31st December 1943

Yet another brilliant day.  I have never known such weather at the end of the year before.  Bitterly cold though, and a sharp NE wind.  Hundreds of American bombers coming and going all day, on their way to bomb open towns in France or Belgium.

Walked out of the Culver St café at lunch time today, because the radio was so bad – they insisted on having a wretchedly dull war talk instead of an orchestral concert so I got up, paid for what I had hardly had and walked out.

Much preoccupied today making a new register of all the agricultural holdings in the district, which I hope at last to get complete.

Left tonight by Harwich Road.  Mist coming up, low clouds.  Called at Springgate to ask after Bob, who seems to be very well.  Went on to Lawford and while there phoned Sisson.  Tricher is calling to see him, and seems very favourable to my going to Thorington Hall.  Felt much cheered.  To Higham at 8.30, very dark and rain beginning, so every chance of a quiet night.  No beacon.

Called on sweep in Brook St to come and do dining room chimneys. I said, “looks thick tonight,” looking at the heavy mist in the Colne valley.  He replied “Yes, we ought to be safe tonight” reading my thoughts instantly. 

So ends 1943, bloodshed, terror, wild aimless destruction, and so we rush on into 1944, with the promise from our leaders that we shall have more of it, more than we dream possible.  Some people in Colchester all rather alarmed to find that the town is only about 90 miles from Calais, so that if the new “rocket shells” can reach 125 miles we may have something else to worry about.

Will the war never end?

Fire in Port Lane last night, in a house opposite Paxman’s, near the chase to the stable.  A little boy and girl there alone, and must have set the place alight.  The father, a man named Martin, rushed in from the street, and he and the boy were suffocated.  It all happened in a few minutes and the place was quite gutted.  The other child was saved.

30th December 1943

Slept only 4 hours.  Shaved at 6.30, had breakfast, left in the dark.  The scarlet light still flashing.  Labourers moving to work in the darkness.  Cold, but fine.  Determined to go to the Roses’ tonight, to get some rest and pleasant company.  Saw Hervey Benham today.  He is preparing his history of East Essex during the war, but he did not seem very interested in my journals.  He had been to the ARP Control people, and had seen the official records.  These, he says are in a frightful muddle, and it is almost impossible to discover what really happened at all.

Left at 5.30 for Boxted.  The Roses very glad to see me, and we spent a pleasant evening, talk and radio, excellent food.  Stuart made up a bed for me for the night.  Bitterly cold black night, and very few planes about.

29th December 1943

More fog, and cloudy.  No planes about all day.  Called at Rallings at 5, stayed till 6, Father has got a slight cold.  Then went to Dedham to tell Sissons about my visit to Thorington Hall.  Mrs Sisson was suddenly very pessimistic about the whole thing, and prophesised all sorts of troubles with Mrs Tricher and Mrs Burton, Penrose’s housekeeper.  Tricher has not yet spoken to Sisson, and I hope Sisson will put in a good word for me when he does, in spite of what Mrs Sisson said.

It was suggested that I should take a room permanently at one of the Dedham inns, but I do not fancy the idea very much.  However, I must get in somewhere, as the light was on again tonight, and I could not sleep for nervousness and anxiety.  Soon after midnight a plane passed over from the East, and I saw that fog and clouds were clearing so that Orion shone brilliantly over the South.

28th December 1943

Up early, and got in by 10 past 9.  Brilliant day, pale blue sky, fog in the valley.  Carting off beet at Higham, and two horse-teams ploughing near Stratford.  One of the ploughmen was setting his coulter as I went by, the Suffolk horses standing in a cloud of steam.

Received a Christmas card today from the Penroses in Canada – posted in London, Ontario, at half past eleven at night on Nov. 1.  That’s about 6 hours earlier than our time, so at the moment one of the Penroses went through the lamp-lit streets of the city to the letter-box, I was fast asleep in this lonely cottage, at 5.30 in the morning.  It was then the day before Mother was taken ill.

Committee at Birch, very short.  We got through the business well, and I was back in Colchester by 5.  At tea everybody talking about the sinking of the “Scharnhorst”, the Chairman laughing because somebody had sympathised with the drowned Germans.

A lot of talk about the review of all agricultural labour which is now to be made, as the Executive Committee have powers to take men from one farmer and send them to another or take them into their own employment.  This has already caused a good deal of hardship and indignation.  Saw Joanna in Birch Park with baby.  Tritton gone to sea.

