30th April 1943

Dull at 6, then rain began and kept on all day.  Most refreshing.  This has been badly needed.  For some reason did not feel particularly nervous, although conditions were ideal for an attack.  Heard two planes go over during the morning, invisible in the driving mist.

Rain keeping on heavily.  Very few planes about tonight, and few last night, although we were expecting them to go out from the Suffolk fields.  Perhaps the heavy losses a fortnight ago have caused disorganisation.  Got wet through coming out tonight.

Nice story in the papers today, about a man aged 40, tubercular, a soldier, who was sent to Chatham Detention Barracks and was beaten to death by two sergeant-majors when he became too weak to move about.

29th April 1943

Lovely day.  Made a long tour this afternoon.  Cycled out to Fordham by West Bergholt, and called at High Trees Farm on the way, to see Hadley, who has just moved in.  He showed me over the house, which is really very fine indeed, and seems to date from about 1500.  The timber is in excellent state, and there are several King posts exposed.  I must go again and make careful drawings.  It has been badly restored in recent years, and the outside is covered with rough cast cement.  The farm belongs to Capt. Jimmie Round, Joanna’s brother, and formerly belonged to his uncle, the great Horace Round.  It has been in the family 150 years at least.

Went on to Fordham, past Honds Farm, now all covered with huts and sheds of the aerodrome.  I had not been there since I took Bob over on that bitter March day last year.  Now poor old Findlay is dead and his farm is ruined.

I set off for Nayland, by way of Wormingford.  Called at Lt. Horkesley.  Now, in the full green of summer, the ruins [of the church destroyed by a bomb in 1940] look strangely settled, almost as if they had been in that state as long as Birch or Stanway.  Small bushes are growing up in the body of the church, and the heaps of rubble are covered with grass and weeds.  Where the Swynborne tomb used to be, some children had built a little “altar” out of broken monuments, and put flowers on it in two glass jam-pots.

I noticed that Lt. Horkesley Hall has been taken by the Lexden & Winstree Rural District Council as “Emergency Offices”, I suppose in event of the Colchester building being destroyed.

In a field by the “Beehive” Inn (now partly repaired) I saw Lockett’s Gyrotiller, which is coming onto the Committee land very soon.  Stopped and spoke to the engineer.  He had just broken a bolt, but fortunately the blacksmith’s shop was only just over the Ledge so he was able to get it mended at once.  This shop is now open three days a week, and is worked from Nayland.

Went down into Nayland village, and saw Collier, but he was quite unable to help us, being full of work for months to come.  I asked him if he could build a tumbril, but he said it was quite out of the question.

Lovely house opposite the “White Hart”, covered with mauve coloured wisteria, climbing all over it.

Cycled back by Red House Park.  Saw our spraying tackle at work on Col. Blewitt’s land and noticed how well his hedges are cut-and-laid.  Through Boxted, and called at Lt. Rivers.  Had tea with the Roses, then on to Dedham, called at “Shermans” and found Mrs. Sisson ill in bed.  Sisson was rather perturbed, as she had asked for a doctor, a thing she never does as a rule.

Got to Lawford at 7.30, having done in all about 34 miles, with very little discomfort except heart pains on hills.  Excellent day.

Rain now beginning at last.  This will make a wonderful difference to hay and corn crops.

28th April 1943

Clouds, SW wind, veering to N.W.  Showers at times, but not enough to do any real good.   The Repertory Company are doing Emlyn William’s “The Corn is Green” this week, so I decided to go.  It was a joy to hear “Idwal” saying “Didch yn fawr, syr, didch yn fawr!” and “Y Squire rhowch I mi ceiniog!”, and to hear the young miners saying “Nos dawch” as they went out into the darkness of the valley.

The play is, of course, excellent, but is far too subtle for English audiences, as I have no doubt the author is well aware.  You see the old Welsh language being laughed and patronised out of existence by the Squire and the school-ma’am.  “Miss Moffatt” determines to rescue “Morgan Evans” from his native savagery on the strength of his natural poesy.  She makes him read Burke, Voltaire, and Macaulay – not Llywarch Hen, Taliesin or Ap Gwilym - because she had never heard of them, and the magnificent torrents of their words,  like the cataracts that pour down the sides of Snowdon, were entirely lost to Morgan, a poet himself.

I enjoyed the play immensely.  Sat in a 3/6 seat upstairs, with Cr. and Mrs. Blomfield just behind me.  The hall was packed to capacity.

Cycled back to Lawford in the twilight, beneath huge rolling clouds, black and angry, streaked with red in the west.  A few spots of rain.

Borrowed Housman’s “Victoria Regina” from Diana Davis, [Stage Manager of Colchester Repertory Company] reading in bed tonight. 

27th April 1943

Dull early, sun showing through thin clouds.  Cuckoos calling.  Tractors working in front of the house.  Had breakfast, and got in by 5 past 9.  Poulter told me there was a short alarm yesterday morning, at a quarter to 7.  

Poulter tells me that Hull has been informed by the Office of Works that the windmill at Bardfield Saling is to be destroyed in connection with an aerodrome.  Hull is in a tremendous state, telephoning to Borough and County Police, trying to get a permit to have it drawn and photographed.  It so happened that the Air Ministry came through on the phone just after lunch about a matter at Wormingford, so I spoke of this business and was assured that no permit was needed, as the mill is not on the actual aerodrome site.  Hull of course is not convinced, but Poulter goes off tomorrow to see what he can do.

