31st January 1944

About 2 a.m. this morning heard an ‘all-clear’, yet the evening papers tonight state that there was no enemy activity over this country on the night of the 30th-31st.

Cloudy day, but quite warm.  Great excitement this morning – the brothel on the opposite side of the road had a fire, a very small, feeble fire, but the National Fire Service came rushing up with a lorry and a fire-pump, while smoke, about as much as you get from a bonfire on a wet day, oozed out of a bedroom window.

The crew walked in a very unhurried manner into the house, leaving a couple of ladders on the lawn, while several of the young ladies fluttered about.  One was wearing yellow pyjamas and an overcoat.  In less than two minutes a crowd of not less than 100, mostly children, formed on the pavement just below our windows, watching the firemen walk in and out of the house, trying to look as if they were really busy.  The young lady in the yellow pyjamas popped in and out of the door several times, and another appeared at the bedroom window, coughing from the smoke.  After about 10 minutes of staring at the front of the house with its dying wisp of smoke, the firemen started to load up their ladders again, but hardly had they got them fixed when there was a frantic clanging from the direction of the town, and along came one of the big scarlet engines, pulling up with a scream of brakes.  Firemen leaped off it before it had stopped, and dashed up the back passage and the front garden.  The crowd was delighted with this rather belated display of energy, and the small boys danced gleefully in the roadway.

At this point Watts’ old pony came along, returning from his round, and took a decided dislike to the grey and scarlet fire engines, finally prancing past them, his knees nearly up to his chin, the driver holding him tightly, as if he was nearer three than thirty.

At last all the firemen departed, mounted on their respective engines, and about five minutes later the front door of the house opened and a very furtive American came out, cap in hand, and slunk off towards the town.

This afternoon there was a special meeting of the Committee to consider the labour position on all farms, but few members had made the necessary enquiries.  It was really a waste of time. 

The girls managed to serve them all a cup of tea in very ill-assorted mugs.

Tonight to Higham by 7.  No beacon.  The moon is waxing, and I shall be thankful when it is gone.  Cloudy tonight, and quite warm.

30th January 1944

Brilliant morning, planes going over by the hundred.  Fed the cows and calves, and groomed the horse, which made me feel rather bad, but I soon recovered.  Ground some flour.  The Belfields came in, Eversley, Penelope, and their Mother.  Eversley is on embarkation leave, and seems rather gloomy.  Penelope has just come back from a week in Scotland, and had been through Inverness.  Some talk about the duration of the war, everybody laughing but pessimistic.

Had lunch, bought a few eggs for Miss Ralling.  Went down to Dedham to tea at Corner Café.  Then called on Sissons.  Apparently a farm was burnt at Oakley last night, and some cottages damaged at Bradfield.  Sisson saw the ‘plane brought down in flames.  Both he and Mrs. Sisson gloomy about what will happen next – convinced that the Germans are working up to tremendous reprisals.

Came away at 7, when the sky was clear, with stars and crescent moon, but by the time I reached Higham thick clouds had rolled up.  A few planes about, and one searchlight flashed on and off, which is usually a signal that the enemy is about, but nothing happened.

Bed at midnight.

29th January 1944

Up late, lovely morning.  Had intended to go to Fordham, but finally went to Colchester by way of Langham and Boxted.  Cycled slowly by the ‘Shepherd & Dog’, along Hundred Lane, and passed Boxted Chapel to the Straight Road.  What a lot of little thatched cottages there are in that area, all like Little Rivers and the Higham cottage.  The majority must date between 1500 and 1550, and seem to indicate settled arable farms at a fairly early date.  It is interesting to see that these houses do not occur in the heavy land parishes south of Colchester, and I hope to prepare a map of the district showing their distribution.  Surely their absence on the heavy land must show that it was not cleared in the 16th century?  Worth looking into.

Got to Colchester at 12.30.  Looked in at the market, very little there.  No fat stock for grading, a few calves, about a dozen cows and a score of pigs.

This afternoon went on the Market to see one or two Committee members and then to the ‘Regal’ to see ‘ThisDemi-Paradise’, the experiences of a Russian in England.  Quite good.

Called at home, saw Father, then called at the Rallings.  Annie is far from well, and has great pain in her back and one leg.  It seems very ominous to me, as she has had it a month now.  I have known two other cases with the same symptoms, both cancers.

Fed the donkey, and then decided to go to Lawford.  Thick, low clouds, so I thought we might reckon on a quiet night, but just as I turned into the mill drive a plane flew over and then sirens began to sound all around.  I walked up to my old perch on the hill, rather nervous.  Saw two cars, Frank Girling’s and Mrs. Snow’s, and felt I had come on the wrong night.  Decided to wait outside until the ‘all-clear’ came.  A few more planes hummed over in the cloud, then suddenly guns began to fire, and a great mass of planes came over, flying west and N.W.  The searchlights by the buildings came on with a blinding flash, so that the house and trees glowed like some scene in a nightmare.  I was terrified that one plane, which seemed to be right overhead, would bomb the searchlight.  I saw the flash of torches by the house, where people had come out to see what was happening, little knowing that I was on the farm.

More and more planes came in, a dozen searchlights wavering against the cloud-base, everywhere the menacing roar of straining engines.  I have never felt so restless, yet almost all my fear was bombs, although guns were firing madly in every direction and there must have been a good deal of shrapnel about.  I heard one or two pieces fairly near.

Several trains came by on the line, very slowly, the glowing fire boxes of the engines looking enormous.  Heard Manningtree Church clock chime 8.30.  Went up the hill towards Lawford.  Fisher was standing at his gate, and I said “Good evening”, but I don't think he knew me.

