30th October 1943

Still fog.  This has been a wonderful week.  Wish it could be foggy until the end of the war.  Absolute chaos at the office all morning, crowds of people in and out.  Police rang up about the ex-Land Army girl who has set up a brothel, to ask if we would pay her fare to Oxford?  I said - Certainly not - try the Women's Land Army Secretary.

This afternoon got rations and went down to see Culley at Jarmin Rd, but he was away.  Soldiers and boys fishing in the Mill Pool at Middle Mill.

Called at Springgate Ardleigh. Old Bob looked rather thin, but active.  Went to Dedham, paid for my bread at Eleys, and went to see Sisson about Harvey’s Farm.  He phoned the builder, Tricher, who agreed to help, if we would let him have a few loads of tiles and slates.  Mrs. Sisson told me about Professor Ermian’s plan to make Flatford Mill into a cultural centre.  An excellent idea.

Back to Higham.  Wireless was dead, and in a few minutes I heard sirens.  Then there was distant gunfire, but the alarm lasted only a few minutes.  No planes near here.  Settled down for a pleasant weekend.

29th October 1943

Still foggy.  This morning went to Fordham with Sisson and Poulter [to see Harvey's Farm].  On the way we dropped Sisson's father-in-law, Mr Mathews, at the station.  Poulter assumed that Mr Mathews was a professor at Bristol University, and asked what was his special subject?  Sisson replied well “as a matter of fact he’s a manufacturing chemist”.

Had quite a trouble to get onto the flying ground, owing to the deep mud, and finally had to go right round by Bures and up through the back lanes to Balls Farm.  On the way, stopped to examine Josselyns, now fast falling into decay.  Sisson agreed that it was another hall-house, later floored.  Poulter took a photo.

How desolate Harvey's Farm looked today – so recently prosperous farmlands.  The stables still have much in them, and the cow chains hang rusting, in the milking.

We got back to Colchester by lunch.  Tonight had to wait until 6.30, and see Daphne who was out paying wages.  Going past Langham, saw lights gleaming in the aerodrome huts.  Seemed to be a lot of activity about, working over time.  Preparing for something?  A few searchlights, luminous in the fog.

Saw half a dozen Colchester Royal Grammar School cadets outside the library, talking to girls from the County High School.  Memories of the last war.

28th October 1943

Still foggy.  Lovely weather, not a plane about.  Everybody in the Stour valley ploughing and sugar beet carting into great heaps by the roadside.  Trees and hedges glorious colours, orange, brown, yellow.  Roads thickly coated with fallen leaves.  Tonight called at Boxted.  Very dark night and fog coming up again.  Dodo Rose told me of her experiences as a child in Russia, and her escape with her mother in 1917.  Left shortly after half past 9.  Had to cycle very slowly, owing to the fog.

27th October 1943

Thick fog.  Delightful.

Fog came up thicker this afternoon, and tonight visibility was nil.  Processions of heavy lorries with orange fog lights crawling slowly along the Ipswich Road.  No sound at the cottage, but the dripping trees and the stirring of the young heifers in the yard.

26th October 1943

Fine day, though chilly.  Ploughing teams out at Stratford with Suffolk horses.

Heard from Air Ministry that Harvey’s Farm, Wormingford is to be demolished.

The distant gunfire last night must have been guns at Dover, which I see from the papers were firing at a convoy in the straits.

A woman came in this afternoon to say that she was the owner of a flat in St John Street, in which her daughter-in-law and one of the Women's Land Army girls had set up a brothel.  This girl was dismissed 5 weeks ago and was told to go to Oxford, where she never went.  The woman was very perturbed, and said what were we going to do about it? – “Americans in and out all night.”  I said we could do nothing, but Spencer got very busy, phoning to the Women's Land Army at Writtle.

Tonight fog coming up, stars faintly twinkling, smell of frost in the air.  

25th October 1943

Fog, but not very thick.  Busy all day, hardly a moment to think.  Went up to see the new offices in New Town Road.  We hope to move in next week.  It will be strange to be so near home [ie: Rudsdale's parents' home at Winnock Road in New Town].

Back to Higham by 6.30.  Felt rather well tonight.  Writing and listening to radio, when about quarter to 8 all English stations faded.  Looked out, and saw Raydon searchlight flashing in the thick fog.  No sound of planes, and radio normal in 20 minutes.

Later heard distant gunfire, which kept on intermittently for an hour or more. The fog is thickening, so we may hope for a quiet night.

The weather is really wonderful.  In spite of the rain last week we are still drilling.  500 acres of wheat have been put in already, besides barley.  

