30th June 1944

Had a long, quiet night.  Up early.  Clouds thin and high, and the glass up a little.  No planes about.  Miss Bentley said there was a big explosion during the night, but I heard nothing.

Went to the Food Office this morning, about rations for an excavator driver.  Saw a notice on the door to the effect that if there was a warning the building would be closed to the public, and had not been inside two minutes when the sirens sounded.  On the step outside was a young woman, with a little girl of 5 or 6 by her side, looking up anxiously at the sky, where strings of Fortresses sailed along among heavy white clouds.  Felt that if a “diver” came up we should never get a chance to hear it with all this noise going on.  A few people were hanging about rather self-consciously, around the mouth of the shelter next the Library, but nobody in the streets seemed very worried.  Lovely blue sky, fleecy clouds, bombers.  No “divers”, no explosions.  Went round by Chapel St and Cedars Rd, as I always like to make for open country.  Loud singing from the shelters at St John’s Green School.

Went across the Field, troops at exercises.  Thunderbolt whizzed across, very low, and ‘all-clear’ came almost at once.  Children came running out of the shelters at Canterbury Rd School, and just outside was a Co-op oil van, with the horse out of the shafts and tied to the back wheel.  These new alarms are being taken quite as seriously as those of four years ago.  Wonder how we shall regard them in four years time?

Capt. Folkard and Maidstone went off to Peldon today, to attend a conference about the grain drier which it is intended to be built next to Bonner’s Barn, near the Stroud.  How they hope to get the thing ready by this harvest only Writtle or the Ministry can tell.

This evening went home and found Father just about to walk round to the Recreation Ground with Miss Payne.  She makes him get out whenever the weather is warm and decent.

Went across to Rallings’ and picked some cherries.  Mary showed me a photograph of the Fire Office, taken in the Jubilee Celebrations in 1897, with the Ralling family standing on top of the colonnade, outside old Mrs Ives’ room.  Mary must have been 13 or 14 then, and her resemblance to Joan Ralling is most striking.

Lovely evening in the orchard, the air full of bats, birds singing in every tree, the black cat creeping through the long grass with a conspiratorial air.  Few planes about, and the glass higher.

29th June 1944

Went into town by way of Turner Road, for the sake of admiring the view.  The fields there should be preserved for ever, as they are the last really fine view of the town left to us.

Walsh came in from Writtle this morning, to talk about repairs to buildings and yard, but I don't suppose anything will be done. 

Spent the afternoon checking names of farmers’ on the parish lists.  Nearly everybody else went to Peldon to hear a lecture on the grain drier which is to be put up there.

Rushed off soon after 4 to get to Horkesley Post at 5.  People working in the fields, horse-hoeing, spreading lime, picking peas.  Met a gang of our Women's Land Army girls, getting on the bus at quarter to 5, so they must have left the field by 4.30 at the latest.  This sort of thing is very largely the fault of the bus drivers, who get there as early as they can for their own convenience. 

Had no tea until I got a cup at the Post.  Lovely evening, with high light clouds, and a few ‘planes about, circling for height, looking like little Tadpoles swimming in a bowl.  As the sun sank there were great bars of golden light to the west, and dark clouds piled up like endless mountain ranges, snow covered, of the most fantastic shapes.

There were a fair number of ‘planes about, some heavy bombers circling, and several lots of fighters took off from Boxted.  The weather was rather clouding, but the actual observation was not difficult.  Glad when 9 at last came, and I hurried back to Woodside for a delicious supper.  Heard bombers going out at about 11, but felt very tired tonight.  Looked out at half past eleven, and found a very light rain falling.  There was a red glare far away to the North, and an uncanny silence.

The funeral service for Captain Grundy, the Home Guard officer murdered at Abberton, was held at the Garrison Church this afternoon.  The gun-carriage was drawn by a light lorry, driven by an ATS girl.  Curious jobs girls are made to do in these days.

28th June 1944

Heavy clouds this morning.  Felt ill and very tired.  Late in.  Dull all day, with some showers.  Another short alarm at a quarter past 2.  This evening fine, clear and cool.

Wondering tonight whether I ought to try once again to get Father to move.  Feel sure these flying bomb attacks are going to get very much worse.