At the top of the hill I lay on the ground for a time, while several planes dived and rose again.  Guns boomed, shells whistled, and fragments came sighing down in the darkness.  Again restless, went across the road and found a corn-stack in one of the Lawford Hall fields.  Here I felt comparatively safe.  The stack was large and firm, with a heap of coal at one end ready for the threshing machine.  As planes approached I moved round the stack, keeping it between myself and possible firing.  When they seemed unusually threatening I lay down close to the bottom of the stack. 

Suddenly, far to the S.E. I heard a plane diving, louder, then out of control, then something red fell, a few seconds, then something larger, redder and redder, glowing and sparking, giving off a thin distant whine.  It disappeared behind the horizon, and almost at once a huge fire spread up, brilliant yellow on the clouds, and violent flashes flickered and died.  I thought, “That’s one less.”

In quiet intervals I could hear dogs barking – Fisher’s down the hill, Snippet more distant, and far away little Snuff at the Belfield’s in Bargate Lane, with Fred’s big spaniel in the foreground so to speak.  I could hear voices up by Moorehouse’s, and voices shouting orders on the searchlight site.  A train came very slowly over the long river bridge and pulled up at the station a mile away.  To my left I could see the dim outline of the pines on the tumulus, silhouetted by the glow of searchlights.  To the S.E. the fire still burned.

Planes were now coming out very fast, and I wondered where they had been, as there seemed to be hardly time to have reached LondonManningtree Church struck 9 o’clock.

At last, about half past 9, it seemed that the end was in sight, and I walked down to the Mill.  There was one more burst of firing, then the ‘all-clears’ rang out at 9.45, much to my relief.

Bed at 11.30, very tired.

28th January 1944

Another fine morning, but late again.  Green and red sunrise, but no sign of a break in the weather.  Still no charwoman at the office, so no fires and much dirt.

Went home to breakfast.  Father has been having a complete turnout of all the cupboards and boxes.  Found a number of photos.  One is of grandmother Webb (Eliza Jones) taken at Gomerian Studios, Barmouth, about 1870.  A great day it was when she came down from Talsarnau!  Another is James Henry Jones, her brother, school master at Pant Glas, who was buried at Selattyn in 1890.

Then there are photos of Mother herself, smiling and petite, and Father, with waxed moustaches.  Then myself, a child of 3 at Shurlock Row, Berkshire, at 4, in a Colchester studio, at school, in the High St with Mary Hulbert (Rudsdale's then girlfriend) in 1930.  Looking at them gives me a frightful longing to be back to the past again.  Father seemed to enjoy finding them.

Article in the “Daily Express” today states quite frankly that the Allies bombarded Pompeii because a few German troops hid in the ruins, and that they will destroy the Appian Way, the Tombs, and Rome itself rather than let the Germans escape.  One cannot believe that Rome must now be in the last few weeks of its existence.  Incredible.

Brilliant evening, young moon, stars, no wind.  Heavy raid on Berlin last night, so a reprisal might be expected tonight.  Not surprised to hear sirens about 11p.m.  A lot of planes were about, but mostly R.A.F.  No bombs and no firing, and, by a miracle, sheets of mist came up, obscuring the stars.  ‘All-Clear’ in about half an hour.  Jacquie spent the evening entertaining an American as usual.  

Must try to find an alternative home.  Might try Peldon, to see if I can get away from the noise of the aerodromes.

27th January 1944

Fine morning.  Much warmer.  Had to call for a gallon of oil at Brown’s, East St., as we had missed the delivery at Higham.  Chaos at the office, as the daily woman had not been and there were no fires alight nor any cleaning done.

Clouded over about 10, and the sirens sounded, the first alarm in daylight for several months.  Several fighter planes came over, apparently from either Wormingford or Langham, so apparently we are not quite unprotected now.  The all-clear came within 10 or 15 minutes, and nothing happened.

Tonight went to the Roses at Boxted, and had supper.  A new crescent moon, lying on its back, and twinkling stars.  A lot of planes about, and I heard heavy bombers going out in the distance about 6 o’clock.  Got to Higham at 10, no beacon.  Apparently the beacon only flashes on certain nights now.  During the last few weeks it has been every third night.  Cloudy at 10, but I wish we had more really bad weather.

Saw Hervey Benham, and lent him a series of aeroplane photos, all local.  One shows the flight on the Abbey Field in 1913, which I well remember.  Strange and horrifying to think what these crude contraptions have developed into.

26th January 1944

Another fine morning.  As I went through Stratford the sun rose, huge and golden, in a pale green sky, with red and purple edged clouds, the tower of Dedham Church black against it.  Men and girls cutting cabbages at Higham.

At Colchester saw one of the old Corporation carts, with Harvey’s filthy horse, collecting road sweepings near Dilbridge Hall, just as they did 6 years ago.  How the Engineer and his satellites worked to get rid of all the horses on Corporation work.

Went to order a new Raleigh cycle today, to cost £8.19.0.  My old one should be worth £4 at least.

Cold and raining tonight, but I was glad, as it meant a quiet night.  To Higham at 8.  Americans in the house and a dreadful woman Jill, to keep Jacquie company.  The beacon was flashing in the rain, but both the men spent the evening playing cards in the cottage, and did not leave until after midnight.  I went to bed and saw no one.

25th January 1944

Tearing gale this morning, but brilliant and sunny.  Intended to go to Fordham, but could not face it.  Got in late.  Corn looks wonderfully green for the time of year.