24th October 1943

Wakened by George bringing the cows up.  Thick fog.  Breakfast at 9.30, spent the morning reading, writing, radio, bath, chores etc.  Sun came out.  Distant bangs of Home Guard at mortar practice.  A lot of American planes over.  The USAF seem to have recovered from the Schweinfurt disaster.

Went off at 2.30 to Lawford and spent the afternoon trying to make the Arab go quietly.  He still won't go up hill.  We had a lot of bother, but got him going eventually.  In a tussle on Jupes Hill he trod heavily on Joy’s foot, and hurt her considerably.  However, it was a very pleasant afternoon, and I much enjoyed driving him through Ardleigh and Lawford.  Drove in calves and then had tea.  Left at 8.30, just as gunfire was beginning towards Harwich, but the plane which was being shot at dropped a red flare, a yellow, and then a red and yellow together.  There was no alarm, and as fog was rising I felt comparatively safe.

Got to Higham church just as 9 struck.  Another weekend gone, so quickly too.  Fed the cat, got supper, more writing and then bed.  No sound but the dripping of water from the trees and the distant grinding of a lorry going up Gunhill.

23rd October 1943

Fine day.  Showers at times.  Nobody mentioned the raid last night, and only the briefest reference in papers, except that Churchill was inspecting a gunsite during the attack. 

Busy all morning.  This afternoon to town, shopping.  Heavy shower about 4.  Got away at 5.30, scarlet sunset.  Saw Ida by the roadside.  She still does not know when Blair [Hughes-Stanton] is arriving [he returned home to Stratford St Mary later that day after being released as a Prisoner of War from Germany].  Spent evening writing.

22nd October 1943

Fine day.  Another raid on London last night, but we are assured that it is “negligible”.  Sisson told me last night that everybody in London is making a lot of fuss about these continual raids, as they have now had a week of disturbed nights.  Feeling of quiet depression, a succession of dull dark winters stretching away in the distance.

Molly Blomfield phoned this morning, about a letter to the National Buildings Record.  Her voice sounded dreadful.  Poulter went to her brother's funeral this afternoon at Lexden. 

Got away at quarter to 6, clouds coming up, and rain began just as I got to the cottage.  Found the radio was almost dead, usually a sign of a raid, and before 7 heard the most tremendous gunfire I have ever heard.  It went on in a continuous rumbling roar in the west, obviously London direction.  The clouds were low, and there was heavy rain.  I have never seen an attack in such weather.  It sounded like a very big raid indeed.  One or two planes came over going out, and the Harwich guns fired at them.

The row went on for quite 40 minutes, but there was no sound of bombs falling in the District.  About 9 the wireless came on again and nothing more occurred.  Sat writing and reading until nearly two when the sky was clear, with a crescent moon, but no planes were about.  I hope nothing very serious has happened in London.

21st October 1943

Slept in the chair.  Up at 7.  Fine morning, birds singing.  Rushed down the valley, through thin mist, the sun lying on the top of the hills beyond Dedham.  Went over to Lawford to take Joy some oatmeal.  Had breakfast there, her cousin there.  Like old times.  Cycled on to Parson’s Heath to Nott’s house, and collected Robin.  He had been there since Sunday, apparently living on grass, rubbish and a mixture of whole oats and wheat.  He went very well indeed, and was much better with traffic than I expected.  Went up to the office, saw Captain Folkard and then away, called at home for some food.  Beginning to rain, so went down to the stables to collect a rug.  Rain came on very heavy, but I went off through Old Heath and Fingringhoe.  By the time I got to Abberton, it was finer, and the sun came through.  Pete Tye Common ploughed up again.  Pony went extraordinarily well, stretching himself, head and tail up.  Got down to Copt Hall by 12.30, had lunch there.  Torrential rain, streaming across the marshes.  Buildings and yards running with water.

Much joking and laughing, Frank Warren, Hugh Percival and Nott etc talking about a raid round there at 1 o’clock am.  I heard nothing at Higham.  After dinner, the others went off to Abbot's Wick to sort bullocks, and I went with foreman Cutting to drive heifers to Abbot's Hall, across the fields.  I rode Frank Warren’s horse, a 4 yr old, rather clumsy, but enjoying myself immensely.  We took 40, with 6 men and 6 land girls.  I rode in front, and the heifers followed gently.

At Abbot's Hall much complaining about the bad condition of the buildings.  There is not a building which is water tight.  We have 300 sacks of barley for the Ministry of Food, with water pouring through the roof.  The bomb ruined part of the farm looks picturesquely ancient. 