27th June 1944

To Observer Post at 1am.  Fine and clear.  Found myself on with Goody the ‘bus driver.  Then clouds came, and heavy rain.  Had the alarm ‘divers’, indicating that flying-bombs were coming in over Kent, but nothing came over our sector.  Rain stopped and it gradually got light.  Lambs began to cry, and larks rose up, singing.  The dawn sky was full of wild, torn, cloud with great masses of yellow, and red, gold and green.  Made me think of the dawn last year at Aviemore.  Wished I was there.  Thought of the 6 o’clock train leaving for the North this morning – by 8 tonight I could be in Edinburgh.  Got off at 5am.  Only heard one plane all night.  Bed for 3 hours.  Fine morning, but heavy rain from 11 to 12.  Weather bad for the invasion, which does not seem to be going very well.

Several pairs of army horses with wagons went by the office during the day.

An alarm for 10 minutes at 3 o’clock, just as the bombers were going out, so that had a flying-bomb come near it would have been difficult to hear it.

Was told today that on Saturday last “Tornado” Smith, now a fireman, the man who kept a lion at Boxford, rode into Colchester on a penny-farthing bicycle.

Fine evening, very calm.

26th June 1944

Up at 8.45.  Late at office.  Father still very anxious about Miss Payne’s coming back.  Busy morning, back for an early lunch, then off to Birch for the Committee Meeting.  Nothing much done.  No mention of the new bombs, but heard that Joanna is coming back with her baby soon.  Should have thought she would have stayed in Berkshire.  Afterwards went down to Layer Marney with Capt. Folkard and Maidstone, as he is to have one of the cottages behind the church.  There was an ‘all-clear’ at Tiptree just as we arrived.  Looked over the cottage, then went into the church.  The Marney Chapel is in a shocking state, roof leaking, monuments dirty, the east window almost falling into the churchyard.  Got up on top of the tower.  Glorious view, right across to Mersea, looking over the Committee’s farms.  The corn looks very well indeed.

Got back to Colchester at 7.30.  Found Miss Payne had duly returned, Father quite radiant.  To Boxted at 9, and had supper, then ready to go to Post at 1am.  Hardly a ‘plane all day.

25th June 1944

Mass of ‘planes went out soon after 5, in the dawn.  Woke me up.  Got Father tea at 8.  Wash, writing, etc.  Went off to Horkesley at 12. 

Pawsey was at the Post, and was very friendly, but I was an awful failure.  Rather strong S.W. wind, and an escaped barrage balloon came sailing along from London, no doubt cut loose by a flying bomb.  Some clouds coming up, and not many ‘planes, but what there was I failed to identify.  Glad when 5 o’clock came and I rushed home to tea.  Wrote some letters, then went to post them.  Called at Holly Trees, talked to Poulter.  Put the radio on, and heard the “Swan Lake” ballet music until Poulter said “For God’s sake turn off that rubbish”.  Stayed until 10, then went home, feeling very nervous.  Heavy explosion at 11 o’clock, shaking doors and windows.  Father spent most of the evening worrying as to whether Miss Payne will be back early tomorrow.

At midnight there was another explosion, and could hear gunfire to the south.  Then the sirens went off, and I felt in an awful panic.  Finally went to bed at half past 12.  Dozed off, woke to an alarm at 3am.  Heard the sound of a flying-bomb, heard it stop, and then a distant crash.  Crouched down in the bed.  All-clear in ten minutes.  Wondered if the night would ever end.

24th June 1944

Brilliant day, mild and sunny, but felt it overshadowed by the coming night.  This morning Charlie Baldwin came in with a story about the murder at Abberton.  A Home Guard officer named Capt. Grundy has been shot by a regular soldier, whom he came across when rabbiting.

Charlie said: “Did you hear together about these goings on at Abberton?  That was like this: Thursday night we had a ‘robert’ bomb [V1 robot bomb] at Copt Hall, and then later on the same night there was an owd Jerry came over and he dropped a string o’bombs on the next marsh to where that was.  Well, of course all this here upset our cattle, and we had about 100 head o’stock out by the morning, so I went up to Copt Hall Chase to find Cutting, and he says to me “I suppose you know all these here cattle are out all over the parish?  You might let Webb know when you’re up the village, and you might tell him there’s an unexploded bomb on the bottom marsh.”

