18th December 1944 - Wisbech
Wakened about 4am by sirens. So surprised felt no alarm at all. Looked out to see a still calm night, with the gentle murmur of a ‘plane far away. Heard somebody get up and go out, and the sound of a car or two travelling at speed. Wondered whether the Germans now intend to send in ‘divers’ over the
Wash – London
is only 80 miles, and there are no defences whatever. It would be just my luck to walk into such a thing
as that. ‘All-clear’ came in about 15
Later today a mass of fantastic rumours were going round the town – Jerry ‘planes at King’s Lynn, where they had 2 alarms, an unexploded bomb at Smeeth Road station, (about 3 miles away), a flying bomb at or near Spalding. Some say they heard machine guns. All I heard was one fighter go over, to the north, but everybody else felt the windows shake.
Lovely sunny day. Went all over the town trying to get rooms, but without success, in most places being rebuffed with extraordinary rudeness, old women shouting that they “never took lodgers”, in spite of their names and addresses being on the list provided by the Billeting Office. Shall have to stay at the “Lion” for a time.
Sent off 7lbs of Fen apples to
Edinburgh for the Biggams, and some cigarettes and a long
letter to Ann at Inverness. This afternoon went round to see if there was
any chance of getting a stable, so that I could bring Robin here, but again
quite unlucky. Found a riding school a
long way along North Brink, even more dilapidated and dirty than poor old
Grubb’s. It is run by a Miss Russell who
looks very much like Grubb, but is very much ruder. Told me there was no chance whatever of
livery there. Anyway, a horrible looking
collection of broken down sheds, everything knee-deep in mud. She has, however, a covered school. Told me she has to pay £10 a ton for mixture.
Went to Museum for a couple of hours, going through drawers and cupboards. The wealth of the collection is surprising. To Edwards again for tea, and then tonight spent 4 hours writing letters, journal, etc. Cannot realise that this, and not
is now my town, and perhaps likely to be for 10, 20 or even 30 years. No doubt all the work I have done in Colchester will be entirely forgotten. Hull will destroy all he can, Poulter will leave,
and there will soon be no sign that I ever lived there. If I were to go back there a quarter of a
century from now, no doubt the town will be unrecognisable, and if I said “I
worked here for 20 years”, they will say “Did you? What did you do?”
Looked out at midnight, impenetrable fog, and not a sound anywhere, so perhaps we may have a quiet night. Then, just as I shut the window, far away comes the clanking of a train shunting.