The others came round in cars, and I went back to Colchester with Nott.  The afternoon was lovely, but rain clouds coming up again.  Decided to go by Dedham, and called at Sissons’.  Stayed to supper.  A lot of pleasant talk about houses and people.  Flatford Mill is a hostel for naturalists.  Excellent.  Suggested I might help.

Heavy rain again, a few planes went out after 7, but no alarm.  Left at 10.30.  They wanted me to stop the night, as I had a very bad cough, but I had to go and feed the cat.  Got very wet going back, and had to go slowly, owing to darkness.  Could see nothing except the white marks in the middle of the road.  Bed before midnight, reasonably sure of a quiet night.

20th October 1943

Fine morning.  No alarm during the night.  Had meant to go to Lawford for breakfast, but was not early enough.  Got in by 9.  Busy, but rushed out to call at Trinity St.  Molly Blomfield looked dreadfully ill, and I am sure she will have a breakdown.  Her mother was in the back kitchen but I did not speak to her.  

Mother’s birthday - called at home.  Ella [Rudsdale's cousin] was there.  Had a cup of tea, and back to the office.  Early lunch, and then went off with Dyer to Lt. Oakley Hall to see some horses.  Lovely afternoon, most enjoyable ride through Tendring Hundred, by Horsley Cross and Wix.  Can't remember that I have ever been to Oakley before.  Several bomb damaged houses about.  Lt. Oakley Hall in a bad state.  The buildings here have been partly repaired, but nothing done to the house and the new tenant has to lodge in the village.  He is a Scotsman called Strachan.  Fancy leaving Scotland for the east coast.  Three Essex War Agricultural Committee tractors working, ploughing and driving for Strachan, driven by Women's Land Army girls.  Ploughing done very badly, less than 3” deep.

Saw the so-called Suffolk horses – one Shire mare, one Clydesdale (lame to both front feet), a rough chestnut, broken winded, and an old Belgian.  They were a very poor lot, but we chose the best of a bad bunch – the grey shire mare, Duchess, and the Belgian Bill.

Lovely view from the farm, the sea glistening in the distance, Harwich balloons lying limp in the blue sky, the yellow shore by Landgard, the Naze, with old Trinity House Tower, the Backwater, Horsey Island.

Coming bank, we intended to call at Hooks’ place to arrange transport of the horses but just as we got to the crossroads in the village, the car failed, and nothing we could do would make it start.  It resisted every attempt with that dull immovable air peculiar to cars which have broken down for no good reason.  I fetched a mechanic from Hooks’ garage, and he proceeded to dismantle the engine piece by piece.  The car is a German “Opel” and appeared to me to be made chiefly of thin sheets of tin.  We were stuck for 2 hours, during which I waited, bored as I always am at mechanical failures.  The local parson came up the street, talking loudly in a Lancashire accent to an old man about raids.  Then he met some women and repeated his remarks, ending up by shouting “Eh, but there’s nowhere safe now.”  Began to wonder if we should spend the night there.  At last, without warning, the car started up again, and we got to Colchester by 5.15.

Saw Ida.  She told me Blair Hughes-Stanton is definitely coming home [he had been a Prisoner of War in Germany], and is expected Saturday.  She said that nearly 2 years ago she went to a sooth sayer in London and among other things asked when Blair would be home.  The answer was “October 23”.  When Oct. 23rd last year came there was no Blair, but Saturday is Oct. 23rd.

19th October 1943

Poulter came in this morning and said without preamble – “Alderman Sam Blomfield’s son has been killed”.  Arthur, Molly’s twin, a Wing Commander.  I never saw him.  He was a professional airman, having joined the RAF in 1935.  He gained his first experience of aerial warfare by bombing the native settlements in the Waziristan campaign.  I am afraid this will affect Molly very badly.  He was her twin.

Hervey Benham told me on Friday that the Sir Gurney Benham had written his Colchester & County Notes for the "Essex County Standard" every week, ill or well, since August 1884 [but could write them no more owing to having had a stroke]. 

An alarm tonight, in the midst of wind and rain, but nothing happened.  There is still no mention of the US Airforce on radio, nor has there been since the disastrous raid on Schweinfurt.  Papers talk of US preparing their Airforce for activity in the Spring.

18th October 1943

Early morning:
As I write this I am listening to a cinema organ on the radio – relayed from a cinema in Llandudno.  Oh to spend the whole winter in North Wales!  What joy, what pleasure.  The moon is rising, amid clouds, and casts long weird shadows in the yard.  The trees are black, and the owls are screeching.

Went to bed at 1am.  Was awakened at about half past 2 by a plane roaring into a steep dive, and the wail of the sirens.  Waited, breathless, for the crash of bombs, but none came.  Several fighters rushed across, and there was a sound of gunfire towards the south.  All clear sounded about 3.15.  Bright moonlight, a few drifting clouds.