Well, I thought if I went to Ponder’s place, him being Head Warden, I could tell him, and he could ‘phone Webb, ‘cause that’d be cheaper, like, but when I get to Ponder’s his missus said “He’s out, but that ain't a might o’good getting on to Webb, ‘cause he’s got a murder on his hands, and he’s busy.”  So I says “Oh, has he.  But what about this here unexploded bomb?  Webb can't do no good to the poor chap what’s dead, but if this bomb go off that might kill somebody else.”

Well, I went off and told my brother Cecil, and he went off with young Neville to the tractor they’d left behind the stacks near Peldon ‘Rose’.  When they got there, Cecil noticed that the cloth had gone off the tractor, so they had a look round, and right agin the stack they found the cloth with an R.A.F. chap rolled up in it, fast asleep, in fact he looked that white and queer they thought he was dead, so Cecil goes up and gives him a kick.  Well, that woke him up, and Cecil says “What are you up to mate?” and this chap says “I’m a-going to Mersea.”  “Where are you come from?” says Cecil, and he says “I’ve come from London”, he says, “and I’m on a secret mission.”  “Well,” says Cecil, “I reckon you’d better be gitten on the bus,” so they put him on the Mersea bus and then Neville says “What about this murder?  Do you reckon he’s had something to do with it?”  Cecil said he thought they ought to tell the police, so they got on their bikes and went onto the Island and told Sergt. Woods.  He says “That’s all right,” he says “he wont get off,” he says, “And I’ll tell you for why,” he says, “cause I’m going to put a man down by the Stroud, and that’ll stop him, see?”

Well, last night my brother and Neville was in the Rose, when in come Woods.  He calls my brother out, and he say “You know that fellow what you told me about?” and my brother say “Yes”, “Well,” he say “we found him.”  “Yes?” says my brother.  “Well,” he say, “he ain't nothing to do with that murder at all!”

It appears that Capt. Grundy was killed just behind Mabbitt’s house, Manwood Chase. The soldier then went across to the Layer Road, called at Lilley’s house and asked them to telephone the police.  He was still carrying the tommy-gun with which he had committed the murder.  

A flying-bomb fell at St Osyth either yesterday or the day before.

Went into the Park this afternoon, and went to sleep on the grass.  Big crowds about.  Felt strangely lonely.

To Rallings’ at tea-time and picked several pounds of cherries.  The fruit trees here are all very old, but still bear well.  Some of the pear trees are over 60 years old.  Father came over and we all had tea.  Miss Payne went off to Takeley for the weekend, and I am spending two nights in the old house.  Have not slept there since before Mother died.

Thinking about preparing maps of Boxted to show the agricultural development of the parish, with particular notice of the siting of the little 15th century hall houses round the Heath.

Went up town this evening.  Saw an American at St. Botolph’s Corner, very drunk, standing on one leg and shouting “Look at me!  I’m a stork!”

Calm evening, and not many ‘planes about.  To bed at eleven, in the front room, in Mother’s place.  Have to go on duty at Horkesley tomorrow.  The Royal Observer Corps don't seem very anxious to make use of my services, but I shan’t complain if they leave me alone entirely.

23rd June 1944

Blowing harder again, and clouds coming up.  Saw poor old Bond in High Street, one-handed, but walking briskly and looking wonderfully well.

Poulter went up to London yesterday, to the Royal Free Hospital.  Says he heard no bombs at all, and that there are no raid casualties at the Royal Free.  He was talking about Alderman Sander’s freedom – pointed out that the only people not represented at the ceremony were the hereditary freemen themselves! 

Went home this afternoon, and there was an alarm at quarter to 5, in bright sunlight, with a few fleecy clouds, and bombers going out.  Walked back up New Town Rd.  Children running about and laughing.  Little boy with a cycle, watching a Fortress go over.  Several more Forts came along, some firing red-rockets, which left trails like white worms in the sky.  Women with prams, pointing to the sky, and one saying “They must be ours.”  More ‘planes coming over, in ones and twos.  Old Polly Browne at her gate.  I went into the garden, but nobody else seemed to bother.  All-clear came in 10 minutes.

