27th November 1942

Endless trouble today getting the pay out.  Everything seemed to go wrong.

Finished reading “The Golden Ass”.  Wrote to Joanna tonight.  Felt tired.

Becket, the architect, was on the phone today about the thatchers working at Mersea.  He said that if they did enough to North Farm barn to make it watertight for 5 or 6 years, that would be quite sufficient, from which I should assume that Mr. Becket has very little faith in the future of farming.

This evening Joy told me a frightful story of an occurence at her cousin’s place, in Sussex.  It appears that there is a large estate called Yew Lodge, East Grinstead, belonging to Mr. Margary, F.S.A.  The place was very largely taken over by the army, and it so happened that a certain unit there had orders to go abroad at very short notice, either in July or the beginning of August.  They had a certain amount of stores, including a quantity of tinned foods, which they were unable to take with them, and they offered to give these to any of the farm workers of the people on the estate.  There had been a good deal said about stealing army rations, so all refused.  The soldiers then dug a large pit and buried the whole lot!  Later, a sack of rice was found, and was left in a shed belonging to Mr. Margary’s foreman.  I am not quite clear whether he knew it was put there or not, but at all events an informer tipped off the police, and a search was made in every house on the estate.  During this search, every tin of foodstuffs from every house was removed, as the owners could not prove that the stuff was their own property!  In one case, an old woman lost the whole of her little store.  The foreman was arrested and sentenced to a month’s imprisonment.  There was no censure on the military authorities for a wicked waste of foodstuffs, and as far as I know the owners of all the food taken out of the houses received no recompense.

The foreman has since been released, after serving his time, and states that Pentonville seems to be full of postmen and policemen.  So far no effort has been made to get the whole case reviewed, nor has the local M.P. done anything.

26th November 1942

The best time of the day now seems to be between 8 and 9 in the morning, when the rising sun throws pink and golden lights on the clouds, and the moon and stars fade away in the west. 

Fine today.  About 10 o’clock there was an alarm for 8 minutes, but nothing came over.  This is the first alarm for ten days, and the first in daylight for a month.  Did not feel particularly nervous.  Nobody else in the office took any notice of it.

Late out tonight and called at the Sissons, whom I have not seen for some time.

25th November 1942

Dull day, but fine, and clouds high.  Trouble this morning about Land Girls working at Wakes Colne.  Six of them came marching into the office because they refused to go to work unless their bus fares were paid in advance.  They had no money at all, having apparently spent the whole of last week’s pay since Saturday. 

24th November 1942

Cloudy but fine at first, and a lovely sunny morning later on.  

Mr and Mrs Parrington went to Needham Market today to take a pig to be cured.  The old bacon factory there is still working, although in ruins, but one drying house survives and 2 or 3 tanks.  There is no roof.  The houses opposite are down.  One bomb hit the road and bounced along, just as the one did at Essex Street.  Mr. Quinton, the proprietor of the factory actually saw it coming, and was knocked unconscious by the explosion.  Few people were hurt because most of the houses nearby were timber framed and did not collapse.  

While the Parringtons were in the factory, a plane came over very low.  A little boy working there said rather anxiously “Is that one of ours?”  The foreman reassured him, and remarked “You must excuse us being a bit bomb-shy here.”  It turned out that the boy had been buried in the factory ruins and dug out almost unhurt.

23rd November 1942

Cloudy but fine.  Committee at Birch today.  Got a lift all the way back to Lawford in Stanley Webb’s car.  Talked about blacksmiths and harness-makers.  He is very keen to get travelling smiths established, and mentioned the work done by Ruston of Bradfield, who covers a wide area.  Cold shoeing can never satisfactorily take the place of hot shoeing.

Spent the evening mounting photos.

22nd November 1942

Fine day.  Took Robin out into the big field and rode him on the plough for half an hour.  Cycled in to duty tonight.  Lovely moon.  No planes about at all.

21st November 1942

Going up East Hill this morning, I saw a young Chinese girl walking down, while just behind, on the other side, was an American.

