EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

28th February 1942

Weather suddenly improved, and became warm and sunny. Went over to Fordham this morning, to see Stuart Rose in the orchards. Arranged to take Bob over next week, and to stable him at Houd’s Farm. I think he will be quite useful.

Information Request on the Wembley Air Raid 28-29 September 1940

I have received the following message from a member of the Howlett family, who is trying to trace a Mr Francis, who survived a devastating air raid on Wembley on the night of 28th/29th September 1940:

My Grandfather's family all lost their lives to a bomb on the night of the 29th September 1940. They lived at 64, Beverley Gardens, Wembley and the house took a direct hit with the bomb apparently coming down via the chimney. Amazingly the clock on the mantle survived and is still running to this day. However, on the 60th anniversary fell off my mother's mantle in the middle of the night.....she consequently had that damage and the wartime damage repaired.
I am hoping that Mr Francis who was a child at the time in the house next door may get in touch. I have seen his post on another site but sadly am unable to contact him.

If anyone can help to trace Mr Francis, please contact me and I will pass the details on. I received this message as a result of the Howlett family reading E J Rudsdale's experiences of this bombing raid on 28th September 1940 and 29th September 1940. Many thanks, CP

24th February 1942

Terrible, bitter, weather. Strange that I really feel better now, living in the Oven [the Castle Cell], than I used to do living at home. At any rate, I have got through this winter without those awful coughs I used to have, although there have been several days and nights of pain and discomfort.

Meeting at the office this morning regarding Westwood Park, Gt. Horkesley. This is a considerable estate, with a home farm of 160 acres, with 8 cows in milk and four more due to calf. It appears that the whole of the milk produced goes to the house, the household consisting of old Col. Ogilvie and 9 servants. A most extraordinary state of affairs, somewhat complicated by the fact that the agent for the estate is none other than Mr. A.J. Pope, Secretary of the East Suffolk War Agricultural Committee! He and Mr. Page were both present this morning, and our Chairman. It seems doubtful whether any legal proceedings can be taken against Col. Ogilvie, but Pope promised to try to get him to be more reasonable.

Went down to Mersea with Nott this afternoon, to see North Farm. The three old Woods Brothers were round the lee of a stack, knocking out beans with their flails. The Woods’ agreed that the Committee should take over the whole of the dead stock and the two old horses on valuation. Among other things there is a very good wagon, built for them at Abberton in 1894, as the date painted on it still shows.

Came back past Broman’s Farm and saw old Page also flailing beans in a little shed near the road.

Rudsdale was fascinated by the old farmers on Mersea Island who maintained agricultural tradition by using flails. He used the photograph opposite in lectures on agricultural history to illustrate the use of flails in Medieval times.

22nd February 1942

This afternoon stables, field, and an hour in the office. After tea to Seymour’s. Miss Coope the schoolmistress was there. I was interested to hear her say that the Government were fools to take away precautions to minimise damage to civilian property at Brest when bombing the [German warships] “Scharnhorst” and the “Grieseman”. French civilians are of no importance, and deserve death anyway for “letting us down”. Saunders agreed, and said the French were “yellow” all through. Yet this woman is teaching young girls!

Mrs. Seymour showed me a photo taken last week of four generations – Alan’s baby, Alan, Pa Seymour, and his father. Facial resemblance most remarkable. Alan is now a dentist in the R.A.F., with the rank of Flying Officer. Left at 11p.m., and saw Miss Coope home. Fine, but very cold. Looks like more snow. Everything frozen solid at the Castle.

18th February 1942 - A Visit to Chelmsford

Went to Writtle Agricultural Insitute [the headquarters of the Essex War Agricultural Committee], taking cycle on train to Chelmsford, and then riding out. Train crowded, but not uncomfortable. Had lunch at the Ritz Café in Baddow Road, but could not get much to eat there. Chelmsford streets very full of people rushing home on cycles. Bitterly cold, with a few flakes of snow. Cycled out to the Institute and spent a busy afternoon in various departments. Interested to find that everybody dislikes Coope [the new Office Manager at Writtle Institute]. Our new chief clerk, Wilcocke, came up yesterday to meet Coope by appointment, but Coope had gone away and forgotten him. Complete farce.

Managed to win a typewriter and a filing cabinet, and must make arrangements to get them to Colchester. Saw the National Services Officer, and asked about my prospects. He told me that it was unlikely there would be any decisions for another 4 or 6 weeks.

Spent two hours in the Accounts Dept. Enormous amount of business done there. Saw Maud Fairhead, who was very despondent. She said she would like to get in the Colchester Office if possible. I should like to have her there.

