31st January 1941

Felt ill. Wish I could stay in bed. Horrible, dark, cold mornings, hardly light at a quarter past 8. Another long day alarm today, nearly 6 hours, but few planes heard. Low clouds, dull. Alleged that bombs were dropped at Clacton. Yesterday a plane was shot down on St Osyth Marshes. It struck the ground at tremendous speed, and buried itself 16 feet in the earth, I am told. All the crew dead. What a horrible way for these poor young men to die. Another alarm tonight at 7.15. Trouble with a light at Kent and Blaxill’s.

30th January 1941

Extraordinary long raid alarm today, over 6 hours. A few planes to be heard above thick low clouds.

Dull and cold. To Rose tonight. Feel terribly ill and weak. Bad rheumatism.

29th January 1941: Dr P G Laver's Funeral

Raining and dull. Wore my best blue suit. Got to St Mary’s Church about 10 minutes early, and found a good congregation already there. I slipped into the back pew, just behind Harding and dear old Lambert, who looks spryer than he ever did at the Museum. The hideous church, with its absurdly thin columns, was bitterly cold. A few lights were on, and there were two candles burning on the altar, while the organ played sad, twittery music. Hull came in, and went up to the front. Councillors appeared in ones and twos, doctors, the Mayor and the Town Clerk. I could see old Benham’s bald head, and wondered if he felt satisfied that he had outlived Laver. In front of me was Miss Newman from Wiles’ the printer. Dr Penry Rowland came in late, and sat next to me. The choir appeared and took their places, and, much to my surprise Benton came in with Canon Campbell, looking huge and solemn. The Canon and Benton, apparently fearing they would be too late to meet the body, came hurrying down the nave in long strides, their robes fluttering behind them and making them look like two birds of prey intent on a kill.

I heard shuffling and scuffling. The glass doors were opened, I caught a glimpse of the heaving coffin, and Canon Campbell’s voice rang out “I am the Resurrection and the Life!” Slowly the coffin came up the aisle, the Canon and Benton walking in front, and behind them Beckett the undertaker. There was one wreath lying on it.

Just behind came Laver’s sister Mrs Lyon-Campbell, close on 80, and several other women, one of whom was quite young and good looking, I think a niece.

The service began with a dreary hymn, which ended with the Masonic phrase “so mote it be”. Only the Choir sang, or rather intoned, this as nobody else had the slightest idea what it meant. The service dragged on. Benton read the lesson in his ridiculous theatrical voice. I thought of how Laver would have laughed at him. I thought too of the old man, now lying still and fixed in that polished box, how he must have come to this church as a little boy, and his father before him, when they lived in the old house in Head Street. Their garden gate leading into the churchyard is still there.

Now all is finished. He went so gently I can scarcely remember when I saw him last. I do not know when he was last in the Castle – not for about three weeks I believe. Perhaps the day when he came over to talk to me about my new job was the last time.

The December meeting was the last time he attended a [Museum] meeting. Little did he know that never again, after all those years, would he sit as Deputy to his hated enemy, Benham. How fortunate that rarely can we foretell the future.

The service ended. The Dead March, that wonderful music, thundered out, the coffin came swaying down the church, Campbell and Benton in front, all heads were bowed, but there was many a side-long glance. I thought there he goes, goodbye old man, you were often very kind to me in years gone by.

The congregation remained in prayer while the procession moved away, and then I came out quickly, past the figure of Sir Isaac Rebow, who has stared at so many coffins coming in and out of this church, and the one before it for that matter.

The Church of St Mary-at-the-Walls is no longer in use and is now Colchester Arts Centre.

27th January 1941

Much speculation all day about Laver’s stuff. Rang Sam Blomfield, who promised to do his best with Marshall, who is solicitor and executor. Very cold. Some snow at times.

26th January 1941: Bombing of train at Chitts Hill

Went over to Dedham this afternoon, to tell the Sissons about my new job. The Parringtons came in, and Major Inde. Canon Rendall was walking down the street, and stopped to enquire after the parson, poor old Given-Wilson, who was taken ill at early service today. The Canon was 90 yesterday, and still walks spryly down the village.