When I got back to Colchester saw Diana going across the top of North Hill, so I ran after her and went to Balkerne Gardens.  The play, “Lady Precious Stream” is going very well.  Left at 6, when she went back to the theatre.  A lovely golden evening, faint stars, mist and the last traces of the sun.  No planes about, and went off to Thorington Hall to see Mr Tricher, wondering if the beacon would be lit, but it was not, although several times I imagined I saw the flash of it.

Both the Trichers very friendly.  Spoke of Penroses and Sissons, and emphasised I had known them both for years.  I suggested I should have one room upstairs and left him to get in touch with Sisson.  It is a glorious house, and I should love to get in there.

To Higham, 8pm.  Very thick and cold.  Freezing hard.  Early bed.

27th December 1943

Fog all gone.  A lot of planes about, from Raydon I think.  Thin high clouds, clearing.  The sun came out in the afternoon, and then sank into a bank of red mist across the valley of the Brett.  Stayed in the cottage and saw no one the whole day.  Listened to radio, heard Scharnhorst sunk.  The destruction of a great battleship is terrible.  This was far away in the Arctic Seas in darkness.  Who survived?

All bulletins repeated the news in German, French, Italian etc.  Fine clear night.  Waited anxiously to see if Beacon lit, but nothing doing at 7 o’clock.

26th December 1943

Wakened by George bringing milk.  Got up to find no Conrans – they had not returned from Ida’s party.  Eventually came in about 1 o’clock, and then a great flurry to pack and leave for Southampton.  Thick fog all day.  Warm.  Went in with them, by Langham and Boxted, as I had promised Father to go to tea.  Felt happy and confident as the fog was so thick, sure of no raid tonight.

We had to go very slowly, as Jacquie cannot cycle very well.  Got to Winnock Lodge at 5.  Father looked well and happy.  Crowd there, all the Ralling family and old Blomfield (“Blommy”) the organist, as silly and fluffy as ever.  Noticed I was put down at the bottom of the table with the children – as if we were all one generation.  Joan is quite handsome, with long fair hair, and Jane, now about 16, is becoming really pretty.  The boy John talks of nothing but aeroplanes.  He is 17, and joins the RAF in a few months.  

Tremendous tea – 3 sorts of jam, 2 cakes (I gave one), buns, apples, etc.  Stayed until 7.30, reading papers and “Punch”.  Still very foggy.  Went up to Seymours’, St John Street a seething mass of people coming out of the cinemas swarming all over the road.  The air thick with fog and American voices.

At Seymours’ found Ann was home, now a nurse.  Her likeness to Alan at 18 is startling, voice and mannerisms just the same.  Stayed until quarter to 12, talking about Wales and Scotland, just as I used to.  Then away into the black night along the Boxted Road.  Met an American lorry, which stopped me by driving at me, so that I had to get on to the path.  The driver wanted to know if he was on the right road to Colchester.  Strongly tempted to misdirect him.

Got to Higham about 12.30, and amazed to find the Beacon on.  Why on earth should it be showing in such a fog?  Not a plane about.  Made me feel irritable and nervous.  Listened to German music on radio, bed 3.30am.

25th December 1943

Saturday, Christmas Day
Foggy and rather warmer, lay very late, and had to hurry to get down to Sissons’ by 1 o’clock for lunch.  Put on best suit, hurried across the valley, meeting people coming back from church.

At Sissons’, found Major Inde also invited.  The Major was very outspoken, as usual.  Suggested that any white woman who went out with a black man should be shot.  Also spoke about the Royal family thought George VI rather insipid.  Said it was rumoured that American papers had published the statement that Princess Elizabeth is to marry the Duke of Rutland.  Sisson said it was lucky she had not been betrothed to young King Peta of Jugo Slavia, as he is now to be dropped by the Government in favour of the Jugo Slav rebels.  The Major gave his opinion that Elizabeth would be the last sovereign, after which the monarchy would sink into a Regency and then die away.  Said he would be sorry for it, but feared it inevitable as the Russians would not countenance a Monarchy.  Has an intense hatred of the Russians.

Went on to talk about old Colchester families, and mentioned that Dr. Marie Stopes, the notorious advocate of birth control, was related to Stopes of Colchester Brewery, the first man in Colchester to have a car.  Mrs Sisson mentioned that it was not generally known that Dr Stopes was a doctor of literature, not medicine.  The public all believe she is a medical doctor of course.