Home to tea.  Mother full of the ringing of bells on Sunday – “So nice to hear the lovely bells again.”  All I heard was Dedham's bells, very faintly.

26th April 1943

Easter Monday
Four years ago today I saw the last London Van Horse Parade at Regents Park.  I can see them now – United Dairies, Carter Paterson, Hays Wharf Cartage – 600 lovely turnouts.  I was with Woods and Day, and then I met Rose afterwards.  Now Day is dead, Rose is a stranger, and only Woods is really happy, still driving his Suffolk mare about Colchester's streets.  What am I?  A very bad and inefficient secretary of a War Agricultural Committee.

Terrible wind all day, with driving rain at times.  Writing, and mounting photos.  After lunch, harrowing with Roger in the paddock by the stream, levelling mole-hills.  Most satisfying work, to see the little hillocks break and spread under the harrows, the crumbs of dirt swept along by the bushes tied behind. 

This evening went up the hill with glasses, to see a very high tide, which covered all the marshes between here and East Bergholt.  Tiny figures of black polled cattle, picking their way through the water, and browsing on little islands.

25th April 1943

Easter Sunday
Rain and shine, and very strong S.W. wind.  Cycled over to Boxted for the christening of the Roses' baby, Harriet.  Took a bottle of cider and 2 bottles of beer.  Rather amused that such a modern young woman as Mrs Rose should bother about a church christening, but her husband is still, I believe, a practising Christian.  She told me that the ceremony took place in the middle of the morning service.  Very few of the gentry were there, and Col. Guy Blewitt walked out as the ceremony was beginning.  [Colonel Blewitt disapproved of christenings taking place during a morning church service]

Quite a party at the cottage.  Rushbury was there, rather pompous, fresh from the Royal Academy Hanging Committee.  Brought his two pretty little daughters, one of whom was godmother.  Mrs. Rushbury was unwell, and did not come.  Lady Minter and her sister called, and there were several others.  We all had excellent cider-cup, which I much enjoyed.

When the others had gone, I stayed to eat the lunch I had brought with me, and spent a peaceful afternoon reading and listening to music on the radio.

Back to Lawford after tea.  Called at Sissons, but Mrs. Sisson still in bed.  Hope it is nothing serious.

Fisher’s sister-in-law is staying at the cottage for a holiday.  She lives in Norwich, and was there through all the raids last year.  As a result of these she now flatly refuses to go to bed if she hears aircraft about, whether hostile or not.  As there is so little room in the cottage, Joy invited Mrs. Fisher and her daughter Ivy to sleep in the house.

Fine night.  A few planes going over.

24th April 1943

Rain and shine, fresh wind, W. and veering to S.W.  Mounting photos all morning.  After lunch drove Robin to Colchester, and brought back 3 trusses of hay.  Went to Bourne Mill.  Grass poor, but old Bob looking very well.

As I drove back, a sort of haze came up from the west, and cumulus clouds floating below it swam across the sky like great prehistoric monsters in an aquarium.  More photo work tonight.

Sleeping badly.  Find it very hard to sleep before 3a.m.  Feel extraordinarily nervous for no reason at all.  It seems to me that there are not quite so many heavy trains during the night as there a week or so ago.

Nott was married at Twinstead today, but nobody was invited from the office.

23rd April 1943

Good Friday
Dull.  Lovely lazy day.  Reading and writing.  Hardly went out at all.  Did, however, go up to the stables this evening and groomed Robin.

22nd April 1943

Rain, then clear, then clouds again.  Went to collect Nott’s wedding present – 6 Alken prints, and found a most interesting series of photos taken in 1932 for Dr. Laver – Castle, Priory, Stockwell St., etc.  Bought 13 at 1/- each.  Nott’s present, frames complete, cost £6-6-0.  Have to collect the money now.

In Queen St. saw a painter repainting the door-frame and porch of the lovely brick house, dated 1698.  Stopped to congratulate him on making such a good job of it.  He had scraped down all the wood work, and the details of the carving showed up very well.  He pointed out that the door itself also appears to be original.  The painter was quite intelligent, and said that this block and old Lady D’Arcy’s house in Trinity St, must be the oldest brick houses in the town.  I agreed.  The only ones of anything like the same period are the block by All Saints, in Culver St., the Labour Exchange in E. Stockwell Street, and the remaining fragment in High St. on the corner of Pelham’s Lane.

Sadler rang up from Writtle to say that the Colchester Police had complained to the Regional Commissioner that we had refused to be helpful with a scheme to evacuate horses from Colchester.  Such utter rubbish.  The scheme is absurd and unworkable in any case, and we ignored it as far as possible.  I wrote last week and suggested that, in an emergency, all horses should be turned out in fields, on the Wick, or in parks, this being the obvious thing to do.  Of course, this would not suit the Chief Constable, who sent the whole thing off to Cambridge.  From there it was sent to the Ministry of Home Security, and from them to the Minister of Agriculture.  Then it came down to the Land Commissioner, and from him to Sadler.  My simple suggestion caused quite a stir.  Sadler takes it very seriously, and is coming down next Wednesday to see the Chief Constable and Folkard.

