31st August 1944

At the office – Snowball told me that a lot of ‘divers’ had gone straight over Ipswich, coming in from the east – and they tell us that it is all over.  One we saw explode was on Moorhouse’s land at Braham Hall, Bromley, where I went to collect the wall-plaster.

It seems the Germans have invented some new way to send these things.  One rumour suggests that they bring them up to within a mile or two of the coast on submarines.

Felt very ill and restless.  Don't know what to do.  Wish I could get out tonight.  Even went to the station and looked up trains.  However, this afternoon the post brought me a letter from Edinburgh, from the Miss Biggams, saying come whenever I like!  How kind they are.

Just before tea Poulter ‘phoned to say Orchard had produced a plan to widen Mersea Road by destroying the Abbey Wall, and would I come along to hear the details?  Went as soon as I could.  Working in close association with people like Orchard and Collins is fraught with all the hideous uncertain danger of an air raid.  There is no possible means of knowing where they will strike next – first an old house, then a whole block of good houses, then part of the Town Wall, now the Abbey Wall – where is it to end?  Agreed with Poulter that we will do everything possible to stop this latest vandalism.  One would have thought that even Orchard would have been content to let well alone until the Germans had finished their work.

Poulter told me about the ARP rehearsal tonight, which seems to have been the usual childish nonsense.  About 10.30pm there was a short alarm.  Went into the Holly Trees Field in brilliant moonlight.  Gun flashes towards Harwich, but nothing came in this area.  ‘All-clear’ in a very few minutes.

Left at 11 pm and got into bed at midnight.

30th August 1944

Rather late.  Rain early, but fine at 9.  There was a threshing set in the yard behind the house at Moore’s Farm, the engine blowing out a plume of white steam against the clear blue sky, the straw stack steadily mounting, and the elevator clanking.
There were lots of bombers and ‘Bolts going out after lunch, and at a quarter to 2 there was an alarm for 10 minutes, but nothing happened.  At lunch, reading “Picture Post”, which prints loathsome photos of the personal effects of a German soldier, found on his corpse in France, with typical “Picture Post” captions jeering at his pathetic souvenirs, the photo of his mother and his fiancée, a photo of Hitler, a photo of a nude girl.  Recently I saw in “Picture Post” photos of French Jews ill treating women who had married Germans, a proceeding viewed by the “Post” with great delight.

At 5 went down to see Duncan’s Gate, where Claypole is doing some much needed repairs.  What a sullen, rude beast he is, and not a good mason, either.

Had tea at home and then to Boxted early, to try to get some sleep.  Radio news tonight implies that the ‘diver’ attacks really are at an end, but I’m not sure.  Dozed for an hour then set off for the Post for the 1.00am watch. 

29th August 1944

Another quiet night, but a most dreadful nightmare in the early hours, in which I was being buried alive in a deep, narrow trench.

Damp, grey morning, with a little drizzle drifting from the S.W., but the glass rising.  Not likely that they can cart today, though.

Called at home and saw Father, who was very well.  Told me about a great-to-do last night when the people on the other side of Mrs Rose, where the Jarreds’ used to live, had a terrible fight at 10pm last night, and old Mrs Rose thought the man would murder his wife before morning.  She came running in to Father to send for the police, but he talked her out of it.

We heard today that the great farm demonstration at Frank Warren’s has been cancelled by Writtle, without any reference to us, obviously done in sheer spite against Frank Warren. 

Back to Boxted at 9.30.  Miss Bentley was just having a ‘phone call from London, where a raid was beginning.  Said she could hear the sirens over the wires.  At about 10.30 there was a long very distant rumble, like a very big explosion.  Bed at 11, very hopefully.  Clear moonlight.

28th August 1944

Quiet night.  Some rain at 8, then fine.  

In the office, continual squabbles about labour and pay, row after row.    

Boxted at 7.30pm, to be on Post again at 9.  Two gypsy vans arrived in the wood this evening, and Smith, the farmer came running in to ‘phone for the police in an awful flap.  Vicious brute.  Walked out quietly, and went to the wood, where the vans were drawn just inside the gate, and four odd coloured ponies were tied to the trees.  There was a little fire burning, and a man was standing, watching a black kettle boiling.

I said “Good evening” and he answered “Good evening, Sir” in a very civil voice.
I said “I rather think somebody has ‘phoned the police to say that you’re camping on private property.  Does it matter?”
“No, no, Sir,” he said quite quietly, “doesn’t matter a bit.”
“Oh, well, alright” I said, “Goodnight”.
“Goodnight, sir, and thank you for coming”.

I went back through the orchard, and not more than 10 minutes later both caravans came rattling past at a spanking pace.  Three quarters of an hour later I saw the Horkesley policeman talking to Smith, as I went off to the Post.

It was 9pm to 1am tonight, and Pawsey on with me again.  ‘Divers’ had been on several times during the evening, but nothing near.  Got off at 1 sharp, and went hopefully to bed.

27th August 1944

In the small hours had an unusually horrible dream – dreamt that Father was dead, and woke dazed and sweating. 

Had to be at the Post again at 1.00p.m., an awful nuisance.  Miss Bentley says I’m doing too much, in a most motherly manner.

When I got there, found that ‘divers’ had been on from 1-2am and 6-8am, the first for nearly 48 hours, but not very many sent over.  During the afternoon saw a very nice grey cob in a tub-trap go trotting past, with father, mother and two little girls in it.  A lot of ‘planes about all the time, which made us very busy.