Cycled back to Chelmsford in time to catch 6.1. Had a cup of tea and a bun in the Refreshment Room at the station. Pathetic coarse little waitress, with a dreadful cold, talking to an awful Cockney commercial traveller. He said:
“I began work in 1916 and my old man gave me half a crown a week. Now look at boys -”. The girl went into great detail about a cold cure she had, which from her own state did not appear to be very efficient. The tea was horribly strong, but hot, and the bun was stale. The soldiers came in, hung all over with equipment, and a faded looking woman with a fat elderly man. Went outside to see the London train from Norwich and Yarmouth come in, steaming majestically round the curve. It reminded me of a day in 1940 when I stood at the same spot watching a train come in, while one could hear bombs and shells bursting at London, 30 miles away to the south west. I shall never forget how calmly the waiting passengers got into the train which was ready to take them right into the battle zone, as it were.

Home in darkness and cold, and a hot supper at the café in Culver Street.

This link shows the Winton steam train passing through Chelmsford Station on its journey to London in 2009 and gives an indication of the view of the London bound train that EJR would have seen from the same spot in 1942. Hopefully the standard of refreshments at Chelmsford Station has improved since 1942! CP

17th February 1942 - The Camchester Chronicle

At lunch today asked Hervey Benham and Messenger what they thought of the film ‘Citizen Kane”? H.B. considered it to be of very little interest in this country. A very typical English comment, so apposite from one of a nation whose one great desire is to mind other nations’ business for them. What liars and hypocrites the English are! Messenger, I am glad to say, recognised the film as the brilliant piece of work which it is.

One day I will write a “Citizen Kane” of Colchester, and the citizen will be none other than Sir Gurney Benham [Colchester's publishing magnate]. I will call it the “Camchester Chronicle”.

About a year later E.J. Rudsdale did write a manuscript entitled the 'Camchester Chronicle' with the intention of publishing it. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the manuscript are now unknown. If anyone has any information about it, please contact me. I would be very interested to learn more about it. Many thanks, CP

16th February 1942

Sir William Gurney Benham is 83 today. He was born in 1859, only two years after William Wire died and a year before the Castle was opened as a Museum.

Sir William Gurney Benham was the proprietor of the Benham Press and editor of the 'Essex County Standard' and 'Colchester Gazette' newspapers. He was also Chairman of the Colchester Museum Committee.

William Wire was a 19th century antiquarian who had kept a diary of events and archaeological discoveries in Colchester. CP.

15th February 1942

Cycled to Lawford. Had a lovely lunch. Ground some flour in the hand-mill, had tea, and came home in the cold and dark.

13th February 1942 - Operation Cerberus - The Channel Dash

A grim, unpleasant day, as Friday the 13th might be expected to be, although the sun shone brightly and the weather was remarkably spring-like. At lunch at Rose’s Hervey Benham was sitting at one table with a little dark man, and as the room was very crowded I had no choice but to join them. H.B. was in a worse mood than I have ever known him before, indeed he talked such conceited puerile rubbish about the war that I felt physically ill, and felt I was on the verge of doing some awful thing in front of everybody in the café. As it was, I took advantage of the fact that lunch was late in being served to get up and walk out of the place, which I fear annoyed Rose. I had to make with a scrap lunch at Jacklin’s, which was also very crowded.

When I got back to the office, Joanna was there, rather upset about something she had accidentally overheard Nott say on the telephone about her Land Army job. I told her to ignore it, as there was nothing he could do to hurt her. He is of course very keen to get one of his lady friends into the position.

Meeting at 3 o’clock in the Grand Jury Room, both the Lexden & Winstree and the Tendring War Agricultural District Committees to hear Mansfield [a civil servant representing Robert Hudson, then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries] give a talk on future agricultural policy. Rather an air of constraint on our side, I thought – the Chairman sat on the back row, on a hard seat, and not on an upholstered front row seat with the other chairman. Col. Furneaux and Major Waller sat with him, and the District officers and Secretaries all sat in a bunch.

Old Mrs. Grubb was buried in the Friends Ground in Roman Road this afternoon, but I could not go.

It was only when I saw the evening paper tonight that I realised what a staggering victory had been won by the Germans yesterday, when they brought their three biggest warships up the Channel in the face of great opposition, which no doubt would have been greater but for the usual refusal on the part of the Navy and the RAF to co-operate. Forty two RAF planes were shot down. The audacity of the affair was amazing. [The German forces called this ‘Operation Cerberus’ and it is also known as the 'Channel Dash']. I hear several destroyers went out from Harwich, and one on returning landed a number of dead.

Almost all the German Navy is now in the North Sea, which looks more like a prelude to an invasion than anything I have seen yet.