Raid alarm this afternoon, but did not hear any planes. Dedham is no longer in the least perturbed by these alarms. As I had no cycle, I had to walk a mile to Stratford Bridge and catch the Eastern Counties bus there, no mean feat for me in the dark. My eyes are beginning to play me curious tricks. Sometimes, in pitch darkness, I seem to see a shadow of myself on the ground. Other times I see the road or footpath quite clearly where there is no road, and walk blindly into a ditch.

Got back to Colchester and went to Seymour's. Nobody there but me, so I had a long talk with Seymour, until 2 o’clock in the morning. He is very scathing on ARP matters, and of course he has a great deal of inside knowledge. He tells me that on the occasion of the bombing of the Yarmouth train last Saturday, after the bombs had fallen the train was stopped across the crossing at Chitts Hill. It was a bomb which injured [two passengers on the train] a woman who died and a young man [whose] fingers were cut off [he was a pianist]. When the train stopped the driver, guard and others got down on the line, and at that moment the German plane came back, firing with machine guns. The guard fell with several bullets in his chest but did not die, and 3 or 4 other persons were hit. A few moments later the plane appeared again and again fired, though apparently without doing much harm. All this took place during a blinding snowstorm, only two miles from the crowded streets of the town.

When the alarm was sent through for ambulances, there was actually an argument as to whether the “incident” was in Colchester or Stanway, as the train was across the boundary! What incredible swines the English are when in power. What do they care that seriously hurt people are out in the snow? The guard died on the way to hospital, and the woman when being operated upon, she was said to be pregnant.

Very dark night. No planes about. My old uncle William Webb died today, aged 85.

25th January 1941

Laver’s funeral fixed next Wednesday. Great point of discussion everywhere – who will get Laver’s stuff? Very busy all day. Both Rickword and Robinson came in during the morning, both obviously wondering if there was any chance of getting a job in the [Essex Archaeological] Society’s Library [at Holly Trees Museum where Dr Laver had been in charge of the Library]. I certainly think that a permanent Librarian should now be appointed – Robinson, after 40 years at the Public Library, has considerable technical and local knowledge, Rickword has local and historical interests also of great value.
Gerald Rickword, a historian and librarian, was EJR's cousin by marriage.

Hull takes no further interest in the matter. He will not even bother to see the Chairman as to closing the Museums or deciding whether the Committee should attend [the funeral] in a body.

Poor old Laver. ... Like all of us, in these last few years he became more and more dispirited.

“El medico, el medico carissimo”, as Poulter would often call him.

24th January 1941

Laver is dead. A reporter from the “Standard” came down this morning. He died in the Nursing Home about 10 o’clock. ...

Dr P G Laver was the Honorary Curator of Colchester Castle Museum.

My old uncle Will is no better, and not expected to last long now.

23rd January 1941

Wages day again, £125 odd this week. Had a lot of trouble to get it correct, and had to come back this afternoon, thus forfeiting my half day. Felt very bad this evening. Went to see “Lillian Russell” at the Regal – good in parts. Had hot weak tea at a little café and went to bed early. Foggy tonight. Hope to God there is no alarm tonight.

22nd January 1941

A few more alarms today, but nothing came over. Terribly busy at the office, people in and out all day. Man in fixing the phone this morning, and we shall have it on tomorrow.

20th January 1941

Committee meeting of the War Agricultural Executive at Birch Hall. Went very well. I made no mistakes. Lasted from 9.45 until almost 1.30. ... Had lunch with Capt. Folkard. Working late this afternoon, getting out the minutes. Mother went to Aunt Julia’s funeral at Ipswich, travelling by a hired car (one belonging to young Tweed, the conscientious objector) at a total charge of 18/-, which I think is very cheap indeed.

Terrible weather today, rain, sleet and snow, and a bitter wind. To Rose for supper.

19th January 1941: Bomb Damage at Bank Station

Woke to the sound of running water, and found a rapid thaw in progress. Thanks to the bad workmanship of the Borough Engineering Department, the Castle roof was leaking in a dozen places, great pools forming all over the gallery floors. I went on the roof where there were great drifts of snow 3 feet deep, but as I had no tools I could not shift them. Told Poulter, and went home to breakfast.

