9th May 1945 - VE Day Celebrations

Wednesday
Warm.  Showers at times.  

The great victory parades in the Park this morning.  Hymns being sung.  Saw they came back to the Bridge.  Big crowds on the pavements.  The Town Council came, some in a taxi and some walking, the police officers and the Mayor’s Beadle with the mace.  They all stood on the steps of the Clarkson Memorial and a man took photos.  The band stood alongside.  The sun shone just after a shower, and the band of the cadets came through the High St, with the young drum-major striding in front, and behind him a tiny boy with a huge mastiff, as the “regimental mascot”.  Then the Home Guard, aged, fat, thin, grey, shambling, plenty of officers.  The Civil Defence – Penny and his man in front, Jones and the heavy rescue men, ambulance men, nurses, sea-cadets, girl cadets, Women's Voluntary Service, even fireguards in uniform (never seen anything like this before) and curious grey uniformed girls of the Salvation Army looking like camp followers of the Civil War.  Boys and Girls Life Brigades and tiny children in various uniforms. 

As each platoon or group drew level with the Clarkson Memorial, an officer or leader would call “Eyes Right” in ranging tones of military volume and the Mayor solemnly lifted his cocked hat.  Incredible how many Home Guards and Civil Defence people there are in this small town.

Going through old market, met a man leading two thoroughbreds and wheeling a bicycle.  Helped him round to Hancroft Road where he turned them out.

To Museum, finished Townsend case, which now looks very well.  Letter from Miss Peckover in answer to mine of yesterday to say she will serve as President again.

Crowds outside all the fish shops, waiting for the usual Fenland dinner.

Went to Warby’s this evening.  Elm bells ringing, St George’s flag waving on tower, flags on most of cottages.  Glorious evening, clear washed skies, one or 2 Lancasters sailing over, I suppose full of released prisoners.  The cuckoos calling, distant cattle lowing.

Saw the German camp at Waldersey, the men playing football with a big crowd, and a cottage opposite covered with flags.  

Back to Oldfield at 8.30, cuckoos still calling.  Down Elm Rd, chestnuts full of gigantic candles, cuckoos, wood pigeons and rooks cawing ceaselessly.  Crowds coming out of the town from the “celebrations”.

*****

Seventy years after the end of the Second World War, this is the last diary entry for E.J. Rudsdale's wartime blog.  I would like to sincerely thank all of you who have followed the blog over nearly six years and particularly those who have contributed comments and insights, which have enhanced the blog and my knowledge of this period considerably.  Special thanks to regular contributors Mike, (who has given us such useful information on monetary values from the time), Jane and Robin.

The publication of the blog has enabled E.J. Rudsdale's journals to reach a worldwide audience and has allowed greater detail from his diaries to be published beyond that which it was possible to include in the book, 'E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester'.

The blog has made many connections for people researching their Essex family history in this period and it has been a joy to receive details of your stories and research in this regard.

I hope to publish E.J. Rudsdale's peacetime journals for Colchester from 1920 to 1939 and for Wisbech from 1945 to 1951 in the future and details will be published on this website at a future date.

Thank you again for your loyal support and kind encouragement.  I am taking a break at present so my apologies for being unable to respond to any messages for a short time but it has been a great pleasure to share E.J. Rudsdale's experiences of the Second World War with you.

With best wishes, 
Catherine Pearson
9th May 2015


Afterword: E.J. Rudsdale after the Second World War

E.J. Rudsdale continued to serve as Curator and Librarian at Wisbech Museum up to the late 1940s.  His father, John Rudsdale, died in 1946.  Rudsdale, himself, never married.  In 1949, Rudsdale was appointed Consultant Archaeologist at Scarborough Museum for nine months but was hampered by poor health and subsequently resumed his post at Wisbech.  Throughout the rest of his life, Rudsdale continued to maintain his journal on a regular basis.  He also kept in close contact with events in Colchester through friends such as Hervey Benham and Harold Poulter.  (Poulter continued to live at Hollytrees Museum until his death in 1962).  Rudsdale published articles on the history of Colchester in the Essex Review in the post-war years and became a founder member of the Friends of Colchester Museums in 1949.  In November 1951, he underwent an emergency operation for appendicitis but died of kidney failure on 14 November 1951, at the early age of 41.  His journals were later bequeathed to Essex Record Office.  The inscription on his tombstone in Wisbech Cemetery states: ‘He studied and preserved antiquities’. 

Shocked by the news of his death, his friends in Colchester raised sufficient funds for a museum display case to be purchased in his memory and his name is commemorated in the naming of a road, Rudsdale Way, in the Prettygate district of the town.  Rudsdale, himself, however, had more modest ideas of a memorial.  Lying ill with bronchitis in 1949, he re-wrote his will and, with thoughts of Colchester Castle, stated that after his debts had been settled:

'Any residue to Colchester Corporation with the request that they shall place a small tablet in the Castle Tower, as follows:

In Memory
Of
E.J. Rudsdale, 1910-19??
Who loved Colchester
Here he liked to stand on a
Summer afternoon'

It is hoped that his wishes for such a memorial may one day be realised.

8th May 1945 - VE Day

Tuesday
Nightmare about 5am, of sirens blowing in Colchester.  I was cycling along Magdalen St and turned up Military Rd just as they began.

Breakfast at 9, a bright sunny morning, the sound of Walsoken bells on the breeze.  The old sweep, Wiseman, came by whistling his interminable hymn –
     'Now praise we all our God
     With heart and hand and voices – '
over and over again.

The woman next door was hanging out flags, and Mrs. Burnett was busy spring cleaning the dining room.  Flags all down Norwich Rd, milk and papers being delivered, and a British Liberation Army man just come on leave, carrying his pack, and shouting to a woman “I’ll be glad to get my boots off.”  Norfolk St a mass of flags.  

The Museum open, and Miss Thompson not quite sure whether the war was over of not.  Several people came in, and Edwards turned up at 10.30 and stayed until nearly 12.  Began to take the cover off the Townsend case, and did a little in the Library.  

Announcer van going round the streets saying there would be services at 4 o’clock today, and that the King will speak tonight.

This afternoon quite a number came in, including four Women's Land Army girls.  One, who came from Newcastle, said in the course of conversation that she had always believed that Wales was an island.  I mentioned Dorothy L. Sayers book, 'The Nine Tailors' [which is set in the Fens], but none had even heard of her.

The church bells began to ring shortly after 3, first single bells, then peels, then great clashing chords.  The service at 4 was well attended, big crowds going through the Square, women dressed in their best.  Some people stood round the West doorway and I could hear the hymn “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.”  After the service the bells began again.

To my surprise and delight Sisson walked in, on his way from King's Lynn.

7th May 1945

Monday
Heard a cuckoo this morning about 6.  Busy day.  Committee meeting at 11.30, only six members came, with dear old Guy Pearson in the chair.  I presented the 109th Annual Report, which was accepted.  Among the gifts was the metal cannister which contained the bombs dropped on 17 March.  The ARP people apparently don't want this, so we’ve taken it.

The meeting then adjourned at precisely 12 noon to the Library, when 5 more members arrived.  Not a single subscriber turned up!  Edwards assured me that this was quite in order.

We then did the whole thing all over again, and elected the Officers and Committee.  Miss Peckover was made President once more, although it is hardly likely that she will ever again attend a meeting.

