This blog posts extracts from E J Rudsdale's diaries of life on the home front in Britain during the Second World War. Each extract is posted exactly 70 years after it was first written, so follow events through the eyes of a witness to the war.
Went to the presentation of Sir Gurney Benham’s portrait at the Moot Hall this afternoon, wearing my best suit.Poulter came along, but to the shame of the Museum, Hull never appeared, although he ought to have been on the platform.There must have been about 250 people in the hall.Hervey [Benham] came in with his sister Edna, smartly dressed and looking much younger than when I saw her last.Sir Gurney and Lady Benham were on the platform, with Miss Elfreda Saunders, the Mayoress, A. Fisher, the Deputy Mayor, Maurice Codner the artist and some others.Harold Turner played the organ for a time before the Mayor came in.I have not heard it for years.
It appears that Maurice Codner at one time attended the ColchesterArtSchool.He is a man of quite 55, with a distinguished appearance.
The portrait is a good likeness, though it seems to me to lack depth of colour.
The portrait of Sir Gurney Benham was commissioned to mark his 50 years of service for Colchester's Council and arose from a suggestion made by Rudsdale and Poulter. Both Rudsdale and Poulter contributed to the fund to commission the portrait as did many prominent Colcestrians at the time. The painting now forms part of the collections of Colchester Museums Service. CP
Awakened by a tremendous downpour of rain about 6 o’clock.While I was shaving I heard sirens blaring, mournful and awesome in the rain, and in a few minutes a plane came over, hidden by drifting clouds but apparently quite low.I could hear guns firing in the distance.A few minutes later another came over, and a third as I was harnessing Robin.The guns at Bromley opened up, shells bursting quite near us, making Robin rear and plunge.Strange how I did not feel alarmed, while on other much less dangerous occasions I have been terrified.
Drove away in torrential rain, which first eased off and then increased its violence.My rugs were useless, and as Iwent by the “Wooden Fender” I felt streams of water running down my legs, while “All Clear” sounded from Colchester.
Took Robin to the blacksmith, baited him there and went to breakfast.Busy day at the office.
The evening papers made a great thing out of raids by about two dozen planes in the rain this morning.Apparently they went all over Eastern England and London, but did not cause much damage.
Called at Spring-gate Ardleigh on the way out and saw Molly Blomfield.Her father is unfortunately ill.I was distressed to hear that the Claytons are likely to lose their land, as the Tendring War Agricultural Committee have put in a claim for possession.I fear he has neglected it a good deal. He spends most of his time as an agent for Brooks’, Mistley.
When I got back to Lawford I found that Mrs. Parrington had moved all the furniture in my room, and had now given me a very useful bureau.So kind of her.
Little whispers are going round that the Russians will make a separate peace next month.I don't think this is likely.
Drove out to Lawford for lunch in 45 minutes.I’m afraid Robin got rather hot, but he went very well.Went down to see Sissons tonight.We all had a drink in the “Marlborough” and I arranged to let them have old Bob for their niece to ride in the holiday.
When I went on duty tonight “dancing” was in full swing on the Holly Trees lawn.The “band” consisted of a piano and a drum played by two dance-band gigolos in khaki.The lawn was crowded with a swaying mass of girls and men moving slowly to the jigging, senseless tunes, blared out by a microphone fixed to Holly Trees house.
From the Castle roof it was an entertaining scene.I could see Agnes L_, the former waitress, dancing with her sister, the blonde beauty from the fire brigade with a soldier, a tall, stately blonde with a Canadian black man and a very beautiful ATS girl with a soldier, being “aggressively condescending”.It was odd how many pretty girls danced together instead of with men.Many girls not more than 13 or 14 years old were dancing with soldiers.All the tunes were sad and dreary, as dance tunes generally are in these days.
When I saw the morning paper today I found that last night’s scaring headlines had dwindled to a little paragraph at the bottom of the front page – stating that from October boys will be liable to military service on their 18th birthday, poor devils.
A trying, tiresome day.Fearful inquest this morning on the shortcomings of the office.This was the reason for Capt. Folkard's visit to Writtle yesterday.He was very pleasant about the whole affair, which must have been most distasteful to him.
Worked late tonight, typing out a private report for Major Round about Joanna, to be forwarded to the Minister of Agriculture.
Evening paper placards tonight said “New Call-up Proclamation” and “Tremendous Call-up Ahead – Bevan” which made me feel most depressed.Drove out to Lawford by 8.30, and had a lovely supper.
The other day a man was horse-raking at Dedham Hall when the rake ran over a bomb left after a Home Guard practice.It exploded, the horse bolted, and the man was badly hurt.
Driving out tonight I noticed that the corn was beginning to yellow.Most of the crops round Ardleigh look very well.Children were playing near the Land Settlement, two little boys dancing together like kittens.
Bought 2lbs of cherries in Colchester at 1/6 a lb.
This afternoon a tremendous sweep of planes came over the town, skimming just above the houses, roaring away to the S.E., I suppose off to attack shipping along the Dutch or Belgian coast.Strange to see how little notice was taken of them by people in the streets.
Lots of trouble today because the engine man has been seen stealing oats in the barn at West Mersea.Nott [one of EJR's War Agricultural Committee colleagues] immediately determined to dismiss him and to prosecute if he can.Rather foolish to be so vindictive against a good workman for such a petty theft.