This evening went to Ardleigh, and then to Dedham, for an hour.  Went to the post at Horkesley soon after midnight.  Few ‘planes about, and could hear distant gunfire towards London.  Bed at 3am.

22nd June 1944

Wind slacker this morning.  Carl Stephenson from Maltings came in, and said there had been a big theft of lead piping from a hut at Lexden, belonging to the Water Works, and several tons were taken.  Apparently a 6-wheel lorry was used, as can be seen from the marks in the mud.

At lunch time heard a radio talk from Snowdonia.  How I wish I was there.  Called at home.  Father seems quite unperturbed by the new bombs.  Alarm for 10 minutes at a quarter to 6, while I was there, nothing happened.  Called at Ralling’s and arranged to pick cherries there on Saturday.

Flag flying on the Town Hall today, as Alderman Percy Sanders was given the Freedom of the Borough.

Boxted at 8.30.  Wonderful smell of pinks.  Cannot make myself go to bed.

21st June 1944

Cloudy, cold, wind still N.E.  Felt better this morning.   

Papers making a great thing of the heavy raids on the Pas de Calais yesterday, which only resulted in more flying bombs than usual being sent over last night.

A man called E. Owen Cooper came in today.  He has bought East Mersea Hall, and intends to farm it.  He is not a farmer, but owns cinemas in Suffolk and has a lot of money. 

Longest day, but so cold tonight that Miss Bentley gave me a fire.  Sat dozing in the arm-chair until 4am, then up to bed.

20th June 1944

Press full of stories about the awkward situations which are now arising in Normandy, where many of the people are pro-German, and a lot of women have married Germans, some with babies now 2 or 3 years old.

Brilliant day, but the wind still strong.  Hardly a ‘plane about all day, except a fighter or two, until this evening when heavy bombers began to go out.

Colonel Round came in today and handed me the Castle manuscripts and Charles Gray’s note-book.  Have now listed these completely so took the whole lot to Alderman Blomfield for the Museum Committee this afternoon.  Made it quite clear that these manuscripts are to go into the custody of the Town Clerk and not the Museum.  The manuscripts and Rudsdale's listed typescript are now in the custody of Essex Record Office. CP

Headache all day, and an awful feeling of sickness.  To Boxted at 9.  Clouds coming up, and an alarm on the aerodrome for about 5 minutes.  A fighter went over, from the N., and a boy called out “There’s one o’them things!” meaning a flying-bomb. 

Wind rising again, very strong from the N.E., but several hundred bombers went out between 9 and 10.

19th June 1944

Quiet night, so far as I was concerned, but Miss Bentley said she heard an alarm and an explosion about 7am.  Heard later that this was a bomb near Tiptree, and that on Saturday afternoon one fell at Kelvedon, killing one of Hurst’s horses.

Tonight everybody in the hay-fields at Mile End and Boxted, and cuckoos calling in the woods.  Clear golden sunset, with streaks of golden and crimson clouds.  Had new peas and fresh strawberries for supper.  Heavy but distant explosion at 10.30.  Bed at 11, worn out.

18th June 1944

Beautiful sunny morning, but high winds.  No ‘planes about until the afternoon.  Reading and writing until 7.30. 

This evening went to Little Rivers in Boxted, but Dodo Rose made me irritable with her solemn airs, and Stuart Rose was making fatuous suggestions about organising the Women's Land Army and War Agricultural Committees for Normandy, as if the wretched Normans had not got enough to worry about without that.

Phoebe Fenwick-Gaye is now preparing a new book, a sort of ‘garden calendar’.  Saw the format, designed by Stuart Rose, very attractive.  Phoebe Fenwick Gaye published several books on gardening after the war, based on her experiences of gardening in wartime.

Glorious evening, but strong N.E. wind.  Looked out at 2am and found heavy clouds blowing up.  Went to bed, hoping that any ‘flying-bombs’ may be blown off their course.

17th June 1944

Dark and cloudy morning, and few ‘planes going out.  Wished I had stayed in ditch all night, could not sleep in bed.  Breakfast very late this morning.  Gale rising, had hard job to get in against it.  Sadler [from the Writtle War Agricultural Executive Committee] came in this morning to see Captain Folkard.