Fine morning.  All sunny and warm.  The raid made me late up.  Committee at Birch.  Hugh Percival was there.  They asked him what he thought of Ireland, but he had little to say, except that he did not like the country or the people.  He said “They have rotten politics.  While I was there a policeman shot a man as he came out of a house in Dublin, and then it was the wrong man!”  They asked him what the food was like and the girls.  He said “There are no motor cars for farmers, not one”.  Then he said suddenly “You know, there’s no blackout in Dublin,” and everybody was quite for a moment or two trying to think what a city looked like with lights shining in the streets.  He does not seem to have been in the least bit impressed by the country nor to have enjoyed his week away from the war.

Joanna came out to tea.  The Chairman was in bed with a heavy cold, and I had to bring him a large bottle of medicine from Colchester.  I felt bad all day myself, high temperature, very bad throat and cough.  

17th October 1943

Wakened in a grey rainy dawn by the sound of many planes, flying high above the wet clouds – the Americans going out again, unusually early.  Never known them to go out in rain before.  Slept again, and at last got up at 10 to bath and breakfast.

Settled down to writing.  Should have gone over to Joy’s this afternoon, but left it too late.  Pity as the rain had cleared, and it was fine and sunny.  I have a strange reluctance to move away from my little house.  I would cheerfully sit here day after day with the little cat, writing, reading, drinking tea, seeing no-one, hearing only the voices on the radio.  (Listened to Radio Calais and the BBC today, but no mention of Americans going out this morning).  Tonight clear and starlight, a few planes about going out.  Searchlights practice about 8.

16th October 1943

Up early, after a disturbed night.  Only slept an hour or two.  About 3 could hear Jones’ dog barking very persistently.  Looked out but could see nothing.  The moon was then clear of clouds.  Then suddenly as I was dozing off, I distinctly heard the noise of water running down the kitchen sink pipe.  I lay palpitating, wondering if there was somebody in the house - when it is impossible to lock up it makes it difficult.

This morning interviewing more men for the foreman’s job at Abbot’s Wick.  One man came from Wethersfield.  He was very worried about bombing, and wanted to know if any had fallen near Abbot's Wick.  He said that last night they fell at Gosfield and Halstead, where a house was hit, and Snowball says the bombs I heard falling were at Bentley, Suffolk, 5 miles from Higham.  The “Tankard” and the Stationmaster’s house were both damaged, but Snowball does not know of anyone killed.  It is strange to think I would move to Halstead say to feel safer, yet the Halstead people must be just as scared as we are.

This afternoon noticed a crowd for the 2.30 performance of the Repertory Theatre beginning to form at 1 o’clock, and huge crowds for every cinema.  There were a lot of Canadian nurses in the town today, many showing obvious Scotch ancestry.

Much in the papers today trying to slur over the disaster to the American Air Force at Sweinfurt – we admit 73 were lost, and the Germans claim 120.  The Americans are very upset.  We heard the planes going and returning over Colchester but they were above the clouds.

Got my rations.  Went to see Watts about hay, and gave him 2 trusses.  Saw Hampshire who seemed quite unperturbed and then away.  Got to Higham at 7.  Fine evening, but only a few planes about, and no alarm.

I ought to be on duty, but as the Holly Trees man has been moved to the Castle at Poulter’s request, Poulter tells me I need not go any more.  This is a great relief.  Poulter also tells me that this man is known to go out into the town when he is on duty, and play a concertina in public houses.  The Fire Guard people know this, but take no action, yet I am continually spied upon.  Hull put this man on, and is prepared to stand by him.  I hope I never have to take duty at the Castle again.  Poulter was sending in his resignation next Tuesday if the man had not been moved, as he suspected he might steal Poulter’s private belongings.

I am really rather worried about my memory.  When I went home, I read J. Agate’s review in the “Express”, and particularly noted a novel which I thought interesting.  By the time I had got up town I had forgotten both name and author.  Went into the Library to see the Express there.  Read the title and author again, but by the time I had got outside I had again forgotten.  Went to Smiths’ to see if I could see the book.  Found 2 others – bought them.  By the time I had go home again, I knew I had bought 2 books, but their titles were quite gone.

15th October 1943

Very late up, Higham church struck 9 as I went past, but got in by 20 to 10.  

Serious shortage of hay in ColchesterWatts wrote to Writtle, complaining that he could get none at all.  I went to see him and was horrified to find this was quite correct, and that for a whole week his ponies had to live on carrots, turnips, apples and bread.  He told me that this week he had one bale from Mathews’, but nothing else.  Clark, Harvey and several others are in the same muddle.  This is the most serious situation I have known, much worse than last year.