Then they made a presentation to poor old Edwards – a cheque for £25, as a token of their regard for his 22 years service.  The old fellow was most moved, while I sat gazing down the corridors of time at 1967.  Meeting ended quarter to one.  This is really farcical, and next year we must make some sort of arrangement to have it at a more convenient time.

And now it is nearly midnight, and the war is over.  All day there was an air of expectancy, with the press yelling “any moment now”.  Then at last the announcement came on the radio at 8 p.m. – tomorrow and Wednesday are to be holidays, all shops shut.  The Swifts were very pleased.  There is a total German surrender to all the allies, but the Russian attitude is still not clear.  By this evening there were flags all over the streets, people standing in little groups, people carrying flags, (even quite small Jacks on sticks cost 10/-).  Went into Porper’s bookshop, and a woman came in and said “I think I’ll buy a book – just to celebrate.”
 
And so ends this long and disastrous war, and I find myself alive and well, with a home and my books intact.  But amidst all the rejoicings there must indeed inevitably be sadness – what will the poor firewatchers do now?  What can take the place of those happy hours in the Control Room and Report Centre?

6th May 1945

Sunday
Went to Elm in the afternoon, and saw Warby.  Then to the “Limes” for tea.  Mrs. Coulter very happy about the imminent “peace”, but still a little nervous that even now the Germans may think up some trick or other.  Hundreds of heavy bombers going out as I came home.  Did some writing and to bed at midnight.

5th May 1945

Saturday
Still no news of “peace”, but an air of expectancy in the Market, with everybody anxiously buying in stocks of food as if for a siege rather than to celebrate a victory.  Saw Jones, Deputy Surveyor, who mentioned that the Ministry of Home Security had sent out a circular regarding the recruiting of volunteers for a permanent Civil Defence.  There was no practice siren today.

4th May 1945

Friday
Cold and sunny.  Work on the Annual Report.  ARP still packing, but Penny cannot give any date when they are likely to be clear.

At 11 there was news of a big German surrender in the North, yet tonight the bombers still stream out in the dark.  They may be taking out food, perhaps.
 
Going home through the Park this evening, saw a group of Italians standing by the gate laughing and chattering.  A little wizened man walking towards me looked at them and said “Look at the bastards!  There’ll be some trouble here, when our boys get back from the 8th Army!  You see if there isn't!  They’ll cut the buggers’ throats for ‘em!” but the Italians kept on laughing and talking, quite unaware that the funny little man a few yards away wished to encompass their violent deaths.

3rd May 1945

Thursday
Bitterly cold, and rain at times, very overcast and dark.  Edwards came, looking worse than ever.

Finished all the notices for the meeting, and Girling came in with the balance sheet, which is a poor piece of work and shows a very unhealthy position.  Grants from Borough and County will be our only hope.  Must work on this.  Don't like W.R. Girling.

Out after tea delivering notices.  The sun was a hazy golden ball behind high thin clouds, and two or three old men and old women were standing by the churchyard railings at the end of Norfolk Street, where they always stand, gossiping in harsh voices.  Had to go along Harecroft Road, past the circus, but no sign of the gypsy and the Pekinese.
 
The ARP men in the basement all day, definitely moving.  Almost impossible to believe.

2nd May 1945

Wednesday
Cold but sunny.  In the papers that Civil Defence Corps “stands down” today.  It was true – Penny was below, packing up papers.  Went to Barton Rd and demanded the return of our table.  Penny asked me to leave the chairs down below a little longer, otherwise they would have nothing to sit on!

Saw a circus moving into the field in Harecroft Road.  A motor van had stuck, and by the side of it stood a very pretty dark gypsy girl holding a can of petrol in one hand and a Pekinese in the other, while a lame man fitted a funnel to the tank.

Old Edwards came in for nearly 2 hours, quite preventing me from working on the stuff for the Annual Meeting.

Rain began this afternoon.  Tonight bombers were going out en masse, perhaps carrying food for the Dutch.  The 9 o’clock news tonight reported a general surrender in Italy, capitulation of an army of over a million men. 

Soon after 10 tonight Jones, Deputy Surveyor called, and was talking about “peace celebrations”.  Apparently there are rifts in the lute – the schools are not going to any parades, and some sections of the Civil Defence won’t go either because they loathe the Controller, Ollard.  All people want to do is to forget about the whole affair.

Air raid alarms are now ended.  How very, very strange that is.  So the alarm on 26 March really was the last.
 
Colchester Gazette came today.  Poor old Smith is dead, at 87.  What a farrier he was, and what a man for the hackneys!  Wrote to Hilda tonight.

1st May 1945

Tuesday
Cold, with bitter wind.  Had a fire in the office.  Miss Thompson furious.  Dealt with an accumulation of letters and sent out the notices for the Annual Meeting.  Papers full of gloating accounts (with photographs) of the murder of Mussolini and his woman.

Sub-Committee, Levers, old Edwards, and Wolton, to consider whether surplus fiction ought to be offered to the County Library.  Decided more or less “no”.

Wrote to Ann, and suggested going in June, cannot manage to get away this month.  Wrote to Cyril Fox about the Mithraeum iron shackles.

After tea went down to the Vicarage paddock.  The trench has cut through the mound near the S. boundary of the field, and reveals that there is a large dyke on the other side.  Nothing but late 17C sherds thrown up so far, a few meat-bones.  The mound is very fragmentary, and seems to run more or less parallel with the field boundary without any signs of returns.

Tonight called at the Swifts’.  Mr and Mrs Jewson were there.  He was in civilian clothes and looked very well.  Said that all prison camps had secret radios (there were three in his) which were dismantled and the parts carried by numbers of men when the camps were moved.  On these radios instructions were received from “secret sources”, he said, but did not seem very willing to say what the instructions were.  Nothing, we hope, against the Geneva Convention.
 
Listening to the radio tonight at 10.30, there came the sudden news that Hitler is dead.  So both the leaders are gone, two men in large part responsible for the most appalling misery known in the world.  Hitler is thought to have committed suicide, but the facts are still obscure.  At 11p.m. came the news that Admiral Donitz at Flensburg has declared himself “Fuhrer”.

30th April 1945

Monday
During the night, dreamt of trees covered with snow, and that I was standing on a leaded roof, looking at the scene.  Amazed to wake up and find that there was snow, falling thick and heavy, driven by a strong N.W. wind, a most extraordinary sight.  What could be the meaning of the dream?  Could I in some way have been “projected” onto the roof during the night?

Had a hurried breakfast arranged to send cycle off by train, and caught bus to Colchester.  Snow was still falling fast, and people in Dedham Street battled against the blizzard.  Got to Colchester at 9, still snowing.  Went straight home – Father, taking a look at the weather, refused to get up, but Miss Payne lit the fire and he did.

Left at 10.30, and went up the road to the War Agricultural Committee office.  Maidstone very pleased to see me, and soon had me hard at it settling queries of one sort or another.  The old place is quite changed now that Captain Folkard is no longer there.  Strange to think that A G Wright lived in this house.

Had lunch with Diana then to the Library to see “Essex Review” back volumes and to the Holly Trees.  Poulter still on the theme: “It’s a pity you ever left – what a fool you were!”

Sun came out at lunch time, and the snow vanished as mysteriously as it came.  Looked in at the theatre to see Di again, had tea with her and caught 5.25.  A huge ambulance train was in the bay at the back of the up platform, the upside approach blocked by police, with buses, ambulances and lorries standing about.  This is the only ambulance train I have seen during this war, but I can remember them arriving at St. Botolph’s Station more than 25 years ago, and the wounded men, often caked in Flanders mud, going up to the hospitals in open private cars, amidst the cheers of the large crowds which always used to gather.
 
