This blog posts extracts from E J Rudsdale's diaries of life on the home front in Britain during the Second World War.
Each extract was posted exactly 70 years after it was first written, marking the 70th anniversary of the Second World War between 2009-2015.
Short extracts will now be published on Twitter and will link to this blog to mark the 80th anniversary of the Second World War starting from 3 September 2019.
Looked out across the gardens in
front of the hotêl towards the City Wall and the MinsterTowers
beyond.So this is York.How strange that I should never have come here before, yet my ancestors
must have seen it all so long ago.Except for that brief glimpse a year ago, and another equally brief in
1913, I have never seen this great capital of Yorkshire. Rudsdale's father's family originated from York.
Had a very poor breakfast, and
was charged 13/6 for the night, far too much, but all railway hotels are the
same, dear and bad.
Went out into the city, walked
across the OuseBridge to High Petergate, Mickelgate,
Fossgate, Goodramsgate, Spurrier gate – what magical, musical names.Saw Bootham Bar, where in ancient times
guides were stationed to guide travellers through the Forest of Castres.Then Stonegate, and the Shambles, as familiar
to me as if I had lived there all my life, from seeing the photographs at home.
One of the ancient houses in the
Shambles is now being restored, the one on the West side.Talked to the foreman in charge,
and was told that the place belongs to Alderman Morrill, Chairman of the Museum
Committee.(I hear he is the only member
of the City Council who takes the slightest interest in the antiquities of York).This place in the Shambles was thought to be
heeling over into the street, and the restoration work now being done is pretty
drastic, a lot of new timber being put in, in fact the wing has been
almost rebuilt.I must say that the work
seems to be very competently done, but whether it is all necessary or not I
The city was quiet after Colchester, not very much traffic nor many people
about.Not a large number of horses,
although several in railway drays and a lot of RASC pairs and singles, very
smartly turned out.Quite a lot of
little Yorkshire ponies in two-wheel “Scotch
carts”, almost all mounted on pneumatic tyres.Most of them looked fairly new, and there must be quite a business up
here making them.
Lot of ARP notices about,
particularly about casualties, - where to enquire, where bodies will be taken,
etc.The great York raid of 2 and a half years ago has not
left many signs – a few gaps here and there.The burnt out church in Coney
Street, and, most pathetic of all, the empty shell
of the glorious Guildhall.What a
scandal that it should be allowed to have burnt out, right against the
river.The ruin is now perfectly clean
and tidy and is used as a store by the City Engineer.Nothing but the stone bases of the great oak
columns remain, but it is intended that the building shall be restored, and I
understand that oak for that purpose has already been bought.
Next to the York Castle Museum, a beautiful
long grey stone building with a fine colonnade, built by John Carr early in the
18th century.(Wonder if he
is any relation to the Carrs of Colchester?)
The entrance to the museum is
rather mean, being through a narrow door and stairway on the right of the
colonnade.This leads directly to the
upper galleries, containing the bulk of Dr John Kirk’s collection, beautifully
displayed in excellent cases.Here are
his fire-marks, musical instruments, ship-models, Yorkshire
“treen”, lace-industry material, and an excellent series of agricultural implements.Having gone through all this one goes down to
ground level, to see the street.
Never have I seen anything of
this character better done.The whole
effect is amazingly realistic, with shops, houses, Post Office, fire engine
shed, the roadway cobbled and the side-walks flagged.The name “Kirkgate” is on one of the houses,
and the little cross street is called “Alderman’s Walk”, in allusion to
Alderman Morrill.Nice to see Dr Kirk’s
old brass plate, from his house in Hungate, Pickering, on a door at the far end
of the “Kirkgate”, and nearby a neat and dignified memorial to him.Strange to see so many of the things which he
used to talk about, even some things which he actually showed me years ago.
Adjoining this main hall are
three large rooms, two containing poor old Timperley’s Arms and Armour, and the
other a collection of carriages, a farm wagon (pole-wagon), an early car,
bicycles, etc.The Armour collection is
superb, and is beautifully arranged.Can
never understand how the old man came to acquire such stuff, nor why he should
so generously give it to York and Colchester.
Met Miss Violet Rodgers, who is
at present Acting Curator, a very pleasant, charming girl of about 25 I should
think.Had a long talk about the
collection, and about Museums in general.She told me that she had just had a letter from Timperley, to say that
his home was a total wreck and that his wife had died as a result of the
shock.Poor old man.