Hay is short, but I am sure the big dealers are holding up supplies.  I know Curry is baling several hundred tons in Suffolk.  I shall make inquiries tomorrow and send in a report.

As an example of the state of horse breeding, especially ponies, Watts told me that Williamson of Langham had offered him £100 for Colchester Fuse.  She is now 13.  I was offered her for £35 before the war.  Will high class breeding ever go down again?  

The weather is really wonderful, light clouds, some fog, but no rain at all.  Everybody hard at work drilling, and several threshing machines at work between Higham and Colchester.  I wish there was more fog at night, to keep the planes away.

As I came out of Holly Trees, an American convoy was going down East Hill, an Australian sergeant with a girl crossed the road, and a lot of commando men got out of a lorry on the other side of the street.

On Ipswich Road by the By Pass another convoy with AA guns, came along from the East and the motor cyclist in front asked me the way to Mile End.  Are they moving guns into the district?  There was an alarm about 8, and several planes flew over Higham, and there was a lot of firing towards the coast, and I heard bombs dropping.  So lonely here with only the little cat, who is quite unperturbed.  The firing died away but about 9.30 there was another alarm, and faintly on the wind I heard the Manningtree and Brantham sirens.  The sky was cloudy now, and it seemed incredible that any planes could hope to do good in such weather.  Fog now on the water meadows.  Sat eating my supper, bread and milk, listening to radio.

All clear about 10.15, very faint and distant.  Screech owls crying like murdered babies, and the moon just peeping through the swirling clouds.

Just as I thought I could settle down for a quiet night, there was another attack, and the same heavy gunfire to the East.  It was now clear brilliant moonlight, not a cloud in the sky.  Two night fighters came over, and soon the firing died away.  Curiously enough there were no searchlights about at all.

14th October 1943

Lovely morning, pale blue sky, fog in the valley with a ruddy sun rising through it.  7am news said “Bombs on East Anglia - no casualties.”

Left just after 7 to take a breast collar over to Joy, for the Arab.  Moorhouse's men were lifting potatoes in the field next to the house, and were sitting by the roadside in the fog, eating their breakfast round a fire.

Had breakfast at Sherbourne Mill, and then took some butter and cream in for poor Mrs. Savage, who is dying.  Got to office at 9.15.  Meant to go to Doctor's this morning, but could not face it, and too much to do anyway.  Sadler [of the War Agricultural Executive Committee] came in with Mr. Gerald Strutt.  Was very friendly.

13th October 1943

Foggy again this morning, rather cold.  Up late, and did not get in until 9.30.  Poulter came in and said that Sir Gurney Benham has resigned all offices.  And so we come to the end of an epoch.  The effect on the Museum may be great, and the effect on me is not inconsiderable.  I shall certainly not take any action for the next few months, until I see whether the Committee intend to support Hull or not.  If, as Poulter says, they will support Hull wholeheartedly in every way, I shall have to resign at the end of the year.  This is so great that we do not realise what has happened.

Got in as Higham clock struck 7.  Low clouds, looks like rain.  Some planes flew out towards the north-east, and then just before 9 a few Germans came over roaring and diving behind the clouds, but nothing happened and there was no firing.

Spent the evening reading and writing.  Read a ‘tec story about New Zealand and felt a sudden interest in that country.  The position of the Maoris is most interesting.

Saw Everitt's timbering tandem, at East Bridge, with a new Suffolk horse as leader today.  This is the last builder in the town using horses.

12th October 1943

Thick fog last night, so another quiet time.  I did not get into bed until past 1 this morning, yet I seem to sleep better and feel better than I did.  Got in early, rushing down the hill and across the misty valley.  Saw a heron swooping across, looking as large as an aeroplane.

Went home to tea this afternoon.  Mother full of old Mr. Rose’s death – funeral on Thursday.  She had been in next door to comfort the widow.  Beckett brought the coffin yesterday morning – “in daylight too”. 

No further news about Sir Gurney Benham.  Left at 5.30, called at Ida Hughes Stanton’s and read [her book manuscript, published 1952] “Willa, You’re Wanted”.  It really is good.  About 9 an alarm, and a good deal of firing.  Heard a plane go over above misty clouds, with the moon peeping through.  Left and got to Higham just as the All Clear sounded out, faint and remote like fairy bugles.