Busy all the afternoon, and this evening went to Boxted to see Roses.

Got to Higham at 10.30, by the light of the stars.  Decided to go by Langham Waterworks, and waded across the stream, as the wind had veered and I wanted to avoid Higham lanes.  Chain came off near the village, I must consider getting a new cycle.  I bought this one a few days before the war began, and it has had hard wear.

No beacon tonight.

Met old G.E. Pepper [one of Rudsdale's former teachers at Colchester Royal Grammar School] at Headgate this evening.  Have not seen him for months.  Very friendly.  Asked me about Mother, and spoke of conditions at school and in his lodgings.  Poor old man, he must be very lonely.

24th January 1944

Fine morning.  Rather cold.  Planes going out.  War Agricultural Committee at Birch.  Nothing much done.  Saw Joanna, looking very well and happy.  Heavy rain began at 3, and got worse.  Back to Higham at 7.30, very wet.  Jacquie was there alone.  Had supper with her, and bed 10.30.  Howling gale sprang up during evening, rain lashing against windows and the whole cottage shaking.  No beacon, and no planes about.

We have more milk now, as one of the cows calved on Saturday.

23rd January 1944

Reading late last night, and did not bother to go to bed.

Fine day, sunny, high wind.  This afternoon went to Dedham, to tea at the Corner House.  Enquired for a room there, but they do not take guests any longer.  I may try the “Sun” Inn, opposite the church.

Called at Sissons’, and met Mrs. Sisson’s brother.  Talked about rumours.  He told me that there was a grain of truth in Hull’s story that 50 German aircraft landed on East Anglian aerodromes one morning.  Actually three did so, because they had lost their way.

Fine clear night, brilliant stars, beacon flashing at Higham.  

News today about the new landings in Italy.  It seems probable that within a week or so Rome may be totally destroyed.

22nd January 1944

Woke to the sound of gunfire at 5a.m., and felt the cottage shake from distant bomb bursts.  Did not get out of bed.

Up at 7.30.  Howling gale from the S.W.  Eight o’clock news said “raid on London”, “few” planes, and “8 shot down”.  Had difficulty to get in against the wind.

We had Prior in this morning, abut the Brook Hall land at Fingringhoe, and he said there had been a heavy raid on London, but it is impossible to believe anything he says.  Evening papers say 90 planes came over, damage, and “some casualties”.

This afternoon met Mary Tovell and took her to tea.  She was full of gay stories about Gravesend Hospital.  Afterwards walked back with her to her aunt’s in Harsnett Road, by way of the Gasworks.  Dark and cold.  Rain began at 7.  To Higham at 8.

21st January 1944

Up at 7, yet late in.  Glorious clear sunny morning, cold.  Slight frost.  Hundreds of planes were going out as I cycled along Ipswich Rd.  What misery the French must be suffering this winter.

The Chairman [Colonel Round] came in, and wrote out his script for this Colchester broadcast [planned to be broadcast on the BBC], then he and Capt Folkard went off to the Town Hall to record it.

Went off early to go to Dedham, but found Sissons out and the Corner House shut, so went on to Lawford, had tea at the Mill and brought a dozen eggs for Father.  It was light until 6.30 tonight.

Back to Higham at 9.  As I listened to the news, the radio faded, and I heard distant gunfire, but nothing near.  No doubt a raid on London.  Hazy and dark, no beacon.

20th January 1944

Low cloud, some fog.  Had a note this morning from Jacquie Conran to say she would be back on Monday.  Don't know whether she means permanently or for a visit.  Hope to God she doesn't bring her mother again.  Must try to find somewhere else.

Went to Fordham Aerodrome, by way of Stoke and Nayland.  Pleasant ride, horses ploughing, a pair on a muck-cart going through Nayland, an old man ditching near Lt. Horkesley, the forge working near the “Beehive”.  At the aerodrome, found the lorry and 6 girls.  Got them busy, and could see that the ceiling timbers from the old Farmhouse would go alright, although it was heavy work to carry them through 150 yards of deep mud.

Fog cleared during the day.  Back by West Bergholt, and called at Emerson’s forge.  A gypsy was just leading away a bay cob as I got there.  Emerson laughed and said “There’s one thing about Gyppos – they always pay on the nail.”  He is very busy, and has averaged three horses a day ever since he started, and has no end of implement repairs to do.  He seemed very happy.

Went home to tea.  Miss Payne was out, so Father insisted on hurrying about to get tea for me. 

To Bourne Mill at 6, and a thick fog was rising, so I hoped we should have a quiet night, but by 7 it had all gone and the stars were shining.  Went out to Boxted at 8 to see the Roses.  He was very cheerful, though by no means happy at the idea of 6 weeks idleness.  Wish I could have six weeks off.

Left at 9.30.  As I came out of their chase-way a ‘jeep’ came roaring down the lane, stopped, reversed, and a Cockney voice called out “Say, mate, where’s Lady Minter’s farm?”  I said “Do you mean the farm yard?” and he replied “Yes, where the house is.”  I directed him, and he flashed away in the darkness.

Got to Higham at 10, lovely starlight, clear and frosty.  The beacon flashing, and several planes about.  Heard on the midnight news that there had been a bad raid on Berlin, so we must expect another reprisal.

19th January 1944

Fine, not very cold.  Telephoned Ken Young about the Museum firewatcher, as it was understood he had been a carter for Young.  Ken Young said that he had only worked for him for 6 months, and had been thoroughly unreliable.  Refused to say why he left.  This man was appointed fire-watcher at the Holly Trees without any references, and was the cause of Poulter threatening to resign last autumn.  One of the more puzzling things about local government is that men who run their own businesses with success seem to lose all sense of responsibility when they are in charge of public affairs.

