to be in “Cyrmu fach”.

Heard that Mrs Round is in the Isolation Hospital with diphtheria.  Can't imagine how she could have caught such a thing.  The Colonel is very worried.

This afternoon took Hampshire some peas from Mersea, which pleased him.  Home and found Father very well indeed, quite unusually bright.
Went into Motum’s harness shop on East Hill.  Showed me a breeching in for repair which he had made originally 30 years ago.  It now needs new chains for the first time.  Says he can recognise his own sewing in the same way smiths can recognise their shoes.

While I was there a tall dark woman of about 40 came in, smartly dressed in rather cheap clothes, wearing a little black hat and an “eye-veil”.  She said: “I’ve called about a hatbox which my sister brought here some time ago.”
“About how long ago?”
“Well, it would be about the time of the ‘Battle of Britain’, because she was staying with me then, and then she went back to London to clear her house up, and she was bombed there and buried, and she lost both her legs.  Of course, she was in hospital a long time, and forgot all about the case, but when I went up to see her the other day, to see how she was getting on, she said to me ‘I wonder if my case is still there?’  So I said I’d come and ask.”
“Let’s see, now, a dark brown hat box, would that be it?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“I’ll get it.”

He went through the low doorway at the back of the shop, stepping over piles of broken harness, into the dark cave behind.  The woman stood holding her handbag and her purse, her eyes staring into the far distance. 

Motum came back with a shoddy artificial leather bag.
“Is this it?”
“Yes, that’s it.  Oh, she will be glad to get it back.  You see, having lost both her legs and with all these bombs about it’ll cheer her up, won’t it?  How much is it?”
“Eighteen pence.”

The woman, paid, smiled, and thanked him, and said: “Well, I’ll take it along to her as soon as I can.  It’ll cheer her up a bit, because naturally, having lost both her legs and been in hospital such a while, she feels a bit low.  Good afternoon.”

And she walked out up the hill, carrying the shoddy hatbox in her hand.

Went on to Dedham, and took some peas there.  Talked about the London raids.  Sisson says damage is very bad indeed.  There was an alarm at half past 8, when Dedham Street was full of laughing children.  Nobody took any notice, and there was a dull explosion far away.  Saw pretty little Ann Barrie come out of the “Sun” with a young soldier, laughing and chattering.

To Boxted 9.30, head very bad.  Fine, felt hot and stuffy, and rain coming.  Had a delicious supper, and felt better.