Tonight about 9.30 Mrs Parrington ‘phoned to ask me over to lunch on Sunday. Penelope will be there. I was at once considerably cheered. Then Poulter came in to say that he had heard that both he and I were definitely omitted from the Corporation Staff Grading Scheme [for the Museum]. I do not know whether or not I ought to resign.

12th February 1942

Went over to Dedham this evening to supper at Sissons’. Mrs. S.’s father was there, a very pleasant man from Bristol, complaining much of the cold in eastern England. He had brought a very beautiful set of carved ivory chessmen.

Thaw tonight, with west wind. Back to Colchester at 11.30.

11th February 1942

Great disappointment – hard frost again this morning, and kept on all day.

Authority came from Writtle today for Joanna Round to take the Land Army supervision job at Peldon.

Hervey Benham told me at lunch today that old Mrs. Grubb died yesterday in Severalls [Mental Hospital]. Poor Eilean. What will become of her now? Wrote to her tonight.
Eilean Grubb ran a horse riding school and had taught EJR to ride.

Evening papers all preparing the public for the loss of Singapore. The majority of people seem to view the rapid disintegration of the Empire very calmly. Perhaps they are really as sick and tired of the whole thing as I am. Spencer said today – “Isn’t the news bad? We’ve lost the ‘Normandie’ and we look like losing Singapore.” We have lost it! – burnt by accident at New York yet we have lost it. I suppose everything in the world which does not belong to Germany belongs to us. I remember hearing a woman in a café lament that we had lost Manila. Of course, it is quite possible that some people think the English really own everything east of Suez.

Very cold, but sunny. Took some more photos down to Gall this morning. The river turgid and dirty. Four white ducks and one piebald were feeding below the Weir at Middle Mill, in pale winter sunshine. A man and a little girl were crossing the footbridge over the dyke, the man carrying a large bundle of faggots on his back. A fireman came along from the depôt on his cycle. He was the husband of that pretty little girl who years ago worked at Page and Ward’s. I used to see them as lovers walking slowly round the Park. Big army convoy on the By Pass, running east.

Spent 2 hours on photos tonight, then hot Ovaltine and bed in the cell [at the Castle].

10th February 1942

A good day. Capt. Folkard “promoted” me to go into his office next week, when the new Chief Clerk comes. It was almost warm today, with a real thaw. Took the grey [pony] out for a run with my cycle at 5.30, the roads all slushy but no longer dangerous. When I got her back, groomed her, shook up the bed, and fed her, I felt I was really doing stable work for the first time for weeks. Went down to the Mill, and behold! found a quarter ton of hay, which Pulford had delivered (and carefully packed into the wrong place). I now have three-quarters of a ton, which ought to be enough for at least 6 or 7 weeks, carrying up to the beginning of April. Besides this I have 6 sacks of corn chaff, 6 more to come, 10 bundles of straw, half cwt of oats and half cwt of bran.

Light until 6.30 tonight. Had tea at the Regal. Lovely little blonde there again. Still not really dark at 7. Spent the evening doing photographs. Some rain tonight.

During the war the clocks were not put back in winter time and so were ahead of GMT by one hour. During the summer time they were advanced by a further hour and were then two hours ahead of GMT. This measure aimed to extend the hours of daylight in the afternoon and evening for essential war work. CP

9th February 1942: A visit to Mersea Island

Went down to Mersea this afternoon with Capt. Folkard and Nott. Went down to North Farm by Shop Lane. Walked along the cart-track, all ice and snow, though thawing a little now. Some of our men were hedging by the lane, and a little further on the three old Woods brothers were clearing out a ditch, watched from the hedge bank by their little dog and cat, who follow them everywhere.

As we came away I saw the sails of a barge just coming in over Colne Bar, faint and ghostly in the mist, looking as if she were sailing silently across the next meadow. There were cries of gulls and curlews from down on the saltings. A man hedging said there were many geese just over the sea-wall.

Checked up the Committee’s horses. All Suffolks, called Dodman, Boxer, Pride, and Prince. Poetical names. I wonder why Dodman? Perhaps “slow”, derived from “hodmedod”?

Back home at 5.30. Most enjoyable day though cold.

In Suffolk dialect a snail is referred to as a 'Hodmedod' whilst in Norfolk it is known as a 'Dodman' thus providing an appropriate name for the slow and steady Suffolk Punch Horse. CP

8th February 1942

Nice bright day, although terribly cold. Went over to Boxted, although the roads are bad. I was determined to go, as I felt so ill and fed up in the town. Had a good chat with the Roses, and a fearful ride home. I finally came off in a fence, but did not hurt myself very much.

7th February 1942

Got half ton of hay from Canning this morning, and 10 bundles of straw from Pulford at 2/- each. All safe for a few weeks, at any rate.