The Pentons came just before tea.  Jack spoke of Soad, [his brother?] whom he despises for dropping pacifism at the outbreak of the war.  Sisson said that being above military age made a great deal of difference to one’s belief in pacifism.  Mrs Penton said she had received a Christmas card showing a British soldier guarding Bethlehem.  Sisson said he could design a better one than that – the Holy Babe in an air raid shelter, the Virgin in an ATS uniform, and Joseph as an Air Raid Warden, the sky above showing the Star of Bethlehem among searchlights.

A World War II Christmas Card showing a soldier guarding Bethlehem, 
probably the same image that Mrs Penton received as a Christmas card in 1943

Two planes came over Langham, wheeling round in the fog, and Mrs Penton said about 40 machines landed at Raydon yesterday, so I suppose we shall have more noise.

Jack said he had listened to carols from King’s on the radio yesterday, and the singing was at times almost drowned by the noise of bombers flying over the chapel.  Apparently this had happened before, and some person had written to the “Radio Times” to say how fine and appropriate it sounded to hear carols and above them the bombers going out on “their mission of liberation”.

I left shortly after, and went back to Higham, very thick, dark night.  Not a plane, not a sound but distant dogs barking, and people laughing down the road.  No beacon at Higham.  Conrans out at a party at Ida’s.  Bed at 10 o’clock.

24th December 1943

Friday, Christmas Eve
Holiday today, so lay late.  Brilliant cloudless day, but fog coming up.  To Colchester in the evening dusk. People cycling back from town, carrying parcels, holly and mistletoe, taking no notice of the bombers, the sun sinking in scarlet flame over the flat fields.

Went to Holly Trees to get my money, and gave Poulter a ship in a bottle from Mrs Sisson.  Hardly spoke to him before Hull came across the Park and I fled.  He seems to smell me out, whenever I go there.

Collected parts of oil stove for Conrans, and then to Winnock Lodge for tea.  Whole family there from Leigh on Sea.  Joan Ralling quite tall and grown up now.  I do not get on at all with young people, and found the meal very trying.

Left at 7.30.  Foggy.  Could hear screams of American soldiers in the High Street as I went down East Hill.  A lot of traffic on Ipswich Road, mostly lorries and taxis taking Americans into town.  Fog thickening, no planes about.

Had another “bomb nightmare” in the early hours today, the first for some months.  Dreamt I was in the front garden at Winnock Road, on a very dark night, listening to a plane diving down towards the South.  Then there were two big bomb-bursts behind the Rallings' house and I woke up, sweating as usual.

23rd December 1943

Fine but cloudy.  Got in very early.  The girls all in a great way about getting ready for an office party tonight.  District Officer went out with a grin, “to get out of the way”, but Walling made himself very unpleasant, and shouted and raved at Daphne, who was reduced to tears.  Jupp sprang to Daphne’s aid, and told Walling to shut up.  Thankful I was not staying to the party.

At lunch at Culver Street today two tall dark Czech soldiers came in, with a thin, red haired boy I have seen around the market.  He looked very frightened, and one of the men kept pawing his arm.  They all had lunch together, the Czechs jabbering together.

Quite clear, tonight.  Took Hampshire tobacco and then on to Lawford, and took Joy and Parry “Roman Portraits”.  Her cousin and family were there.  The cousin’s husband is a a Home Guard officer, and he and Parry were talking quite seriously about the chances of a German invasion in March or April!  Parry is the arch-pessimist.

22nd December 1943

Late in, overslept.  District Officer said he hoped I should keep better hours after Christmas.  Felt myself going very red.

Recently the figures were published of raid casualties in November – 119 dead.  This is very curious, as every one was saying that between 200 and 300 were killed in a London dance hall on November 6th.  Also recently announced that about 5,000 have been killed by road accidents.  This arouses nothing like the horror of 100 raid deaths.

Heard tonight that one evening recently a policeman from Stratford came up to see the Americans at Higham about a stolen bicycle.  As he walked across the field towards the hut one of the Americans fired at him with a Tommy-gun, without stopping to ask any questions.  The policeman was justifiably annoyed.  What amusing times we live in.

Throat bad again today, but not very much.  Feel rather depressed.  Thankful that Father is safe and warm for Christmas.