Got off at 5, went down to Dedham and had tea in the café.  Then called at Sissons’ and then went with them in their car to Stratford where Mrs Sisson proposed to borrow a boat.  However, someone else had already taken it, so we borrowed an old fishing punt which lay handy, and I rowed them slowly up stream towards Higham.  It was a glorious evening, and we drifted smoothly over the calm water, through bulrushes, under the hanging arms of trees, with cattle drinking on the green margins of the stream, while swans sailed by majestically, moorhens puffed about, a reed-warbler flitted through the rushes.

Spent a most delightful hour, then back to Dedham in the cool evening and had supper.  Perhaps it was so much delight all at once that made me more than usually anxious but at any rate I went back very slowly to Boxted, stopping to eat sweet blackberries by the light of the moon, and all the time apprehensive of what I did not know.

26th August 1944

Brilliant hot day, the glass high, and rising.  Busy morning in what was nothing more than a madhouse.  Went out this afternoon, bought my rations, and bought a new pair of pyjamas – the first I’ve bought for years.
Went down to the stables, and saw Hampshire’s latest, a pony mare and a foal, both looking very sweaty in a hot, closed stable, but he was so proud of them I had not the heart to criticise.  Called at home, found the old man very well, and then rushed to Horkesley to be at the Post at 5.  Pawsey was on with me, so told him that I must really give it up – that I’m quite useless at the work, and that I’m getting no sleep at all now.  Told him I did not intend to do any more after I’ve had my holiday next month, but he asked me not to do anything until then as several men are ill, and all the rest of us are doing extra watches as it is.  Agreed weakly.

There have been no ‘divers’ over England since 7 o’clock yesterday morning, and rumours spread that “the end is in site”.  Other rumours however say that the launching sites are being moved further north, and that the next lot will come in by the East Coast and pass over Colchester.  The papers have been taking quite an optimistic line this last day or so, but they are now so unreliable that it is hardly worth while to read them.

Spent a nice quiet evening, the most interesting sights being a flock of sheep driven slowly down the lane by a shepherd with a bicycle and a dog, partridges rising out of the stubble, and a woodcock flying over.  A little later some seagulls flew in, very slowly, and seemed as if they were scanning the ground carefully.

Got away at 8, called at Lt. Rivers, and found pretty Camilla Wybrants there.  Talked half an hour, then to Woodside for supper.

Called in at the Public Library this afternoon, and saw one or two interesting items in the papers.  In the “Essex Weekly News” we are told that one Lieut. Nunn, a local soldier, has brought home a fragment of the Bayeux Tapestry as a souvenir.  One can be pretty sure that the Tapestry is somewhere where the Lieutenant and his kind can't get at it, but it is interesting to see this sort of hooliganism recorded in the press with pride.

There is a very interesting article in yesterday’s “East Anglian Daily Times” by “Pighole” on horses on farms, in which he states very plainly that the process of mechanisation has been carried much too far.

The third item which interested me was an account in Friday’s “Guardian” of the sale at Moy Hall, Inverness, I should think one of the saddest sales ever held.  The Prince’s bed is gone at last, and the hall is to be unroofed in order to save paying rates on it.

Had a delicious supper, read for 2 hours, and crept up to bed at 1.00am.

25th August 1944

Quiet night.  Brilliant morning.  At the office heard that Culley’s van, stolen from the garage near the Fire Station, has been found on the Ipswich Road.  As a matter of fact, Snowball noticed it when driving back to Ipswich last night.  It was standing on the grass verge, with its lights on, and had apparently been standing there all day.

In the Essex County Standard today are reports of some very odd police court cases.  One is that of young Hazell, the pawnbroker, who is once again in trouble for buying stolen goods.  Another, rather sad, is that Hollick, the dealer from Leavenheath, has been charged with cruelty to his horse, yet a kinder man never lived.  A third, and most disgraceful case, is that Wrights’ of Colchester have been fined for carting fodder to London for their Stratford coal horses in a lorry which was not licensed by the Ministry of War Transport for that purpose.  This petty persecution by civil servants is a scandalous business, but now that Parliament’s power has been so reduced there is no defence against it.

This evening went down to Copt Hall with Harry Day in his car, when he was taking back a load of repaired harness.  Quite a lot of corn not yet cut.  Saw Burrill at Copt Hall, and was most amused when he, the great exponent of mechanisation, asked me if I knew where he could buy a pair of good horses, saying that he had realised that horses were absolutely essential on that land.

We walked down to the lower buildings, and across the marsh.  When walking across the great bare redhill near the barn, I picked up an interesting sherd, almost of La Tene II ware, near a rabbit hole.  It was stained with the bright red soil and seemed to have been brought up from a good depth.  Nothing else to be seen but the usual briquetage, and in spite of all that Culley [the Pests Officer] has done, the hill (as others down there) is a mass of rabbits.

Got back to Boxted at 10, and bed at 10.30, with every hope for a quiet night.

24th August 1944

Cloudy, but the sun at times.  Cooler.   

Another storm this afternoon, with heavy rain.

Called at the Rallings, and saw Joan, who has came over again, then went down to Bourne Pond, which was overflowing over the meadows and path.

Cycled out to Boxted in another storm, past fields of soaking corn, and got wet through again.  Bed at 10.30, very tired and not feeling at all well.

23rd August 1944

Dull, warm and foggy.  Wakened by the noise of ‘planes warming up at Langham.  An alarm for 10 minutes at 8, as I was eating my egg, and the noise of a ‘diver’ somewhere to the S.W.  Another at 9, as I cycled through Mile End.  Heard little boys calling “Look! There it goes!”, pointing to the west, where the steady thumping drummed across the sky, but could see nothing.