This afternoon thick clouds came over and it began a fine drizzle.  Went home to tea.  Father had had his haircut by Miss Payne, a thing he would never have allowed Mother to do!  He seems to be getting on very well with her, and becomes quite anxious about her wearing her heavy coat when she goes across the road.

Very dark night, and raining hard, but cycled to Langham, to a meeting of the Farmer’s Discussion Group in the village hall.  It was so dark I had great difficulty in finding the place at all.  Tonight there was no lecture, but a show of films, the first of which, on thatching, showed old George Wise of Wingfield, Berkshire, hard at work.  Have not seen him since he thatched the “Old Farm” for me at the Windsor Royal Show in 1939.

I talked to the film operator, and he offered to show the film “The Crown of the Year” which I saw at Bangor last year, so I was able to enjoy it again.  There is room for more films like this – one on horses for instance.

The show was over at 9, and I went to Higham in 30 minutes.  Culley told me today that he had seen some catkins.  The weather is remarkably mild, and it does not look as if we shall get any real winter now.  Great pity, as it would stop all aerial warfare.

18th January 1944

In early.  Clearer, but low clouds, and light drizzle.  During the last year we have forgotten to fear dull days.  Captain Folkard went out at 4, so I went home to tea.  Miss Payne was out, so I had it alone with Father, very pleasant.

I was going to have high tea at the café, but as I opened the door I saw Hull sitting there, fortunately with his back to me, so I retreated hastily.  Went into Holly Trees.  Poulter told me that Alderman Hazell died last Saturday, and that the funeral is Thursday.  So the old Museum Committee fades away.

It has been decided that the police must not be told of the Castle robberies, as they are obviously “inside” jobs.  The Committee apparently suspect one of the firewatchers more than one of the attendants.  This is the man Poulter refused to have in Holly Trees as he suspected him.

I had hoped that when old Sir Gurney went the Committee would take such actions as might be necessary for the good organisation of the place, but apparently even now the old man’s shadow is sufficiently strong to protect thieves and robbers if the exposure of their activities should reveal the scandal in the Museum.

17th January 1944

Still thick fog, very dark this morning, but rather warmer.  Heard on the radio that there had been a bad railway accident at Ilford last night, and Daphne told me that the 7.5 from London did not reach Colchester until 3.30a.m. this morning.  She had been down to Kent for a weekend.

Very busy today, telephone going all day long.  Got a lot of letters off.  I see from the accounts for transport that we no longer even drive cattle from one farm to the next – we even have a motor lorry from Copt Hall to Abbott’s Hall or Sampson’s to Brickhouse.  Incredible.  I remember driving cattle all over the district when I was a boy of 10 or 12.

Got out at 5 sharp and took Daphne to see “Robin Hood” at the ‘Playhouse’.  Awful rubbish, but beautiful colours.  Noticed that even in these days the ageless story roused the greatest enthusiasm among the hundreds of children who filled the cheap seats.  I well remember the previous film, 20 years ago, which made a great impression on me a that time.

Back to Higham by way of Dedham.  Left Mrs. Sisson two books, Marie Antoinette and Seabrook’s “Witchcraft”.

From Stratford Church could see the beacon flashing, great red flames on the clouds, but rain was beginning and I did not anticipate a raid.  Supper, pork and beans, and bed at 10.30 without a qualm.

16th January 1944

Still thick fog, very cold.  Surprised to hear on the radio that there was a raid last night “in East Anglia”, one plane down.  Are we never to be safe, even in this weather?

Had breakfast, and suddenly felt very ill, pains in legs and body.  This last few days my heart has been rather painful.  However, had promised to go to tea with Diana, so made a great effort and got to Colchester by 5.  Lovely tea, but unfortunately did not feel like eating.  Spent a pleasant evening in kiss and cuddle on the sofa, until 10 o’clock, when she went to the Albert Hall for fire-watching.  Very nice girl.

Left the town as the Americans, screaming and howling, came pouring out of the public houses.  Fog still very thick, but it cleared for an hour in the afternoon, and the sun shone brightly.

Have just finished a book on “Witchcraft” by an American, William Seabrook.  Most interesting.

15th January 1944

Had to go to Fordham Aerodrome, so went by way of Stoke and Nayland.  Saw three horse-teams ploughing near Thorington Hall, dim in the half light, the only moving things in the grey fog. 

Back to Colchester at 2, had a late lunch, then went home to tea, the first tea I have had in the old house since Mother died.  Collected my rations and went to Higham, terribly black, cold night.  Sat late, listening to German music.  The BBC claims that there was a great raid on Brusnwick last night, 38 planes lost, but the Germans say that no concentrated attack was possible owing to their efficient defences.  Rather strange.

14th January 1944

Woke at 5, and saw bright light round the edge of the curtains.  Looked out to see a white frost, and the moon shining brightly.  Very cold, in contrast to yesterday’s muggy warmth, yet the wind is only a few points more westerly.  Not a cloud in the sky all day.  A good many planes went out.  Called at the old house.  Father and Miss Payne seem to be settling in very well, but it must seem very strange to him.  I think she is kind and efficient.  Warned her today about Ella, whom she had already met.

Tea at Rose’s café, and then to Holly Trees to get my money.  Poulter told me that he did not get a very good report at the hospital yesterday, and that he is to go for an examination once a month.  This is very alarming.  The poor old chap looked sad and depressed.