21st December 1943

Shortest day.  Got in early, fine morning, bright and sunny, cold wind.  Busy all day, but nobody wanted to do much work – Christmas.  Clouds came up later and it began to rain.  Went to tea with Diana Davis.  There is no theatre production this week so she has her evenings free, and suggested going to the Regal Cinema.  It was such a filthy night that I agreed, feeling sure there could be no alarms in such weather. However, the alarm was on for about three-quarters of an hour, during which time we were treated to fantastic scenes of Brazilian Jungle life, and an even more fantastic English spy story.

Suggested we should walk through Sheepen Fields, which we did, in the mud.  Thought of how many times I had been through these paths in the dark winter evenings, with Bessie, Dinah, the girl from the hat shop.  In those days the town was a glare of light to the east.  Now no lights except cars on the road and the lights in the railway yards.  Back past the Workhouse and Infirmary.  Thought of little Mother.

Diana then suggested supper at her lodgings in Balkerne Gardens, to which I agreed although it was now 10.30pm.  She made a lovely omelette and some tea, and we were very comfortable and cosy.

At last at 20 past 12 I said I must go, so kissed her and went out into the dark.  Clouds gone, bright starlight, and about a dozen heavy bombers going east, rather low.  Policeman in the Wagon and Horses Yard said “Goodnight”.  Wished I could have stayed in Colchester, but have no bed anywhere now.

Went past Mile End Church as the clock chimed half past 12, speeding along with a strong wind behind me.  Through Boxted, Langham, and Stratford.  No light at Higham tonight.

20th December 1943

Heard guns in the middle of the night, and a distant all-clear.  Fine bright morning, crescent moon.  Miss Ralling told me there had been two short alarms in the night, at 2 and 6.  Father never heard the second one.

Felt anxious all day, as it was so fine and I knew the beacon would be alight tonight.  A good many planes going out this morning.  Left at 5.30 tonight, and went to Dedham, thin cloud coming up, and the noise of heavy planes to the NW.  Saw Sisson who was very agreeable to my suggestion to move to Thorington Hall.  Said he would see Mr Tricher.  There are 4 people in the home now, but 15 rooms.  The Trichers use the ground floor only.

Saw the light flashing as soon as I reached Stratford Church.  Felt so nervous I contemplated going back to Colchester or to Boxted, anywhere.  Walked in the garden half an hour before going in, then drank tea and felt more settled.  Long to get away, though.  Conran very affable tonight.

Infuriating to think how this little home has been ruined for me.  High hopes of Thorington Hall.  Shortest day tomorrow.  From now on every day will have a few more seconds of daylight.

19th December 1943

Pouring rain until 10 o’clock.  Ate breakfast in bed, and spent the morning writing.  The weather cleared, and a lot of planes began flying about – a huge mass of 4-engine bombers flew over low, like a cloud of butterflies.  About 4 went down to Dedham and had tea at the café, where I haven’t been for several months.  Some people at the next table were talking about Royalty, and one woman said her uncle, at Horkesley, had a bust of Edward VIII in his room, and maintained that he and no other is the rightful king.

Went on to Lawford, and arrived just in time to have an egg.  Unfortunate that I had just had one for tea.  Joy let me have eggs for Father and a pint of milk for myself.

Back to Higham as the clock struck 10, bright starlight, the twinkling points reflecting in the puddles in the road.  A few searchlights weaving patterns in the sky, but the light not on.  Conran said it will be on tomorrow.  Feel I cannot stay here much longer, and intend to ask Sisson if I can get into Thorington Hall.  Showed Conran my Windsor Royal Show exhibition photos [from 1939], but he was not very interested.  Bed 11.30.

18th December 1943

Woke up early, had breakfast in bed in the warm.  Low clouds and light rain.  The beacon still flashing at 8 o’clock.  Mrs Roe packing up and preparing to leave.  Got in by 9.  Even then it was hardly light.  Everybody busy, all morning, and much to do about Women's Land Army girls faking timesheets.  Fortunately they are incapable of making a good job of it.

This afternoon to tea with Diana Davis, most enjoyable.  Arranged to see her again on Tuesday.  Heavy rain when I left at 6, but blowing behind me.  Uncomfortable, but means a quiet night.  Went by Boxted, passed old Diggers’ horse and cart on the Straight Road, lamps swinging in the rain.  Supper and early bed.  Conran arrived this morning.  Mrs Roe gone, thank God.