Went to lunch with her.During conversation admitted to her that I
had applied for the Curatorship almost the very week that the war began.She spoke of Ann Welsford, with whom she
corresponds, and says that she is now quite out of museum affairs, being tied
completely to her mother at Camberley.
Back to the Museum after lunch,
and went through the “street” again in more detail.Had the pleasure of making a few corrections
in the harness as shown in the coach-house and on a cabriolet outside the
inn.Also looked at a few pieces of
Roman pottery and the remains of a chariot-burial up-stairs, and pointed out
one or two instances of wrong dating.This archaeological material is quite inappropriate here.
Then went out to see Clifford’sTower, standing grandly on its green motte.Tremendous panorama from the summit.The sky was grey and overcast, with a light S.W. wind, and a Halifax bomber slowly
circled the city.Down below were the
crowded streets, and beyond the black and red tumbled roofs rose the great
Minster, spires and towers of the lesser churches grouped around it.Further away were massive factories, gasometers,
and the mingled pattern of red tiles and blue slates.Behind the Museum is a grey canal, and now
Carr’s grand facades look over an allotment, which will one day be a smooth
green lawn.What a wonderful place this
will be in 20 years time, when the new municipal buildings, now represented by
basements and foundations, will be completed.
Miss Rodgers is in the Royal Observer Corps at
the Centre, and I was surprised to hear from her that “divers” are reported at York on the long-range board, as they approach the Norfolk and Suffolk
coasts.We talked about the York raids.The big attack in 1942 was bad, but by good
fortune very little damage was done to the ancient part of the city, except the
Guildhall and the church in Coney
Street.Miss Rodgers’ house was badly damaged, and for three weeks she had to live at
In a daylight raid in 1942 a
thousand pound bomb fell at the foot of Clifford’s Tower, but failed to
Later in the afternoon went to
see the YorkshireMuseum, paying 6d to get into the AbbeyGardens.The whole place is in a very depressing
state, even worse than Colchester.Of course, allowance must be made for the
fact that damage was suffered in the big raid, when they lost quite a lot of
glass, but the mess then caused has not yet been cleared up, after 2 and a half
years.There are still cases with broken
glass inside them, mingling with the exhibits, and dust and dirt everywhere,
with patches of brown paper and cardboard over some of the larger holes.The bomb which caused the damage fell among
the Abbey ruins.
The Museum building is terribly
dark and gloomy and does not appear to have been re-decorated for 20 or 30
years.Admittedly the weather had now
become dark and overcast, but even under the best conditions the exhibits are
an extraordinary mixture, good, bad and indifferent.Within a few yards of one another in the main
A “shooting star” which fell at Middleborough, and a cast
of the hole which it made;
An incendiary bomb dropped in the
An Egyptian Mummy;
An embroidered apron worked by
An instrument made by Abraham
Sharp, c.1699, “combining the functions of both an altizimuth and an equatorial
This last of course ought to be
included in Kirk’s excellent collection of instruments, and not kept here among
the dreadful muddle of material.
The Roman York display is very
poor, although no doubt the best exhibits are not on show.They have a wonderful collection of Roman
material, but it is clear from what can be seen that it has suffered from
damage and decay.A few Roman tombstones
are shown in the entrance hall, where is also the famous Centurion, who for
some extraordinary reason is kept in a sort of cupboard, with a door, where it
is much too dark to see him.
This place should be devoted to
Yorkshire archaeology alone, and all material later than the Middle Ages should
be left to the CastleMuseum.It is of course essential that both Museums
should work in close cooperation, although there is no sign whatever that they
do, except that the ex-Director, Dr Collinge, is a member of the Committee of
the CastleMuseum.He has, however, little interest in archaeology.
Saw Mrs. Chitty, now in charge,
who was about to catch a train for Leeds, and
could only spare me a moment.Said she had
seen Hull quite recently at a conference in London.
The Hospitium is closed, but
examined the outside of the MultangularTower in heavy rain which
had now begun to fall.Wonderful
work.Somehow even without seeing much
one realises that this place was one of the great cities of Roman Britain.
Had tea, and went to find a
room.Got in, after some little trouble,
at a place called “The Chestnuts”, up the Mount, quite pleasant.Then went out to the Railway Hotel and had
supper, and afterwards to the cinema, not because there was anything worth
seeing, but simply for the pleasure of sitting quiet and calm through a whole
performance without the continual fear that one will see the notice flashed on
the screen: “An Air Raid Warning has been sounded.Will those patrons who wish to leave please
do so now …?”
And what pleasure too to walk
back through the brightly lit streets, full of people, much laughter and
shouting.Bed at 11 p.m. very tired.