He said that Banell, the Borough Treasurer, had been down to the Castle to enquire about the latest robbery, and Alderman Blomfield came as well.  Poulter said he did not know how the Chairman had got to know about the matter, so I did not enlighten him.  Everybody agrees that suspicion points to one of the Attendants, but I expect there will be a conspiracy to hush up the matter, just as there was in the case of the theft of the Roman coins.  A Corporation official has got to commit a very serious crime before he is in danger of punishment.

Heard today that Stuart Rose had had an accident while at work, so went over to Boxted, and found he had crushed his foot while unloading drums.  Stayed until 9.30, then to Higham under glittering stars with thin mist.  There seemed to be an exercise on, with a large number of planes flying in formation.  Found the beacon flashing, and heard a very distant “All-clear”, probably Ipswich.  Radio was normal.  For some strange reason do not feel so nervous lately.

As soon as I got in Honey [the cat] caught a mouse, so shut her in the kitchen to finish it.  She sleeps on my bed every night, a plump purring little lump.

Fog coming up tonight, so perhaps we can hope for a little bad weather.

13th January 1944

Warm, low clouds, slight rain.  Saw half a dozen gypsy women at St Botolph’s Corner, in gaudy coats and skirts, selling brilliantly coloured paper flowers.

This afternoon intended to go to Fordham, as I hear that the big ceiling is taken down, but went by Sheepen and then found it was too late.  The Potter’s Field is ploughed up, for the first time since about 1930.  Many signs of the old trenches dug in the early years of the excavations.  Met Dyer up there, and talked to him, then found it too late to go to Fordham, so called on Alderman Blomfield at St. Clare Road.  Found him sawing wood in the Park, and talked about the latest business at the Museum.  He was very worried, but I doubt if he intends to do anything.  

Our brothel opposite the office has been very busy this last few days, Americans in and out all the time.  An officer came out this morning.

Decided tonight to try and get into the National Fire Service on part time, to do one night per week. 

Called at Dedham and then to Higham.  As I came away from Dedham it was very dark, with low clouds and fine drizzling rain.  Surprised at Stratford Church to hear an “All-clear” sounding from the direction of Colchester.  Should not have thought that ‘planes would be out on such a night, although I have known them to come over in a snow-storm.

12th January 1944

Very dark morning, but warm and muggy.  Left soon after 8, in the dark, the beacon still flashing.  In a field opposite Higham Hall there were two plough teams just beginning work, moving off into the dark mist.

Apparently the American raid yesterday morning was a failure, and the Germans claim that 124 planes were shot down.  No doubt an exaggeration, but the losses were obviously heavy as the American authorities refuse to give any details.

Story going round today that Hinton, the District Officer for Rochford, dismissed a Women's Land Army girl for slackness and incompetence.  The girl then appealed, and after 8 weeks has been reinstated and given 8 weeks pay, which puts the District Officer in a nice position.

This evening called at Holly Trees.  Poulter told me that he had found the big collecting box at the Castle broken open when the auditor came today, and estimates that £12 or £15 is probably missing.  The lock which was in a secret place, had been taken off and left inside the box.  Nobody could open it unless they knew where the lock was, and the box is in a prominent place, just inside the main door of the Great Hall, it could hardly have been tampered with in broad daylight.  This makes me wonder whether the theft may not have been done at night, either by one of the attendants or by the fire-watchers.  Poulter has been suspicious of the man who was formerly at Holly Trees from the very beginning.

I asked Poulter if he had told the police, but he had not, and did not intend to.  Hull was as usual away, and he had not bother to telephone him either at Elmstead or at the Observer Control.  Poulter did not seem to regard the matter as being serious.

Query – possibility that all the thefts have been done by one person, at night?  Besides the thefts inside the Museum, the lock has been broken from the outside lavatories, and was found, empty, in the Park.

While I was in Poulter’s flat, there was heavy banging on the front door, and when I went down I found Lambeth there, from Cambridge Museum.  He has just got a job as Rural Industries Organiser for Cambridgeshire and Huntingdon, and is very pleased.  He is only about 35.  I was very tickled that his main interest in the job is to get new stuff for the Cambridge Museum.  He did not seem to have much grasp of the agricultural situation.

Left him there at half past 8.  Very dark night.  No beacon.

11th January 1944

Up at 7.45, late.  Fine morning, hard white frost.  Bombers going out, dropping red and green flares.  The beacon was not on, but late last night they ran the motor without putting on the light.

Found I had a puncture, and took a long while to get in.  Went down to Mersea with Nott and called at Copt Hall.  Cecil Baldwin, who was with us, said as we went down the lane by the boarded cottages, “Do you remember when the Zeppelin came down here?  I was 12 at the time, and I was in bed fast asleep and knew nothing about it until next morning.”  This was Zeppelin L33, which was brought down at Little Wigborough in 1916.  CP

All the Abbott’s Hall horses had been brought over for numbering, so there were 7 there all together.  Little Robin, looking very like a miniature Punch himself, looked out of his box and hammered at me.  The big yard is full of cattle now, deep in straw.

It was now dinner time, so we went to the Wigborough “King’s Head”, and ate our sandwiches.  There was an old man in the bar called Foakes (a family which has been in those parts since the 14th century).  He works for Pickering now, and got talking to Nott and Baldwin.  He said he was born at Guisnes Court, and had come to Wigborough as a child of 4, seventy years ago.  For 50 years he lived in a little black cottage which was submerged by the Reservoir, and two months ago lost his wife “ – woke up one Sunday morning, found her dead in the bed.”