In 1940, when the invasion risk was fairly high, not a word was said about this.  Now, just because a lot of fools have not got enough work, we have to waste our time working out a ridiculous “paper” scheme which would be quite unworkable under any circumstances.

Clouds became worse, and I felt v. nervous.  Home to tea.  Went to Post office, and bought Hampshire a trap licence.  It was the last one in the place.  I have not bothered to get myself one for 4 years now.  Got my week’s rations, and started back, pedalling before scudding black clouds and threatening rain.  At 7, just as I got to Fox Ash, I heard the Colchester sirens, moaning along the wind, but the all-clear came as I went into the Mill Yard, not 10 minutes later.
Finished Barbellion’s Diary.  Very depressing to me.  If mine is like that, and I fear it is, I have a good mind to burn the whole thing at once.

21st April 1943

Up very late, but by doing without breakfast got in by 9.5.  Lovely morning, cool S.E. wind.

Went to Mersea by bus.  Saw a black lamb, obviously dying, near Rock Farm.  One of Harker’s.  Almost all his sheep are diseased and starving, but nothing is ever done about it.

Met Charlie Baldwin in the van, and went off to inspect wagons and carts.  We went to North Farm, Bower Hall, and Mortimers.  Land looking well, but buildings and yards all very bad.  Discovered that the best trolley I bought in London (the pair-horse) had never been used, as they thought it was too heavy for horses!

Then went down to Copt Hall, Abbot’s Hall and Abbot’s Wick.  Lots of magpies flying about.  Back to Peldon ‘Rose’ and caught bus to Colchester.

Meeting at Town Hall this afternoon on Emergency Labour Corps.  Complete flop, only eight people came.  Farmers prefer to make their own arrangements.  

Rushed home to tea.  Mother seemed rather tottery.  Wish she would go away again, but Father stubbornly refuses to go.

Left Holly Trees at 6.15.  Before I went heard on Poulter’s radio that 30 bombers were lost over Germany last night.

Came out by Crockleford.  Stopped at the stile at the top of the hill, and sat there reading Barbellion’s Diary, which I have at last managed to get.  Most depressing, so feeble, and so very like my own. 

Sat reading half an hour, to the sound of a chaff cutter working in the farm buildings below me.  Heard a horse and cart going towards Bromley, and a cuckoo calling somewhere on the right.  A train went by, and I could see the smoke beyond Shaw’s Farm, where the cows were just coming out of the sheds and going down to the water meadows, a slow procession of tiny figures.

After supper, fed calves.  Clouds came up, and about 10 it began to rain.  Overjoyed to hear it, because it is badly needed and because it may save us from a raid tonight.  Heard one or two planes about, above the clouds.

Just a year ago today since I bought Robin.  Cannot make up my mind whether to sell him or not.

20th April 1943

Glorious sun rise, after a quiet, peaceful night, but I slept very badly.  Awake reading from 1 till 3.  All sign of rain has vanished.  Heard the cuckoo as I went up the hill this morning. 

Very busy, Air Ministry Official about sites of poles at Wormingford, and a man from Writtle about various Farm Survey matters.  

Museum Committee this afternoon.  Saw Poulter before I left, very depressed.  Nothing whatever was done about Hull.  Councillor Smallwood did not attend (probably Gurney Benham, [the Chairman] asked him not to?).  Poulter is back to his prophesy that we have Hull for another 20 years.  I advised him to quit Holly Trees as soon as ever he can.  In his place I would not stay another day.

Left at 6.30.  Called at Whitehouse Farm, Langham [where the airfield was being constructed] to see Barker about taking 65 acres not required by the Air Ministry.  The whole place is in a dreadful state now.  Can't think why Barker is staying on.  It will be quite unworkable as a farm.

Wonderful evening, rather cool, with the sun sinking into a mist.  There was a slight frost this morning.  The whole landscape is turning pale green.  Called at Sissons’ on the way.  Much unprofitable talk about Hull and the Museum. 

At Lawford Joy’s brother was talking about the new aerodromes which are being built in Suffolk, and says that it is impossible for contractors to get work there without bribery.

At a quarter to 10 watched the moon rise behind the old oak, huge and golden.  It rose visibly, while I watched.  No planes about yet.

19th April 1943

Lovely morning, great white clouds floating serenely, and a fresh S.W. wind.  Took Mother a dozen eggs this morning, which pleased her a good deal.

War Agricultural Committee at Birch, short agenda, and the Chairman gone for 10 days fishing.  We got done by 5, and I came right back to Lawford with Moorhouse.  About the middle of the afternoon the wind changed to N.W. and it began to rain.  Everybody was delighted, jumping up to look out of the windows.  It has been badly needed.

At tea time Gardner Church [a member of the Committee] gave a description of the plane that was brought down last Thursday morning at Layer Breton.  It fell on Stamps Farm, in a grass field near the house.  He saw the whole thing, and as a Head Warden had to go over at once.  There was one man killed.

One engine broke lose, and went clean over the top of the house into the garden on the other side.  The other three of the crew baled out, two landing at Wigborough and one towards Mersea.  One was on Abbots Hall and one at Sherwins.  Church’s account was most dramatic, yet told in such simple language.  Extraordinary how the country people accept these incidents now as a matter of course.  