11th October 1943

Thick fog, everything faint shapes.  Warm, trees dripping.  Got in before 9.  Nott came in in a great hurry, to say the Irish cattle were due at Marks Tey at 1 o’clock.  Captain Folkard said I might go if I liked, so I rushed through a lot of letters and pedalled away soon after 12.  The sun was just beginning to break through and wreaths of mist floated away across the fields.  Men drilling near Stanway and big convoys on the road.  A lorry had crashed into a telegraph pole by Copford corner.

Got to Marks Tey station, but no sign of cattle.  Nott arrived, in a great state because he had no men, all he wanted to do was get Joe Porter to do the whole job.  Frank Warren arrived and we saw the Station Master.  Much telephoning in all directions, and the cattle train was eventually located near Bury St Edmunds, and could not reach Marks Tey before 6 o’clock.  The only thing to do was to go away.  Nott seemed glad to be rid of the whole job.  I was very disappointed.

Lovely afternoon, hot and sunny.  Got back to Colchester at 3.  Mary Ralling said that Sir Gurney Benham went home [from the Essex County Standard office] on Saturday morning feeling unwell, the first time he had ever been known to do this. [Harold Poulter then informed Rudsdale that Sir Gurney Benham has suffered a slight stroke].  I said “Is Hull smirking?”  Poulter replied “No, I think he’s worried.”  He also told me about the Mayoralty business.  It was Alderman Blomfield who wrote to Councillor Smallwood.  The poor little man is very ill, although he does not seem to realise it, and it was agreed that he could not probably be Mayor.  Why then did the May Sub-Committee recommend him?

Went out early to tea, as I had no lunch. Fog coming up again, and a large ruddy moon rising.  Lovely weather!  Everything silent, and the whole landscape dim, white and ghostly.  Fled through the grey dusk, shrieking owls, through the dead village.  At last reached the cottage, and made a hot drink, drank it while listening to German radio music.

Sir Gurney Benham's illness changes the whole position of the Museum and myself.

10th October 1943

Quiet night but had another “bomb dream”.  Slept till 10.  Thick fog, which cleared by 11, and gave way to a hot day.  Stayed in writing, doing chores.  Wondering whether to go in or not.  Thought I would if there was a fog, then began to write, and decided it was too much trouble.  I am expecting trouble before long, but I think my 2 years solid duty offset a certain amount of slackness now.  I still have the greatest difficulty to concentrate.  Cannot read a book through.

9th October 1943

High clouds, and cleared rapidly towards afternoon.  Had to go back after lunch to do special memorandum to Writtle.  Had tea up town and called at home.  Mother told me old Mr. Rose, next door, was dying.  About half past 5 the doctor called, stayed a few minutes, and left.  Just as I went out at 6 the blinds next door came down one by one.  Mother said “Oh look, the poor old man’s gone.  Only yesterday I went in and he spoke to me.”  I cycled away leaving my old folks on one side of a brick wall and a corpse and an old sorrowing woman on the other.  When they go to bed tonight they will not be more than 10 feet from the dead man.

Glorious red sunset, sheets of cold crimson flame, and thick fog coming up from the sea, so thick by 8 that the moon was invisible.  Great hopes of a quiet night.  At tea, heard a girl who came in say she was down from London for the day and that there were bombs at Brockley on Thursday and at St Pancras last night.  Cannot make up my mind whether to do duty this weekend or not.  I must see Dr Rowland, but have not yet had nerve to go.

Did three stupid things today – left kitchen light on, burnt wireless cabinet, burnt saucepan and wasted paraffin.  Quite hot tonight.

8th October 1943

Up early.  Lovely day, leaves turning and falling.  The virginia creeper on All Saints Rectory is now absolutely crimson.  Thankful to find that nothing occurred in Colchester last night.  According to the papers the attack was mainly on London, but the 1 o'clock wireless belittles its.  London papers arrived on time.

Poulter talking about fire-guards.  He went out last night, and found everything in chaos.  There is no doubt that the new scheme is the most disastrously incompetent affair yet conceived, and in event of bad raids will lead to a great increase in damage.  An officer from the Regional Commission Office, Cambridge, called yesterday, and inspected both the Castle and Holly Trees.  He was extremely rude to Poulter who described him “as a man of the lowest type”.

Great chatter about Councillor Smallwood withdrawing from Mayoralty, in place of Councillor Pye.  It is thought that Sir Gurney Benham wrote to him.  Was this because Sir Gurney Benham feared that as Mayor, Smallwood might stir up trouble at the Museum?

7th October 1943

High clouds, wind dropped, weather rapidly clearing.  Got in early today. 

In the papers this morning there is news about 3 Yanks who escaped from a Detention Camp in the Midlands.  One was serving a life sentence for desertion, another 10 years for being absent without leave.  I suppose the American authorities impose these savage sentences so that both English and American publics may think that the U.S. Army is ruthless and efficient.