Heard that Martin, in the Town Clerk’s office, has been called up.  He is about 31 or 32, I should think.  This leaves only Buxton, Brown and Harvey, and I hear he will have to go in January.  It is strange that these men like Harvey and Martin, with 10 or 12 years experience in highly skilled work, should be taken, yet War Agricultural Committee men, even under 30, are not generally taken.  All the Borough Treasurer’s staff have gone except about two, but some of the Engineer's are left, waiting to deal with the aftermath of the great air attacks on Colchester.  One of them, “Frenchy” Blackmore, was an R.A.F. pilot before the war, and left the service to come back to the Engineer’s office.

I cannot help wondering if, behind all this, there is some plan of the Regional Office at Cambridge to so reduce Local Government staffs that they will have more power and control over Local Government affairs in the future.  It is now being said openly that Town Councils will be almost abolished after the war, and their powers taken over by Regional officers.  

Fine day, high clouds and some sunshine.  Cycled out to Lawford this afternoon.  Wonderful cloud effects over the Colne Valley, full moon rising on the right.  By half past 8 there was a lovely clear blue sky, the moon fairly blazing in it, not a cloud or a sign of mist anywhere.  A few planes diving about, playing in the moonlight.  

Writing until 10.30.

16th November 1942

Cold.  Lovely day, with great sheets of cloud hurrying across the sky from the North East.  Had to go down to Mersea this morning to fix up lodgings for the thatchers and a new ganger.  Went in Capt. Folkard’s car with Nott.  Had to go to see Cecil Baldwin, who wants to quit his job as he is becoming a nervous wreck.  Stood in the cold at Mortimer’s Farm and argued with him.  I believe he will stay.  The land there looked well.  Saw one of the trolleys built by Bruce last Spring come into the yard.  

Then to the Hall Barn.  Everybody there at loggerheads.  Mechanic, tractor drivers, Mrs. Johnson, all in a muddle, all hating one another.

To Lawford at 6.30, but did not feel up to work so spent the evening reading.  Read Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” from beginning to end.  Looked through Osbert Lancaster’s “Home Sweet Home”.  Brilliant satire.

Bright moonlight.  Planes flying at exercise.  Cold.

As we came back from Mersea this morning we found two of the swans from Bourne Pond, one old and one young, lying stunned and helpless at the bottom of Broom Hill, having flown into the telephone wires.  With the help of a soldier I put them into Deane’s field.  Had we not happened along they would be there yet, as nobody was doing anything to help them.  When I got them on the grass the other old bird came waddling up and muzzled them affectionately.

15th November 1942

Had a curious and unpleasant dream this morning.  I seemed to be dozing in the Oven, and heard footsteps hurrying across the bridge, then somebody rattling and banging on the Castle doors, crying out weakly for help.  Then there seemed to be the crash of a tremendous bomb, and I woke up, sweating, but all was silent.  A few moments later the Town Hall struck 5.

Dozed off again, and woke when the watchman went out at 7.  Ate some dry bread, all I had by me, and left at 9.

Dull morning, overcast.  Had a bath, and went off at midday to Lawford.  After lunch took Robin for a run for the first time for 3 weeks.  He went well, and was no trouble, but got hot.  Strawed his yard and box.

Mrs. General Parrington came to tea with her children.  She had a story about a Flight Commander, known to her, who was a DFC and had been in the RAF for some years.  He took a gallon of petrol to go to see his wife, was caught and dismissed the service. 

Writing all evening.

14th November 1942

Had to go to [the Essex War Agricultural Executive Committee offices at] Writtle today, for a staff-meeting.  We all went in Butterworth’s car.  The London Road did not seem to have changed very much since I last came along it, about 6 months ago.  The autumn colours on the trees were very lovely.  Crix Park, embowered in vast trees, all gold and brown and yellow, looked most striking.  

Chelmsford was packed with people, the balloons all up, shining in the sun.  The meeting was long and weary.  The Executive Officer talked for two hours, the gist of the matter being to make it quite clear to us that we are employed by the Executive Committee at Writtle, and that our allegiance is to them and not to our District Committees.

Got away at 4.30, and did not wait for tea.  Glorious sunset behind us, and a fog coming up.  Went down to Bourne Mill, and then home to tea. 

