EJ Rudsdale on Twitter from 3 September 2019

30th April 1942

Glorious day, much warmer, and that dreadful wind gone. Went to mill and stables tonight and fed the ponies. A glorious golden sunset, and then a brilliant full moon. As I came across the Park at eleven o’clock the Castle stood out as if it was midday. I hope to God nothing comes over tonight. How I wish it was morning, or that the moon would be covered by thick clouds. We need rain badly enough, anyway.

29th April 1942

Felt quite glad to be alive this morning. Had a busy day in the office, and took Robin for a run tonight. Got him harnessed single handed, and he went very well.

Poulter told me late tonight that a notice was put on the screen at the Regal ordering all Canadians to report to their units at once. At the Liberal Club there was a rumour that they are all being sent back to Canada at once.

No relief firewatcher at the Holly Trees tonight. What a farce this firewatching is. No water or sand on the Castle roof yet.

Rather a strange item recorded in the “Manchester Guardian” yesterday, perhaps illustrating the temper of Wales. The Secretary of the Welsh Nationalists was charged at Caernarvon Police Court for refusing to submit to a medical examination. He had already been removed from the Register of Conscientious Objectors as he had appealed on political grounds. He now stated in Court that he did not feel he could serve in the English Army. The magistrates fined him £5. In England he would have been imprisoned and then re-arrested and held for an army escort.

28th April 1942

Vague news this morning of a raid on Norwich last night. “Many casualties feared”, “widespread damage”. It is obvious that comparatively few planes have been used in these raids, yet the press makes more fuss about them than it did of the heavy raids 18 months ago.

Went up to Poulter’s flat tonight, and heard the 9 p.m. news. To my surprise there was no mention of Norwich in the summary, and only a few words in the main news – fires, considerable damage, two churches and a hospital hit; and “fairly numerous casualties.”

It looks rather as if the papers are making the most of these raids, firstly on account of lack of news, and secondly to stimulate the population by fear, hatred, etc.

Some accounts of the Bath attacks say 150 bombers came over the first night and 50 came the second. Others say 50 the first night and 25 on the second. What is one to believe? The Pump Room, Roman Baths, Museum, and Cathedral seem to be untouched.

One thing noticeable is that all the press accounts seem to be derived from the same source, as they mention trivial incidents in exactly the same way – a woman killed who was about to be married, a shelter hit, a car buried and then blown up again, a sedan chair outside a burnt building.

Colchester now begins to wonder quite seriously whether or not it is an 'historic town'. Called at home tonight. The old people don't seem to be given to any forebodings. Only stayed 10 minutes. Robin looks very well. I don't like leaving him right against Paxmans but I don’t see what else I can do.

I moved my “Old Colchester” Photographs into the Castle tonight. I am almost determined to move all my papers, journals, etc to Boxted, just as a precaution.

All this dreadful carnage and destruction is a direct reprisal for the RAF raids on German towns. Who knows what frightful things have happened there? The English papers have gloated over the burning and smashing of towns such as Rostock and Lübeck, and have published photos to show the extent of this damage to shops, houses and churches. Yet they squeal madly when the Germans strike at “plutocratic Bath”, the ancient buildings of which they would not raise a finger to protect from vandals in peace time.

I am in a most depressed state in the Oven tonight. It is gone eleven, and the silence is so intense one can almost “hear” it. I am straining my ears to catch any friendly sounds a car, a lorry, a drunken soldier, or even a ghostly noise in this “crumbling ruin” would be better than a silence which presses all round you. I cannot forget our lack of sand and water. How much longer shall I stand these nights? I dream so much, and so strangely. There is a noise now, at last, - wind moaning under the Castle door.

27th April 1942

Raid on Bath the main item in all the papers today. How long will this business go on? How can one condemn the Luftwaffe more than the RAF?

Many people in Colchester take a masochistic delight in these raids. I heard some at lunch today saying with gloomy joy “Ah well, I suppose we shall get our packet before long.”

Terribly long meeting at Birch today. Much talk about cows, examination of dairy herds, etc. Old Round was talking in a most bloodthirsty manner at tea, rather as if the war was pheasant shooting. Did not get away until after 7. Saw Joanna incredibly tall and beautiful wearing a long pink dress, printed with flowers, walking along the gallery.

26th April 1942: The Baedeker Raids

Great success this afternoon. Put Robin into shafts, in a four wheel van. Mr. Clark helped me. He went well, with hardly any hesitation. After taking him round the streets for 10 minutes I got up and drove him. There was a dreadful east wind all day, but I much enjoyed this triumph.

Called at Seymour’s this evening, and heard for the first time that there had been an air-raid at Bath last night, as a reprisal for the destruction of the ancient mediaeval cities of Rostock and Lübeck. There do not seem to be any details of damage.