Col. Furneaux [a member of the Committee] said he felt particularly nervous during this attack.  Surely the gallant colonel never feels nervous?  Are colonels human after all? 

Rain still continuing tonight, and the wind growing stronger.

18th April 1943

Brilliant sunny day, but after lunch another alarm, and the sound of a plane and some distant firing.  Mother seemed unusually nervous, and begged me not to go out until all-clear, but I was too nervous myself to sit still indefinitely.  The plane was tremendously high, and no doubt taking photos.  Hope this does not mean more attacks coming.

Before lunch this morning I cycled to Lexden Straight Road to see the triple-ramparts, which are now infested with rooks.  The whole place is in a terrible state, full of weeds, rubbish, tins, etc, and is used as a dump by the roadmen.  It is a scandal to leave it in such a condition.  

17th April 1943

Awakened just after midnight by the sound of a plane diving, then a short pause, followed by a low rumble and vibration, and a noise like the wind rushing through the trees.  I looked out.  Nothing to be seen, but I could hear the sound of the plane, very high in the moonlit sky.  I thought – “My God, I wonder if that was Colchester.”  Then I heard, faintly on the wind, the sound of the “crash warning” at Brantham, a distant blaring, like a car horn.  Jumped into bed, and lay palpitating.  The plane passed over, northward, and died away.

About 5 minutes later the siren sounded, and several planes came about, apparently night-fighters.  Looked out once or twice, but nothing to see, only the clear brilliant moon. 

Lay awake until all-clear rang out, about 1a.m.  Dull dawn, but cleared up later, and became fine and sunny.  About the middle of the morning, discovered when I was talking to Barton that Hull had thrown out the last two years of the “Abstract of Accounts”.  The late A.G. Wright (the previous Curator at Colchester Castle) and I kept every one of these, so as to form a complete series from 1901.  Now Hull quite arbitrarily begins to destroy that series.  I was furious, I shouted and stormed about with such effect that Harding went hastily out to the dump and rescued both copies.  This is quite disgraceful, and I will not be any party to this sort of thing.

This afternoon an alarm while I was at Bourne Mill.  Fighters rushed about in all directions, but nothing came.  Did not last long.

On duty tonight.  Don't mind quite so much now it is light until 9.30.  Took a pallet bed down into the Vaults and lay there by candle-light from eleven till half past one, but it was so cold I could not sleep.  Then back to the Oven to sleep peacefully until half past 6.  Only one plane went out at about 11.30, thank goodness, and no alarms.  Dozed again after the watchmen left, and home at 9.30.

16th April 1943

Another lovely dawn.  Nothing happened at all last night.  Felt strained today, and did not get through a very great quantity of work.  Went to the bank, and found I had not so much money as I thought.  My current account is now overdrawn £3.8.2, and on deposit I have only £202.19.10.  I have £11 in cash, but that is all.  Must consider seriously selling Robin.  I owe about £16-£20 to various people.

Went off early this afternoon and had tea at the Roses at Boxted.  Early in the evening, as I was looking across the steep little valley towards the village, I heard the cuckoo, the first this year.

Cycled on to Lawford in the dusk.  Had hardly got to bed when a huge flight of bombers began to go out, I could see several in the light of the moon, and could hear voices from the cottages in the lane as people came out to look at them.

15th April 1943

Awakened by firing at 25 minutes to 1.  At first sight thought it was 5 past 7, and wondered vaguely why guns should fire at such an hour.  Got out of bed and looked out.  Soon saw an attack was developing.  Very heavy gunfire towards Harwich, and some in the Colchester direction.  I could hear shell fragments hissing and whistling through the air.  Felt terribly alone, there in the dark.  The dogs below began to whine, and Fisher’s dog barked continually.  In lulls in the firing you could hear screech owls calling, and every now and then a heavy train came grinding past, very slowly, drowning all other noises.  This always makes me very nervous, as I fear a train will be attacked one night just as it is going by the house.

The noise of planes increased.  Some flew right over, others dived and turned.  At last decided to get out of bed and dress.  As I did so, a plane dived hard and fast, apparently right over the house.  I got under the bed, and blocked my ears, but nothing would keep out the whistling, howling shriek.  At last it died away, and there was a flash and the dull thud of a bomb.  I had had enough by this time, and throwing all decency to the winds went downstairs.  Comforted the dogs.  Joy and Parry came out, and Joy made a hot drink.  Looked out once, and saw a bunch of flares towards Lt. Bromley, sinking down below the hill.  Strange how few bombs were heard.

Planes were continually circling and diving, but no more bombs fell.  Firing died away about 2.30, and we went back to bed.  For the next hour or two continually planes came over, apparently R.AF retuning, as there were no more guns.  Lay half asleep, listening to them, and imagining that one was piloted by George Farmer, and another by my cousin Maitland.  Waited to hear all-clear, but none came.  At last fell asleep until 7.  Woke very tired.

Heard that a plane had been brought down at Layer Breton, and 3 of the crew rescued alive.  It fell in cottage gardens, yet hurt no-one.  Nothing much said in office, but Dyer mentioned that he had seen an RAF plane dropping flares when it was fired on as it returned home.