17th December 1943

Very dark and foggy morning.  Wakened at 7 by the noise of planes warming up at Langham.  Got in by 9.15.  Busy all day, and got a good deal done.  Bought a brass ship’s candlestick which Dodo Rose wanted, and, as Stuart Rose did not come to the office, went back that way and delivered it.  As I was leaving about quarter to 7, a jeep overtook me in the lane by Rivers Hall, travelling fast.  It was very dark and thick.  The car turned into the lane by Hill Farm, Langham, and almost at once there was a heavy burst of machine gun fire in the lane, about 200 yards from me.  Saw tracer going up.  I flung myself into the ditch, and peered over the hedge bank at a mass of tracer bullets flying through the air.  The firing kept on for about 10 seconds, and then I heard the noise of a lorry changing gear and being driven away quickly.  Presumably this means Americans on the run.  Thought I had better hurry on as fast as possible, and being so dark ran off the road near the lane to the waterworks.  Could hear people at cottage doors talking about the firing.  At Ipswich Road there were several army trucks and military police at the top of Gun Hill.  Went to Dedham, called on Mrs. Sisson regarding Christmas toys, and then to Higham.

The light on, brilliant, could see it from Stratford Church.  Felt very depressed.  Suddenly thought of going to Thorington Hall, if there is room.  Must see Sisson about it.

15th December 1943

Fine though cloudy.  On the Suffolk side, people still hard at work on sugar-beet, carting to gateways and roadside verges.

Went up town, called at Benham’s, and heard that Father had actually been up as far as Woolworth’s, he hasn’t been so far since before Mother died.  Went to Rallings to tea for half an hour.

Called at Holly Trees.  Went upstairs with Poulter to see a portfolio of drawings, prints and MSS by Isaac Taylor, which he had just found behind a book case in Benton’s room.  Two very nice sets of illustrations to Josephus.  Wish I had time to examine them and collate them with the material which the Museum acquired in 1928.

This evening went out to Lawford before going to Higham, and had a long drink of fresh milk.  Chatted to Joy and Parry for an hour, and got to Higham at half past 9, very dark, low thick clouds.  The light was not on and Jacquie and Mrs Roe were entertaining an American.  Mrs. Roe’s suitcase has been found – the Marines stole it and had it near Boxted.

14th December 1943

Rather late this morning.  Fine and cold, hard white frost, fog in the valleys, trees black outlined in white.  A great swarm of rooks flying off from Gunhill.

Just over the Borough Boundary, a badly smashed car by the roadside, with its lights burning, apparently been there all night.

Received the bill for Mother’s funeral - £20-5-0.  Quite a lot of money.  This includes the burial fee.

Saw Ella this morning, as bossy and aggressive as ever.  Find that she has taken over all Mother’s clothes.  I was furious.  Went to Rallings to tea but said nothing about it to Father.

Very cloudy all day, and had hopes it would be a filthy night, but by the time I reached Birchwood the stars were glittering, and a ruddy smear to the east showed where the moon would rise.  However, no planes about.

Went up to the Pentons’ at Lark Hall, Holton, and had supper there.  The house is delightful, full of lovely things.  Looked right through Jack Penton’s book [John Penton was an artist and book illustrator].  The eerie magic of the pictures is astonishing.  They gave me some milk to take away, as I have had none since Friday.  

About 9, the Raydon Salvation Army Band came along playing old carols in the frosty night.  It made me think of Mother, who always loved to hear carols.

Got back to Higham about 11. Cloudy again.  Annoyed and alarmed to find the light working again, first time for about a month.  Even more annoyed to find that Jacquie had dismantled the oil stove, so that I was unable to make a hot drink.

13th December 1943

Up at 7.  Complete change in the weather – clear, cold sky and brilliant moon.  Left at 8, went by Dedham to take Sissons' a loaf.  The sky was pale, the morning star glittering.  Labourers beginning to work, threshing tackle near Brook Farm and another at Fox Street.  Children playing as always at the end of the Long Road, apparently quite undisturbed by the destruction half a mile away.

Called to see Father, who seemed very well, had tea and bread and jam there.  At office, all confusion. Capt Folkard not very affable, owing to worry and annoyance.  

War Agricultural Committee this afternoon.  Great excitement about the bombing, and the murder.  A good many bombs fell at Layer Marney, and old Lofthouse lost 7 cows.  They were not all dead, and he had to finish some off by cutting their throats with a clasp-knife.