The raid on Bath formed part of a series of 'Baedeker raids' by the Luftwaffe, which targeted historic British towns and cities. E.J. Rudsdale gives more details on these raids in his book.

25th April 1942

Tried Robin again this afternoon, driving on long reins, and he went very well indeed. He already looks much better.

When I got to the Holly Trees tonight, Poulter told me a most extraordinary story. This afternoon a man called Harrison, who is an official of the Ministry of Labour, called at the Museum demanding to see Hull, who (as usual) was not there. He was very angry and annoyed, and at first declined to tell Poulter what his business was, as it was “private and personal”. However, P. calmed him down and at last got out of him the real trouble – why had Hull accused him of stealing coins from the Museum? It appears that he recently offered some British and Roman coins for sale to Markham, [the local jewellers and pawnbrokers] who brought them to Hull. Hull said they were museum coins, and were in fact in Museum packets inscribed in Hull’s own handwriting, and that they were undoubtedly part of the coins stolen by children some time ago.

Markham promptly accused the vendor of being a thief, much to his fury and he has now called to demand an apology. Poulter said yes, this is all very well, but how do you explain the fact that the coins are in Museum packets?

“Because” says Mr Harrison, “I bought them to the Museum some while ago for the Curator to identify, which he did, putting them in packets and writing the details on each!”

Poulter advised Hull, as soon as he could find him, to make an unconditional apology. H. screamed and raved a good deal, but finally did so. He is very lucky not to be involved in a legal action!

24th April 1942

Put the harness on Robin again tonight, and walked him round for a few minutes.

A cold, unpleasant day.

23rd April 1942

Old Simon got Robin to the blacksmith and back today without mishap, and he now has a lovely set of shoes on. Put his harness on tonight, without much trouble. Sad to alter the best black harness that Bob has worn so long to fit a stranger. If he has ever been harnessed before I think it was a long time ago, but he seems a sensible little thing, and I don’t fancy we shall have a lot of trouble.

22nd April 1942

Went round to see Nott this morning at his lodgings. He looks very ill. It appears he fell down stairs last Sunday and hurt his spine.

21st April 1942

Telephone from the station this afternoon to say Robin had arrived. Great excitement. Went down to the station with Joanna at 6.30, and there he was – a lovely russet red, with a white blaze and one white foreleg, rather thin and ragged, no shoes on, in a tremendous way to get out of the box where he had been shut up in the dark since early morning.

We took it in turns to ride him home by way of the Park Folley and Land Lane, Childwell Alley and Brook Street, as he is rather nervous about heavy traffic. I believe he will do very well if I can only get him in harness. Hampshire gave his approval, and reckoned he was worth £40 if a penny. How this sort of thing cheers me.

20th April 1942

Felt thoroughly ill today, and very tired. Nott is also ill, and did not come in.

Heard this morning that when an air raid shelter was dug at Woods’ factory, Denmark St., a few months ago, five skeletons were found. No doubt these are Roman burials, similar to the many others found in that area.

19th April 1942

Went over to Fingringhoe this morning, leading the little grey pony on my cycle. Young Lennox was most pleased, and I have no doubt his brother will buy her. I shall ask £12. I might try for £14, but she is so small.

After leaving Fingringhoe Hall, went up to Eilean Grubb’s, where she is in just as big a mess as ever, and ate my lunch there, which I had brought with me. Then went on to the ferry, crossed over to Wivenhoe (I do not think I have used this ferry for 20 years) and went to see the church. The brasses are all covered by mats and cannot be seen. Cycled on to Elmstead, and so by Bromley to Lawford and so to the Parringtons.

Left there at 9.30 and cycled home, feeling very tired. It was a most enjoyable trip, but I fear was really more than I ought to have done.

17th April 1942

Busy this morning buying the coalcart – got it for £14, quite reasonable. This afternoon had a great piece of luck. Went to tea at Jacklins’, and who should be there but Mrs. Betty Prior, now back from London. We had tea together. Most charming woman. Talked a good deal more about her troubles with her husband, who not only lives with another woman but employs her sister as a housekeeper.

After tea I decided on the spur of the moment to go to the Playhouse and see a George Formby film, and in the lobby met little Miss Banell, so we went in together, and I had the pleasure of seeing a very funny and very vulgar film, while holding a pretty girl’s hand in the dark. A most pleasant evening, ending up with supper at Culver Street and a walk home in the dusk.

Cloudy tonight, for the first time for 10 days. The usual searchlights were sticking up, to act as “markers” for the RAF, but I could only hear a few planes, far off towards the south.