Snowball was on the train as far as Ipswich.  A good many Americans got on at Bury.  March at 8.30, and at last Wisbech at quarter to 10.

29th April 1945

Sunday
Cold, but sunny.  A late breakfast while Dedham took itself to church.  Left at 12, had a cup of tea and a sandwich at Gunhill Café and went slowly to Boxted.  Called on the Roses’, who seemed glad to see me.  Stayed to tea, and then took the old track over the watermeadows to Higham, in the hope that Jacquie might be at the cottage, but alas she was not.  They have moved back to either Portsmouth or Southampton.
 
Back to Dedham, and spent a delightful evening in talk and idle chatter – idle, but very pleasant.

28th April 1945

Saturday
Up early, fine and cold, and got into Colchester by 9.30.  Went straight to 66 Winnock Road, and found Father very well.  Stayed over an hour – then went to Holly Trees and saw Poulter, who had no particular news.  Went on to Essex County Standard office, saw dear Mary Ralling and had a talk with Hervey Benham.  Lunch at Last’s with Diana.  Home again in the afternoon and stayed there to tea.  The old man in great form.
 
Left at 7, and cycled out to Dedham,  Long talk with Marjorie Sisson about Bourne Mill.  Hard to saw what can be done.

27th April 1945

Friday
Fine but cold.  Left on 11.10 for Cambridge.  Went to the Archaeology Museum, where all is still in confusion.  Went to the Mill Lane rooms to hear Sir Cyril Fox talk on the wonderful finds in Llyn Cenig, Yuys Fon, which he did very well indeed.  The amount of material recovered is amazing, and the condition of the iron work is so good that it is almost impossible to realise its true age.  Afterwards had the chance to talk to him for a few minutes about the slave chains in the Mithraeum, of which he had no note or record.  He seemed very well and full of energy.  Did not like to ask after Iorwerth Peate, in view of what had happened at Am. Gen. in these recent years.  Dr Iorwerth Peate, a Curator at the National Museum of Wales had been dismissed from his post by Sir Cyril Fox for registering as a conscientious objector but was reinstated by the Museum's Board of Governors.
 
Left Cambridge on the 5.12, got to Colchester just after 7.30.  Cycled out by way of Boxted to Dedham.  Great activity on the aerodrome.  Full moon tonight.  Sisson made me very welcome, had supper and went to bed at 11, after the most delightful chatter.

26th April 1945

Thursday
Fine and cool.  Spent all day in the Library.  Edwards in for an hour this afternoon.  At 5, saw four undertaker’s men taking a coffin into the church through the West door.

In the town today saw Mrs Jewson walking with her husband, now back from the German prison camp.

Churchill firmly announces the last of the rockets.  Hope he is right for once. 
 
Phoned to Sissons' this evening, and arranged to go there tomorrow night.

25th April 1945

Wednesday
Beautiful day, slight frost early.  Confused tormenting dreams.  Spent morning in the Library, and the nprepared draft of report for the Annual Meeting next month.  This afternoon Mrs Munday sent £3.3 for Edwards’ testimonial, bringing total to just over £20 – not quite £1 for each year he has been here!!

This evening went to the sewer excavation in the Vicarage paddock.  At the W. end there is a burst layer, with bricks, stoneware sherds, oysters, and fragments of stone, apparently late 17th century.

The foreman of the job told me that he was in the Suffolks at Meanee Barracks in 1904, and remembered the murder of Maude Lewis.  He also remembered the great “invasion” manoeuvres, and saw von Kluck and his staff there.  He sleeps in the wooden hut on the site, because beds are impossible to find in Wisbech.  His wife had been bombed and buried in London, and he had had “three fine sons” killed in the war.  In the air-raid a picture of Jesus was unharmed.  This impressed him enormously.

Very bad ‘plane crash near Bury St Edmund’s yesterday morning.  Glorious moon tonight.
 
This evening a wonderful Hogarthian scene in Norfolk Street – a girl of about 15, half undressed, was standing in a doorway screaming filthy obscenities at two Yankees who were retreating hurriedly, while an elder sister tried to pull her back.

24th April 1945

Tuesday
Cold but fine.  A little frost last night, and the fruit people are beginning to worry.  The blossom is so early this year that late frosts will be very bad.  Worked hard in the Library all day, made myself feel quite ill.  Wrote to Father.  Endless trouble all day with children coming into the Museum.  Old Edwards called looking very bad.

This evening went to cinema and saw “Horse Sense”, very well done and most enjoyable.  Talking to Miss Brewer very late, which I much enjoy, but Bennison sat us out.


Heard a heavy distant explosion as I came home at 10 o’clock. 

23rd April 1945

Monday
Cold but sunny.  ‘Planes flying low over the town all day, making a hideous noise.  Had a request from the Librarian of Bedford College for permission to study the MSS in the Town Library.  Got them out and checked them.  They are all in very bad condition, and need a lot of repair.  Worked in the Library all the afternoon and evening, checked and listed the Dickens’ first editions, and discovered Moore’s “Life of Byron” with an inscription from Moore to Sam Rogers, inside which is a copy of the pamphlet written by Lady Noel Byron in reply, with her autograph.  Must tell Margaret Sherry.  Worked until 9.30.


On Saturday afternoon some Coastal Command aircraft, quite by accident, intercepted 18 German torpedo bombers 150 miles off the Scots coast, and brought down 9.

22nd April 1945

Sunday
Cold and blustery.  Cycled to Elm this afternoon.  Went to tea at the “Limes”, met a young man named Henderson, a musician.  Cycled home by the light of a cold brilliant moon.

21st April 1945

Saturday
Cold and blustery.  Heard ‘planes going out early and a lot more after breakfast.  

Essex County Standard came by the second post, and has reports of two cases of raids on bogus “clubs” to stop illicit drinking.  In one case the “stoolpigeon” was an American army captain, who went in with two police-women.  This is quite a new departure in dirty tricks.


At lunch-time young Mrs. Jewson called at the Swifts’, and said she was expecting to hear any moment that her husband had been flown home from Germany.

20th April 1945

Friday
The weather still fine, hot and summery, a wonderful spring.  A little cloud came up this afternoon.  

All black-out restrictions are to be lifted next week, except for a 10 mile belt round the coast, where lights might help submarines to take a bearing or to shell a town.  (There is a rumour going round that a sub: shelled Liverpool recently).  In “event of a raid” lights are to be extinguished, but as gas-lamps can't be turned off, (as we know full well here after last month’s experience) there seems little point in such an order.


Cooler towards the evening and a heavy shower at 7, then about 10.30 a tremendous thunderstorm for an hour and a half.  Spent the time talking to Dorothy Brewer about my “Fox One” manuscript.  She seemed to like it and thought it had a good chance for publication.

19th April 1945

Thursday
Fine and warm.   Very odd thing – an auction sale in the Market Place of the furniture and fittings from Jackson’s old office.  Amongst them were sold several dozen deed-boxes, with the names of old Fen families and estates painted on them.  One had belonged to the Revd. Caliphronas of West Walton, the Greek who was a friend of Chauncey Hare Townshend, and another had the name of Ald. Girling’s father.  There is quite a lot of chatter about this, as it was felt to be rather indecent to expose private boxes, even through empty, to a public sale.  People have of course no idea of the way in which the firm had treated the contents of those boxes.