On duty tonight.  Only one of the other men turned up.  Spent the evening reading old Essex newspapers, early 19th century.  An alarm at 10 o’clock, with distant gunfire to the east.  All-clear came in half an hour.  Very cold tonight.  Moon rising among clouds.

13th November 1942

Surely a day on which one expects to be bombed or machine-gunned!  But it has been fine, and nothing came.

11th November 1942

“Poppy day”, as the cheap press calls it.  Many women and children selling them in the streets.  A big wreath of them was put on the Memorial at 11 o’clock. 
Writing tonight for 3 hours.  It is wonderfully cosy in this little room, with a roaring fire.  Even when planes pass overhead I do not worry about them. 

10th November 1942

Up at 7.  Lovely pale blue sky, and a glorious dawn.  Went up to the buildings to see my hay which has now come.  Robin looked very well.  Luckin, the horseman, was just getting the plough team out.  Parrington has a lot of stubbles not yet ploughed.

Caught the 9.30 bus.  Fog coming up thick, and the newly risen sun vanished into a ruddy gold haze.  Very thick fog at Colchester, which did not clear until 11, when the sun shone brilliant.  Not at all the sort of weather for enemy raiders.
Down to Bourne Mill this morning.  One of the old swans and the three cygnets were on the pond.  Suddenly the whole brood spread their wings and thrashed noisily across the water, taking off towards the west.  As they rose one of the young birds realised that he could not clear the trees on the far side, swerved, lost height, and crashed into thick rushes, from which he fought his way back onto the water.  The other three came swooping back, their wings making a tremendous noise, flying in V-formation.  They disappeared down the valley, no doubt going to Wivenhoe Park lake, leaving the unlucky cygnet behind, squawking and crying.  It made no attempt to fly by itself.

The pond is now in a dreadful state, perfectly filthy with weeds and rubbish.

Very busy all day.  Out at 5.30, and cycled to Lawford.  A mist rising, and the stars coming out.  Busy all the evening on notes and journals.

9th November 1942

Woke at 5, and lay reading until 7, listening to stirring noises of lorries starting up, men whistling in the High Street etc.  Fine morning, but foggy, which got much thicker by 9 o’clock, very cold and raw.  Began to clear at 11, and buildings gradually emerged, while the sun sat up in the sky, a great crimson disc.

To Birch for War Agricultural Committee meeting.  Nothing very special, and all over by 5.30.  Lovely autumn evening.  The scene from the dining room windows was all in pastels – distant woods grey, the lake slate blue, and the trees russet, ochre and green.  The sun sank into a fog bank.

Back to Colchester with Mr. Percival, talking about Women's Land Army. labour.  Decided to take 6.15 bus to Lawford.  Very full, uncomfortable journey.  Walked down from the blacksmiths.  Smell of frost in the air.  Felt tired.  Bed early, and very little writing.

Mayor making today, Alderman Sanders elected for the 4th year.

8th November 1942

Lovely morning.  Up at 9.30, and went up to the buildings.  Fed Robin, and put in fresh straw.  The old horse-doctor, Simmonds, came to attend a sick horse up there, a very bad case of dermatitis.

Left at 7.30pm to go to Colchester on duty.  Lovely starlight night, a few searchlights weaving about.  One or two planes in the distance.  Called at home, and then got to the Oven at a quarter to 9.  The two other men were indignantly waiting for me to arrive, so that they would go over to the “Castle” pub.

7th November 1942

Pouring this morning, rain in torrents.  However, no alarms.   

Cycled out to Lawford at 5 o’clock.  Still raining.  Hope that the new moon will bring better weather.

6th November 1942

Overcast, low clouds, high N.W. wind, and not a sign of a break anywhere. 

Caught the train to Chelmsford, taking cycle.  Just before we got to Chelmsford the siren burst out, and in 5 minutes there was nothing but a few fleecy white clouds sailing across a clear sky.  

Called at the “Horse and Groom”, [Roxwell Road] opposite Mothersole’s old house, and had a cider and some lunch.  The whole thing – meat and vegetables, pudding and custard, bread and cheese and cider, only came to 2/.