The murder caused a great sensation.  Everybody believes it was done by Americans, but the Chairman said that several taxi drivers had been asking for trouble, as they have charged anything up to £4 to drive Americans from Colchester to Birch.

Nothing much at the Committee although it was very long.  Sadler came from Writtle, his first time as Executive Officer.  [Ralph Sadler had replaced J.C. Leslie as Executive Officer of the Essex War Agricultural Executive Committee at Writtle] He made a long rather wandering speech.  I got a lift back to Colchester with him.  Talked about labour problems, but he could not see where the real root trouble lay.  Sat until candles were lighted.  Heavy gunfire all afternoon.

Very cold cycling out.  Lot of traffic on the Ipswich Road.  Near Birchwood saw an old woman, wrapped in a white shawl, tottering along carrying a candle lantern.  The moon rising rather misty, but looks like suitable weather for a raid.  Saw a shooting star, and a few pale searchlights at practice.

At Valley Farm Cottage, found a detective interviewing Mrs Roe regarding a bag she has lost.  Crept quietly upstairs.  Heard their voices, Mrs. Roe’s especially, rising and falling for a very long time.

12th December 1943

Dull grey morning.  Lay very late.  I did all the fires and most of the washing up, and at last managed to get away to Dedham to find out what had happened there in the air attack.  Heard that a Mrs Coombes, wife of a smallholder at School Corner, who has frequently been in the office, died in the raid.  His house is gone and several others nearby.

Apparently the Long Road at Dedham was mistaken for the runway of Langham Aerodrome, and was bombed deliberately by 6 or 7 machines.  25 high explosives fell and many incendiaries, but Mrs Coombes and her baby were the only casualties.  Poor Coombes was saying only a week ago how his wife would help him in the seed-garden he intended to start.  Glad I was not at Lawford that night.

Had tea and supper at the Sissons'.  Feel I overstay my welcome, but the comfort and company is so great I cannot break away.

11th December 1943: Air Raid on Colchester Castle Park

Felt a good deal better, though weak.  Headache quite gone.  Got up late, lit fires, did chores, much badgered by Mrs Roe.  Jacquie rather quiet, I suspect because she has no chance to get a word in edgeways.  Very cold and overcast, with some thin snow, and little blizzards at times.  Set off for Colchester at 12.30.

I had forgotten all about last night’s raid until I was going up East Hill, when I noticed two broken windows in a shop near Priory Street, then one or two more windows gone in the tall houses on the corner of Roman Road.  The Park locked with “Unexploded Bomb” on the gate.  Several windows out in High Street, as far as St Nicholas Church, and one or two right down Queen Street.

70 years ago today Colchester Castle had had a lucky escape when a stick of four bombs was dropped on Castle Park on the night of 10th December 1943.  Three of the bombs exploded in the Park but the fourth bomb, which fell within feet of the back of Colchester Castle, failed to explode.  E.J. Rudsdale's account of this event can be found in his book.  A pencil sketch he made of the site of the unexploded bomb is shown below and reveals that a Roman drain was discovered when the unexploded bomb was removed.  CP

Went to Boxted at 5, to Little Rivers to see the Roses.  Saw Mrs Piccard there (nee Phoebe Fenwick Gaye).   Showed me the evening paper with an account of a murder of a taxi driver called Hailstone, whose body has been found in a ditch by Birch Rectory.  Supposed to have been killed by Americans.  His mother was injured in August 1940 and died a year later.  His little sister used to come into the Castle Vaults in air raids.  Stayed talking about London.  She told me of another murder, at Hampstead, a few weeks ago, where a man met a Canadian and asked him home to supper.  After the supper the Canadian murdered and robbed him.  She also told me it was estimated that there were 10,000 deserters in London.

10th December 1943

Felt better, but headache, in fact ached all over, but cough practically gone.  Did not sleep much before 4am, but slept then until 9.  Wakened by birds, the sound of the cows coming up, the postman’s knock.  Jacquie brought me a cup of tea.

Jacquie went off to her sister-in-law’s to lunch, dressed in spotted fur-coat and trousers, like a little Eskimo.

Another disaster – the cooking stove has gone wrong.

The sun came out, the first time we have seen it since Monday, but the weather was very cold.  A lot of planes flying about.