Spent most of the day sorting and listing the MSS and other material which we recovered on Monday.

18th April 1945

Wednesday
Yet another fine hot day.  Press hard put to find a reason for the postponement of Churchill’s “end of the war”.  It seems (reading between the lines) that two or three factors have been overlooked, viz:
1)                  The Germans
2)                  The Americans
3)                  The Russians

All the papers make a great deal about the air manoeuvres over London last night, or rather couple of nights.  First the Americans spent several hours flying bombers over the city, very low, then the RAF came over “in force”, dropping flares.  Apparently everybody was much alarmed, and there have been some curious references to the affairs in Parliament.  This morning, between 11 and 12, about a hundred Forts and Liberators circled at 4000 feet or so, S.W. of the town.  Are these “demonstrations”?  If so, whom are they directed against?

17th April 1945

Tuesday
Glorious cloudless day, very hot.  Penny came up from the Control Room and said he had “found” one of our tables in the ARP depôt in Barton Road – the County people have made very free with anybody’s property which they wanted.

Mrs. Munday called, and left her scrap books for me to see.  Spoke of knowing Col. Manson of Walpole St Peter, who is said to own descendants of the Shales.

Writing nearly all day.  Little Miss Torey came in, and I showed her the Dickens autographs, which she enjoyed.  Saw Woodgate, who emphasised the need for absolute secrecy in the matter of the Jackson Diary and other MSS.  Regret that I mentioned the matter to Curtis Edwards, who came in this morning and was most anxious to know where I had been all yesterday.

The six o’clock news announced that Churchill had “postponed” his end-of-the-war statement for Thursday.  No reasons given, but this morning’s papers say that Eisenhower has made a statement that he will say when the war ceases, and nobody else.  Great to-do in Parliament today because MacIntyre, the new Scottish Nationalist member refused sponsors when he entered the House, and the Speaker, (most enthusiastically backed by Churchill) refused to allow him to take his seat.  Without doubt Nationalism in Scotland and Wales is going to be a force to reckon with.  Interesting to see results of the Caernarvon election on Thursday week.

Wrote to Ann tonight, and arranged to go to Inverness on 12 May.  How I am to afford all this I have no idea.

Cycled to Elm in the cool of the evening, and talked to Mrs. Coulter and her sister-in-law for an hour or so.  Ought to have worked.  More air manoeuvres tonight, the sky a mass of search-lights, with a pale watery crescent moon, and red and yellow flares falling.

16th April 1945

Monday
Glorious hot sunny day.  GMG Woodgate came very early, and asked me to go at once with him to Friends’ junk yard.  It seems that the old firm of solicitors, Donald Jackson & Jackson, whose office for more than a century has been in Hill Street, have suddenly been evicted by the Town Council to provide room for the Food Office.  Old Donald Jackson is over 80, and takes no active part in the firm, so his chief clerk calmly sent the whole of the contents of the private boxes to the waste paper merchants.  Quite by chance Woodgate met him in the street and learnt what had happened.  He then arranged with Friend that we should go round there today and see if anything could be saved.  The first thing noticeable in the junkyard is a huge stack of iron railings, many of them 18th century, from houses on the Brinks, which were stolen from the owners 3 or 4 years ago, and then never used.

We spent the whole day in the wastepaper store, emptying and sorting some 40 sacks of stuff from Jackman’s Office.  What a scandal that a lawyer, may, with impunity, destroy material of this kind – court rolls back to Edward VI, rentals, releases, terriers, estate maps.  Most of these relate to West Walton and the Walpoles.  Everything was mixed with modern letters, bank books, old cheque-books, law journals, old newspapers, in filth and confusion.  Quite late in the afternoon I discovered what seemed to be the best find of the day – the diary of the Revd. Jeremiah Jackson, Master of the Grammar School, Vicar of Elm, President of the Museum, covering the period 1812 to within a few days of his death in 1857.  It is contained in 63 little notebooks, each with a synopsis of the contents inside the cover.  He refers to many public events – Peace Celebrations of 1814 and 1815, the Coronations, the new railway, races at Peterborough.  Interesting to note that he expresses the hope that Napoleon will be tried by a military commission and shot.  In 1815 he records with some surprise that the morris-dancers have appeared at Guylin.  He writes too of his work as Grammar-School master, and the dirtiness of the boys.  This very fascinating diary does not begin until he was 38, when he considered the best part of his life was already over, and continues to within a few days of his death at 83 in 1857.  I hastily removed all these books to Clarkson Avenue for careful study.

Had a bath as soon as I could, being very filthy from this work.

15th April 1945

Sunday
Glorious warm day.  Had determined to write to Ann, when Jessie Swift came in and asked Dorothy Brewer and myself to go to a picnic at Walton Dam.  The orchards at Walsoken were a mass of blossom.  Dorothy Brewer and I went on ahead along the Sea Bank to Walpole, which she had never seen.  Took a much greater interest in buildings in the light of what O’Neil had told me yesterday.  Noticed the “tumbled” gable a very common feature.

A large brick tower-mill stands near the Seabank and by Walpole Church are two high mounds, most curious, cannot see what they are.  The rectory is a fine house of ancient beautifully weathered brick.  As we went into the churchyard an Italian prisoner came out, saying “good afternoon” very cheerfully.  Walked slowly round the outside by the passage which runs under the chancel, paved with slabs and cobbles, and covered by vaulting with finely moulded bosses and corbels.  In the east wall of the passage there are still two or three iron rings to which horses are tethered, and it was here, one Sunday, more than 150 years ago, that the great Shales was foaled to the sound of the prayers and singing overhead.  Can his owner have had any idea that the wet smelly little thing laying on the cobbles would achieve such fame that years later, when old and stiff, men would raise their hats to him in Norwich market? Felt strongly that some memorial to the “wonder horse” ought to be placed in this passage.

We saw the figure of Hickathrift on the N. wall of the chancel, and then went into Walpole Church, which has a beauty quite unsurpassed.  The absence of coloured glass (except in the E. window) fills the great arcades with cool, clear light, and the building has a wonderful feeling of repose and quiet silence.  The passage under the chancel makes it necessary to elevate the altar about 6 feet, so that it is approached by a flight of steps which are covered with a rich blue carpet, the altar itself bearing a pair of tall candlesticks and a crucifix.  The choir is lined with richly carved stalls and stone sedilla behind them, as if it were some conventual church rather than that of a small simple parish in the Fens.  There are no less than 7 beautiful brass chandeliers, 6 small ones in the choir and one large one just in front of the chancel arch.  The pulpit, most of the pews, and the great arched screen at the W. end are all of the early 17th century, and are in beautiful preservation.  Near the porch is one of those curious little sentry-boxes, used by the parson when taking a funeral service in wet weather.  Went up into the ringers’ gallery in the tower, and looked down the glorious vista of the nave, with the sun streaming in through the windows.  The space between the tower and the screen is as large as the whole of any normal church, with a wooden screen in one corner serving as a vestry.  The church is a national monument.

In the graveyard are several 17th century stones.

We then had to hurry back to Walton Dam for the picnic, which was really rather fun.  Little Mrs. Jewson was there, whose husband was probably released from a prison near Brunswick yesterday.  Her little boy was with her, aged 6, who was 3 when he last saw his father.  He borrowed my glasses, to look at some “forts” coming in from the sea, crying “That’s a German!  That’s a German!  Bang! Bang! Bang!” with greatest enjoyment.  Belinda looked on with astonishment.