Went down to Hythe this morning to see Captain Chambers on the “Gold Belt”.  The little barge was lying at Parry’s Quay, near the Neptune.  The tide was right out and I had to get on board with a ladder.  Just opposite was the M.S. Gladonia, unloading timber from Inverness – I believe this is the first timber brought to Colchester direct for nearly 2 years.

Capt. Chambers was very glad to see me, and took me down into his cabin.  I have not been in a barge's cabin for about 25 yrs, when my old uncle George took me on board one of Beckwith’s boats, one Sunday morning.  Everything was packed into an incredibly small space, a fixed table, swinging oil lamp above, two bunks like Scotch wall-beds, oil cans lying about, a smell of paraffin everywhere.  We had a long talk about labour problems and the extraordinary habits and manners of young boys, their unwillingness to learn, etc.  I told him I longed to make a trip with him, but it could not be done at present.  He suggested mildly that next summer would be a better time.

Chambers is certainly a most amazing man, and must be one of the youngest barge shippers now afloat.  He told me that he did not think sailing barges would carry on for more than a year or two after the war.

While I was there P.C. Bennell came on board about Chambers taking photos.  Apparently there has been a hell of a row yesterday, and Chambers had to see Col. Stockwell [Head of the Police in Colchester].  Stockwell of course refused to give him a written pass.  I advised him to get a War Damage pass from the “Listener”. 

Had tea at Culver Street.  At Stratford, noticed that Ida was back, so called in.  She believes Blair [Hughes-Stanton - her partner] may be repatriated from Germany under a new arrangement which is at present being worked out.  

Just after nine we heard sirens, planes, and distant gunfire.  I was very nervous, and was without trouble prevailed upon to stop for supper.  Shortly after 10 a considerable number of planes began coming in over Harwich, very high, and passing S.W. towards London.  There was a half moon, very thin high cloud and mist.  We saw several planes gleaming in the searchlights, but the firing was as wild as usual.  As one plane passed somewhere south of Colchester, the Colchester guns fired in the opposite direction.

A lot of curious rocket shells went up, looking for all the world like a firework show.  This is the biggest raid I have seen since the attack on Chelmsford last May.  Once we saw a huge slow red flash towards Colchester like a mine explosion.  I left at 10.30 when all was quiet, except an RAF plane dropping crimson flares.  Got to Higham and fed cat when the All Clear rang out, surprisingly loud, from Raydon, I think, immediately followed by the church striking 11.  Glad my old people now get to bed.  Sat listening to radio until 1am.  Heard on midnight news that 2 planes were brought down this evening – 2 out of about 100 I should think.

6th October 1943

Fine, warm.  Great masses of cloud floating over in front of south-west wind.  Got up at 7.  This afternoon visit from John Chambers, skipper of the Golden Belt barge, a most singular character, trained as an opera singer, and then went as a barge mate, finally buying his own barge.  He freelances up and down the East coast.  I long to go with him to London, but dare I?  There are many mines around the Thames.

He broadcasts on the BBC to America on shortwave, and was seeking information about Colchester to write an article for the “Listener”.

Several companies of strange troops marched in this afternoon wearing battle dress and American type helmets.  Possibly parachute troops.

Left Colchester at 7.30 and had only just reached Higham when there was an alarm, planes roaring and diving, but no bombs.  All-Clear in 15 mins.  Then persistent rain began.

5th October 1943

Dull but warm.  I am beginning to like this place.  I get up at 7.30, cut bread and marmalade, boil water to shave.  I eat breakfast before electric fire listening to radio.  Give the cat some milk.  Then wash and shave, put on kettle for tea.  Drink 3 cups, leave about 8.30, and away down the hill as fast as I can go.  The milk is excellent, and I get it fresh from the cow.

Autumn is falling, the roads covered with leaves and horsechestnuts, gleaming balls of mahogany.

This morning had to go out to Birch Aerodrome again.  The Chairman and Gardiner Church there.  The old Chairman very annoyed and made tactless remarks.  When we came out, saw a herd of bullocks being chased across the aerodrome.

George Faulds sale at Birch Holt, dead stock laid out in meadow.  Mostly rubbish, 2 old tractors etc.  Women's Land Army girls arranging stuff.  

Got lift to Rectory Cross road, ate blackberries then picked up v. old Daimler lorry.  Could only get into top gear going downhill.  Back to Colchester by 1pm.  Hostel supervisor phoned to warn girls that food was poisoned.  Great excitement phoning Halsall, where girls were working.