This evening cleared out Parnell’s Cell (much overdue!) and was there when an alarm sounded at 7 o’clock. Harding came on duty, so I went up to Seymour’s for an hour or so. Saunders was there. He told me had seen the wreckage at the Bank Tube Station, where, a week ago on Saturday, a large bomb fell through the roadway (about 4 feet thick) and burst in the booking hall. It is not known how many persons were killed, but there may be about 100. After two days, no further effort was made to remove the debris, as it was felt that no one else could be alive. One writer in the Press said that this was one of the larger London war-graves, and the sight of it filled him with a lust for revenge, at the thought of so many innocent persons being destroyed in a flash. The only revengeful thoughts which it awakens in me are against the cruel callous swines who are in charge of this country and who let the wretched people have no other shelter than these insecure caverns under the streets. I did hear Sir John Anderson, [Home Secretary from 1939-1940] who in the first place forbad people to use the deep tubes, was in danger of his life if he went into the East End, but the others seem to enjoy the greatest respect from their victims.

Very few planes over tonight. One about 8pm, then two or three between ten and eleven. I heard explosions to the south, but whether bombs or guns I do not know.

Tom Critchley's blog, which publishes his wartime letters, also mentions the bomb damage at Bank station. See his letter dated 15th January 1941.

16th January 1941

Last night was one of the most brilliant moon-light nights I have ever seen. It snowed yesterday and froze very sharp at night, so that when the moon came up every building was like a black and white lino-block. About 11 o’clock a German plane came over, going east. It turned over Bromley towards the north, and from the Castle tower I could see its exhaust trail in the sky. The Bromley guns spoke, but the shells were nowhere near, I should judge thousands of feet out. The plane turned S. again and made a wide sweep over Bromley and Frating, guns firing hard. I don't think any bombs were dropped, but the guns were firing wildly. Of course, the famous night-fighters which the public have been assured have done such fine work in the recent bad weather, did not put in an appearance, though planes could easily be seen with glasses and their exhaust trails with the naked eye. At 3am after several planes had flown over in both directions, the siren sounded, and an alarm lasted until 6am, although I don't think any planes were over after 5. I got up and unlocked the Park, cursing loudly as I did not feel at all well.

Called at home, and found poor Mother very low, having just had a telegram to say Aunt Julia died yesterday evening. Poor old Julia. Those were gay days in the ‘20s – Reg and his cars, Christmas parties, trips to Felixstowe, Uncle Bob, of whom I was always secretly afraid, all gone, all gone. Waited to post various letters to Aunt Het and the others, I wonder whether any of them will be able to come for the funeral. Uncle Frank might. I have not other news of Uncle Willie, but I suppose he will be next. The old family are gathering together again now, after so many years of drifting away. I wonder if there is a sort of heavenly “Wimpole Lodge”, surrounded by flowers and growing corn, in everlasting summer time, where they will all be young again and laugh and talk as they did through those long summers of 50 and 60 years ago.

To Rose for a late tea and supper. Bitterly cold. No planes over during the evening, although the moon came up at 10.

EJR's mother was one of 13 children born to William and Eliza Webb who had lived at Wimpole Lodge in the Newtown District of Colchester.

14th January 1941

Went down to Wivenhoe [War Agricultural Committee Office] with Capt. Folkard, and removed all material relating to Lexden and Winstree. It is in an incredible mess, but I believe I can get it straight. I intend to introduce the same filing system as I have in the Museum.

Getting settled in this afternoon, and wrote my first letter. Much better in Holly Trees than in the ghastly office they have at Wivenhoe, a disused bungalow, icy cold, looking out onto a derelict garden, miserable and saddening.

I believe we are going to have a good time here, although for some reason I felt a little depressed today. Went to Rose’s tonight, and then doing Museum routine matters in the Watch Room. I noticed today that the Holly Trees now shuts from 12.30–1.30, while Harding gets his dinner. Poulter won't even do one hour floor duty. As a point of interest, the Colchester Vase has been throwing around on the floor of the Holly Trees Office ever since last Thursday, when Hull had its packing case sent over there in order to get it out for drawing. Needless to say, the box, although labelled “Colchester Vase Group”, contained a T.S. plate from Group 30 as well! It is to be wondered whether the Germans or Hull and Mrs Hull will eventually do the most damage to our collections.