Glorious evening and a golden sunset when we all cycled back to Wisbech, a crescent moon hanging in a deep blue sky.

Most of the papers say that Churchill will make “an announcement of utmost importance” on Thursday if not before.  One succulent piece of news, to delight the British as they eat their Sunday dinners, is that old von Mackensen has been “captured” by the Yankees.  What a triumph!  He is well over 96, and long since retired from the Army, but the Yankees are photographed hauling the old fellow from his home, and taking him away in a car.  However wicked an old brute he may have been, one would have wished him to be spared this last indignity.  What an end of the young officer who galloped through France in 1870.


Some of the papers now imply that we are in danger from radio-controlled ‘planes filled with explosives, some of which have already been used on the Continent.

14th April 1945

Saturday
O’Neil spent a pretty terrible night at the White Lion, which was the only place where he could get a bed.  The Rose & Crown refuse to take any visitors unless they are a) American, b) crooks, or c) friends of the management.

Spent the whole morning with O’Neil, who then went back to London.  Letter from dear Ann, who is ill again with rheumatism.  Must try to go to see her, but have no money or time for such a trip. 

This afternoon went to the Wisbech Gymkhana, held in the field behind Bank House, “by kind permission of the Hon. Alexadrina Peckover” as the posters announced.  Am quite sure the dear old lady has not the least idea what goes on at these gymkhanas (whatever the plural may be).  Never have I seen such a mob of horse-thieves, gangsters and general riff-raff.  There were three bookmakers (professionals) with their stands, all quite illegal of course, but ignored by the police who were on duty on the ground.  There seemed something quite disgusting in the sight of little boys and girls of not more than 10 or 12 years old betting in 10/- notes with these “bookies”.  The real point of the afternoon was the “flapping” races.  It was for all the world like a Rowlandson picture, such a mob of odd-sized, odd shaped, odd-coloured horses, ridden by as queer a crowd of jockeys as one would wish to see – youths with long hair, little girls, coarse blousy women.  The main race included every type of horse from a 12 hh pony to a second hand race-horse, with about 25 entries in all.  Some were handicapped to such an extent that the runners were placed all the way round the course.  There were about 4 laps, and by a miracle nobody was killed, but two of the smaller ponies came down heavily.

There were two or three rather good looking turnouts on the ground, the best being the thickset black cob belonging to the dealers in the Horse Fair.  On the whole the horses were a very poor lot.


Rain all the evening, cold and windy.  Sat up until 11, reading, writing and talking the most amusing nonsense with Dorothy Brewer.

13th April 1945

Friday
Brilliant fine warm day.  No talk anywhere about President’s Rooseveldt's death yesterday – apparently not worthy of a moment’s consideration.  O’Neil [from the Ministry of Works] came today, an inspection, and said he had travelled from Yarmouth with three or four U.S. soldiers in the carriage, but Rooseveldt was not even mentioned.  Yet we cannot say what the outcome of this may be.  The “Daily Express” has the somewhat misleading headlines – PRESIDENT ROOSEVELDT DEAD.  ROAD TO BERLIN OPEN.  There is a very strong hint that Churchill will announce the “end” of the war next Thursday, and in the House yesterday an odious comparison was made with a similar announcement about the South African War, after which it continued for another 2 years.

Curtis Edwards in again for an hour, looking very ill.  Met Mrs. Saltmarsh yesterday, and she agreed that he is really very ill, but nothing can be done.

Met O’Neil at 1.30, and had lunch with him.  Went all over the town with him, showed him everything.  Felt dead tired.  Had tea, then this evening took him to Leverington – walking all the way because he cannot ride a cycle.  Showed him Rabbit Hill, Leverington Church, Roman Bank, and called at the Hall, where Mrs. Munday made us very welcome.  Back to the church with Mrs. M. and went up the tower.  Walked back to Wisbech in the dusk, talking about Mortimer Wheeler, now a General, and Ward Perkins and Stuart Piggott, now both Lt. Cols.  O’Neil had been doing some work on air-photos after raids, and said that the efficiency of US and British raids was often very poor.  More often than not they hit the wrong places.  In a recent “special” attack on the Hague, to destroy the Gestapo HQ, a school was hit by mistake and utterly destroyed.  He has been doing a lot of research among the ruins of Yarmouth, with most interesting results.  Says the Rows are almost entirely destroyed and he fears the Borough Engineer will wipe out all that remain.


Bed at 10.30, very tired.  Chestnut tree blooming at Leverington.

12th April 1945

Thursday
There was rain all last night, and this morning everything was wonderfully green and sweet.  Fine and warm all day.  Had a letter from Father, 3 and a half pages, dear old man.  Answered at once.  Also had a letter from Poulter, asking my advice as to whether he should go to Winchester, which he has again been offered.  If he does leave it would really be the end of the Colchester Museum, as he is the last link with the saner, happier times.  Yet – should he be expected to stay there, enduring the insults and bad manners of Hull.  Must think this out.

“Colchester Gazette” came, from which we learn that old Dr Campbell of Layer Marney Towers is dead.

Had the windows cleaned, for the first time for a year.

Tonight took Jessie Swift to the orchestral concert in the Queen’s School.  It was really very good indeed.  Very funny incident – the programme included “Eine Kleine Nacht Musik”, which by what I imagined to be a printer’s error was written “Keine”.  To my delight, when the item was announced, the conductor actually read it out as “Keine”!


Walked home in a pleasant warm evening, under the stars.  Had a cup of coffee at the Swifts and then to bed.

11th April 1945

Wednesday
Very fine and warm all day.  Many ‘planes about.  This evening went down to Elm, and called at the Coulsons’.  Bought two tickets for a concert tomorrow night.  Coming back after a shower of rain, saw there was a big night exercise going on – at least 50 searchlights, and many aircraft flying about in every direction.  Could hear men’s voices from far away over the fields, and the noise of the ‘planes above.

10th April 1945

Tuesday
Cold this morning and had the office fire on, but fine later.  Old Edwards came at 10.30 and stayed until nearly 12.  Got busy afterwards, when he had gone.  Worked in the Library and went back again this evening.  Feel I get nothing done at all.

9th April 1945

Monday
Fine, but very cold and a bit of a mist.  Got ready for the Committee meeting.  All the old fossils came trooping in, shivering and snuffling, poor Edwards looking like death itself.  Gardiner also looked very ill.  Rather a sticky meeting.  First of all they jibbed about the fiction books being given to the County Library, and some members suggested that I wanted to throw away “valuable books”, in any case they ought to be handed to the Grammar School.  Eventually they appointed a sub Committee to deal with the matter, consisting of Levers, old Wolton, and Curtis Edwards.

Next came my suggestions to alter the time of the Annual Meeting next month from 12 to 4.30.  Got support from Mrs Munday and Levers, but great protest from Girling, Wolton and Curtis Edwards, who said that such an alteration would be illegal, as the Trust Deed, dated 1869 specifically gives the time as 12 midday on the first Monday in May!  Wondered whether to ask if summer-time had been allowed for.

After the meeting Dr Bullmore called to see the new accessions, much regretting that he was too busy to come to the Committee.

Got a copy of Gardiner’s “History of Wisbech” from Bowers & Bowers today for 7/6.  Cheap.