I asked him if he used to use flails – “Ah,” he said “that I did, many a time.  Last time I touched a ‘frail’ was at the Maldon Show.  They had ‘em there to show folks how that was done in the old days, so I went in and ‘thumped ‘em’ up and down a while.”

I said “Yes, I remember that time, I was in charge of that exhibit - ‘the Old Essex Farm' - at the Maldon  Show.”

Next we went down to Mersea Island, across the Strood with full tide sucking against the railings, rain falling fast, and went to Mortimer’s.  Numbered two horses there, and then had to go to the blacksmith’s, where the last horse was being shod.  A good little forge, belonging to Underwood, the last forge on the island now.

Back to Colchester, raining very hard, just in time to get a ‘phone call from Diana.  Went to tea with her at Last’s.  Then went to the old home, to find Father had moved back here, after being away for two months.  It looked funny to see him sitting in his old chair, while Miss Payne [the new housekeeper] was in Mother’s.  I hope she will be kind to him.  While I was there Mary Ralling brought in the “Gazette”, just as she always did every Tuesday evening when Mother was alive.  We shall never be able to repay the Rallings for what they have done.

Then back to office, glad not to be sleeping in the old house tonight, and mended puncture.  Got away at 7 in pouring black rain, and was very surprised to find the light on a Higham.  I saw the great sheets of crimson flame as soon as I had got through Stratford.  Why a beacon should be working on a night when no planes could possibly be out I do not know. 

I see my old friend G.A. Sutherland of Dalton Hall, Manchester University, is still protesting in the “Guardian” against the wicked crimes of bombing towns and cities on the Continent.  I spent a very pleasant week at Dalton Hall about 8 years ago, when I went for a course at the Manchester Museums.

9th January 1944

Dropped off to sleep in the armchair last night, and did not wake until past 8.  Rather fortunate really, as it gave me a chance to get some work done this morning. 

Heard on the radio news that some medical man, a Dr. Bourne, I think it was, has announced that children who are being brought up during the war are very lucky indeed, as they are getting much better food than they would otherwise have done.  One has only to look at the sickly, wan, little beasts in Colchester to see the wicked absurdity of this ridiculous statement.

Came on to rain about 4, but I determined to go over to Sherbourne Mill as Joy had asked me, and I did not like to miss an opportunity.  Had a most enjoyable evening, and a lovely supper.  Stayed until nearly 11 o’clock, and came away with 15 eggs and a pint of milk.

Still raining, but the moon behind the clouds made it quite light.  No beacon on tonight.

8th January 1944

Up early, cloudy and warm.  Surprised to find that the beacon was flashing.  This is the first time I have known it to be started during the night.  It usually flashes from sunset to sunrise.

Office just after 9, which was very fortunate, as Walling was not well today, and only came in for an hour.  Captain Folkard not in a very good mood, annoyed at Snowball’s attitude over the Committee’s heifers.  In my opinion Snowball should be given charge of the dairy herd when formed, as it seems ridiculous to have an experienced man on the job and not to allow him to use his experience.  It cannot be denied that Nott knows nothing about cows, and I rather doubt whether Baldwin knows very much.  I said as much to Captain Folkard, but it was not well-received.

The steam-tackle foreman, Payne, came in during the morning, and complained about Nott’s treatment of him.  Some of his complaints were, I think, justified, as Nott undoubtedly treats the men very badly, but he also complained bitterly because Baldwin had spoken to him for being late.  He admitted that they had been late starting on several mornings, but he objected strongly to being told so.  This is a very common attitude among workers today.

Daphne went off to Chelmsford this morning, looking very charming in her best clothes, to try for a job as a Recorder under the Milk Marketing Board.  I shall be sorry to lose her if she goes, but I know she has been pining for outdoor work for a long time.

This afternoon went shopping to try to find a present for the Rallings, but could find nothing at all suitable, so bought Mary a bunch of flowers for 4/- instead.  Must find something else when Father leaves Winnock Lodge.  

At 4 o’clock went to the Regal to see “Saludos Amigos”, Walt Disney’s new film.  Very good, and most enjoyable.  A combination of real scenes and drawings has great possibilities.  A visit to a cinema always inspires me to think how much better I could make films myself.  For some time I have been thinking about a series of short historical films which would be cheap to make and should be very attractive.

Went to Winnock Lodge, and gave Mary the flowers, which seemed to please her very much.  To Bourne Mill and fed the donkey.  The moon is almost full, but thick clouds came up and made a curious grey twilight, similar to that seen in dreams.  We have been very lucky this moon – there has not been a really fine clear night for almost a month.  Will a time ever come when a full moon means a night drive along deserted lanes instead of the chance of an air-raid?

Tonight reading and writing.  The beacon on again, but owing to the clearness of the atmosphere it did not show up so brightly as it usually does.  For some reason I did not feel in the least nervous tonight.

7th January 1944

Up early.  Fine clear morning, quite warm.  Many heavy bombers going over in the direction of France, flying low, with their green, red, and yellow navigation lights glowing like little stars.  By the time I got to Birchwood some were coming back, so I suppose they had been to Pas de Calais.  A big flight went across flying high in formation.  Noticed that the landing lights were on at Langham.

Busy all day.  Trouble brewing about the Committee cows and heifers.  Snowball is very much up in arms and Nott furious.  Captain Folkard was in Chelmsford for an N.F.U. meeting and missed it.  It generally falls to me to keep the peace between all these people.  In this case, Snowball is undoubtedly right, as Nott is not fit to care for cattle.  They have treated the bull at Brickhouse so badly that he is now almost useless. 