Foggy tonight, lovely moon above.

13th January 1941

Mother got word from Ipswich this morning that old Aunt Julia was “very sadly”. Her face became longer than ever, and her eyes looked very bright, and, in spite of Father’s grumbles, she set off about 10 o’clock. She was only away a few hours, and got back by half past 4, but Father grumbled all the while she was away. Aunt is very bad. Mother said “I’ve seen her for the last time” and her voice broke. “She didn’t know me, and she was always fond of me.” I patted her shoulder, and the poor old dear pulled herself together, and sat staring at the fire, two tears on her cheeks. I wondered what she was thinking about, what memories of 50 and 60 years ago were running through her mind – she and Julia, little girls of 10 or 12 in 1880, running to school, playing in the garden, going to music lessons, looked after by old Aunt Ciss, dead these 20 years, while Aunt Hetty was still unborn. Julia, fair and plump, in those hideous 1890 dresses, being courted by a florid young commercial traveller, a man obviously destined to “get on”, or by his rival Dan Blomfield, brother of Councillor Sam, who still never fails to ask after her, half in fun. It won’t be so funny next time he asks.

Julia Cleveland (nee Webb) was an older sister to Eric's mother.

I began with the Essex War Agricultural Executive today. More details on EJR's secondment as Secretary to the War Agricultural Committee are to be found in his book: 'E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester'.

This afternoon running round Colchester getting office supplies. Saw Grubb at Rose’s café. Blandly sure her field will not be ploughed. It will.

Mother says that there is a big unexploded bomb at Ipswich on Bishops Hill, which is quite closed, all traffic being diverted along Woodbridge Road. It is alleged to weigh a ton (!) and has been there since last Tuesday. Fine day though cold. Beautiful fine night, with a misty moon coming up orange over the Castle, but not a plane over, and no alarm at all. I should have imagined the conditions to be ideal for raiding, but it seems to be impossible to guess whether they will come or not.

12th January 1941

Lay late, being my last chance for a while. Breakfast, and then went straight to the stables, loaded hay, fetched Bob, met Maura B. who looked very attractive, tall and stately, in a new grey overcoat, a yellow scarf, red head band, and new heavy shoes. We carted the hay, and then drove Hampshire’s little grey to Rowhedge and back, had a very jolly time. She still keeps very well, and there has been no further bombing in Paddington.

My uncle Frank [Webb] came again today, as Uncle Willie is very ill, - a seizure, but as he is 84, it cannot be wondered at. Uncle Frank went back on the 6.10pm. They had a raid in London last night, but apparently not too serious. Some Sunday papers do not mention it.

Then on to Seymour’s when there was an alarm at 8.20pm. Only one plane came over, although there was no all clear until 10 to eleven. Went back 9-10pm and had a cup of tea. Glorious moonlight night.

Frank Webb was a younger brother of EJR's mother and William Webb was her oldest brother.

11th January 1941

Warmer. Thawing fast. Rushed all morning. Went to the Repertory Co. this afternoon for the first time for months to see “Saloon Bar”. Not so well done as the film, which I saw recently.

Tea at Jacklin’s, where I was lucky enough to be able to pinch six lumps of sugar. There was a very lovely woman next to me at the Repertory Company, and I half thought of asking her to tea, but she hurried out of the Hall so quickly it was obvious she had other ideas. She was tall and dark, with short curly hair, and grey eyes, and wore a suit (coat and trousers) of green corduroy. I should think about 37, but very nice. She told me she was in the WAAFs at Harwich.

This evening to supper with Mrs. Stewart at the Marquis of Granby. Her husband is now in the King’s Own Regiment, training as an officer in the Field Security Police. How very sad, to hear of a well educated schoolmaster under army discipline in Lancashire, more afraid of the MPs than his pupils ever were of him, forbidden to move more than 5 miles away from his camp, hounded everywhere. The last meal they have is at 4.15pm, and consists of tea and bread and treacle. In actual cash he has only 8/- per week, which is not very much to buy extra food with.

One curious thing she told me was that he had a man in his hut who was a deserter from the Irish Free State Army, and who spoke very little English. The camp is near Morecambe, in Lancashire, and air-raids are unknown there. The sirens have only sounded once, and that was by accident.