Cut through Defoe Crescent and down Turner Road, women at their doors, patients in the asylum fields, all staring at the sky.  Then the ‘all-clears’ came wailing across the valley through the golden haze, one siren after another.  The sun began to break through the fog like a little silver disc.

Went to Dedham tonight, and saw the Sissons.  Stayed quite late, and while there a great storm of wind and rain came up, but did not last very long.  Left for the Post, got there at 1.00am.  Divers came on at 3, and there was an alarm at 3.10, but it was a mistake.  Heavy rain during the early hours.  Terrible harvest weather.  Got into bed at 5.30.

22nd August 1944

Had 2 hours on the bed, dressed.  Woke to find clouds and drizzle, but the barometer going up. 

At the office found a letter from Poulter – armistice!  Read it through, to be quite staggered when he calmly ignored our differences to tell me that a “Roman ship” had been found in Woolpack Yard at St Botolph’s Corner, and did I think that the Chiswell Brook had once been big enough to be navigable?  Where on earth does he get these ideas?  I’m also so afraid he will get them into the papers.

At any rate, the old boy wants peace, and he shall have it.  Went round to see the ‘boat’ at lunchtime.  Saw Joan Ralling passing by, so took her in to hear me deliver an archaeological lecture.  All that could be seen was a few shapeless bits of wood, about 2’ long, sticking out of the bottom of the trench at a depth 6’.  It is known that a lot of timber, apparently piling and riveting was found when the Electricity Station was built.  Possible that the Chiswell Brook was confined between wooden wharfs to prevent flooding – perhaps the Osbourne Street area was used for intensive marked gardening.  The map of 1825 shows gardens all the way between Stanwell Street and St. Botolph Street.

Went home to tea, had a talk with Father for an hour.  He seemed very well.  Left, and cycled through Ardleigh, Dedham, and Stratford to Higham.  Went to call on the Rushburys’.  Found Mrs. Rushbury there with the two daughters.  Chatted for 10 minutes, then went across the river and up the steep lane to Higham, but alas Jacquie was out.  Cycled slowly back to Boxted through the windy dark night, and was in bed or rather on it by 11.30.  Too tired to undress.

21st August 1944

Up early, office at 9.30.  Quiet night, and had at least 8 and a half hours sleep.  Damp, cloudy morning, with strong NE wind.  No harvesting anywhere, but men and women working among the cabbages.  Not a ‘plane in the sky.

Busy morning, getting ready for Committee.  Felt nervous, thinking there would be an alarm, but nothing came.  Bought sandwiches and milk in Milk Bar, putting up with the rudeness of the girls serving there.  Cycled to Birch in 35 minutes.  A long, sad, meeting.  Joe Percival sent in his resignation – final.  Nobody had anything to say, the old chairman full of gloom.  Mrs. Round is about again, looking rather pale.  Joanna is said to be coming home next Sunday, bombs or no bombs.  Noticed that both Mrs. Round and the Colonel are now sleeping downstairs in the front hall.

After the meeting cycled to Tiptree Heath and met Joan Ralling who was cycling back from Southend to Colchester in a thin wet drizzle.  She had cycled against the wind, all the way from Southend since 4 o’clock, and it was only 7 when I met her.  Told me that 13 people were killed at Southend last Thursday by a ‘diver’.  The Southend people can see the ‘divers’ pouring in towards Kent.  The gunfire across the water is terrific.

She told me that at Rayleigh she saw, written on the back of the name plates on the station, “Warsaw via Harwich” and “Belgian Coast via Harwich”.

Very pleasant but wet ride into Colchester.  Corn traves all sopping wet in the fields.  Got to Winnock Lodge at 9 o’clock, and had a supper with delicious Victorias from the garden.  Left at 10 p.m., a dark, wet, windy night. 

In Maidenburgh Street ran hastily through an angry scene between a sailor and some Americans, great oaths and threats rending the air.

Got to Boxted, just in time to hear the sirens moaning through the wet wind, the first alarm for 48 hours.  Went outside, and could hear faintly a ‘diver’ coming up from the East.  A searchlight to the SW of the town poked up, and tracked jerkily across the cloud-base.  Nothing to be seen, but somewhere far to the West there was a sudden scarlet glow and low rumbling explosion.  A few minutes later another ‘diver’ went over, further South.  We had almost thought to have seen the last ‘diver’, as the Allies are advancing along the channel coast so fast, but if these we now see are launched from boats, there may be no end to them but the end of the war.  ‘All-clear’ came in about half an hour. 

Went up to the Post, getting very wet, but feel this is nothing but a rehearsal for the grim black nights of winter.  Young Carter was on with me, and we spent the dark wet hours telling stories of ghosts and witchcraft.  He has a lot of very good ones – a gypsy witch at Boxted, a “wise woman” who used to live near Severalls.  The stories were told him by his grandmother, the old lady at the “Queen’s Head Pub”.

One of the stories was about the landlord of the “Anchor” at Nayland, who is still alive and is a wizard, able to “put the eye” on pigs.

‘Diver’ warnings on and off all night but nothing came on our side of the Thames.

Felt very sleepy towards 5 o’clock.  Dawn was very slow in coming.

Eric Rudsdale made a transcript of the stories of witchcraft at Boxted, which were told to him by Douglas Carter whilst they were on Royal Observer Corps duty. This transcript is given below: 

'Of course, there aren’t so many witches and wizards about now as there was when we was young, but I remember one or two affairs that happened around Boxted some years ago that were very queer.  At one time, about 60 years ago, there was an old woman what lived alone in a little old cottages where Severalls is now, only of course Severalls weren't there at that time.  Well, this old woman was well known to be a witch, and one morning early she was a-standing at her garden-gate when two men come down the road with a pair of horses and a wagon load of corn, a-going to the mill at Colchester. 