This afternoon the weather became cloudy and fine rain began, so I felt emboldened to take Daphne out to tea.  About 6 went to Holly Trees and talked to Poulter for a couple of hours.  Told me that Alderman Hazell was still alive, but not expected to last much longer.  Mrs. Lyon-Campbell is also very bad, and is only kept alive by stimulants.

Cannot help noticing that Alderman Hazell was admitted to the Essex County Hospital although suffering from nothing but a stroke, yet I was told that Mother could not be admitted under any circumstances.  There is a note in the Essex County Standard tonight about old Lamb, the hospital porter, who has just died, at the age of 81, in the Workhouse.  Although he had served the hospital well for nearly 40 years, and had been made a life-governor, even he could not be allowed to die there in comparative comfort.  Apparently there has been a good deal of comment in the town, and the hospital authorities have published an “explanation”.

Poulter told me that there had been another robbery at the Castle – a case cupboard in the Prehistoric Room was forced open, the lock entirely removed, and one or two drawers of Belgic stamps were emptied.  It is not known what is missing, as of course Hull had no idea what was in the drawers.  The Chairman got to know by accident and made himself quite unpleasant to Hull, who was entirely unrepentant.  Where will it all end?

Left at 8, slight rain, and a thin watery moon.  To my surprise, a fair number of heavy bombers went out, apparently flying in formation above the clouds.  They reckon to fly in any weather now.

Higham at 9, writing, reading, and bed at 11.30.  Wrote to the Penroses in Canada today, envying the letter as it vanished into the letter box.

6th January 1944

Up early, but did not get to the office until 9.45, owing to strong headwind.  The weather warmer again, no sign of frost.

Captain Folkard very annoyed at Engledow’s attitude regarding the letting of the new houses, and refused to telephone him.  Engledow, who is an insufferable ass at the best of times, seems to think that he can dictate not only to Local War Agricultural Committees, but to the District Council as well, but the Council, as they say round here, “wont wear it”.  The Clerk said to me some months ago that if the War Agricultural Committee could not behave reasonably, the Council would let these cottages to tenants other than agricultural workers.

This afternoon went to Fordham Airfield with Snowball and Dyer to dismantle the fitting in a cowshed at Woodhouse Farm, next to Harvey’s.  Not very successful, as they were set so hard in concrete.  The station was in full operation today, planes coming and going in all directions.  The noise of engines, and the bursts of gunfire as they tried their guns, was continuous.  While we waited outside the Watch Room, a ‘plane pulled up with a single aluminium coloured bomb slung under the fusilage.  The pilot seemed to be in some doubt as to where he ought to go, and called over to an officer to show him his maps.  After some little discussion he taxied away, turned onto the runway, and went roaring into the wind, rising and disappearing to the west, leaving me to wonder what people far distant now laughing or working or eating or sleeping were due to be dead in an hour or so when that shiny silver-coloured bomb burst among them.  Or would it fall harmlessly in a Flanders marsh or in the sea?

As we were going round the taxi-way we saw a plane which had run off the tarmac into the mud, and was heeling over like a wrecked ship.  One plane came running in to land when a red flare shot up as a signal that the runway was not yet clear.

Harvey's Farmhouse is now down to the level of the wall-plates, and the weather boards have been stripped from the west end, revealing the timber framing in good order, of which I made a rough sketch.  Went up the stairs and saw the main beam and rafters, all in good condition.  The rafters were numbered but appeared to have been reused, as the numbers did not run consecutively.  There is a lot of material to be got away, but the ground is still too wet to bear a lorry.

Just as we were leaving a plane came along the taxi-way, just back from a flight, waddling along like an ungainly duck, being steered by the rudder.  A dozen men came running out of a hut and swarmed all over it, the pilot walking away towards the Watch Room.

Stuart Rose appeared, to see about timber for a shed at Fordham Orchards.  He drove straight onto the flying field without speaking to anybody, and nobody made any attempt to stop him.  I went back to Colchester with him.

Had to send off a parcel of silver spoons to Mrs. Conran, and called at the Library to borrow sealing wax.  Went into the basement to melt it, and saw a volume of the Essex County Standard on a table.  Opened it casually, saw it was for 1910.  Looked at the top right-hand corner of the page at which I had opened it, and read the announcement of my own birth.

Moon tonight and thin clouds.  To Higham by 7.  No beacon.  Listened to the comical “Itma” show on the radio, and heard a joke about Mr. Boutflower of the “Min: of Ag: and Fish:”, this being the father of the Tendring District Officer.

“Twelfth Night”, so took down all the Christmas holly and mistletoe and burnt it.

5th January 1944

Heard planes going out very early.  Fine morning, high clouds, freezing hard.  Sun rose in great sheets of crimson flame.  Capt. Folkard out all day, so very busy.  Engledow telephoning from Writtle about recommendations for the new council houses.  Very anxious that nothing should be done except by himself, - inter-departmental jealousy.

Light until well after 6, with the moon coming up in a fog.  Had tea up-town before leaving.  Poulter tells me that old Mrs. Lyon-Campbell [Dr P G Laver's sister] is dying in the Beverley Road Nursing Home, and that Alderman Hazell has had a stroke and is in the County Hospital.  He (Poulter) is going to see the Chairman about Mrs. Lyon-Campbell’s books and pictures.  Marshall the solicitor is executor, and is very awkward.