Am becoming worried about money – the income tax is so heavy that I have little more than £3 a week to live on, and am rapidly spending the remainder of my savings.  Girling still owes me about £10 on the last quarter’s salary.

Went out to tea with little Miss Ellis.  Miss Brewer came back today, and sat talking this evening, when it was fine and sunny.  About 8 a great mass of bombers went out, and there was a heavy explosion in the distance, shaking the windows.  Probably one crashed over in Norfolk.  No more signs of the war ending, nothing in the papers but jeers and horrid gloatings over the destruction of Germany.  Silly arguments as to whether they can send the rockets from Norway or not.

Planes coming in about 10.30, and another tremendous explosion.  Alarmed this evening to find the door from the office to the Hall was sticking badly.  Hope there is further settlement.

Feel rather ill today, left side very painful. Really ought to see a doctor.


Looking through Archaeologia: Vol: 90 today, noticed Ward Perkins’ paper on the Iron Age hill-fort near Ightham, Kent, in which he kindly acknowledges my help with regard to Essex sites.  Can't remember the circumstances at all.

8th April 1945

Sunday
Unpleasant dream in the early morning in which Joy Parrington, Molly Blomfield and myself were all being machine-gunned from the air, somewhere out in fields where there was no cover.  Still no further divers anywhere in the country.  Can this be the end?

Gorgeous day, spent the morning writing and got a good deal done.  People riding and driving ponies and horses along Clarkson Avenue all the morning.

Very nice lunch, and while eating it listened to a programme on the radio from Caernarvonshire – not very good, but a delight to hear once again the lovely Welsh voices.  Mr Benison remarked “Curious how some people still speak with an accent, isn’t it?” blissfully unaware that his Middlesborough background showed every time he opened his mouth.

Writing letters, then to post.  Came back by Queen’s Road, and outside the school saw two Army staff cars, an army lorry and two or three civilian cars standing outside.  Wonder what’s up. 

Had a look round the old cemetery at the North End.  The chapel was built in 1848, and the gravestones begin about the same time.  The break in tradition compared with the 18th and early 19th century stones in the churchyards is very striking.  Most of the designs here are absolutely hideous, with bad vulgar lettering, but we must get out a corpus of them, as they are decaying fast.  One grave has a most peculiar cast-iron canopy over it, apparently derived from the mediaeval iron “herse”, now apparently falling into powdered rust.  On one stone noticed the name “Kerhannappugh (Kate) Ollard”.  There are several odd names in the town – Favarque, T. Tong, and a butcher called Goodby.  There used to be a butcher called Hardmeat!!

This evening to the Levers’ in Sandringham Avenue.  Spent a very pleasant evening, talking about the museum, school work and so forth.  Miss Quayle called to say goodbye, as she is leaving the town on Tuesday.  We talked about Wisbech scandal with great enjoyment.  It seems that Ollard, as ARP Controller, frequently comes on duty drunk, and bringing with him a loaded revolver.  He had a theory that if bombs fall in Wisbech, the populace would mob the Report Centre, and he proposed to defend the place to the end.  On one occasion he made a most offensive speech to the ladies who voluntarily serve at the Report Centre, ending with “The trouble with you women is you want a man!”

Came away at 10.30, into brilliant starlight, with a great mass of searchlights to the north, lighting up a little fluttering silver ‘plane.  Apparently another night exercise was on.  


Saw Miss Quayle home to Norwich Road, and then back to my own room, writing until past midnight.  Back very painful today.

7th April 1945

Saturday
Cold and cloudy.  Town very full as usual, and quite a lot of people in the Museum.  Walked over to the Market.  Several ponies and horses, and a very smart turnout-tubcart, pony and new set of brown harness.  Called in at a shop and met little Miss Ellis the teacher.  Asked her to tea on Monday.


This evening in office until 8, getting ready for the meeting on Monday, then to cinema to see Bette Davis in “Old Acquaintance”, very well done indeed.  Much enjoyed it.  Dark and cold tonight, with much cloud.

6th April 1945

Friday
Heavy explosion about 2am, when a lot of ‘planes were going over.  Busy day, much delayed by Curtis Edwards, who stayed nearly 2 hours.  This afternoon paid some money over to Girling, who insisted on opening and counting all the 5/- copper bags, in spite of my having signed them.

Have had no letter from Colchester, but the Colchester Gazette came today.  Nothing much in it.

Very cold all day, and began to rain at teatime.  No Arts Club tonight, but at the next meeting there will be an awful “inquest” on the absurd dance which the Club held recently.  It was a complete failure, only about 40 people went.

Spent the evening at the Swifts’, bitterly regretting the waste of time, but much enjoying myself.


News continues of the allies still advancing, but it seems that no surrender is possible – Churchill has seen to that.  We hear that Queen Victoria’s great-grand-daughter has been turned out of her castle, Schloss Norder Kirchen, by the U.S. forces, and the Count-Bishop of Munster has deplored the obstruction of his palace and cathedral.  On this side, the Bishop of Gloucester has protested against the present dreadful gloating over the destruction of Germany and its art treasures, but what is his voice among so many?

5th April 1945

Thursday
This morning listing Warby’s pottery, and this afternoon reading Ellis’s remarkable “Letters” published in 1824.  Very interesting.  Siege letter, signed by Capall and Lucas, not apparently recognised by Ellis as being of 1648, as it is undated.

Tonight went down to the ARP Control Room to hear the radio.  The Deputy Controller, Muntzer, came in, and looked rather annoyed at finding me there.  He hinted that the Regional Office might want to charge us for all the work they had done on the building!

Back to Clarkson Ave. and went to bed at 11.30.

3rd April 1945

Tuesday
Fine, but a cold biting wind.  Very busy all day.  Started a catalogue of Warby’s pottery, as a beginning to cataloguing all the Romano-British pottery in the Museum.

Another letter from Ann today, only posted in Inverness yesterday morning.  Says she feels better and is back at work.

Poor old Edwards in again, looking quite dreadful.  When he stands he has great difficulty not to fall over.  The result of the appeal for his testimonial is very disappointing – only 5 members out of the 20 on the Committee has replied, and the money so far amounts to about £15, of which £10 comes from Miss Peckover, and £3 from Southwell.  They should have got at least £50.

This evening went to see old Pearson to talk over the suggestion that the time of the Annual Meeting should be changed.  It is obviously absurd to maintain this custom of having it at 12 midday, when nobody can come.  I suggested 4.30 or 5, and that tea should be served.  He more or less agreed, but said we shall never move the Committee.  However, we will try on Monday.  Also talked of my idea to get another Carnegie Grant for the Museum – perhaps £250?  Told him of the possibility of publishing an account of the Roman Fens.

Called at Mrs. Osborne’s on the way back – she has been very ill, but is better.  Brilliant starlight night – cold, and a lot of aircraft moving about.  Evening paper reports that there have been no rockets or ‘divers’ since Wednesday. Can this really be the end?


Bed at midnight.

2nd April 1945 - Easter Monday

Monday
Windy, but sunny.  Museum shut.  Went to the Office, wrote a letter to Penny of the ARP about the Museum furniture which they have, and suggested that we have a talk.  Went up to the North Brink to Mrs. Shucker’s, with a message from Charlotte Osborne about the Art Club dance.  Several ponies out, a trap or two, fields of blowing daffodils.