When she see them, she called out “Stop a minute, mate, will you let me have a little corn for my chickens?”  But the wagoner said “No, missus, I dussnt do that, the sacks is all weighed and tied up, and we’d get into trouble.”  “But I must have it,” she say, “and you won't move from here till I get it”.

With that the wagon stopped dead, and no matter how the horses tugged and strained they couldn’t budge it an inch.

However, the wagoner’s mate knew all about the old woman being a witch so he knew what to do.  He winked at the wagoner and he say “Do you come along of me mate and we’ll get a couple of ash sticks.”  So they went into a little copse and cut two ash sticks, and the wagoner’s mate said “Now you do same as me, and we’ll soon be out of here.”  Then they both started thrashing the wheels of the wagon, and the more they thrashed the more the old woman began to shout and scream.  “Stop it!” she say, “Stop it! you’re a-hurting me something cruel.”  But they kept on just the same, and the old woman was a-hopping up and down, and she shruck something terrible.  At last she gave a mighty shriek and turned and ran into her cottages, and slammed the door behind her.  No sooner had she gone in than the wagon wheels was loosened and the horses moved it easily, so they went away to Colchester with no more trouble.

Another time that was a more serious thing altogether.  That happened at a time when there was some gypsies in the parish a-com for the pea-picking, and one of the gypsy women was going from door to door selling calico and such-like.  She went to one cottage and she say to the woman there “Will you buy my calico?” but the woman say “No, I don’t want no calico now.”  Well, there was a little gal come into the room, and the gypsy said “Is that your little gal?” and the woman say “Yes it is,” so the old gypsy went up to the little gal and put out her hand and stroked her head, and she say “Well, I reckon you’ll be sorry you never bought my calico.”

Next morning the poor little gal was that sick she couldn’t get out of bed.  She was all shrivelled and yellow, same as if she’d got the jaundice.  No matter what they gave her, she couldn’t keep nothing down.  Of course, her mother was wholly upset, and she sent for the doctor as quick as she could.

When the doctor came, he looked at the little gal, and he say “Well, I’ve never seen a case like this afore, and I don’t rightly know what to do,” so he went off to Colchester to see an old friend of his, what was a doctor too, and told him all about it.  This old doctor said “I’ve never seen a case like this myself, but my old father, what’s dead now he saw one more than 80 years ago, and he cured it, and the way he cured it he wrote down in an old book what I’ve got now.”  So the old doctor got this book out and showed him how to cure the little gal, and he went back to Boxted and saw the gal’s mother and he say “Now, missus, here’s how to get your little gal well again.  I can't do nothing myself, but this here is what you’ve got to do.  You want to take some of the gal’s water, and clip off some of her hair and mix it all up together with some flour until that’s like a paste.  Then you want to make it up into a little pancake, and put it on the fire, but before you do that you want to see as how all the doors and windows is shut and bolted, and the curtains drawn and the shutters up.  Then when you put the little cake on the fire you don’t want to take a might of notice if anybody try to get in the house.  Whatever you do don’t let no one in, or the little gal won't never get better – she’ll die.”

Well, the woman done all what he said, she made the little cake, and put it on the fire, but before she done that she locked and bolted the doors, shut the windows, and drew the curtains.  No sooner had she put the cake on the fire than the wind began to howl and shriek and the cottage shook, the windows rattled, and soot came down the chimney, and in the middle of it she heard someone come hurrying up the garden path and bang on the door, and a woman’s voice, like she was in agony, called “Let me in! let me in!”  But the woman never took no notice, and as the little cake burnt away the voice faded and the wind died down.

Next morning the little gal was right as rain, and of course her mother was right delighted, but the queer thing was, when she went out up the village they said “Did you hear?  One of them gypsy women up at the camp died last night and that was the very woman what came round with the calico.'

20th August 1944

Slept from quarter to 6 until 11 o’clock.  Torrential rain from 12 until 1.  Terrible for the corn.  The wind veered right round to the N.E.

This evening went over to Dedham, but found the Sissons at supper, so did not stop.  Called at Lt. Rivers on the way back, but there were strange cars outside so I did not call.  Back to “Woodside” rather depressed and had a lonely supper.  Early bed, hoping for a long sleep.
News in the Sunday papers seems pretty cheerful, but very difficult to know what to believe.

19th August 1944

Up rather late, after 9 hours continuous deep sleep, without a dream.  Cloudy and warm.  Busy morning, many visitors.  Went on the market to see various people this afternoon.  An alarm as I was walking past the post office at 3 o’clock.  Cycled round to Clark’s Meadow, and heard the thing thumping away to the NW, above the clouds.  A dull, distant crash, and ‘all clear’.

Suddenly thought to buy some flowers for Molly Blomfield, put them on the seat of her car which was standing in Sir Isaac’s Walk.  Shortly after ran into Ald. Sam Blomfield, and talked about the Museum and Poulter.  He promised to speak to Poulter, and see what could be done.

Went round to the Library to see newspapers, and when coming out looked into the old graveyard of St Runwald’s, and saw the tombstones of so many of our leading citizens.

Cycled out through Boxted to Higham.  Saw the damage to the cottage and the Post Office caused by the flying bomb on Wednesday evening.  Not very serious, mostly broken windows.

