EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

13th September 1944

Wednesday
Cycled slowly along the starlit roads, and heard faintly the Town Hall clock strike midnight.  A ‘plane came in from the East and dropped an orange flare, and then a red one.  As I neared the post great masses of Lancasters and Mosquitoes came in from the sea, heading NW, nearly all carrying lights.  There was a continuous stream of them for nearly an hour.  When I started duty other posts were trying to plot them, but we let them all go by.  After that, all was quiet except for an occasional Mosquito.

Once or twice we heard heavy distant explosions, and sometimes a long low rumble, which we thought might be guns across the water.  Several of our men are convinced that these explosions are undoubtedly the new German rocket, [V2] although the Government still only threaten that it is a danger which may happen.

The moon rose at 3, a thin silver sliver.

Carter was on with me, and told one or two more good stories.  One was about Boxted Hall.  He said a man named Hobbs used to live there, and that he was the nephew of an old wizard who lived on an island off the Essex coast.  Could this be the famous “Cunning Murrell” of Canvey?  Have somewhere a very interesting article on him.  Anyway, this wizard, dying, left his nephew all his books of magic.  By the use of these books Hobbs accumulated 132 little pots full of sovereigns, which, in due course, he left, together with the same magic books to the son of a servant named Fisher – (was he the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”?)  This young man, under the name of Hobbs-Fisher, farmed the Boxted Hall land for many years.  On one occasion, by means of the magic books, his servants are alleged to have “raised the devil” while the old man was in church, and he had to be sent for “to talk the devil down” again.

Another story – a little Boxted boy was last year sent to the Catholic School at Colchester.  He was very delicate and wasting.  One day, according to Carter, one of the nuns said she could see a “halo” round his head.  Within a week he was dead.  His name was Briggs.

Bed 5.30am, very sleepy, but got up very cheerfully after 3 hours sleep.  Busy morning fine warm day.  Heavy explosions between 11 and 12, shaking the building.  At one particularly violent explosion a girl opposite called out to a man painting the next house “Whatever was that?”  Culley came in this afternoon to say Bounds, his foreman, had ‘phoned from London to say several huge rockets had fallen in London and the London area.  When I got back to Boxted, Miss B. told me she had heard from Jameson of the County Council Land Agency Office, that a rocket fell at 12.30pm at Elmstead making “a hole big enough to bury 5 houses.”  (EJR later notes: ‘This was absolutely false’). 

Went to the Repertory workshop to see Diana, and advised her on Victorian furnishings.  Then had tea with Di and pretty Yvonne Coquelle.  Much theatrical chatter.  After that took Di for a drink at the “Stockwell Arms”, and sat for a time in St Martin’s Churchyard, talking.  About 8 she said she was hungry, so we went to have supper.

Papers today give us warning that “V2 is probable and possible” – the absurdity, when half England knows they are falling already.  Some in the Government say “the Germans may make a last kick” – last kick be damned – this is a new campaign, and probably an unbeatable one too.

3 comments:

Chris said...

Another wide-ranging and fascinating diary entry from Eric – wizards, the devil, theatrical chatter and V2 rockets all on the same day!

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the wizard story (although it all sounds perfectly reasonable to me!), but it would appear that Eric was totally right not to be duped by the government’s misinformation regarding the “possibility” of V2 rockets eventually targeting Britain, as it is now accepted that the first one had already hit London on September 8th, killing three people in Chiswick. In fact, it wasn’t until November 10th 1944 that Churchill finally admitted that the country had been experiencing V-2 rocket attacks for a number of weeks. Prior to that, the government had apparently been blaming the huge explosions on defective gas pipes!

This appears to be another example of the government’s occasionally amateurish attempts to control the release of vital information into the public domain during the war – the intention clearly being to keep morale as high as possible and to allow nothing to blur the focus of the war effort. The same would appear to apply to the prolonged concealment of details of the Shoah, to which Mike alludes in his intriguing comments for August 30th 1944. And in his “linked” essay, Mike states that the war effort was, first and foremost, all about keeping Britain safe from invasion.

Talking of misinformation, it appears that in the late autumn of 1944 British intelligence began leaking falsified details about V-2 rockets overshooting London by some distance, and the Germans were consequently duped into recalibrating their aim accordingly. This resulted in considerably less loss of life amongst the inhabitants of heavily-populated London, but it was obviously not such good news for the inhabitants of Kent and South Essex…..

E J Rudsdale said...

Many thanks Chris for your insightful comments about the V-2 attacks. It is incredible to think that the Government did not admit to the V-2 rocket attacks until 10th November 1944. Rudsdale's diary entries for this period show that people were aware of these new attacks as early as September 1944, in spite of the official denial. And as you mention, the populations of Kent and South Essex would have good reason to know about them in the following months. Thanks again and best wishes, Catherine

Anonymous said...

Catherine

Thanks to Chris for the information on V2s, having visited the launch sites in Northern France I did begin to wonder if there was some miss-information going on, but you do realise from the sites what effective weapons they were and why the government would make an effort to play down the effect of them.

Mike Dennis