EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

9th May 1945 - VE Day Celebrations

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.  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
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”.