Fine moonlight night, but no alarm.

10th January 1941

Today transferring stationery stocks into Castle Office, and clearing stuff out of Holly Trees Library [in preparation for EJR's new job with the Essex War Agricultural Committee]. The place begins to look in a little better order.

Beautiful weather, fine and sunny, although very cold. Three or four inches of ice on Bourne Pond. Tonight clear and moonlight, but heavy clouds rolled over from the east later. Only one plane came over during the evening, and yet last night there were dozens.

Went down to Rose’s tonight. She told me about two men in the Army Dental Corps, who had been in the café tonight. Last Sunday, having no duties in the morning, they both retired to bed, and had hardly been there a few minutes when a corporal came in and immediately had them before the orderly room, where they were actually placed under arrest for an entirely non-existent offence! After much perusal of King’s Regulations they appealed against this infamous decision, and after some argument were released. This little incident is typical of the thousands which go on in the army every day. The interpretation of King’s Regulations is the very breath of the army.

9th January 1941

Beautiful sunny day, though bitterly cold and freezing hard. Got a little hay in today from Pulford, enough to see one through a week, anyway. Short alarm this afternoon but only saw a Lysander and a Hurricane come over low in the east.

Bunks were brought into the Castle shelters today.

8th January 1941

An old Scotch woman came in the Castle today. She was from near Campbelltown, Kintyre, and was down to visit her son, ill in the Military Hospital here. She told me how long was the journey from Campbelltown, and how difficult the ferry across to the mainland. I told her my great ambition was to see the Highlands, and she said “Man! What a treat ye have in store for ye! But mind ye, to really appreciate the Highlands, ye have to have something here” – touching her breast. I said I hoped her son was getting better, and she said he was, and that, after her first anxiety, it had been “a very interesting outing”! She promised to send me a postcard of Glasgow Cathedral.

No alarm tonight. Went to Rose’s all evening. This is three nights without a plane over.

7th January 1941

German plane over this morning, and an alarm at 2.15. Parrington from Lawford came in and told me that the plane this morning had dropped several bombs on or near the Xylonite Works at Brantham, and some more near the mine depot at Wix, but no damage was done so far as he knew. He wants to buy another chaff cutter.

Another alarm from 4.30-5, but I was at Bourne Mill, and could not go. At least one plane came over. Had tea in Jacklin’s [Restaurant] and another alarm sounded at a quarter to 6. I went down to the Castle, but it only lasted 10 minutes.

Freezing hard frost tonight. Terrible hay shortage – none in the town. Don't know what to do.

6th January 1941: The Essex War Agricultural Committee

Phoned Hull just after 8, met Capt. Folkard at half past 9, and went out to Birch Hall [for a meeting of the Lexden & Winstree District War Agricultural Committee]. We met in the main hall before a roaring log fire, the mantel above which was carved with the Borough Arms, and sat on uncomfortable chairs having the Round crest of a lion conchant in high relief on their backs. Capt. Round [Chairman of the District Committee] came in, looking every inch the country squire, and was very nice to me. I sat at the table with Capt. Folkard, and took notice of how the meeting was run.

On the Committee were Col. Furneaux from Fingringhoe Hall and Frank Warren the Suffolk breeder from Godbolts, also Cr. Alex Craig from Moat Farm who spoke to me and was pleased I was coming in with them. I soon found it was presumed by all present that I have now taken up this work. The meeting was very long, lasting from 9.45 to 1.15, and a big agenda was dealt with. I felt quite at home with the whole affair, and even made a suggestion about acquiring Hall Barn and the stables at West Mersea, which was well received.

Weather very cold, and roads terrible. No planes over tonight.

The Museum Committee agreed to second EJR as Secretary to the Lexden & Winstree District Committee of the Essex War Agricultural Committee on 8th January 1941. The Library in Hollytrees Museum was requisitioned as the District Committee's office and it was agreed that EJR should continue his responsibilities for firewatching and shelter duties at the Castle at night. More details on EJR's work with the War Agricultural Committee are available in his book.