Culley, Pests Officer, rang through to Writtle, and was told that his chief, Lake, had had his house destroyed, and that other damage had been done at Chelmsford.  A few minutes later a man from Writtle came in, and said there had been several lots of bombs on Chelmsford, blowing out windows in the main street, and destroying two or three houses.  A suet factory near the station was burnt out, and damage done at the prison.  He did not know if anybody was killed.  

Capt Folkard had a war-damage claim from Mr. Betts, Gt. Oakley, where stacks were burnt and some stock killed.  It was in that direction that I saw flares dropping.  He mentioned that the noise of the diving plane had alarmed him just as it had me, yet he  is 9 miles from Lawford.  How foolish we are to be scared of these noises.  Nobody knows what caused the heavy explosion.   

Overheard the 1 o’clock news - “Activity over E. Anglia” – “bombs dropped,” “some casualties, a few dead.”  Heard at lunch that bombs fell at Witham, but I do not know exactly where. 

This afternoon sunny and warm.  Holly Trees lawn full of mothers and children, soliders and girls, sitting and playing under the deep blue sky.  One would think they had not a care in the world.  Were any of them worrying about tonight and the thousand other nights to come?Somewhere out of sight a plane dived and climbed.

Evening papers gave very little news, and that hopelessly garbled.  I saw the “Star” and “News”, and also tomorrow’s “Essex Standard” (which is now out on Thursday).  All were different.  Some say 9 dead at Chelmsford, some 9 injured.  Other details do not tally, either.  The Layer Breton plane contained 2 live and 1 dead German, while a fourth came down safely by parachute, yet the E.C.S. says they are “believed to have perished,” while the survivors are in the local police station and the military hospital.  It is absolutely fantastic that papers should publish this wild, inaccurate rubbish.

Tonight calm and lovely.  Went to bed early, hoping to get in sleep before anything happens.  This sort of thing is terribly wearing, the continual strain and uncertainty.

14th April 1943

Overcast, with thin high clouds.  Cycled by Long Road, and as I turned towards Colchester saw two lots of planes going out, towards the north-east, one behind the other, about a dozen in each.  They were like two flocks of birds, flying close together, at a fair height, with a curious air of deliberate purpose.  A quarter of an hour later a single machine went across in the same direction.  Children playing in the road, waiting for school buses, never raised their eyes.

I wondered where they were going to, and who would be dead within an hour or two.  I also wondered when the day will come when such a pack comes the other way.
Sun shone mistily all morning, breaking through at times.

Home to tea, then down to see Bob.  Got a little hay in.  Out to Lawford by 8 o’clock.  Lovely cool evening, gadflies dancing, but clouds coming up.

At 10 o’clock clouds were quite thick, and there was a searchlight, like a moon on a tall pillar, standing towards the south-east.  A lot of planes began to go out, very low, some below the clouds, showing red riding lights.  The terrible roar filled the whole air.

Trains were going by continually, mostly heavy minerals.

13th April 1943

Some cloud early, and a fog bank, rolling across the land in front of a light S.W. wind.  All gone by 10, and then a glorious sunny day.

Called on Hervey Benham this morning, and he gave me three copies of “The Monthly Review” for July, August, and September, 1769.  They are clean and in good condition, in the original paper covers, and were found in a cupboard in the High Street 'Essex County Standard' office, where they had probably been lying for 174 years.  What would we not give to be back in 1769 today?

Glorious summer evening.  Cycled back slowly.  Birds singing, men working in gardens.  Home Guard on parade at Ardleigh.  Country beginning to look lovely now.

12th April 1943

Looked out at 5 – clear starlight.  (Heard an “all-clear” about 1 a.m.)  At 6 – thick cloud, most disappointing.  Left at 5 to 7, and to my joy watched the sky clear all the time I was riding in. 
Busy all day.  Everybody seems rather on edge and nervy.  Nott very silent, most unusual for him.

Trouble with Hull about the Holly Trees Muniment Room.  For the last 6 or 8 weeks I have been putting the wages money in there on Thursday nights, but being away last week Nott and Heather went down instead, and of course as luck would have it walked straight into Hull.  There was a hell of a row, and the little man rushed away to write one of his well known abominably rude letters to Capt Folkard, in which he accused him of taking the key from the Curator’s Office.  Hull has now sealed the door, and states that the room is definitely closed except to Benton and Rickwood [members of the Essex Archaeological Society] – Poulter and I are excluded.

Poulter is quite apathetic to all this, although he is as lively as he was 10 years ago, having had a very good report from the Royal Free Hospital.  There is no sign of the cancer at all.  This is extraordinarily good news, and it is fine to hear him talking as well as he ever did.

Dont know what line to take on the Muniment Room affair.  I have no intention of letting Hull keep me out if I can help it.

11th April 1943

Bright morning, few high clouds, and the sun shining.  An alarm, I think at Raydon, about 9.30, and then about 10 minutes later I could hear Colchester sirens.  The American warnings always seem to sound long before any others.  A few Spitfires rushed over the sky, but nothing happened.  All-clear very soon.  When these alarms occur at Lawford, I sit by my open window, quietly reading or writing, field-glasses ready, not a bit perturbed.  How different when I am in Colchester. 