Spent the afternoon at Writtle.  

This evening writing, and doing two reports for Folkard.

4th November 1942

 There are posters all over the town advertising a meeting of the Communist Party.  Subject “Save Britain – by opening a Second Front Now.” 

3rd November 1942

Heavy rain, and strong N.W. wind, clouds ragged and low.  Did not feel very nervous though, even when the sirens sounded at 5 minutes to 8.  I heard guns to the East, but no bombs.  Cycled slowly in the rain, and heard all-clear about 8.15, then, faintly, another alarm about 8.30am.  There was no alarm at Colchester when I arrived.

Tonight rang Sir Ralph Harwood, but he said the tenement at Southfields was already let.  I would give anything to get a house for the old people out of the town.  My feeling of insecurity has increased since the Canterbury raid. 

Rain eased off a little tonight.

2nd November 1942

Dull, with sun coming through at intervals.  Went down to Wigborough with Nott.  We went to Abbot’s Wick, and he persuaded me to get up on one of Frank Warren’s horses, which I did.  It is years since I rode a big horse, and I enjoyed it immensely.  We went right up as far as Rockingham’s Farm, and I jumped a ditch in real style.  The water lies all over this heavy land, but the crops look well.  I noticed stretches had not been drilled at all.  This is due to using tractors with the drills, running them so fast that the man on the drill has no time to look after his seed.  There is a good deal of carelessness too, some stretches being drilled twice.  Coming back the mare nearly got away.  Abbot’s Wick looks more like a farm now than when I last saw it – cats about the place, horses in the stables, and bullocks in the yards.

This afternoon went out with Stanley Webb and Craig to see Sheepen Farm.  Once again I was struck with the appalling wickedness of the Town Council even agreeing to houses being built there.  I feel sure there must have been bribery and corruption to get it through.  The broom is spreading all over where the [Sheepen Farm Roman] Excavations were, some nearly 6 feet high.  Mr. Webb is determined that the whole place shall come under cultivation again.

Then we went down to Land Lane to see some fields belonging to Everett which are to be ploughed.  The town sill looks very fine from this quarter, with the old Roman Wall, St James’ Church, and all the towers and spires, but once again the town authorities do nothing to preserve it, and without doubt Everett will cover the whole place with houses as soon as he can.

1st November 1942

Woke at 5, out at 8, a glorious sunny morning.  Went home for breakfast, and read in the paper that there had been a bad raid on Canterbury yesterday afternoon, at the very time when I was watching the RAF bombers go out.  Apparently 50 planes were used, and 9 were shot down.  I feared that the Germans would begin daylight raids, in return for those made by the RAF on French towns.  

It seems that about 30 people were killed at Canterbury, and many houses damaged.  It was market day, and the streets were full of country people about to go home.  How amazing that a thing like this can happen when we continually boast of the impregnable defences of Britain.

Clouds came up during the morning, and I was glad to get away to Lawford as soon as I could.  Checked several ploughing orders at Dedham.  One was just behind the church, a field which belongs to the parish, so I went down the footpath by the old Grammar School to see it.  Thought I would walk on and have a look at Southfields, where I found one of the tenements is empty.  At once I began to wonder if I could get it.  If I did, Father and Mother could come, and live here, and we could all live together again for a time.  The place belongs to Sir Ralph Harwood.  I shall make enquiries.

Mr. and Mrs. Chittenden to tea at Sherbourne Mill.  He used to be at Kew, and is a great botanical expert.  Much talk on plants, trees, bird life etc., about which I knew nothing.

Nobody spoke about the raid on Canterbury, and nobody seems to want to know any details.  Perhaps this is because any day it may be our own town.  

Finished reading Hector Bolitho's “War in the Strand”.  Bolitho must be a curious type, fascinated by fear and carnage.  I do not admire him, and only fear he has a good deal in common with myself.

Tonight I wrote a long, grumbling letter to Meg in Scotland.  I would give anything to have a whole month up there, right away from bombs, alarms, and War Agricultural Committees.

Heavy rain tonight.