This afternoon went to Walton Dam with the Swifts’, the Osbornes’ and the Shuckers.  Did not enjoy myself, watching the silly ball games  Withdrew, lay on the river bank, and watched the trains go by on the far side.  Had a very nice tea, and back to Wisbech, past the sweetly smelling blossom of the plum orchards.  When we came out, there was a wedding at West Walton, and the bells were pealing merrily.


Went back to the Shuckers’, which was a mistake.  Mrs. S. brought out large quantities of strong drink.  Mrs. S. was working on the dance decorations, which I privately thought were terrible.  Light until half past nine.  Many ‘planes about tonight, and searchlights flickering up here and there.  The Germans are said to be pulling out of part of Holland, but the press reports are vague and contradictory.

1st April 1945 - Easter Sunday

Sunday
Reading and writing all morning, then down to see Warby again.  Ponies being ridden and driven up and down Clarkson Avenue.

Packed all the complete plates and bowls, and listed coins from which there appears to be another Emneth hoard, found less than a quarter of a mile from that which we already have.  There are about 80 of them, the majority Postumus.  Query – could these hoards, which occur so frequently, have been left by people fleeing from Brancaster in the face of early Saxon Raids?

Called at Bullard’s to see more pottery, which Warby says he has, but he was not there.

Had tea at the Limes.  Some people there from Bury, talking about the recent machine-gunning.  ‘Divers’ are over the town quite frequently.  Left at quarter to 11.  A strong gale, driving thick clouds, and every prospect of a quiet night.


31st March 1945

Saturday
Fine but blustery, and rain came on this afternoon.  Examined the wood from Stag’s Holt, and put several pieces into soak in an attempt to restore their original shape.

This afternoon went to the Marches to see the Annual Stallion Parade.  There were 6 entries – 3 shires, 2 Suffolks, and a skewbald Welsh pony.  They were a good looking lot, but the show was badly arranged, in fact it was no show at all, as the cattle-market yard was full of lorries, so that the horses could barely find room to stand amongst them.  The two Suffolks were really magnificent, and the skewbald pony a delight.  Several ponies for sale in the yard, one grey cob rather the stamp of Bob, but a little lighter.

Town was packed today, everybody buying in stores in case “peace breaks out”, when all shops will instantly shut and thereby deprive the population of food and drink.  Big wedding this afternoon at the Congregational Church in Castle Square.

Bombers were going over all day, and the news tells us that the Allies are far into Germany.  For the last two days the newspapers have not mentioned either rockets or divers.  Evening papers tonight print warning articles on “What will Hitler do Next?” and the “Express” emphasises that we are ready for “his last fling”.  Eleven generals have been released from prison camps.  Perhaps Parrington’s brother is amongst them.  [Parrington of Sherbourne Mill, Lawford].

Tonight almost a gale, and much cloud rushing across the sky.  The wind howls and screams through cracks in this jerry-built little house, and the dining room door is continually blown open.

Can it really be that we have heard the sirens for the last time?  Rather sinister that the Germans are holding out in Scandinavia, from which they can launch attacks against the north.

30th March 1945

Good Friday
Sunny, but a strong cold west wind, and heavy showers both morning and evening.  News coming over the radio all day about the allied advances into Germany.  Even places like Hanover and Nuremberg are threatened.  But there is still an ominous silence from German sources, and no doubt Churchill’s policy of war to the bitter end and surrender without terms is costing thousands of lives on both sides.

There is so far no suggestion of the Germans withdrawing from Norway, Denmark, or Holland.

Went to Elm this afternoon, and began to pack old Warby’s pottery for removal to the Museum.  In the church-yard there saw many of the graves covered with yellow daffodils, and little parties moving about them, some planting bulbs.

Just past the church there was a man ridging up potatoes, with a fine pair of horses, one black and the other a half Suffolk, using an old Ransome’s iron tom.

Warby continues to produce the most amazing new treasures – he suddenly fished out a paper bag full of small pieces of much decayed wood, some show mortice holes and tenons.  These were found in 1933 at Stays’ Holt, eight feet deep, associated with quantities of rope, some of it in the form of a large “pig-net” with meshes about 4" square.  There was also one of the well-known “horse-bit” bronze amulets.  Warby was convinced at the time that this was some sort of cart or sled.  Amongst the wood were horse bones, - what looked like quantities of decayed barley or grain of some kind.  This important find was destroyed at once, and when Warby reported it to Curtis Edwards, Edwards said he thought it was of no importance.

Made a list of the all the colour ware, and packed it ready for removal.  Left at 5.30, hoping to have tea at the Limes, but there was no one there, so went back to Wisbech and had a late and delightful tea at Mrs. Burnett’s.

29th March 1945

Thursday
Fine but overcast, clearing a little later.  Old Edwards came in and said that on the 11 o’clock European News Bulletin a special announcement had been made to the effect that, should hostilities cease, information would be sent out on the 11 o’clock bulletin on that day, and that all public houses would be closed.  Am determined that the Museum will be closed, too, for safety’s sake.  I should think the best thing would be to go to bed for the day.

The evening papers speak of the American forces being 50 miles beyond the Rhine, at Paardesbury.  No-one can remain unmoved at the thought of the sufferings of the people.  The Germans make no public comment on the present situation.

Went to lunch at the Corner Café in Market Street.  A party of Fenlanders at the next table were ridiculing rumours that the war would be over in a matter of weeks.  Some gave it 6 months, others 2 years.  It is of course in the interests of farmers to keep the war going as long as possible.

Down to the Control Room tonight to hear ITMA on the radio.  At one point old “Colonel Chinstrap” said “The war is over, Sir.” and the audience burst into tremendous applause.  The joke was apparently “What war?”  Answer – “The Boer War, Sir” but he was so put off by the cheering that he fluffed it.  Very feeble, and quite out of place.

Back to Clarkson Avenue at 10 o’clock.  A car’s headlights, coming up behind me, made the tall trees look exactly like a setting from “The Student of Prague” which I once saw about 20 years ago.  I strode onwards to meet my “doppelganger”.

House rather lonely now that Miss B has gone away for the holidays.  Writing until 11pm.

28th March 1945

Wednesday
Again fine.  Had a grapefruit for breakfast, for the first time for years.  Mrs Burnett had a few sent from South Africa.

Writing letters most of the day.  Back rather bad, and went to bed early.

27th March 1945

Tuesday
Fine, sunny, but cool.  News in the paper – Marw Anglwyd Lloyd-George.  Long obituary in the “Times”, explaining how he worked for Wales for 20 years and for L.G. for the next 50.  I can remember seeing him, his long white hair flowing, as he stood on the balcony at the Town Hall and addressed the crowd after the Colchester Oyster Feast.  This must have been 1922 or 1923.  I was at a party at the old Joscelyne’s Café, and we boys leaned out of the windows, above the densely packed crowd, to see the little figure on the balcony and catch a few phrases of the great Welsh oratory.

Bought some boxes on the way to the Museum, at a grocer’s, and hurt my back trying to carry them.

No Edwards this morning, to my great relief.  Old Warby called.  Long letter from Poulter who says 6 rockets fell near Colchester last Thursday night.  Hull is away ill.  Rex Wailes has suggested that Marriage’s ought to take over Bourne Mill, which would be an excellent arrangement, much better than having the place quitted.

Tonight called on Jones, the Deputy Borough Surveyor, and sounded him to see if he knew anything about ARP arrangements in the Museum – whether there is any chance of the Control Room being closed – but if he did he was not to be drawn.