Still more snow, and freezing hard. Rose gave me a black cat today, which I took round to the Rallings this evening. It was left behind in the flat above Rose’s by a woman, who locked it in to either starve or be rescued by neighbours as chance would have it.

6th February 1942

Terribly cold. Had to go down to the Hythe this afternoon to see Pertwee’s. The River was full, with the tide coming in. Only three barges in, one just sailing, going round the bend by the swinging-berth under auxiliary engine, steam and fumes rising from the stern, and the dinghy bobbing behind in choppy yellow-grey water. I went round by the Distillery. The Laundry is now entirely rebuilt, and there is nothing left to remind of the tragedy that dull autumn day in 1940. The style of the new building is not very impressive, in plain red brick with numerous buttresses. The familiar laundry smell drifts out of the place.

An account of the bombing of the Old Heath Laundry in Colchester on 3rd October 1940 appears in EJR's book.

Called at Cannock Mill. No hay at all. Straw 2/- a truss. Fed the horses, and went to tea at the Regal. The beautiful little blonde came in with another girl, and sat talking at my table until almost 8 o’clock. She is married (of course!) and her husband is a captain in Persia. The strange thing is that she has lived in the town all her life, yet I never saw her until a few months ago.

Intense cold. Roads like glass. Back to Holly Trees at 10, and Poulter told me that Miss Oldfield is leaving [the Castle staff] to join the ATS, in fact she has gone today, without notice or any arrangements being made. She is such a strange child, never speaking, never giving any idea what she was thinking about. I fear she will not be missed, except in fire watch rota. Hull is as usual unperturbed and uninterested in Museum affairs.

5th February 1942

They were carting snow down to East Bridge today, with Howard’s and Young’s horses, and tipping it in by the “White Horse”, where the old ford used to be. Great caked lumps of dirty snow splashed into the fast running grey water, the tide ebbing, and floated away like little ice bergs.

There is a serious hay shortage, as lorries cannot get to the farms. I need some badly.

Went to the Rallings' this evening, [the Ralling family lived opposite the Rudsdale family in New Town, Colchester] and they showed me several interesting photos of the town between 1870-1880, with a few earlier ones about 1860. Some of the Castle are very good, and I shall have a dozen copied and enlarged as soon as I can.

More snow during day.

E.J. Rudsdale and his parents rented one half of 'Gordon Villas' in Winnock Road, Colchester, which is situated between New Town Road and Wimpole Road. They had moved there in 1917. The Ralling family lived opposite the Rudsdales in Winnock Lodge. Winnock Lodge has since been demolished and replaced by flats. E.J. Rudsdale had always lived in the New Town District of Colchester. He was born in Harsnett Road and his mother's family had all lived in Wimpole Road. CP

4th February 1942

Snow and intense cold all day. Every limb aches, and it is quite painful even to feel my clothes on them.

3rd February 1942

Tremendous snow fall during the night. Banks 2’6” deep against the Castle door. Roads are in a terrible state. Coal-carts coming up from the station to Magdalen St. with two horses. There was some snow all day until the afternoon, when it began to thaw again.

Went to the cinema this evening, being suddenly tempted, when I ought to have been working.

2nd February 1942

More snow last night. Birch Park looked incredibly lovely when we went over for the [War Agricultural] Committee today. It was like some fanciful snow scene in a child’s book, to see the great elms, the ancient church, and the Hall, all snow covered amidst the dazzling expanse of the Park. Nothing much done at Committee.

This gallery of photos on the Birch Parish Council website shows views of Birch village today. Sadly Birch Hall was demolished in 1954. CP

1st February 1942: Agriculture in Invasion

The following notice appears in EJR's Journals for 1st February 1942, following the visit of J.C. Leslie, Executive Officer of the Essex War Agricultural Committee, who addressed farmers in Colchester's Corn Exchange on 31st January 1942 on the subject of wartime agriculture.


If invasion comes farmers should never on their own initiative destroy their crops, their stock, or their equipment. Conditions here are different from those in other countries. This country is small and there is no question of abandoning any part of it to the enemy. The invader will be repelled and will not be given time to make use of our agricultural resources.

Our present food needs are great but they may well be greater during and after invasion. Nothing should be destroyed unless orders are given by a responsible military officer. What destruction has to be done has been planned and will be carried out by the Military Authorities. The country’s productive resources must be preserved as far as possible, since our power to strike back will depend on them. The enemy, through repelled, would have partly succeeded if he induced us to carry out a large-scale policy of destruction by burning ricks, crops and buildings and slaughtering cattle.

But farmers and farm workers must do all in their power to hinder the enemy. They must hide food, feeding stuffs and other stocks, put their vehicles out of action and try to prevent the enemy from laying hands on anything that might be useful to him.’