Rumours around that a ‘robot’ [V1] fell in Chelmsford yesterday in the Swimming Bath.  Went to Hippodrome to see “Mr. Chips” again.  An alarm for 10 minutes just as I sat down at 2.15, but stayed where I was.  Afterwards went to see Alderman Blomfield at his office in St John Street.  Another alarm while I was there, at 5.30.  Many Fortresses were going out, and heard a very distant explosion.  Walked down to the Forces Canteen with him, in Headgate Chapel Room, which is run by the Alderman’s manager.  Had a cup of tea, and ate a sandwich or two until the ‘all-clear’ came.

To Holly Trees, and got out two prints of Jane and Ann Taylor for an exhibition which Miss Osborne of the Library is arranging.  Felt sick tonight.  Ought to have gone home, but could not face it, so went to Boxted at half past nine.  Did not feel quite so nervous tonight.  Very tired.  A great flock of ‘planes came in at 10 o’clock, and some more went out about an hour later.

16th June 1944 - Arrival of the V1 Flying Bombs

Two alarms during the night, one about 4, and the other after 6.  Most unusual to have one so late.  During the first, just before 4, heard what seemed to be the scream of a falling ‘plane, and a heavy thud.  When I got to the office, Capt. Folkard told me that this was one of the long-expected “rocket planes”, sent over from France, and that it crashed in a field near Baker’s Hall, Bures, passing over Fordham. There are more details on the arrival of the first V1 flying bombs in E.J. Rudsdale's book.

Fine morning, but cold and windy, cumulus cloud drifting over from the N.W.  Early lunch, as I had to go over to Chelmsford for a secretaries’ meeting.  All talk at lunch about the “rocket”.  Winnie said “Awful, isn’t it?  Whatever will happen next?” and went on to say that Sainsbury had sent her 4 and a half pounds of sausages and had charged her for 6 pounds. 

To the station at 1.30.  Big crowds.  Ida Hughes Stanton was there, with an officer.  Called out to me, but felt I could not face a conversation with her and pretended not to hear.

Train came in very full, and changed engines.  While we waited some Liberators came droning over back to their bases, in and out of clouds disappearing and re-appearing.  Longed for the train to move.

Near Witham, a field full of pea-pickers, wearing brightly coloured skirts and gaudy handkerchiefs on their heads.  Nearby was a field of roots with sheep folded, men spreading lime from carts where the sheep had already been.  At one end was a brand new water-cart, brilliant red and green, and a shepherd’s pony-and-cart. 

There was a stream set in a newly broken grass field near Hatfield Peverel.  Several fields of hay were cut and cocked, and at Boreham, on the Fordson estates, they were carting clover with, of course, Fordsons.

Train half an hour late at Chelmsford.  Town very crowded, market day.  News boys calling “Oaks Result”.  Looked in at the market, full of young store cattle.  In one pen were two short horn bulls tied against each other, busily goring each other’s flanks.  Why do the auctioneers allow this stupid cruelty to go on?

Cycled on to Writtle, only to find the meeting had been postponed for half an hour, without of course any notice whatever being sent to secretaries.  A few sheep are penned on the little clover patches outside the Institute.  The whole of the ground in front is laid out in experimental beds of grasses and wheats.  A labourer stood motionless, like a figure in “The Angelus”.

In the men’s lavatories the following notice:
“Switch off the light before you pass out.”

Secretaries’ meeting was incredibly boring, everybody wanting to argue silly points of no importance whatever.  Felt more and more annoyed and depressed. 

The meeting dragged on until 5.30, then at last got away.  Called at County Hall, and saw Emmison [Archivist of Essex Record Office] for a few minutes.  Told me that Colonel Round had sent in a tremendous quantity of stuff, including 83 plans of farms on the Birch Hall estate, and among miscellaneous papers there are several relating to the Castle.  Could not see these as he had to rush off to an emergency ARP meeting, arising out of these new bombs.  Much impressed by the care with which all the important archives are kept, massive steel safes, concrete vaults, etc.  Compares very favourably to the shoddy lackadaisical methods at Colchester.

