EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

24th September 1944: Colchester to York

Sunday
Wakened at 4am by an ‘all-clear’.  Looked out to see driving clouds and pouring rain.
Got up at 9, found it still raining hard, and strong N.W. gale.  Tried to make up my mind whether or not to go over to Fordham to see Capt. Folkard, or whether to telephone.  Finally did neither.  Perhaps I shall see a doctor when I get to York.  Felt in a state of high tension all day, listening for sirens.  Several times turned the radio on, only to turn it off in a few minutes, thinking I heard them.

About 4 o’clock got everything packed and ready, loaded cycle, and then felt a sudden panic that I should miss the train.  Cycled to the station about half past 5, Halifaxes and Stirlings going over very low, under scudding clouds, heading for Holland.  The situation there must be very bad to send out bombers in such weather.

Big noisy crowd at the station.  Felt depressed and anxious.  A wedding party there, North Country people, all dressed in their best, - a young blonde widow in a fur coat and black veils, with a fat, ugly baby, a blowsy old mother, a hard looking red-faced man in a bowler hat, who had had a good deal to drink, and was shouting across the lines to some more of the party on the up-platform.  A London train came roaring through the sleeting rain, clouds of dirty brown steam enveloping the coaches.  Began to feel more and more anxious as the Edinburgh train failed to come in, and began to wonder if we should be clear of Essex before the next lot of ‘divers’ came over.  Enquired of several porters and the ticket collector, but got only evasive answers.  What a curious and annoying attitude of secrecy always pervades railway stations.  The railway staffs appear to consider the passengers as nothing more than undesirable trespassers.  They never by any chance announce the destination of a train until it is actually entering the station, when the roar of its arrival mingles with their incoherent shouting.

The train eventually pulled in off the siding at 6.30.  Got a seat without trouble, in a carriage with two RAF men, a young farmer, a Dutch sailor, and a very talkative dark, swarthy woman, who settled down to tell me her life story almost as soon as I got in.  She was very proud that, although a grandmother at 47, she was still the belle of the ball at all the local dances.  “My son, he’s twenty and in the Navy, he’s got grey hair and he doesn’t like to see his mother dancing with boys no older than himself.”  Probably not.  She said she was married to a man of 63 who is manager of a Cambridge cinema, and went on to tell of the trials and troubles of running a cinema in these days.  Said she never saw any films, but liked to hear Deanna Durbin singing.  Not in the least interested in the technical side of films.  Besides doing all her husband’s clerical work at the cinema, she said that she puts in 8 or 9 hours a day at a local factory, working a lathe, and (according to herself) is reckoned to be the best woman there.  She was born in Norfolk, near Norwich, but her mother was Italian and her grandfather German.  She said she liked both Germans and Italians very much, but could not stand Americans at any price.  Felt much the same myself when 8 or 9 American pilots got in at Bury, all laden with heavy “grips”.  Their rudeness was really quite extraordinary, throwing their luggage on top of other peoples’ and crowding into the carriage in a most offensive manner.  They were apparently bound for Edinburgh.

After Bury, I felt that I must at least be outside the “diver” zone, and relaxed and slept a little.  Strange to feel that I am leaving it all behind, perhaps for ever.  Who knows?

York at 1.00am.  Bright starlight, and the street lamps burning, not so bright as before the war, but how strange a sight after five years.  Absurd of course, but could not help feeling almost hopeful.  A training aircraft sailed slowly over the station, its red and green lights mingling with the stars.  Just on chance went to the Station Hotel and found I could get a room there.  The night-porter was visibly outraged when I admitted to having a bicycle, and with bad grace told a page to put it in the baggage room.

Undressed completely for the first time for weeks, put on clean, cool pyjamas, and got into the soft clean bed.  Noise of a train shunting in the station below, and an occasional training-‘plane going over very low.  Lay wondering what was happening down at “Fox One”, yet feeling vaguely unhappy.  Should have no compunction whatever were it not for Father.  If only he were away from Colchester, I would never go back.  Sorry about Captain Folkard but it can't be helped.  I should have to throw up the job soon, in any case.  Must see a doctor.

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