At Higham Jacquie was running about the garden with Susan her little dog, her hair flying loose, looking wonderfully well and happy.  Told her I hoped to go to Scotland if I get some leave next month, so she wrote a letter to some very good friends of hers, called Biggam, saying I will call on them.  Stayed talking until nearly midnight.  Tremendous firing at 9 o’clock and again just before 12, but a long way off.

Went to the Post, by way of the Marsh Lane and Langham Waterworks.  Got in at 10 to 1.  Dull watch.  No ‘divers’ and only two ‘planes over the whole night.  Stars twinkling through the thin haze.  Deep silence but for the sleepy chirp of birds.  Several hours talk on the Nature of God.

18th August 1944

Two hours in bed, and awakened by an alarm at 7.30.  Lovely fine hot morning.  Nothing happened.  Going in, saw a man riding a good class rough coated cob up Maidenburgh Street.  Like the look of it.

Very busy all day.  Wages troubles and so on.  Capt. Folkard not in a very good mood.  Daphne restless, and says she wants to leave.

Home to tea, and then went over to the Rallings for supper, Joan and Jane both there – Joan is becoming very handsome.  Mary Ralling showed me her photograph albums, very interesting stuff.  She has several very early views of the Castle and High Street, apparently about 1860-65.  Besides these she has some views of their own home, [Winnock Lodge] when new-built, standing quite alone in the New Town fields, the backs of the houses in Magdalen Street showing over a distant hedge.  Even the fruit trees in the garden are there, the pears and the big cherry, so they must be over 60 years old.  Very odd to think of them growing and blowing in sunshine, while my Mother was a tiny girl in the old house across the market garden [in Wimpole Road].

Lovely warm, sunny evening, not many ‘planes about.  Back to Boxted at 10.30, and went straight to bed, hoping for a little sleep.

Nothing yet from Poulter.  Very worrying.

My review of “Britain’s Good Earth” appeared in the “Essex County Standard” tonight, and looked very well.

17th August 1944

Yet another quiet night, and a brilliant dawn.  Hot day.  Nothing from Poulter.

Hear that last week, on Friday I think, Eisenhower was at Dunmow and Debden, inspecting USA bases.

Trouble all day, mostly about labour.  Mrs Allen and Spencer both away, and long streams of ‘phone calls for me to answer, mostly about Women's Land Army.

Chapman from Dedham, came in, and was very rude because he thinks we ought to pay him some ploughing subsidy, which was in fact paid to the previous owner, although he did not actually bring the land into cultivation.

This evening went over to Higham, calling at Dedham on the way, to have a chat with Sissons.  Jacquie was very charming, looking like a little brown boy.  There was an alarm at quarter to 9, and two ‘divers’ were heard, somewhere to the south, followed by two explosions.  Went to the Post at 1.00am and heard that one was recorded in our sector, and that it fell at Castle Hedingham, 14 miles away.  Most puzzling, the way these wretched things seem to come in almost due East.  Feel that they cannot be launched from Holland.  Some people say they are sent from small ships, or possibly from submarines.

Had a completely uneventful night, no ‘divers’, nothing.  Came home at 5am so dark I had to use a lamp – signs of dreaded winter coming on. 

This morning saw Harry Neale ride past the office on a nice blue roan.

16th August 1944

Quiet night, but a series of four alarms one after another soon after quarter to 9 this morning.  Some distant gun-fire, but nothing happened.

Brilliant hot day.  Big crowds at the Bus Park, going to the seaside, children with spades and pails.  Busy day in the office, ‘phone going the whole time.  Home to tea, then up-town, saw Molly Blomfield, near Sheregate, for the first time in six months.  Spoke to her, and she laughed and chatted happily.  Felt very sorry for her.

Then went down to St Botolph’s Corner, where a deep trench has now been dug across the street from the site of Blomfield’s shop through the cartway between the “Woolpack” and the next shop towards Osborne Street.  A few feet within this cartway a number of pieces of ancient timber were stuck, perhaps parts of pipes or troughs, similar to those found when the Electricity Works were built.   

Saw a circus on the Recreation Ground, a horrid, dirty little affair, with a dirty patched tent a few tired looking thin ponies.  These poor derelict circuses are now given free sites on municipal land all over the country now, as part of the “holidays-at-home” business.

Back to the office and wrote a letter to Poulter.  Felt better.  Must bring this affair to an end.
To Boxted 9.30, and to bed soon after 10, very tired.

15th August 1944

Yet another quiet night.  Up early in the cool dawn, the sun casting long shadows of the traved wheat across the stubbles.   

This afternoon an alarm at 2.30, in brilliant sunshine.  Nothing happened.  From the back window of the office could see an old cripple sat in a wheeled chair under the shade of a tree, quite unmoved and unmoving.  ‘All-clear’ came in 10 minutes.

There was another alarm about 6, while I was having tea in the café.  Felt very nervous against the plate glass window, but two prostitutes at the next table were quite uninterested, and only ceased their chattering when one dashed out to greet an American officer.  They both went up to her flat on the other side of the street.  She had been impatiently waiting for him, and I heard her say to the other girl “Surely he can't be flying all day.”   

Went home.  Father said he had rheumatics, and was walking slowly and with difficulty.  The parson’s little boy from across the road came running in, and the old man suddenly became brisk and active, walking across the room as if he were 10 years younger.  He took the child on his knee and pointed to me, saying “That’s my little boy, that is.”  I was once, dear Father, 30 years and more ago.  But what am I now?

Had to leave at 7 to get to the Observer Post, and to leave a message at Lt. Rivers. 