Had sausage tea at the Cinema.  Found trains from London very late, owing to bombs somewhere on the line.  Got in a panic, and decided to cycle home.  Saw two big convoys on the By-Pass – Americans going East, AA guns going towards London.  Fat cattle grazing on the Chelmer marshes.

Large National Fire Service [N.F.S.] barracks near the junction of the old London road, and not far away was a gun mounted on a tower of scaffolding, the figure of the gunner dark against the evening sky.

At Boreham was horrified to see that the great elm avenues on each side of the lake, leading up to Boreham House, are being cut down.

Called at Crix, as I had not seen Miss Hope for so long.  The lawn in front of the house is now ploughed and sown with peas.  Miss H. looked very well, and was glad to see me.  Her father is now very old, and is getting rather deaf.  Was told that shortly before 4am a rocket had missed the house by a narrow margin, falling in an orchard about a mile away.

Miss Hope also told me that in 1940 they had two land-mines near the house, and in 1941 a large bomb fell near the east drive gate.  Yet there is no sign whatever of any of this, just a lovely gracious house, standing peacefully among the trees, the dying sun glinting on the myriad window-panes.  And all through the endless nights of terror this crippled woman stayed there alone with her old father and an elderly servant.

They asked me to stay to dinner, which I did, although dirty from travelling.  We had it in the lovely dining room, looking out into the garden, all the furniture gleaming and polished as if servant problems had never been heard of.  The old man produced a bottle of port, and handed round the glasses.  We had fish and asparagus, and then peppermints, and like a fool I ate mine before I had finished the port, and felt dreadfully gauche.

Left at 9.30, with two copies of ‘Antiquity’ which Miss H. gave me.  Cycled along easily before a S.W. wind.  Witham seems to be full of semi-derelict houses and policemen.  One called out to a fireman cycling by: “Hurry up, hurry up.  Are we going to have another night like last?”

Just over the railway bridge was startled by sirens blowing all-clear.  A lovely calm evening.  Never heard the alarm.  At Rivenhall End there were four more policemen outside the station there, who looked at me very suspiciously.  Noticed two fire-party notices, two in a tiny street of a dozen houses and a pub.  A fire-party consisting of two old labourers and two women were walking away, wearing their idiotic helmets.  Fantastic.

At Kelvedon the pubs. were still open, but at Marks Tey it was almost dark, and the sun was disappearing as a huge red ball, with clouds coming up from the west.  Lexden with crowds of firemen and N.F.S. girls outside the N.F.S. barracks at the Horse Show Ground.  Heard one girl say “Well, if anything happens here, I shall clear out”.

Down the By-Pass, and up Spring Lane, lovely in the dusk, full of flittering bats.  Cut through Braiswick to Mile End, and so to Boxted by 11.30.  Felt very nervous tonight, so took my rugs and lay in the ditch on the edge of the wood until 1.30am, listening to the sounds of the little animals rustling and crawling.

15th June 1944

Fine and cool.  A few Thunderbolts went out about 4.30, but after that it was quiet, so that I overslept.  Really must get up earlier.  Called at home.  Father a bit down again.

Saw some Dutch sailors in High Street, one of them Javanese, all chattering Dutch together.

Hay on the cock at Boxted, men and women raking and turning.

An alarm at 8.35pm for above 5 minutes, but nothing happened.  It was cloudy, with ‘planes going out high and invisible.  Looks like more rain.  Another alarm at midnight, but again nothing happened.  Went outside and found rain just beginning, but it soon stopped.  We don't want any more rain till the hay is in, but it does keep the raiders away.  Slept downstairs until nearly 4, then went up to bed.

14th June 1944

Fine and cool.  Ploughing going on along Long Road.  Got in quite early this morning.  Saw a trench being cut at St Botolph’s Corner site, on Blomfield’s land, to put in a new water pipe connection to the Britannia Works, where there is an excellent section, down to about 10 feet. 

Awful row this morning about the removal of farm-workers by the Ministry of Labour.  Two girls working at Prior’s, Mile End Road, were sent in by the Labour Exchange.  Within a few minutes Prior rang up in an awful state, as well he might be.  As a matter of fact, we are actually hiring girl labour to Prior, yet the Ministry of Labour have the impudence to say that he has redundant labour.