A huge white misty moon tonight, and about 11 ‘planes were going out very low with hideous noise.  The news tells us that the Allies are 50 miles over the Rhine, but there is yet no sign of a general collapse.  The papers begin to give little hints, obviously “inspired”, of a war between America and Russia.

Back painful tonight.

26th March 1945 - The last air raid alarm?

Monday
Fine, dull, and very cold.  Felt tired.   Busy all day, but Edwards called and stopped me from doing anything for an hour and a half.  Must do something about this.

Went below to tackle Penny of the ARP about our tables and chairs.  He was very off-hand, and would not give any hint of the ARP organisation closing down.  “Germans aren’t done yet, you know,” he said with gloomy relish.

Tummy a little queer today, and felt really tired tonight.  Went up at 7, and fell asleep reading “Ego 5”, having finished “Ego 4” in the train yesterday.  These books are most extraordinarily good, and first class entertainment.

Shortly before midnight was wakened by the siren.  Went outside into a horrid grey world, lit with a few glimmering lamps here and there.  Heard a ‘plane come across from the S.W., but the all-clear came within four minutes, so that it was probably a false alarm.  Had a sudden feeling that this may be the last alarm of the war – surely the Germans cannot bother to send out any more raids?

25th March 1945

Sunday
Wakened by the birds singing, and looked out onto a grey, damp, drizzle, low clouds sweeping over from the SE.  A four wheel milk cart came up the road, driven by a girl, (saw a nice pair of ponies on a trolley at Bletchley yesterday).

Lay reading, and wondered if there would be an alarm.  Sure enough, at 8 o’clock the sirens moaned out in the drizzle.  Heard a ‘diver’, a very long way off, rumbling along through the wet sky.  One never hears these things without thinking of Duncan Sandys inspired statement last year, when he said it would be impossible to launch them in wet or foggy weather, as the motor would not work.

There was a dull distant thump, and the ‘all clear’ came in a few minutes.  The range of the ‘divers’ must be considerably increased since last year.

Breakfast at 9.30, everything as it was a lifetime ago – grandmother’s Colchester clock on the wall, the broken spring chairs turned out of the dining room, the wood-block floor.  Went up to see Uncle before leaving.  He looked just as he had done last November, thin, pale, austere, obviously very weak.

Weather cleared, so decided to go via St. Albans.  Left at 10.30, just as the band of the Sea Cadets came marching up High Town Road, arms swinging, bugles blaring.

Went spinning along the Bath Road, through Taplow, under the railway bridge and away to Slough.  Nothing seemed changed since last November.  The great mountains of barbed wire are still overshadowing Taplow Station, and the Slough Trading Estate looks as cheap and shoddy as it ever did.  Slough itself shows no further sign of damage, but is if anything a trifle dingier.

Turned off along by the Gas Works, over the narrow, dangerous canal bridge, where a gang of a dozen men were busy repairing the crumbling parapets.  What a wonderful example of modern efficiency that after 20 years of ever increasing motor traffic, these ridiculous bridges still exist on a main road a few miles from London.

A little way along the Uxbridge Road is an Army Training Depôt, and a squad of unfortunate recruits in “civvies”, carrying rifles, were being marched through the gateway.  Nearby were some earnest soldiers learning flag signalling, a form of communication which one would have supposed to have been rather out of date.

And so to Uxbridge, crossing the Colne into Middlesex.  Saw boats on the canal, with the crews, both men and women, washing clothes on the quay side, giving an impression of an almost idyllic life.

A good deal of bomb damage in several parts of the town.  Went up to the main street, where the trolley-buses came in from Shepherd’s Bush, bringing crowds of young people, boy-scouts and girl-guides, going off for a day’s walking in the country.  Hundreds of cyclists, in great flocks, whizzed along the road towards the hills.  Odd to think of them coming from a “battle zone” – even here one sometimes heard the thump and rumble of rockets towards the east.

Realised that I would have done better to have turned off at Iver, but the sign posts around here have never been properly replaced and are very bad.  Turned back into Bucks, across the little stream marked on the map as “The Shire Ditch”.  Some costers came driving along in carts and trolleys, and there were several rough little ponies tied up outside public houses.  One lot came trotting along from Denham with a loose horse tied alongside the shafts.  Saw a brand-new breaking cart in a yard.

Turned off past the great brick wall of Denham Place, past the studios, and over the boundary-line into Hertfordshire and so to Rickmansworth.  Looked out for the bomb-damaged houses which I saw in 1941, but there was no sign of them.  Did I dream it?  Phantas-magoria?

Just outside Rickmansworth was this scene – the wide arterial road, with a grass margin several yards wide, one where two ponies were tethered, one grazing, one lying down.  On the other side of the road, a group of people were waiting in a bus shelter – an air-raid warden, an airman, a soldier and a girl, and two women.  Along the road came a 321 ‘bus, pulling in to the stop, and overtaking it was a blue racing-car driven by a young man in leather jacket, and goggles, roaring down the road like a flying bomb.  Ahead a Fort came flying over, very low.  The racing car vanished, the bus moved on, and all was peace.  No-one could have imagined that at any moment a rocket might have landed and dissolved the car, the bus, the ponies and all of us into atoms.

Stopped at Rickmansworth Station, at the top of a steep hill, and sat on a seat to eat some sandwiches, watching trains go by, and girls cycling along the road.  Army lorries were parked outside a WVS canteen opposite.  Every now and then there was a dull rumble from the south.

Got to Watford at 2, and found the tyre giving out again.  Had a cup of tea at a little café kept by a Greek or Maltese.  Quite clean, but smelt of cooking.  Around here were derelict A.A. gun sites and old battery offices – no guns left now, all having been moved into the Eastern Counties.  Quite a lot of bomb damage.

Arrived at St Albans at 3 o’clock.  Telephoned to the station from a call-box at the end of King Harry Lane, and found there was a train from Hatfield to Cambridge at 6.  This gave ample time to see the Museum, so whizzed down Romeland and Fishpool Street.  Found that Corder still goes twice a week, but his main duty is at the Society of Antiquaries, where he is still living.  He must have rendered invaluable service to the Society during the last 5 years. 

The collections are looking very good indeed, and the building was full of London visitors.  Walked into the church opposite to see once more the great man’s effigy, two young girls in cycling dress were looking at it, and one read out the inscription in the “new” pronunciation.  Notice that the authorities have optimistically given him no protection.  So far only a few odd bombs have fallen in the Park.  Looked at the theatre, and as I came away an elderly man came riding down the lane on a chestnut cob, very smart.

Had tea at a rather dirty ABC café, but got enough to eat.  Pumped up the tyre again, and so on to Hatfield.  Crossed the Great North Road, and down to the station.  While I waited, heard the church bells ringing out under the grey silent sky.  Got the train at last, and got in with a party of three young men and a girl from Cambridge.  They talked about agriculture, and the possibility of “wangling into things”, how to avoid service, and so on.  The men were talking lightly abut the rockets and discussed their mechanical side with enthusiasm.  Apparently the whole party worked on the land in some capacity or other.

In the Fens, there was a pink sunset, and the great flat fields were tinged blood-red.

Cambridge at last, and missed a Wisbech connection by 10 minutes.  Had to wait in the gathering dark until 9.30.  Bombers were going out singly all the time.

At long last got to March by quarter to eleven, and set out on the last 10 miles to Wisbech, a dreary ride under the lowering clouds.  Wisbech at midnight, no sound but a solitary ‘plane diving somewhere in the darkness.  To bed, rather tired.