Capt. Folkard had to go to Writtle today on some urgent matter, I don't know what.
Arranged to go over to Boxted tonight, but was delayed so late that it was impossible to go.Instead caught the 8.13 to Ardleigh.Lovely warm evening, quite a crowd waiting for the train.Very pretty girl, with fair wavy hair dressed in a green and white striped frock, waiting anxiously.She looked hurriedly along the train when it came in, but I did not see her meet anybody.
A goods train came in while we were waiting – most interesting names on the trucks: Llay main, Llandwrach, Colwyn Bay, Northampton Gas Company, and fruit vans marked “March” or “Peterborough”.
Got to Lawford at 8.45 not a bit tired or hot.Had supper and to bed at 11 pm, after writing this journal for a while.
Felt rottenly ill all day.Had to start out this morning in a torrential downpour, great clouds of rain blowing across the valley, very reminiscent of a scene in Wales.Strong head wind all the way, so I had to stop several times to wipe the water out of my eyes.Robin hated it.Called at the wheelwrights about our cart and at WelshwoodPark about chalking our fields there.Had a tremendous scene with Robin on Hythe Hill, when he refused to pass a bus, after which I felt rather better.
Rheumatism bad all day though, and determined to get back to Lawford as early as I could.Arrived at 7.30, to find Mrs. Belfield and Eversley Belfield there, with Capt. Dalgetti.Had a delightful evening and cheered up a lot after raspberries and cream.Some talk about illiteracy among Essex people, Mrs. B. holding very strongly that this was a good thing.
This reminded me of a story about a man from Wivenhoe being enrolled for the Home Guard, when it was found he did not know his mother’s Christian name, and did not feel it his business to ask her!When asked what was his mother’s name he promptly replied “Same as mine of course!”
Also talk about Rank’s Flour Mills, monopoly of the big mills, and the C-3 nation, etc.
This morning the “Mail” published an article by Wentworth Day attacking the War Agricultural Committees.He describes the case of the young Rodds at Lexden and Peldon quite unmistakeably, and makes a great song of the “hardship” which they suffered.This man is an unscrupulous poseur, not to be trusted a yard.Capt. Folkard was most amused by the article.
Pleasant surprise this morning – a letter from Meg MacDougall.Not a word about the unanswered letters of last year.At any rate, it is a great relief to know she is not in prison.
Called at Sissons’ on my way out tonight, and left some more photographs.
Lovely summer day.
The writer, James Wentworth Day, became the figurehead for a number of protest meetings against what he called 'the bureaucratic tyranny' of the War Agricultural Committees. This extract from Rudsdale's diary refers to Wentworth Day's first newspaper article crticising the War Agricultural Committees and he went on to elaborate his views in his books, 'Farming Adventure' (1943) and 'Harvest Adventure' (1946). Wentworth Day was friends with the Rodds whose land had been taken over by the Essex War Agricultural Committee.
Meg MacDougall was the Acting Curator at Inverness Museum and a Scottish Nationalist. Her support for the Nationalist cause, particularly in wartime, had led to some friction with the authorities during the previous year. CP
Drove out to Lawford early this afternoon, and spent 2 hours writing.This evening assisted in getting honey out of a rotten tree.It must have been there for some time, and in all amounted to about 10lbs.
Drove in early this morning, beautiful weather, cool, with large wet looking clouds, and intermittent sun.Noticed an emergency water tank in Harwich Road completely surrounded by tall, scarlet poppies, reflected in the still water as in some exotic pool.
In Dead Lane, had to edge carefully past two plough teams on their way to work, the ploughs rumbling along on the little road-wheels, one horse in the chains and the other led behind by the ploughman.They were all Suffolks, very nice looking.
Enormous convoy of Canadians left the town as I arrived, going out towards Clacton.
Looked out of the office window this morning and saw three soldiers sitting on the edge of the pavement opposite with their feet in the gutter, eating buns and reading newspapers.They were English too.
This evening went to supper at the Roses’ at Boxted.Lovely fine evening, and much to my surprise an air raid alarm about 7 o’clock.Have not heard one for some time.Nothing came over.
Had a very pleasant evening, and left at 10 o’clock for Lawford.Everybody gone to bed when I arrived.
Went down to Mersea this morning.Everything looking very well indeed.
Received the Essex Archaeological Society Transactions today, part I of volume XXIII.This contains the Annual Report for 1938!It is disgraceful that these numbers cannot be brought out at a proper time, as they were in Fowler’s day.However, this is a very fat, well-illustrated number for wartime, and contains among other things an account of the destruction of Little Horkesley Church almost two years ago, and an account of the salvage of the medieval brasses.Glad to see Benton [the editor of the E.A.S. Transactions] acknowledges my efforts in that matter.
Seventy years after E.J. Rudsdale wrote his wartime diary entry for 6th July 1942 (see below) the Olympic Torch passed through Colchester this morning. There is no doubt that Rudsdale would have enjoyed witnessing the spectacle from the roof of Colchester Castle or the Hollytrees Museum and that he would have recorded the event in his Journal. CP
Called at home tonight, and Mother told me that Maitland [EJR's cousin] had definitely joined the RAF, and expected to go soon.Presumably the Bank [where Maitland Underhill worked] have been unable to get any further extension for him.I wonder how he feels about it.