If Alderman Hazell dies there will be another vacancy on the Museum Committee, which it will be very difficult to fill.  No Councillors take any interest in the Museum.  I see in today’s “Gazette”, that Adams, the manager of Barclay’s Bank, has been put on the Council in Harper’s place, now that Harper has been made an Alderman.  There must have been 10 or 11 Councillors put on unopposed since the beginning of the war.

4th January 1944

Heard planes during the night, and once thought I heard machine-gun fire, but may have dreamt it.  Lovely cloudless morning, but very cold.  As I cycled in along Ipswich Road several big flights of American bombers flew over towards France.  As they passed over Langham several of them dropped red and green flares, which glowed very strangely in the dawn sky.

This afternoon two little snow storms drifted across the town, and it became very cold. 

Called at Dedham on the way out, but Sissons had friends in, and I did not go in.  Such a brilliant moonlight night that I expected the beacon to be alight, but it was not, and I spent a very peaceful evening. 

3rd January 1944

Woke at 7, very dark, low clouds, strong wind.  Felt stiff and tired.  Our new housekeeper, Miss Payne, arrived by bus just after 1 o’clock.  Met her with a taxi, which I was lucky to get, just forestalling 2 Americans.  Had lunch at Rose’s.  A big dark very Jewish man came in, and I realised it was her brother Archie, whom I met five years ago.  He took no notice of me.

Went out to Fordham Aerodrome [Wormingford Aerodrome].  At Fordham found all the roads for miles around the aerodrome thick with mud, which made cycling very dangerous.  Lorries rushing about in every direction.  Had to report to the Watch Room before going on the flying field, and was invited to walk upstairs into the Control Room, which was marked in large letters “No Unauthorised Personnel Admitted”, but nobody seemed to resent my presence in any way.  Showed my authority card to a very pleasant young lieutenant, and then cycled off round the taxi-way.  Saw a single-engine plane starting away from the dispersal site.

Hutton’s men have begun dismantling the old farm house [Harvey's Farm], and have stripped all the tiles.  Explained how I wanted to preserve the moulded ceiling, and they were all very helpful.  Most of them I have met on various jobs in Colchester.  The main trouble now is that owing to the depth of mud it is impossible to get a lorry up to the site until the ground freezes, and there is no sign of that at the moment.  

Had to call at the office, and then away through Wormingford, Lt. Horkesley, Nayland, and Stoke to Higham.  I should like to live in Stoke, but it is rather too far from Colchester.

Called at Thorington Hall, and saw the Trichers. They are not very keen to let me go there, as they fear trouble with Penrose’s housekeeper, who also lives in the place.  Disappointing. 

Got to Higham at 6.15.  Very dark and wet.  No beacon.  Writing, supper, and early bed.  No planes about tonight, but the moon was beginning to shine through the clouds at 10 o’clock.

2nd January 1944

A brilliant day, quite warm.  Was there ever such weather at mid-winter?  Wish it would break up.  Will there be any real winter at all now?

Everybody very uneasy about the immediate future.  Thankful I don't live on the South Coast.

Lay very late, and spent the afternoon washing and cleaning.  Heard on the news that there had been another terrible raid on Berlin in the early hours today.  Will this never stop?  Watched all day hoping that the weather would break, but the sky remained clear and blue.  Many planes going out and returning.  The big 4-engine bombers go out now without escorts.

At dusk the crescent moon showed brightly, and I was alarmed to see that the beacon had been lit.  Got in a panic, dressed and shaved, and made ready to go out.  Then decided to have tea first, and after began writing, with radio music playing.  Did about 2,000 words of the “Camchester Chronicle”.  Just before midnight the radio faded slightly for a few minutes, but came on again, and I heard a plane come over which sounded like a German.

Switched on to a German station, and kept on writing until 2 a.m., then went to sleep in the armchair, before the dying fire.

1st January 1944

New Year’s Day, the fifth of the war.  Heavy, low clouds streaming before a strong westerly wind.  Not so cold as yesterday.

This is the 21st volume of my “Colchester Journal”, which I have kept more or less regularly since January 1st, 1924.  Before then, as a child, I had kept a few scrappy records which I wrote in home-made note-books.  I am not sure to what extent this volume can be claimed as a Colchester journal, as I am so little in the town that I know very little of what goes on.  I am only happy now when out of Colchester, although I am not happy at Higham owing to the American beacon, which terrifies me.  The Valley Farm cottage is delightfully remote, almost as remote as a cottage in far Wales or the Highlands, but alas not remote from aeroplanes, one of which is humming over now, high up under the glittering stars.

I still have my own money, and have never put a penny into War Savings.  I am getting £4.12.6 now, while I only had £3 at the Museum.  This cottage costs £3.10.0 per month, but I fear the electric light bill will be heavy.  Last year I spent about £15 on my trip to Scotland and Wales, and Mother’s funeral cost £20, so my savings have diminished a little, but I think I still have about £170 in the Bank and £70 in superannuation.  My pony, harness, carts, trap, books and other belongings must be worth almost £100.

But what is the use of money or possessions if one is unable to enjoy them?  Shall we enjoy anything this year?  I doubt it.  Saw Poulter this afternoon, and he told me that he had it from a very good source that the betting is even that the war will be over by April 15th, and 2-1 that it will be over by June.  Was there ever such nonsense?

Left the town at 5.30, the sky clear for the time being, but more immense black clouds came up from the west.  I was glad to see them, as I feel safe only on black, dirty nights.  The moon is waxing now, and I fear what may happen here during the next fortnight.

Glad to find that the beacon was not on, and settled down for a quiet evening, reading, writing, and listening to the radio.  Very few planes about.