The role of the War Agricultural Committee's District Committee was to maintain close contact with local farmers in order to maximise food production and to make recommendations to the County Executive Committee to serve directions on the farmers concerned as necessary. Further information on the role of the War Agricultural Committees can be found in an excellent journal paper by Professor Brian Short: 'War in the Fields and Villages: The County War Agricultural Committees in England, 1939-1945'

Captain (later Colonel) Round was Chairman of the Lexden & Winstree District Committee. Fortnightly meetings of the District Committee were held at his home, Birch Hall. The Round family had previously owned Colchester Castle and Hollytrees before they were bought for the Borough of Colchester with money donated by Viscount Cowdray in the 1920s. Captain Round's great uncle, Charles Gray Round, had first given permission for part of the Castle to be used as the town museum in 1855.

5th January 1941

Did not lay very late. This afternoon went over to Dedham to Sissons' for tea. After tea, looking at Sisson's lovely 18th century travel books, Italy and Greece, and wondering how much damage has been done to Naples by the RAF. I stayed to supper, although I ought not to have done, and left at 9 o’clock on icy roads. There was an alarm on ever since about 7 o’clock. I told the Sissons about the job with Capt. Folkard, and they were quite pleased.

When I got to East Bridge I telephoned a message home (via Rallings) to say I would go straight to the Castle, which I did, relieving Harding at 10 o’clock, and finding that the stupid fool had opened our only tin of milk, kept for some emergency, to make himself a cup of tea.

“All Clear” sounded about half past eleven. More snow falling.

4th January 1941

The alarm last night continued until 4 o’clock this morning, with a few bombs about 1AM which I did not hear. Tonight another alarm sounded at five minutes to eleven. The Germans can certainly fly. The clouds are low, weather very bad, but two or three planes have flown over from east to west. How they manage to get back I can't imagine.

3rd January 1941

At Poulter’s instigation, 2 AFS men examined the Castle today, with a view to considering the actual and potential difficulties of fire-fighting there. They were not favourably impressed.

Heard today that Pulford has no hay and no bran. Bill Watts told me, at the bottom of Broom Hill. While we were talking, Babs Ganimer, the fodder merchant, came by in his car, so Watts stopped him, but he said he had no hay, and did not know where to buy a ton of it. Announced today that urban horses are to be rationed from Feb. 1, so I fear trouble. Must see Parrington and Girling.

More snow today. Streets very dangerous. I slipped out this morning to get the new volume [of Kilvert's diaries], which had been on order for nearly 2 months. Bitterly cold, and an unusual number of pretty girls in the streets. Pretty little Mrs Shephard, in a green coat and yellow hood, with fur topped boots, was going past the Town Hall. I waited a moment to say Good morning to her. In Smith’s Bookshop, was a gorgeous girl, with thick wavy black hair, speaking in a singularly beautiful voice. It seems to me as I get older that the girls grow prettier.

Decided to go to the pictures today, as I now so rarely go. Went to see “Henry VIII” at the Regal, which I first saw about four years ago. Very well done. How fantastically remote these days seem now. The reedy Tudor music gave me curious cold shivers down my spine, and some of the scenes in Hampton Court seemed to me to be almost ghostly. The hawking scene was very good. How strange to think that the King really did ride about like that, and perhaps some ancestor of mine may have seen him so.

Spent the evening with Rose, blessedly free from ‘planes, until about half a dozen came over just on eleven o’clock. The siren blew at 11.5pm, just after I got into the Castle. There was a girl in the Museum today who had come recently from Llanidloes, and she tells me that German planes fly over them and that bombs have fallen, without damage or hurt, near Llyn Elan. It seems to me particularly sad that even the remote valleys of Wales echo to the drone of raiders. I suppose all the villages known and loved by Kilvert must be in danger of stray bombs. How tragic.

Rogers, the house decorator, a keen “Rotarian”, came in today with four French soldiers of the so-called “Free” French army. He was talking to them in rather laboured French. He told me they were in camp at Camberley, and had had a very miserable time. Yesterday two English sailors came in with two Dutch sailors, I suppose from Harwich. The Dutch Navy is still at war with Germany, but the army is not.