16th April 1942

Hampshire was in the stable yard tonight, when I came in with some hay, and made some remarks about food in general. He said he could not eat the new brown bread – it “gave him the belly ache”. Nothing but “good old white bread” for him. It is most strange how the English have always considered civilisation by the whiteness of the bread – ie – they look down on French, Germans, and other Europeans because their bread is dark.

Saw some London coalcarts in St. Botolph’s station tonight, which on enquiry I find belong to Hake. Intend to try to buy for the Committee.

The Government had announced on 6th April 1942 that under food rationing regulations, no more white bread was to be baked and the Food Ministry ruled that only the wholemeal National loaf would be available in shops, cafes and restaurants. The Ministry warned that the sweet and nutty taste of the new bread might take some getting used to!

15th April 1942

Old Goodey came in the office today, in a great way because he has not been able to get a Fordson tractor. This is “Trooper” Goodey the gipsy, who bought Severalls Hall from Colchester Corporation last Michaelmas. He was wearing a new suit of a sort of purple tartan tweed, with the usual massive watch chain. He waved his arms and banged his stick on my desk, almost upsetting the ink, and was really very annoyed. He said “I know what dirty work is going on. I’ve been all the way up to [the War Agricultural Executive Committee at] Writtle, and I’ve seen all them cars stuck outside there – dozens of ‘em. Look at them Committee men, them Joe Percivals and Alec Craigs, letting themselves have tractors. [EJR added a note here: '(This is quite false)'] They reckon they’re ‘big shots’ now, but I had horses when they had nothing but sets o’ harness.”

He said too “This war was begun because of corruption I know that. But I think it’s a mistake to carry it on in such a corrupt way. That’s why we’re losing, that’s why we lose every bloody thing!”

This is from an assuredly uneducated gipsy.

Every afternoon I see from the office window some of Young’s grey Percherons going home about half past 4, generally two teams, the trace horses tied on behind. They look very fine in the spring sunlight.

The controversy over which farmers were selected by the War Agricultural Committees to receive tractors led to many incidents such as the one EJR describes above and added to farmers' resentment of the high-handed methods of the War Agricultural Committees.

14th April 1942

Poulter told Hull what I had said about lack of water at the Castle, but he made no comment whatever.

Had a letter from Joan Blomfield today, saying that [she would send me her cob] Robin next Tuesday, so I must get rid of the little grey pony before then. I only wish I felt more capable of tackling a fresh horse.

Lovely night tonight, wonderfully clear, the sky full of stars, meteors, and searchlights.

13th April 1942

Uncle Frank went home today. Terribly long [War Agricultural] meeting at Birch, 2.15 to 7.30. When I got back I went round to Molly Blomfield at 12 Trinity St. and had supper, and the usual talk about Museum affairs.

Bought the little grey pony for £13 from Hampshire, so I must sell it next week.

Glorious day. Quite warm. The country is looking very well now, and you can see the results of the winter’s work.

12th April 1942

Drove over to Fingringhoe this morning with the little grey pony, and went down to the gravel pits at the Wick [to look for archaeological material]. Coming back by Jaggers Farmhouse, I met Mrs. Furneaux and Mr. Gooch from Wivenhoe Park. She is rather keen to buy the pony for young Lennox, and I should like her to have it.

Tonight I made a thorough inspection of the Castle, and I find that there is not one drop of water on the roof, and only two buckets of sand. The hose pipe, which was fitted months ago after I had agitated for a year, does not work. I reported all this to Poulter this evening, but he still takes the view that Hull and Hull alone is responsible, and that he will not interfere with Castle affairs.

11th April 1942

Uncle Frank went down to Frinton this morning.

I was carting logs all the afternoon.

This morning we had a letter from [the War Agricultural Executive Committee at] Writtle regarding the non-evacuation of farm workers in event of an invasion. Lot of rubbish. Quite impossible to get any sense out of the Borough Police, whose only available list consists of dairy-workers only, amounting to about 180. Actually there are about 250 people in the Borough employed in agriculture.

10th April 1942

Great photographic “find” – the German Legion in 1856 – is now in my hands, and I am making a copy at once. As a matter of fact the photo is a copy itself, done between 1890 and 1900 I should think, judging by the type of print, when the original was almost 50 years old.

The view is taken from a high bank in Port Lane, and looks right across to the Garrison Church. There is a large 18th century brick house on the site of the Recreation Hotel. So far as I know there are only three Colchester photos of an earlier date than this, as it must have been taken in the summer of 1856.

The photograph of the German Legion camping on Barrack Field in Colchester in 1856 forms part of E.J. Rudsdale's collection of historic photographs, now held by Colchester & Ipswich Museums.