Post at 9, but all quiet.  Rumours spreading that all the ‘divers’ have been used up, but the 9 o’clock news quite depressing, and no sign of the “general collapse” so confidently predicted.

14th August 1944

Quiet night, except for ‘planes.  Looked out at 5, and saw all the landing lights on, ‘planes continuously coming in. 

This morning talking to Capt. Folkard about marketing of agricultural produce, and remarked how Colchester street market had decayed during the war – on last Saturday there were only 12 stalls set out.

Heard by ‘phone that we had a bad fire at Copt Hall on Saturday – the engine of the combine harvester back-fired and destroyed 20 acres of standing wheat in fields below the lower buildings.  Maidstone went down to see, as Capt. Folkard went off on a short holiday, which he richly deserves.

Glorious fine day.  News in the papers optimistic, and some idea that the war will be over before winter.  Very doubtful, but anyway the divers will be ended in a few weeks, as the launching-sites are being cut off.

Early evening decided to go to the Playhouse, but the film so bad wished I had not.

To Boxted 9.30, in a lovely quiet cool evening.  ‘Planes taking off again tonight.  Bed 11.30, hopefully.

13th August 1944

Had a meal and had to hurry to Post by 1p.m.  Miss Bentley said there were sirens at 6 in the morning, and something fell a long way to the north.

At the Post, young Carter was on with me.  Lovely white clouds, floating in a clear blue sky.  Our ‘phone went dead, and I had to cycle to Horkesley Post Office to ‘phone for a mechanic..  Until he arrived we had nothing to do but wait.  When he came he turned out be a friend of Daven Soar’s.

Back to Woodside for tea, then supper, after which cycled to Dedham for an hour or two, longing for conversation.  Left at 11p.m.  Showers of meteors – the Perseids.  Woodside at 11.45, and had determined to go to bed properly, yet at the last minute was absolutely compelled to crawl under it – simply could not help myself.  ‘Planes beginning to get up at Boxted.

12th August 1944

Wakened by another alarm at 7, followed by a tremendous explosion, shaking the windows.  Dull, cloudy, and warm.  Sounds of harvesting, voices on a stack, and the creaking of wagons.

Went to the Library for 3 hours this afternoon, then home to tea.

This evening went to Higham, but Jacquie was not there.  Felt terribly lonely, depressed and frightened.  Went down the mill track to Rushburys’.  Mrs. R. and the two girls and a very pretty niece were there.  Henry Rushbury away in the North, working.  They did not seem to want me and I wished I had not gone.  Talked of Layer Marney church and the monuments in an aimless sort of fashion, and felt more and more depressed, the atmosphere becoming like that in a nightmare.  Somebody telephoned, somebody who sounded very drunk and very frightened.  He said something about flying-bombs falling near him this morning, and obviously wanted to talk to somebody now, as the shades of night gathered and fresh attacks became imminent.

Thought what a bizarre scene – the gracious room, the pretty girls, sitting in their long coloured frocks in the fading light, while this sad maundering voice went on over the ‘phone, and we all waited for darkness and terror. 
Left at 10, went back to the cottage again, and met Jacquie on the hill.  Jacquie said she was very frightened this morning, and had sat up half the night with Ida, talking.  The explosion was terrific, though some say the thing was as far away as Polstead.

Went a little way up the lane towards Langham, and lay under a stack until past midnight.  Then cycled slowly to Ipswich Road, and turned at Seven Sisters to East Bergholt.  Great concentrations of searchlights over Ipswich and Felixstowe the far distant hum of ‘planes, many meteors flashing across the sky.  Met a few cyclists.  Went through East Bergholt and down towards Manningtree.

Suddenly saw torches waving and ran into a crowd of police and American Military Police.  A policeman said “Where are you off to, mate?”  I answered on the spur of the moment “Down to Manningtree”, and he simply said “OK, straight on,” without asking to see my card.  Met a good many Americans cycling back from a dance somewhere, mostly very drunk.  Warned some of them about the MPs ahead.  Some said “Thanks, buddy” and others “F*** the bloody cops.”

Went by the pepper factory, with its overpowering smell of pepper and spices, across Cattawade Bridge, by the dim lights on Mannningtree Station.  Half thought of asking if there was a train to Norwich before morning.  Felt very tired.

There was a Special Constable by Lawford Place, so hastily and loudly said “Good Morning”, to disarm any suspicion he might have had.  At Sherbourne Mill lay on the wet grass above the farm for half an hour, wondering what on earth the Parringtons would say if they knew.  Thought of going down into the lower barn, but decided not to, in case the dogs barked.

In Pond Lane, (it was now about 2.30am), met a couple of soldiers, North Countrymen who asked me for a light.  Cycled quickly past, not much wanting to find myself alone with two strangers in such a lonely spot.

Not a soul about in Dedham, just a deserted dusky street, with a cat slinking over to the churchyard.  Heard Stratford Church chime the half hour.  Went to the iron seat on the road to Gunhill, where people sit to enjoy the view on quiet summer evenings, and sat there for half an hour or so.  A few ‘planes came over, probably mosquitoes back from Berlin.

At last, by way of Langham, got to Boxted at 3.30am.  Clouds were coming gradually over the stars, but was now so tired that I did not care whether the sirens sounded or not.  Fell into bed and slept soundly until almost midday Sunday.  Miss Bentley thought I had been on duty.

11th August 1944

Lovely morning, and a glorious view from my window, acres of potatoes, and acres of traved corn.  Got in early, and very busy all day.  Lunch at the Regal, saw a girl very much like pretty Mrs. Caswell, the “Rat Woman” from Ministry of Food, but it wasn’t.

