EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

31st March 1941 - Evacuation in case of Invasion

A Police Notice appears on EJR's journal page for 31st March 1941. The notice contains printed numbers on one side and instructions on the back for the evacuation of Colchester in the event of invasion. The issuing of this notice at this time makes it apparent that the authorities considered invasion to be a real threat in the Spring of 1941. CP

The Police Notice reads as follows:

The Regional Commissioner has decided that it is necessary to make plans in advance for the removal of the population by train, in case he or the Military Authorities, should have to decide that the town must be evacuated at very short notice.

Your Warden is calling upon you personally with this leaflet to explain what is required of you.

All you are asked to do at the moment is to display at once in a prominent position at the TOP of a window, facing the road, a figure (cut from this leaflet) indicating the number of people living in your house.

This is for the information of your Warden and THE FIGURE SHOULD BE ALTERED FROM TIME TO TIME if the number of people living in your house changes for any reason.

It is essential for the Warden to have this information up-to-date so that train services may be properly organised.

If and when the order comes it is proposed to notify you by Police and Wardens:-
(1) Where and when transport will be waiting to take you to the station
(2) The number of the train upon which you will travel
(3) The time of departure of the train

Please bear in mind that your Warden is doing this work voluntarily under government instructions for your benefit. Please give him every assistance and avoid keeping him waiting.

By order,
H.C. Stockwell, Lt.-Col.
Chief Constable
March 31st 1941


The printed numbers used to show how many people were living in a house, with a discoloured number 3 for the Rudsdales' home to indicate EJR and his parents lived there. (Courtesy of Essex Record Office)

30th March 1941

Went over to Dedham to tea at Sissons'. Felt very ill with bad pain. Ate supper, most unwisely, and felt much worse. Left at 11pm, under the impression it was 10 o’clock. Had a dreadful job getting home – wondered how I should do it. A certain amount of bombing and firing was going on in the direction of Clacton, and many searchlights out, but no planes came over my road. I could see flashes of bursting bombs. Alarm on when I got to Colchester, but felt so bad I turned in right away and to hell with it!

29th March 1941

Hampshire Bacon got hold of a new pony and cart today, a very handy little turnout which will be useful in carting down to the field.

Had tea at Jacklin’s this afternoon with George [Farmer] and his wife. I do not think he is at all happy, although he says he has not done one stroke of work since he joined [the RAF]. More rain today.

26th March 1941

Extraordinary development in “coin stealing” case. Detective came in today and informed Poulter that three young boys had been apprehended, and had stated that Chapman had found them with the coin drawer open, and had taken the coins away from them. This Chapman has now admitted, so I suppose these were the coins I found on the cabinet on Monday night. This is an amazing and discreditable affair, and Chapman will be very lucky if he does not lose his job. Whether any other action is taken will depend on the police. Poulter is very despondent as to his chances.

Heavy rain again tonight. My streams and ditches at Bourne Pond in full spate, roaring like Welsh cataracts.

24th March 1941

Heavy rain all day. Heard for the first time this afternoon that besides the coin drawer, the coins exhibition case was attacked and also the Contributions Box, which was seriously damaged, large pieces being broken off. Obviously the thief had plenty of time and excellent opportunity.

Tonight, soon after 11p.m., I was making my final patrol of the building, when I came upon 14 coins of Gordianus, Alexander Severns etc. lying on top of the coin drawers. Whether the thieves have brought them back, or whether Hull put them there I do not know, but I left them for him to see.

23rd March 1941

Went over to Lawford to lunch, to the Parrington’s. Penelope Belfield was there, just as beautiful as ever and still stammering. We went out with the pony this afternoon to Frank Girling’s, at Holly Lodge, to deliver some cream. He was not there. Back to a lovely “high tea” at Sherbourne Mill, including cream and jam in quantities, such as I have not seen since last August. Left at 6, and down to Dedham, calling on the Sissons for an hour, then back to Colchester on duty. A lovely day, although very cold, in fact there was quite a fall of snow this morning.

When I got in to the Castle, I found Hull standing on the spiral stairs in complete darkness. He is always in some odd position like this when I come to relieve him.

He said he had locked his office and had locked the keys inside or else left them at home, so had been wandering about in the darkening Castle for a couple of hours. After he had gone, Poulter came over to tell me [that some] coins, nearly all 1st century, were stolen yesterday morning and a number of them were found on the Castle bridge by some children during the afternoon. These were taken to Poulter, who happened to be in the building at the time. I cannot understand where Chapman was at the moment, but everything in the Castle is so out of control that in all probability he was out. About 2 dozen coins and 50 packets were found, nearly all torn up, but how many coins are missing is not known, (and probably never will be, thanks to the state of our records). Hull turned up from somewhere, fell into an awful flap, sent for the police, and generally took charge of the situation.

21st March 1941

New “invasion” scare today. Heard that Hull has been saying that the army are demanding the removal of 60% of the population of Colchester by April 1st, but do not know whether this is true.

His accident was mentioned in a news item in the paper tonight, where he appeared as “M.R. Hull, an Elmstead cyclist”, who “in some way fell from his machine …”

19th March 1941

This afternoon had to go over to Bellhouse Farm, Stanway, about some field numbers. I had never seen this place before, a most charming early 16th century house, with boarded front, painted yellow. Saw poor old Mr. Bird, who is now ill. He told me he had been there for nearly 50 years, upon which I congratulated him. The country looked very lovely, spring beginning to show on the ground.