When I went home this evening I was surprised to find Uncle Frank Webb still there. He is staying at the “Cups” for a few days. I cannot understand how he can afford to. He told me of the great damage done by the local authorities in London boroughs in taking iron railings. They refused to exclude a pair of 18th century gates which he had at Purley, so he unhung them and hid them away in safety.

Went over to Boxted tonight, to see the Roses. Lovely night. Rather windy. Many searchlights about, testing, making a lovely sight.

9th April 1942

Heavy rain all day, until about 7 o’clock. Uncle Frank [Webb - Eric's mother's brother] came to Colchester today, and is staying at the Cups. He seems very well, and most friendly and affable. I fear he must be a little lonely.

Posters tonight say “Two Cruisers Sunk”.

8th April 1942

Special meeting of the [War Agricultural] Committee called this afternoon to consider the case of Baldwin. This morning I went down to see the National Service Officer about him, and established the fact that he cannot leave in any case under the Essential Works Order. I always feel out of place in the National Service Office, chiefly because I know that one of the thousands of files there is mine.

The Committee talked a long time about Baldwin and finally decided that he ought to have £5 per week plus the rent of his house, which I think is very proper. He is in charge of 150 men, and he could get £6 a week in Paxman’s as a labourer.

Went to the Repertory Co. tonight, saw a play called “Jupiter Laughs”. Not bad, and well done. During the interval took the opportunity of again examining Bale’s drawings. They are really a remarkable series, and it is a shame that no effort whatever has been made to prepare a photographic record of them. Cr. Blomfield promised to see the Deputy Mayor weeks ago, but nothing has yet been done.

Major John Bale had painted a series of watercolours of Colchester in the late 19th century. During the war years, the watercolours were displayed in the Art Gallery in the Albert Hall, which was shared with Colchester Repertory Company. The collection of drawings is now held by Colchester & Ipswich Museums Service.

7th April 1942

Hull has raised a great scare that the east parapet of Holly Trees is falling down, and there has been great excitement all day with visits from various members of the Borough Engineer’s staff, all very anxious to find something to do.

Joanna came in, looking wonderfully healthy and fit, and obviously enjoying herself. [Joanna Round was no longer working in the Essex War Agricultural Committee office at Colchester and was now a Supervisor for the Land Army Hostel at Peldon]. We both had a cup of tea with Poulter. He was telling me that young Meliea, who I saw in October (I think) 1940 and who was going from the Borough Engineer’s office to a job in Singapore, got there just before the Japanese and had to escape to Java and then Australia. I remember I envied him for going to a place far from the war.

Baldwin, our chief foreman [for the War Agricultural Committee], gave notice to leave today, but I don't think he means it to be taken seriously. He is anxious to have the whole situation of land in possession reviewed, as it certainly must be.

6th April 1942: Easter Monday

Bright and sunny, coloured clouds driving across the sky before a strong S.W. wind. What an ideal day it would have been in Regents Park! [for the Van Horse Parade]

Office, looked at the letters, and found Spencer there, industriously doing the time-sheets. Air-raid alarm at a quarter past 10.

As I went up Mersea Road I met the Indians coming along by the Abbey Wall, off for a route march with all their horses. Their uncouth and bizarre appearance never fails to delight me. The horses with their swaying packs ambled along in pairs, the sergeants riding, corporals walking, stretcher bearers and various odd men all strolling along exactly like some caravan leaving an eastern city. The men wore full equipment, and steel helmets, which gave a weird effect with dark complexions and full black beards. There appeared to be only two white Officers in the whole lot.

It is typical of this narrow minded little town that we allow these strange and fascinating men to live amongst us for weeks, without making the slightest effort to find out anything about them or take any interest in them at all. [The Indian Army had arrived in Colchester in October 1941]

Spent most of day working (gently) in the paddock.

5th April 1942: Easter Sunday

Working in the field this morning, carting wood to the house. After lunch to Dedham, to the Sissons’. Some pleasant talk during the evening but soon after dusk, when the RAF bombers began to drone their way over the coast, Sisson remarked very bitterly “There go the RAF to bomb more cathedrals!” I fear he is only too right. Hour extra light tonight. Back late.

Sisson's remarks referred to the RAF's devastating raid on the historic city of Lübeck on 28/29 March 1942, which destroyed three of the city's main churches. The air raid marked the start of the RAF's adoption of area bombing tactics. The targeting of civilian cities had been authorised by a new directive to RAF Bomber Command in February 1942.

4th April 1942

Working in the paddock this p.m., sawing wood, but could only do a little, as I soon felt the old heart pains come on, and became very exhausted.

2nd April 1942

Called at home. Poor old Mother got lumbago again.

Calmer, and lovely moon tonight.