An alarm for 5 minutes at quarter past 2, while I was in the Library, but nothing happened. 

Had tea with Daphne, then cycled back to Boxted with her and then on to the Observer Post at 9.  About 11 o’clock there were showers of meteors, more than I have ever seen before.   

Feel very envious, as Eva Funnell, the pretty Land Arrmy girl, is off to Wales tomorrow for a week.

‘Diver’ came on again before 1.00am, and just as I was turning by the “Queen’s” the alarm sounded.  Heard a ‘diver’ somewhere near, but could not see it.  ‘All-clear’ within a few minutes, then to bed.

10th August 1944

Quiet night, and had several hours sleep.  To West Bergholt, to see Hatchet, baliff for Westwood Park, about some machinery application.  Made a delightful trip on such a fine sunny morning.  Got to office 10.30, with legitimate excuse for once.  Most of the corn cut and traved, and carting going on at both Boxted and Horkesley.
Called at Hervey Benham’s, and he paid me a guinea for the review of May’s book, which will be out next week.

Several times today we were all amused to see stark naked children running in and out of the brothel on the opposite side of the road, rolling on the hot pavement.

Went to Library after tea, and walked through the Park.  Lovely evening.  The sun was westering, sending a great beam of warm orange light into the north wall of the Castle, and across the grass beneath the trees.  The obelisk stood on its little island, where no grass ever grows, throwing a black finger on the parched lawn.  Distant A.A. firing far away.

To Boxted by 9.30.  Bed at 11pm,  Very hot.  Felt depressed, and extremely apprehensive for no reason at all.

9th August 1944

Observer Post at 1am.  Cloudy, and no ‘planes about.  Ate plums, drank tea, took things very easy.  No ‘diver’ on.  Wilshire with me, talking about things that happened earlier in the war.  Told me about old Harry Bullock (another of our watch) and the blowing up of the “Beehive” at Little Horkesley in 1940.  The Beehive pub was destroyed when a land mine hit Little Horkesley Church in September 1940.

“I was on at the old post along o’ Harry on the Monday after the Saturday when the “Beehive” went, so I said ‘Hullo Harry,’ I said ‘Where was you o’Saturday night?’ ‘Cor boy,’ he say, ‘I was in the Beehive’.
‘You was?’ I says ‘how’d you get on?’ ‘Cor,’ he say, ‘I was right flabbergasted.’
‘What’d you do?’, I says.
‘Well,’ he say, ‘I got my bike out and rode off home’.

Yes, that’s what he done only they never knew up there, you see, and they was a-looking for him for nigh on 4 hours, then somebody say ‘Well, p’raps he ain't here after all?’ so they went off to his, at 2 in the morning, and his wife say ‘No, he ain’t a-buried, he’s been in bed along o’me since half past eleven.’  But mind you, that made him feel right queer for the best part of a week.”

About three times there were a few spots of rain, then the clouds blew away, and the moon shone out clear and still, till at last the eastern sky paled again, and the sheep stirred and bleated in the fields down by Green Lane.  As the light grew we could see the standing traves of corn, and rabbits like little grey shadows hopping about among them.

As I came away, it was light enough to see the tower of Stoke Church against the pale yellow sky.  Bed 5.15, up again 8.15, got in rather late.  Captain Folkard and Maidstone off to meet the Executive Committee at Layer.  Soon after they had gone came a frantic ‘phone call to say the Executive’s motor coach had broken down at Braxted.  Had to send messages to depots and so on, to try to reach Capt. Folkard.

Very busy all day, and for once did not waste time writing private stuff. 

Lovely evening.  Went to see Father for an hour. Felt very tired but much better.  Wrote some letters, then to post and on to Boxted.  ‘Forts’ circling to go out. 

8th August 1944

Lovely day.  Up early, and felt fairly well. 

Out today with photographers, getting harvest photos on our farms.  Managed to get some really lovely scenes, and persuaded them to take several of the horses at work.  Back to Colchester with Captain Folkard and Maidstone, and we all had tea at the Regal.

Then home and wrote some letters.  Supper at Boxted, then set out soon after midnight to walk to the Observer Post, filled with a sense of impending doom.  Got there early, and lay down in the field until moonrise.

7th August 1944

Bank Holiday Monday
Felt better.  Writing all morning and then to Dedham.  (First Bank Holiday for years when we have not had a Committee meeting).  Mrs Sisson not very well, so did not stay many minutes.  This evening went over to Sherbourne Mill, and saw a delightful book of Caldecott drawings, the story of “Merrilegs” and Miss Diana Wood, all a sheer delight.  A.J. Munnings told Joy that it was these Caldecott drawings which first set him on his career as a horse-painter.

Had supper there.  Joy’s cousin is now going back to London, without any great enthusiasm. A lot of talk of rockets and their possible effect.  Took Parry a copy of May’s book, which he was very pleased to have.
Leaving there, went over to Higham, but Jacquie was out – noticed her cycle at Ida’s but would not go in.  Boxted at 11.30, and to bed.

6th August 1944

No sleep last night until 7 o’clock this morning.  A quiet night, such a pity it was wasted.  Had some breakfast in bed, but still feel very sick, and head very bad.  Glorious hot day.  Went out this afternoon, saw wheat cut and traved at Boxted Hall.  Into Colchester and saw Father, who was very well.

Back to Observer Post at 9pm, a little better.  Crowds of people coming off the station, back from the seaside.

Diaper on again with me tonight.  Fine clear, moonlight, yet nothing much moving anywhere.  Felt better at end of watch, and cycled round for a while, then bed at 3am.