Home to tea, then back to Holly Trees and talking to Poulter till 6.30.  To Higham by 7.15.  Very dark and cloudy.  Quiet evening, supper, radio, reading.  Did no work.  Must get busy, but lack a desk and bookshelves.

4th October 1943

Cloudy, strong SW wind.  Rather cold.  (No trouble to get up but have no clock).

There was another alarm last night, but I knew nothing about it.  Clouds cleared, and at 10 o’clock the sirens wailed out.  I felt myself pale until I suddenly realised it was the new monthly test.  As the noise died away there was a sound of planes and a heavy explosion.  Wondered what would happen if an attack coincided with a test.

To Birch this afternoon, first time for a month.  Saw Joanna’s baby, tiny, blue-eyed, long headed.  I said to Joanna, “he’s a dolichocephalic like a Highlander.”  She replied “I don't wonder – he was started in Scotland!”  She presided at tea – looking lovely, and as kind as ever.  Nothing much at meeting.  Percival now in Ireland.  How I envy him - Saturday night in Essex – Sunday night in Dublin.

Got away fairly early and back to Higham by 7.  Very lonely in the cottage.  Heavy flight of planes went out about 8 o’clock.  What poor devils are suffering tonight?  Fed the cat, listened to the radio, to German music mostly.

3rd October 1943

Wakened tonight by droning planes.  Looked out – brilliant glittery stars, searchlights, a few planes, some of them night fighters.  No sound of bombs or firing.  Heard All Clears in a few minutes.  Lay reading to compose myself.

Glorious sunny morning.  Lay till 10.30, heard the Conran’s packing up to go to Portsmouth.  Away they went, with two heavily laden cycles at 12 en route for Ardleigh station, little Susan perched in basket.  Poor little Jacquie, she does not want to go.  Hope they have no terrible attacks down there.  She is secretly terrified.

Listened to 1 o’clock news – raid last night on Munich.  A few planes over here, but no casualties.  This afternoon went to Sherbourne Mill, to drive new Arab.  Went well after initial jibbing on hill.  Lovely animal.  Had tea at Mill and Parry very affable.  On way back called at Sissons.  Talked 2 hours.  Worried about Molly Blomfield.  She is getting nothing done.  Mrs. Sisson promised to have tea with her.  She (Mrs S) has recently interviewed a boy of 5 whose only interest is antiques.  His mother regards him as feeble minded.  Thought of myself at that age.  Perhaps he is the Curator of Colchester Museum in 1980.  (Mrs Sisson was a Family Liaison Officer).

Back to lonely cottage.  Fog coming up.  Stars glittering, smell of frost.  About midnight, while I was listening on radio to German station, heard distant rumble of guns, and a few planes flying about.  This ancient cottage is terribly lonely, but I like it, only me and the little grey cat, listening to radio.

2nd October 1943

Lovely day, big drifting clouds.  Leaves and conkers on roads.  Captain Folkard in a very good mood today.  Got out 1.15pm and went to the market to see the sale of the East Essex Hunt stuff. Old Simon was there, Claridge, Joy and Parry and Grubb.  Poor Grubb looking dreadfully haggard and old.  Joy bought a useful saddle £2.10, but the stuff was fairly dear, saddles up to 7:10.0, (no leathers and girths), halters (35/), bridles (old) £2. - 113 lots.  Don't know why the stuff is being sold – thought hunt would carry on.

Three gyppo turnouts outside the Marquis, Hampshire came running out, insisted I had a drink.  Bar full of dealers and gyppos.  Smart traps driving east, away from the market.

Just had time to rush home, eat, and back to Albert Hall for Repertory Show – “She was too Young”, Good, but a little slow, well acted.  Yvonne Coquelle was Bette, Welsh maid, but could not manage Welsh accent, or intonation nor could Thomas, the butler.

Afterwards had tea tete a tete with Diana in Balkerne Gardens.  Lovely in setting sun.

Out to Higham.  At Birchwood, planes began to go out in a steady stream, dreadful roar.  It drives me mad, thinking who is to be killed in an hour or two.

1st October 1943

Warm, cloudy, sun breaking through.  Chestnuts at Higham Green have suddenly turned orange and yellow, almost overnight it would seem.  In rather late this morning, as we sat talking last night until nearly one o’clock.

Went out to have my haircut.  How busy the streets appear, yet there is so little to buy.

In the paper tonight that old Hindes is dead.  Saw him a month ago.  He often came in to see Poulter.  He was 80.  A good many In Memorium notices for people killed in raids in 1940 and 1942.  Perhaps Oct. 1943 will be quiet like 1941.  Then we must look out for 1944!

Back to Higham early, spent evening writing.  I have been sleeping much better, but had bad stomach pains last night, about 3 a.m.