17th March 1941

About 10 o’clock this morning a dead baby was found under a bush on the Castle Ramparts. We could see the place from the office window, and could see the police and detectives taking photos and making measurements. I wonder what poor girl has done this.

Heard this afternoon that after Hull left the Holly Trees last night, just after the pubs closed, he crashed into a stationary fire-engine in Greenstead Road, giving himself a terrible black eye and quite knocking himself out. He left the Castle at 8, and came back to the Park at 10 or just after for his bike, obviously having spent a couple of hours boozing up. Today police were in making enquiries about the affair.

16th March 1941

Miss Knight, who we [the War Agricultural Committee] were responsible for evicting from her holding at Aldham, brought three of her horses down to Bourne Mill today. They are a mare and two youngsters, all terribly thin.

Went over to Fingringhoe this afternoon and saw Grubb. Everything much as usual, just the same dirt, old tins, bits of food, harness all over the dining room, papers, books, old clothes. We went round her 6 acre field. Not much grass coming up yet. Very bad stony field. If we do not get rain for the spring she will get very little grazing. Talking of the trouble to get it grass-harrowed, as Judy the only workable horse, “refuses to pull”, and she used to be in the artillery!

Had to go on duty tonight at 8. Don't like these Sunday night arrangements.
Glorious day. Warm and sunny. Fingringhoe looked grand.

The War Agricultural Executive Committees were empowered to take over land if the landholder was considered to be unable to carry out the Committee's orders to plough up land and increase food production. Miss Knight, mentioned above, appears to have been a victim of this policy but EJR seems to have tried to help her by offering shelter for her horses.

14th March 1941

Sleep walking again last night. Found myself standing at the door of the cell [at the Castle], listening to ghostly footsteps coming over the bridge. They died away as they reached the door and I became more awake.

9th March 1941 - Bombs near Gosbecks Temple

Heard this morning that the loud bombs last night were “on Gosbecks” [the Romano-British Temple site], so went up there right away, only to find they were near not on. Fourteen fell in the Cheshunt Field, a few hundred yards from the Temple site, but without throwing up any antiquities, another in the big meadow right against Oliver’s Lane, another on the other side which does not seem to have gone off, and a last one right in the corner of the cottage garden, on the corner of Oliver’s Lane and Gosbecks Road. It dropped between a tool shed and a chicken run, upset the chicken run, but did not wake the people in the cottage, who were in bed. The chickens were found sitting on top of their shed. 

While I was there a police car arrived, with a notice “Unexploded Bomb”, which was attached to a tree, and shortly afterwards a demolition party arrived, unrequired and 14 hours late. There was not even a pane of glass broken. A wonderful escape. 

The site of the Romano-British Temple that was discovered at Gosbecks Farm in the 1930s is now open to the public as Gosbecks Archaeological Park. The Park is also the site of a Roman theatre, which would have held 5,000 spectators.

8th March 1941

Called on Maura Benham this evening, and found her in the very best of health. Hervey [her brother] is expected home this weekend. Alarm at 8.30 this evening and a lot of planes came over. Loud bomb explosions at about 9.30, seemed to be fairly near. The flashes were very violent, and the blast rattled every window in the Castle. Nobody in the streets took the slightest notice, and I don't believe they would even if the bomb fell in the street.

7th March 1941

Had tea with Helen Kapp. She is really very nice, and told the most amusing stories. After tea went down and fed the horses and saw Bourne Mill in the gathering dusk, which she thought was very beautiful. Then, in spite of cold and rain, walked by the Wick and along Hythe Quay, talking hard all the time. Most enjoyable. Had coffee at the “Wishbone”, crammed with soldiers eating sausages and chips. Helen told me a fine ghost story. Saw her home to her lodgings in Maldon Road. She is a Jewess. She has lost all her belongings in London in a raid, has been knocked flat by a bomb explosion on Haverstock Hill and has had a friend killed by a direct hit at Hampstead.

Sleep walking again last night [at the Castle]. Things moved about. Wet day. Five short alarms during day time.

6th March 1941

Met A.C.C. Smallwood tonight, and heard the good news that he is now a member of the Museum Committee. He is an extremely able man.

This evening I moved two wood chests containing all my journals and notebooks into the Castle, where they may be safer and where I can work on them freely.

Spent evening going through Laver’s photos.

5th March 1941

Work has just begun on a new 12” water-main running along the W. side of Mersea Road. It began in Portland Road by St. Botolph’s Corner, crossing right over Mersea Road by Knopp’s [Shoe] Factory. In this cross cut was what I think was a definite trace of Roman road and ditch on the E. side of it, and above that a fairly modern brick foundation, obviously the base of old Knopp’s garden wall, as it was more than 30 years ago, before the “Empire” Cinema was built and the road widened.

The Empire Cinema in Mersea Road had been built in 1911 and was originally called the Vaudeville Electric Theatre. The cinema was demolished in 1971.

4th March 1941

I was upset this morning to find I had been sleep-walking last night [at the Castle]. Although the door was still bolted, a string which I use to switch off the light was carefully taken outside and draped across the passage. Strangely enough, I was not as frightened as I used to be about it.

The dawn was glorious this morning, more like May than early March.