2nd January 1941

Wrote to Maitland, for his birthday on the 4th. Snow during morning, making the roads very dangerous, so I had a lot of trouble getting hay down to Bourne Mill. While I was at Port Lane, about half past 4, a few planes came over, going East. I could not see them, but in a moment or two hooters and whistles were blowing at Paxman’s, work stopped, and the men went to the shelters. Most stood on top of the man-holes, laughing and talking. A few minutes of this, and a buzzer sounded, whereon they all went back. Obviously this warning must have been given by their own “spotters”. No sirens sounded at all, though I expected them to.

Far be it from me to urge the making of munitions designed to murder and mutilate innocent persons, but if this which I saw is the common practice all over the country, no wonder the Government are worried about production. We are told in the press day after day that brave Britons continue work after sirens until their own works spotters report danger to be likely, but here is Paxman’s acting without the general public having received a warning. As I said at the time of the Old Heath Road bombing, last October, it is really only the ordinary citizen who is in danger. Most other people are very well protected.

Munition workers are very well-paid, and if they can stop work while enemy planes are about, surely soldiers can do the same thing, especially as they get less money. (There have been several letters in “Picture Post” lately referring to the lack of interest in the war among soldiers, a thing I have noticed myself). I believe all post-office workers get private warnings about enemy aircraft as well.

Still snowing hard.

1st January 1941 - New Year's Day

A year ago today I wrote of a prospect of unrelieved gloom. [See EJR's diary entry for 1st January 1940 here]. I said it would be a miracle if New Year’s Day 1941 found me alive and at Colchester Castle. That miracle has come about. I am alive, if not exactly well, and am more in the Castle than ever, as I suppose I must be spending about 16 hours a day in it. Since my gloomy writings a year ago, bombs have fallen within a few hundred yards of me but I have been in no ways affected. I have had several narrow escapes cycling but I survived those as well. I am not worried by the fate of friends, because even now, after 16 months of war, I have only three friends or acquaintances in the forces – Stanley Hills and Hervey Benham in the Navy, and George Farmer in the RAF. It is terrible to think of girls of 20 and 25, with every male friend in some dangerous job.

My cash affairs remain about the same, something like £200 in the Bank and £70 in superannuation fund. I have saved a few pounds during the year, but the cost of horse-keep has gone up a lot – hay nearly £10 a ton, oats 18/3 per cwt, bran 11/6 cwt. Dreadful prices, and not going to the poor farmers either.

My parents are still well and as happy as possible. I am no worse, still coughing, with pains in several parts, bad exhaustion at times, eyesight rather weaker, and a recurrence of my old sleepwalking-amnesia trouble. (I have done it once at the Castle).

Enemy action in Colchester has not yet had very much effect. About 50 or 60 bombs have fallen within the Borough Boundaries, four houses and part of a laundry have been demolished, about a dozen houses and a workshop at Moler’s damaged, (mostly slightly), five people killed and 4 injured. Hardly a military success. The great dangers are now A) bombing or machine gunning by solitary planes in daylight (Clacton had had a lot of this) B) bombs dropped by planes returning from London, and C) an invasion. This last is always in our minds, although hardly any one ever mentions it, except in joke. At any moment during the next few weeks we may find it is no joke but a terrible reality. I firmly believe (and so do many others) that if the Germans once get a landing in England nothing will stop them. The defences erected look ridiculously inadequate.

Today terribly cold, bitter north wind. I was much cheered to have a visit from Mr Sadler and Captain Folkard of the Essex Agricultural Executive, offering me a job as Clerk to the District Committee which is to sit at Colchester. I expressed willingness to take it, and sincerely hope I shall get the job, although I shall find it a fearful wrench to break away from the Castle. I told Poulter tonight, and he did not express much opinion either way.

Anyway, the visit today cheered me up a good deal. HWP suggests that they ought to take Holly Trees Library as an office, which I must admit would be rather ideal. One thing I should miss here more than anything would be Parnell’s Cell which I now find most cosy and (I hope) comparatively safe. As I write in it now (quarter to midnight) planes are flying east and 3 or 4 bombs have just dropped. I suppose this is another London attack.

A little snow is falling.

Captain Folkard was the District Officer for the Lexden and Winstree District Committee of the Essex War Agricultural Committee. R N Sadler was deputy to J C Leslie, the Executive Officer at the Essex War Agricultural Executive at Writtle, Chelmsford.