Just as we were settling down for a quiet evening, there was a tremendous commotion at the door, and in came Jacquie's mother, Mrs. Roe.  In the middle of this heavy firing began, not that she took any notice of it.  For once I was not particularly frightened, although I found it less easy to attend to Mrs Roe’s never ending stream of chatter.  Got to bed at 10, thankful to get away from Mrs R.

8th December 1943

Foggy day.  Did not feel well, and decided not to go to London.  Got steadily worse all day, continually sneezing.  Not a dry handkerchief anywhere.  Find difficulty in reading.  Cannot concentrate.   I think this is definitely influenza.

No sign of Jacquie, which annoyed me as I had got a nice tea ready for her.  Decided to go to Ida’s soon after 9, and of course there she was, worn out with her journey from Southampton.  She seemed very glad to see me.  Stayed a few minutes, and then cycled back in the fog.  Feel frightfully chilled.

Wished I could have gone to the Royal Archaeological Institute meeting at Burlington House.  I should liked to have spoke about William Wire, as he was an ardent correspondent of the RAI when it was first founded.

7th December 1943

Rather foggy.  No planes about at all.  Cold.  Began to feel ill this afternoon.  We had a staff meeting, not very good.  Captain Folkard spoke a good deal but never got down to rock bottom.  Labour is at the bottom of 80% of our troubles, but nobody ever goes down to the bottom to see what is really wrong.

Got away at 5.30, went round by Dedham.  Foggy, stars very faint.  Stayed at Sissons, feeling very queer until 10.30.  As I went across the valley the fog and cloud slid away and the moon shone out.  Hope there is no raid tonight.

Got tomorrow off to go to the Centenary Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute.  Captain Folkard said “Well, I suppose it won’t happen again for another 100 years.”

6th December 1943

Up early.  Fine, very cold.  Hundreds of rooks flying round the bare trees at Gunhill.

We have all been watching with considerable amusement, the establishment of a brothel in a house in Military Rd, immediately opposite the office.  This afternoon there was a sudden flood of hot water in the garden of this house, running out of the joint of a blocked wastepipe and it was quite obvious someone had just been having a bath.  Shortly after 2 Yanks came out, very noisy, with two of the girls with them, and went up town together.  A third woman waved goodbye from the step.  From the smoking chimneys there seems to be a fire in every room.  Three or four times during the last fortnight, a furniture van has delivered new arm-chairs, commodes, tables etc.  It seems odd to have a “house of ill fame” in this respectable street.  

Called at Rallings' for tea, and then went to stables to get a truss of hay for the jennet at the mill.  Wheeled it on my cycle, and in Harsnett Rd, met pretty little Marjory Bolingbroke (Mrs Purser) with her little girl, now aged 3.  It seems a long while since the walks on Hythe Marshes, when I was 17 and she was 14.

Left at 6, and went first to Lark Hall by Raydon, to see the Pentons.  Had a job to find the place, as the moon was behind clouds and there was some fog.  Mrs. Penton looked dreadfully ill, and is dying of cancer.  Went to ask about milk, as we get so little at the cottage now, and when Jacquie comes we must have more.  Lark Hall looked very fine.  Penton has executed some murals which are extraordinarily good.  It must be terrible for him to live there alone with his dying mother.

5th December 1943

Another brilliant day.  Hard frost last night.  Wakened before 7 by the noise of bombers going out.  Spent the day as usual, reading, writing, chores.  Got a life of Hazlitt from Colchester Library, by Catherine McDonald Maclean, published this year.  Excellent.

Listening to radio.  Heard broadcast by returned prisoners from Germany.  One man got back to Liverpool, only to find his wife and child killed in a raid.  Then I listened to a German broadcast to Ireland, which described an old woman who had lost 3 sons in the war, and her old home and her grandchild in an air raid. So it goes on.

4th December 1943

Felt better.  Weather completely changed again – brilliant sunshine, but very cold.  Put on my new green stockings – very smart.  Got in early, found letter from Margery regretting she cannot have Father for a visit – in case he might fall ill.  Poor old Father.  Fortunately I had said nothing whatever to him about a holiday.  

Ella keeps on going in and out of the house every day, throwing things out of cupboards.  I am keeping away from her, as I know we should only quarrel.

Went to Corn Exchange at 1.30, to attend interview of men for foreman’s job at Abbots Wick.  Four attended.  Fear they have picked the wrong one, a much too talkative man.