5th August 1944

To Post before 1.00am, feeling dreadful.  As I went down the lane by Ridgwalls, there were rifle shots down by the Nayland road, and the sound of a lorry driving away.  Probably poachers.  Old Diaper on with me, and was very kind.  Ate apple and drank hot sweet tea at 3am, but did not feel any better.

Brilliant moonlight night, yet all quiet.  ‘Diver’ on at 3, and again at 4.30, but nothing in the area.  Never so glad to see the dawn, and thankful to crawl into bed at 5.30.  Felt bad on waking, and could not eat, not even the delicious tomato sandwiches Miss Bentley made for me.

Went to bed again at 9, but felt so queer did not know what to do.  Long to be sick.

4th August 1944 - 30th Anniversary of the First World War

Woke up feeling very bad indeed.  Did practically nothing all day.  Just thirty years ago I was on the beach at Lowestoft watching the warships rushing south. 

Rudsdale was then four years old on the day the First World War began on 4th August 1914.  The Rudsdale family were on holiday in Lowestoft at the time, witnessing the passage of the warships on the North Sea. 

Back to Boxted early, and dozed on bed.  Had to leave for Observer Post, 12.30am.

3rd August 1944

Dull and cold.  Two alarms during the morning, the second followed by a distant thump.  Felt so disturbed and restless that I had to go out.  Crept down to Bourne Mill, went up the alley towards Cannock Mill, and sat there finishing the review of May’s book.  Saw the blackberries beginning to form, and the blossom is almost all gone.
There was the sound of distant machine gun fire on a range somewhere, and the rhythmical clanging of a steam hammer in Paxman’s, just as I used to hear it as a child, in the long summer afternoons nearly 30 years ago.  Chickens were cackling down at Gibbons’ place, and far off a train whistled.  Wished I was on it.

Clouds cleared at lunchtime.  Glorious blue sky.  To Library after tea, and then to Boxted through the Park. 

Army trumpeters playing somewhere, the clear brazen notes sounding across the old Roman wall, the dark Castle embowered in trees on the top of the hill, with girls and soldiers sitting about on the grass.  Little boats on the lake, and boys fishing above the ford in the deep pools.  Went by way of the railway footpath on purpose, to see the view of the town on such a lovely summer evening.

In Turner Road saw Americans on cycles, two on each machine, cycling madly down the concrete roadway, and an old farm labourer, his hair plastered down with sweat, a sack over his shoulder, walking slowly homewards.  Children in coloured frocks playing in the road.  Notice on the chapel at Mile End: “This Church is Open Throughout the Day for Private Prayer.”

Wondered as I was riding home – do the public ever think how it is that so much is known about poison gases and their effects.  Do they ever think of what experiments must be carried out to discover these facts?

2nd August 1944

Another quiet night, and slept for 4 hours, although tormented by the most dreadful dreams.

Dull, and cool NE wind.  Had lunch with Daphne.  Bought rations, but did not go home, going early to Boxted ready for 9 o’clock watch.

A “fair” going on in the Holly Trees grounds.  In the Meadow a few children were sliding down a chute on a mat, and a pretty little ginger haired girl and her mother were looking at the coconut shies, while the blonde supercilious looking police woman strolled across the grass. 

Castignoli was there with his amplifier, appealing for money for the Red Cross.  On the footbridge by the Middle Mill people were fishing in the Mill Pool, while dogs played and scampered on King’s Mead.

Called at Woodside, and then to Observer Post at 9 o’clock.  Terrific row going on about proposed changes in rota times, to which I remained indifferent, but all the other men furious.  Am determined to give up this ridiculous job anyway, as am quite unable to do it.

About 10 o’clock 24 Thunderbolts came in to Boxted, in the damp gloomy dusk, swooping and roaring and at last sinking one by one out of sight behind the trees, while I solemnly reported them in.

Thankful to get to bed, even if not to sleep, by 1.30am.

1st August 1944

Alarm at 7.30 this morning but don't mind them very much then.  Dull and cool, but cleared up after lunch.

Going in, saw a coffin being brought out of a house near Severalls Farm. 

Daphne and Walling had another of their bitter quarrels this morning.  Seemed to go on for hours.

Busy this afternoon writing a review of old May’s book, “Britain’s Good Earth”, which is really extraordinarily good.

This evening to cinema with Daphne to see “Pygmalion”, beautifully done, which I enjoyed very much.  This is quite one of the best performances of Leslie Howard.

Went back to Boxted with Daphne, got in at 9.30.  Sat talking to Goodbody for an hour, he telling me stories about Ireland.  He said that it was a common story over there that Michael Collins was really murdered by his own chauffeur, over a quarrel about his (Collins’) wife.  Goodbody is a Protestant, in fact of Quaker upbringing, and is very “anti-Irish”.

He also told a story about a ship being sunk by a submarine off Africa, and the captain of the submarine helped the passengers and crew into lifeboats and agreed to stand by until help came.  Later other submarines appeared, and they too stood by as the weather became rough.

When the passengers reached England and told the story they were warned that if they spread it about proceedings would be taken under the Defence Regulations. 

Heard today that the mother of a Land Girl named Cornish has been killed by a flying-bomb, and that the fiancé of Ivy Pass, another Land Girl, is said to have gone mad through finding parts of a body when clearing up a bombed house site in London.  Ivy Pass is a very attractive girl who helps with Women's Land Army timesheets.

Mentioned to Father today that I might have fortnight on the Broads with Sissons this month, just to get him into the mood that I might be going away for three weeks or even a month if I can do it.