Lovely sunny afternoon.  Outside my window, two large peacock butterflies flitted among the flowers, and bees began to come out.  I focussed my field glasses onto one of the peacocks, and watched it for some minutes as it worked its way over the flower-bed.  Hedges getting greener, but oaks and elms show no buds yet.  Rain is needed, the ground is very dry and hard.

This morning the Nichols family came past from the Hall in their phaeton and the trap, His Excellency (Sir Philip Nichols, British Ambassador to Czechoslovakia) driving the latter.  I am told that after an ambassadorial tea party, His Excellency has to retire into the kitchen and help wash-up, as servants are so scarce.

Went into Colchester at 4 to get clean clothes and have tea with Mother and Father.  Looked at Bob.  Left again at 6.30, lovely calm sunny evening.  Coming out noticed several wardens, all dressed up in their uniforms, going to their posts. 

Called at Sissons.  Poulter had been there to tea yesterday, in excellent form.  Apparently the cancer has quite disappeared.  What a miraculous thing.  It quite restores one’s faith in the ultimate “rightness” of things.

Long talks about Bourne Mill.  It is mentioned in the report of last week's Council Meeting, and Harper said that the clearing of the pond was under active consideration.  When I brought the matter to the Council’s notice in 1940, they refused to be in any way interested, and I have a letter from the Town Clerk, stating so very definitely.

Sisson saw Matheson [from the National Trust] last week, who is now considering whether the place should be converted into a private house.  I protested strongly, as it would be a scandalous thing to destroy all the machinery, which is in excellent condition.

When I got back to Sherbourne Mill, found a Commander Henderson there, a patient from the Stour House Home.  He is supposed to be a nerve case, but seems normal.  Had been in Burma, and had used elephants a good deal.  There were 5000 on the teak plantations with which he was connected.  Most interesting to hear him talking of this strange exotic life in a quiet mill parlour.  He seemed very fond of his elephants, and hoped that the Japanese were treating them well.

Lovely starlight night, with a waxing moon.  Bed early, so as to be up in good time.  Every hope for a fine day.

10th April 1943

Dull and cloudy.  There was an alarm last night, so Joy said, but I did not hear it.  Lasted only about 10 mins at half past 10.  Nothing happened.  It is lovely not to hear an alarm.

This morning building a bridge with Parry, over a brook.  Enjoyed myself enormously, though it gave me heart pains a little.

Had thought of going to Colchester, but it continued dull all day, and I took Robin out to deliver watercress in the village instead.

Tonight writing.

9th April 1943

This morning drove over to Wix, and I must confess I had never been there before.  As Robin had not been out for so long, I went by all the smaller lanes, past Oldhams Farm, and came out by Mistley Park.  There is what appears to be a tumulus by the Park pales, yet this is not marked on the O.S. 6” map.  The adjacent plantation is however called “The Old Mount”.  The mound is about 5’ high and 40’ across, bell-shaped, with little sign of a ditch.  It is not mentioned in Historical Monuments Commission Report.

Drove along through very pleasant country to Bradfield, which I did not know was such a large straggling village.  Two curiously named inns there – the “Ram & Hogget” and the “Village Maid”.  Turned right, and across a couple of little valleys, lovely rolling country, very well cultivated.  Horses everywhere, ploughing, harrowing, drilling, almost all of them Suffolks.  Saw two farmers riding across their lands.  The whole appearance of the district is very different to the Lexden & Winstree.

Wix Abbey is a fine red brick house, mostly early 17th century I should think, surrounded by a prosperous looking farm, with large and well-kept buildings.  Rather unfortunate to have erected a red tin-roofed Dutch barn quite so near to the house.

Turned right again at Wix “Waggon”, onto the main road, and stopped at Paskell’s works.  Great activity, stacks of timber, farm carts in to be repaired, a brand-new trolley on pneumatic tyres, noise of circular saws and machinery at work.  Saw a member of the firm, and discussed the possibility of their building wagons for the Committee.  He told me the price would be £65 each, and he thought they ought to be able to manage a couple before harvest.  I am not sure whether they are really good enough for our work, as they are built on the chasses of old motor-cars, and I doubt whether they are strong enough.  The price is rather dear, in fact more than we are paying at Polley at Ardleigh for much better stuff.  Paskell’s cannot make iron tyred cars, as they have no wheelwright.

Drove away towards Horsley Cross, past a big convoy of guns and bren-carriers.  Robin was awkward, so I signalled them to stop, which they did, and I saw that all the crews were Czechs.

Passed a good many horses and wagons belong to Mr. G. Cooper, a big farmer in these parts.  Suddenly noticed Tendring Workhouse, just across the fields, and had not realised how near I was to it.  I have not seen it since I cycled that way in either 1928 or 1929.

Reached Horsley Cross, saw engineers mending electric wires broken in the gale.  Two fine teams ploughing in a field nearby.  The ploughmen stopped and the horses whinnied as Robin trotted by.  Went straight over, and on towards Little Bromley.  

Got back at 2 o’clock, having begged a truss of hay from Frank Girling.  Hay is terribly short.  Washed and changed, cycled down to Stratford to see if Mr. May could let me have any hay, as he had done 2 years ago, but he had not enough for himself.  Back to Dedham, and had tea at the café, called at Sissons’ for a moment, and then back to the Mill.  Tonight writing until nearly 11.  Dull and cloudy all day.  Very glad I had not to go into Colchester.