Called at Seymours, to thank Mrs Seymour for a kind letter she had written about Mother.  Heard all about poor old Jones’ death.  It was cancer on the liver.  Well, Mother was spared that, anyway.  Mrs Seymour’s father was taken bad on Wednesday last, and is not expected to live.

Called at Dedham on way out.  Brilliant moonlight night, but no planes about.  I wonder if they are raiding Germany tonight?

Brass band playing carols faint and far in the distance tonight.  Heard carols on the German radio too.

3rd December 1943

Felt dreadful.  Splitting headache and a shattering cough which completely exhausted me.  Found a pouring wet morning, so decided not to go in.  Got up at 9.30, lit the fire, and spent most of the day dozing in an armchair.  Had a letter from Jacquie Conran, to say she will be back next Wednesday.  She does not seem to have had my last letter, and asks how Mother is getting on.

Headache went after a time, so I decided to go in to see Father, as he would be anxious.  Got there in time for tea, and came back straight away afterwards.  Father seemed very well.

Very dark night, with heavy clouds, so I suddenly decided to go to Lawford before I went back to Higham.  Joy and Parry were very glad to see me, and Joy gave me a beautiful pair of green woollen stockings, which are almost impossible to get now.  Dear kind Joy.  I must get her something nice for Christmas.

As I went back to Higham the clouds rolled away, and the moon shone out.  No planes about, but a few searchlights weaving about. 

2nd December 1943

Woke to the sound of pouring rain.  Felt very bad, hacking, shattering cough, and had half a mind not to go, but finally set off at 8.30.  Got soaked before I reached Gunhill, being constantly driven into deep puddles by heavy lorries.

Incredible news published today.  Meeting of Churchill, Roosevelt and Chai Kai Shek in Cairo, to consider the prosecution of the war against Japan, and guaranteeing China to strip Japan of all conquests made during the present century.

During the morning bad headache came on, but made a good lunch at Culver Street.

1st December 1943

Got up very early – 6.30.  Felt a little better, but lungs very full of phlem.  Bright clear starlight, a little mist, and hard white frost.  The little cat came running across the frozen grass, mewing for its breakfast.

Heart painful, and took an hour to get in, but got a tow up Gunhill behind a lorry.  Trouble all day about Womens Land Army timesheets.  The illiteracy of these girls is appalling.  A good many of them are not more than 4 years out of school, yet they cannot spell the simplest words, in some cases not even their own names.  Captain Folkard seems unwilling to recognise this tremendous illiteracy.

This evening went to Rallings at 5.30 to see a Miss Payne as a prospective housekeeper.  Stayed to high tea at Rallings.  It is just a month today that Mother was taken ill, and just a month since the raid on Ipswich.  There was a thin mist, and a crescent moon, a good night for raiding.  However, we all had supper, and I finally left at half past 7.  Near Langham Oak I was overtaken by an enormous convoy of heavy guns, crawling along very slowly, showing enormous headlights and sidelights.  I could not get away from it until we got through Stratford, and I turned into Higham Lane.  All the time signal searchlights were flashing all around, and I was in a sweat in case enemy planes made an attack on the convoy while I was in the middle of it.  By this time the stars had vanished and there was quite a thick fog.  Higham Church clock struck 8 as I went by, and a plane came over, low in the mist.  A minute later there was heavy gunfire to the SE and several planes, about 6 I should think, came roaring through the clouds.  I switched off my cycle lamp and ran into a field near the cottage where there were corn stacks, and lay down between two of them.  Every moment I expected to hear the whistle of bombs, especially as the great searchlight just over at Raydon obligingly kept alight to attract enemy attention.  However, I was lucky again, and the noise of the planes died away to the W.

The Raydon light went out, and I had a lot of trouble to find where I had left my cycle.  Hurried to the cottage, and found the Home Service radio faint, but other wavelengths normal.  Went out after a while, and found rain beginning, and suddenly heard, faint and far, the Ipswich sirens giving an alarm.  Almost at once Manningtree sounded all clear, and no more planes came.  After 4 and a half years of war it is still impossible to give the alarm signals properly.

Lit a fire, and sat reading until 11.  Had bread and milk and went to bed.  Feel ill, but in some way oddly cheerful.  Found a final demand for the Conran’s from Electricity Company threatening to cut off light.  Sent on at once, but expect light to fail at any moment.