EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

10th December 1944

Woke very early, and was given a can of hot water.  Got down at 8, to find a cold bright morning, the crescent moon still showing, the street lamps alight, and great sheets of crimson cirrus cloud in the east, where the sun struggled up.

Caught the 8.50 to Ipswich, jogging slowly along by Six Mile Bottom, across the Devil’s Dyke, to Newmarket, with its rows of railway horseboxes, and so to Bury.  Should always have liked to have had the Museum there.  Then on to Stowmarket, Haughley and Ipswich.  Big crowd there, but only 18 minutes to wait for the Colchester train.

Lunched on sandwiches and soup at the Milk Bar in St John’s Street, then went to Holly Trees to wash and shave.  Saw Poulter and told him all.  He was quite shaken - Hull will wreck the Museum, Poulter will retire in 1946, and what happens then? But then he said it was useless – Councillor Sam Blomfield was terrified of “the little man’s shattering rages”, and would not even mention my return to him. Then why the hell, I ask, did Sam make use of me during these last 4 years, often to my very great inconvenience?  “Sam’s that sort” he said, “He’ll use you to the last minute, but he won’t fight Hull for you.”

We sat and gloomed in the flat this dull December afternoon, with occasional explosions far away, and the old man said these words, which have so often been said in one form or another by people who have given years of their lives for the benefit of Colchester: “I wish I’d never come here.  It was a mistake ever to leave the North.”

He said that if I go, he will not stay beyond his time, and that he was only keeping Holly Trees for me to come back to.

Feeling of great sadness.  Rain began to fall, heavily.  Went across to Winnie’s and had sausages for tea.  Terrible gale sprang up, almost due South, so was blown out to Boxted in record time, amidst sheets of rain.  Suddenly, just at the corner of Horkesley Road, heard sirens sounding an “all clear”.  Felt terrified, as having heard no alarm, I wondered if I had had another “black-out” and missed it altogether, but before the “All-clear” had died away the aerodrome sirens gave an alarm, about a minute later, Colchester began an alarm as well.  Heavy rain still falling, but felt I must stay out at any rate for a time, to see what on earth could happen on such a night.  Set off round by the Queen’s and Holly Lodge, right past the Observer Post (just a glimpse of a helmeted head above the parapet) to Boxted village.  Gunfire to the South, probably at Bradwell, and a few flashes through the rain.  Two ‘divers’ could be heard very faintly, then, just by Boxted Hall turning, another sounded much closer, and cut out.  Very alarming not having any idea how far it might drift in such a wind, but nothing whatever happened, and it must have been blown far away perhaps to fall quite silently on some village or farmhouse.

Went down by Boxted Mill, and decided to call on the Rushburys, for want of anything else.  Don't know who is at Higham at the moment.  The rain stopped, and the “all clear” rang out far and near us.  I went by the gates of Thorington Hall – where, I wonder, are the Penroses at this very moment?  4,000 miles away, safe in another world.

Henry Rushbury was at home, as well as “Birdie” and little Janet who was busy designing the most delightful Christmas cards.  Henry Rushbury had just come back from the North, and we spent a pleasant hour talking about Northern Museums and Art Galleries.  Told him I had hoped to have gone to the Kirk Collection at York, had it not been for the war.  Left them at 10 o’clock, stars now glittering.  No aircraft about.  Boxted at 10.30.  Miss Bentley very glad to see me.  Told her there might be a chance of my going to Wisbech.  She said that on Friday night a rocket fell near Layer Breton, with a tremendous explosion, and that on either Thursday or Friday a ‘diver’ fell at Mersea, doing a lot of damage, broken windows and so forth.

Bed at 11.30, very tired, and hopeful of a quiet night.  Terribly anxious about Wisbech.

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