8th April 1943

Cold, miserable day, high wind, little showers of rain and sleet.  Very glad indeed not to be going to the office.  Writing most of the morning.  Did not feel very well.  Went up to the buildings to bring Robin down, and felt very faint no doubt due to the intense cold.

After lunch cycled in to Colchester, and had tea at home.  Mother glad to see me, as I did not go yesterday.  Went to see Bob, and then up to King Harold Rd. to see a blacksmith who may be going to take one of the closed shops at W. Bergholt.  He seems a very likely sort of man.

Cycled back by way of Church Lane, Spring Lane, and along the By Pass, cutting up the track by Black Cottages and Dilbridge Farm.  Several lots of planes came in from the east, in threes and sixes, so I suppose there has been a raid across the other side.

A very big convoy came along from the direction of Ipswich, mostly A.A. guns.  About every second gun was manned ready for action, the crew riding on it.  Whether or not they would be fired if attached is another matter. 
When I went into Colchester this afternoon, the barge “Leofleda” was just leaving East Mill on a full tide.  She was very low in the water, with all her gear stowed on deck, to go under the bridges.  There were three men on board, pushing her off with long poles, so that she moved slowly under the bridge and drifted away down the river.  I suppose these barges must hold about 100 tons of flour or grain, which would need twenty 5-ton lorries or ten 10-ton railway vans.  The barge uses no fuel, but relies on the free wind, yet it is being put out of use as being un-economic.  Noticed quite a little crowd watched the departure, crossing over the road to see the vessel emerge from the bridge.

Lot of trees down in the storm.  All Birch telephones are out of order.  Two small elms are down near Humberlands, and some tiles off the buildings.

7th April 1943

Tremendous gale all night, kept me awake.  This morning just as bad, and heavy clouds as well.  This, and a genuine desire to get the work done, kept me here all morning writing out the Minutes which I wanted to get done before having a day or two off.

Later the sun came out, but the wind blew just as hard, and moved round more to the north.  Tried to cycle in after lunch, but found it quite impossible, so had to go on the bus.  Gave the girls as much work as I could, to occupy them tomorrow and Friday.  Called on Lawrence, coachbuilder, and asked him to try to buy a farm wagon for us from Prior at Mile End.  Prior now has no land, so does not need it.  Lawrence told me he had sold 2 tub-carts at £38 each this week, and had three more traps in the works now, for repainting.

Joy told me today that she had been paid just over £9 for old Longhorn, although she had not expected more than £1 a leg.

6th April 1943

Fine morning quite warm, with steady S.W. wind.  Busy day doing Committee work from yesterday.  Took some eggs and butter to Mrs. Green, and had a long talk with her, so long that I had no time for any lunch, and had to subsist on a cup of coffee which she gave me.  She told me that a lot of damage had been done to her greenhouses and allotment during the recent “combined exercise”, soldiers going all over the place and deliberately smashing the glass with rifle butts.  She has not been able to get any compensation, so far.  Talked a lot about destruction of ancient monuments, and I told her a good deal of what had been done and would be done in Colchester.  

Left at quarter to 6, and went out by Boxted.  Wind much stronger, and huge white and grey clouds blowing across.  Called at Roses’.  Mrs. R. told me a nice little story about a woman in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, who had a baby.  She was continually talking about her husband, but suddenly revealed that he had been abroad for 2 years.  A nurse said “What! You have not seen your husband for two years?  What about this baby?”  The woman replied “Oh, well, we’ve corresponded a good deal.”

Wind at gale force tonight, doors rattling, trees roaring and shaking their bare branches. 

5th April 1943

Glorious day, blazing sun, very warm.  Woke at 6.30, to the songs of birds and the crowing of cocks. 

Committee at Birch, very long, very tedious, lasting from 2 until 7.30.  Came back all the way with Moorhouse.  When I got in, heard that there had been an alarm for about half an hour, just after 6, and the Harwich guns fired again.  Hope these alarms are not forerunners of daylight raids.  German prestige is rather low, and they may be trying to work up some sort of spectacular exhibition.  While we were sitting at Birch, a plane dived down very low with a tremendous roar, but whether enemy or not I do not know.

In High St. today saw a soldier in Khaki with the name “Danemark” on his shoulder.  This is the first “Free Dane” I have ever seen.

Tonight at half past 9 it was still dusk, with low ragged clouds blowing across the sky in front of a strong N.W. wind, very warm, like the soft, warm winds we get in Wales.  Oh, how I wish I was there now.

Going to Birch this afternoon, saw they were cutting timber in the wood opposite Stanway Hall, and were hauling the trunks away with horses, a fine sight.  Caradoc [a horse that Rudsdale had owned in the 1930s] and another old pony are still turned out in the hilly paddock below the Hall.

Some of the Poles from Mistley are going away.  Smygelski is off to Persia, very reluctantly, and the Ostracaviches are going to Ashford in Kent.  Mrs. O. was warned that there have been very bad raids there, but she did not seem to mind in the least. 

4th April 1943

A lovely day, brilliant warm sun.  Stayed in the whole day, writing, and reading “England Have My Bones”, by T.H. White.  Very good indeed, especially the remarks on hunting.  I must get other books by this author.
There was a short alarm this evening about 8.30, in broad sunlight and heard a plane come over at great height, no doubt photographing.  I hope not preparatory to raids.  More likely looking at the temporary jetties which I believe are now being built round the coast at Walton and Clacton.
Soon after 10 I heard distant firing, and looked out.  Heard no alarm, but Joy said she did, not Manningtree but probably Colchester.  Guns were firing towards the E., Harwich direction, and two planes came over, high among the stars.  One seemed to be beginning a dive, but nothing happened.

In less than a quarter of an hour I heard all-clear, very faint, but I think Colchester.  Poor dear parents, at any rate they had got an alarm over before bedtime, as I know they hardly ever move before 11.  I would give anything in the world to get them away from Colchester, but where can they go?  Perhaps the Yorkshire relations might do something. 

3rd April 1943

Lovely morning.  Lay in bed until the rising sun came through a chink in the curtains and marked the wall. 
Poulter back this morning, with a very good report, much better.  He has to go again, for another week.

Went to the market at 1 o’clock, but there were no horses at all.  Wolton, the travelling saddler from Bury, was doing a roaring trade from his van. 

Suddenly, going by Fenn, Wright & Co’s yard, I saw poor old Longhorn, standing in a pen by herself.  Quite involuntarily I said “Why, Longhorn!” and she looked up at me, with huge brown eyes.  It was really rather horrible.  Last night she was in the warm yard, deep in straw.  This morning, in a filthy pen, never to know comfort again.  Not yet dead, but as good as dead.  I went away, wondering if she recognised me, and if so what she was thinking.  Did she hope I had come to let her out?  I wish I had never seen her there.

Lunch at home, then carting hay.  Hampshire and I have only 6 trusses between us, with two ponies and the mule to feed.  There is none to be had anywhere in Colchester, as far as I can find.

Went round by Stratford St. Mary, just for the sake of a ride.  Called to see if Ida was home, but she is still in London.  The wind had quite changed by now, from N.W. this morning to S.E.

Went past Stratford Church just as the clock struck 6.  At Dedham had tea at the café opposite the Marlborough, an extraordinary good meal for 1/6.  The place is very clean and nice, and it was such a comfort to sit at a café tea not worrying about alarms, time, work or anything.  I must go there again, one Sunday perhaps, and take a girl, (if I can find one to go).

Left at 7, lovely sunset, and the sky clearing.  When I got back, I found Joy feeding the calves.  She talked about Longhorn, and wondered if she was still alive.  I never said that I had seen her.  I watered the cows, and collected the eggs, 25 from 24 hens, a remarkable effort.

As we were having supper, about half past 8, there was an alarm, which lasted over an hour, but nothing came.  Once or twice I heard the sound of planes, very faintly in the distance, and twice, just after all-clear, slight concussions.

2nd April 1943

Up at 7, sky overcast, but clouds high.  Wind dropped a good deal and made an easy journey.  The sun came out most of the morning, and I had lunch at Rose’s.  She still looks very ill.

Dashed out at 5 sharp, went to Benham’s to buy a “Standard”.  Bought paper, and as I came out the sirens sounded.  The streets were packed, but hardly anybody took notice.  A woman near me, walking up town, stopped and hurried away in the opposite direction, but people waiting for buses never moved, and girls with soldiers went into Jacklin’s across the road.  I was on my cycle and down Stockwell St. in a flash, wondering if there would be a casualty board on the Public Library in an hour's time.  I cut through Stockwell and Ball Alley, and was at the Park Gates before the noise of the sirens died away.  Walked slowly up the Park by the Roman Wall, said “Good afternoon” to Beaumont.  There were children playing football in the Lower Park.  

Then I heard a plane, not easily distinguished among the distant sound of lorries on the By Pass and trains at the station.  There was nobody in the folley except myself and an old woman coming from the direction of Land Lane.  As she came near she asked me “Is that a plane?  I’ve been bombed out once, and I don't want to be caught again.”  At that moment I saw it, a Spitfire hurrying east, and I said “There it is, it’s alright, it’s one of ours,” and she hurried on.  I went down the Park to East Bay, and lingered by the rails a few minutes until the all-clear came moaning down from the town.  The whole alarm was less than 15 minutes, and once again nothing had happened.

To Bourne Mill to feed Bob.  Kenn came in this morning and borrowed my keys again, as he said he had two members of the National Trust down today to consult with the Town Planning Committee.  I know nothing of their schemes, and I am rather hurt at being left out of all the deliberations, although I realise that this is Kenn’s doing.
Back to Lawford at 7, under dull lowering skies.  Wind dropped.  Another calf born this morning, a heifer.  Old Longhorn goes to the market tomorrow.

A little, withered, yellow-coloured man came in the office today to complain about the behaviour of some Land Girls who had been billeted at his house.  He said his name was Crawford, (or rather his wife was Mrs. Crawford; obviously she ‘wore the trousers’) and spoke very bitterly against the Land Army authorities and the Pension people.  It seemed they had compelled him to take 5 girls at £1 a week each, and the Ministry of Pensions had then sent spies to his house to find out his financial position, with the result that they are reducing his pension and are making him repay £36.  He said “We might just as well have Hitler here, in fact far better, because the girls would then have to keep some sort of discipline, which they don't now.”