Went to see a colour-film but it was a waste of time.  Called at Diana’s afterwards, and stayed there until half past 12.  Walked back to Boxted in a lovely evening.  It is light almost all night.  Far to the North were faint lights, as if the aurora.  Thought longingly about Inverness.

13th June 1944

Slept until quarter to four this morning, when wakened by sirens.  Heard a ‘plane and distant gun-fire, but did not get up.  Light at 4.  Wondered if Father woke.

Got up at 8 to find heavy rain, yet it was a fine dawn.  Cleared this afternoon.  The weather is not good for the operations in France.

Busy sorting Tiptree parish boundaries, and doing letters.  Tea with Daphne, and then to cinema to see “Madame Curie”.  Well done, but rather dull.

In the evening papers it states during the raid early this morning a ‘plane crashed at Stratford, on some houses near Coburn Road.  Also states that recently an RAF machine crashed on the island of St Kilda.  This I find particularly distressing.  To think that even if one got to a remote island in the midst of the Atlantic, even there a ‘plane must seek out this tiny blob of land, and fall whining and screaming to its end upon it.

Bed at midnight.

12th June 1944

Fine, brilliant morning, and S. wind.  Big air fleets going out soon after 7 o’clock. 

Committee meeting at Birch.  Much talk about the disgraceful way in which the Writtle Labour Committee are trying to transfer farm labourers from one farm to another, in a most arbitrary fashion, consulting neither the farmers concerned nor the Local Advisory Committee.  Col. Round is determined that it shall not be done in this District if he can stop it.

Maidstone came to the meeting and was introduced.  I believe he is a conscientious objector.  Many men cannot bring themselves to acknowledge it openly, as they know that to do so would mean that all work would be closed to them.  Had tea with him at the Regal.

Cycled out to Boxted in the cool of the evening.  Hay cut and cocked.

11th June 1944

Dull day, showers at times.  Planes in all directions all day long.  Spent lazy morning, writing, bath, etc.  Cycled to Lawford this afternoon.  Crops look very well after rain, and there may be some hay after all.

Saw the wrecked cottages on Ipswich Road, near the “Lion and the Lamb”, two little red brick houses on the E. side of the road, completely wrecked.  The Bren carrier apparently blew up just opposite (marks of fire clearly visible on the road), and bits of the machine were thrown into fields more than 100 yards away.

Everybody well at Lawford.  The little red bull is still there, and they have two fresh calves.  After tea went down to Dedham.  The American Sergeant, Merrill, was there, and old Major Inde.  It was quite funny to see the Major trying to be affable to the American, who amused us by reading poems by Ogden Nash, which were very funny indeed.  The only one I can remember is:

            Little Lamb,
            Do you know
            Where you am?
            I’ll give you a hint –
            You’re in the middle of
            A bed of mint.
            Scram, Lamb!

He also gave us what he said was the shortest poem in the English language, written by himself, entitled “Lines Written by an American Citizen who has spent Six Months in the County of Lincolnshire”, and it runs,


Left at 10.30, in a beautiful summer evening, and went to the post at Horkesley from 11 until half past one.  Feel very unhappy about the whole affair, as I find I am quite incapable of distinguishing one kind of ‘plane from another, and worse still, have no idea whatever of judging the height of ‘planes.  However, the two men on duty were very kind and helpful.  Got to bed at 3 o’clock, light beginning to show in the east.

10th June 1944

Lot of ‘planes over in the night.  Rain this morning.  Rather late in, but nobody noticed.  Surprised to receive a memo: from Writtle regarding arrangements to be made in this District in event of an invasion and the evacuation of Colchester.  Seems a little unnecessary now.

Soldiers marching past in the rain, singing “My old man said ‘Follow the van’”.  Several pair-horse wagons going by.  Busy all morning.  More serious trouble with the Women's Land Army but the Writtle authorities refuse to take any action, even in the worst cases.

This afternoon to see the Repertory Company, but not a very good show.

Weather became finer and warmer about tea time.  Called on Alderman Sam Blomfield and mentioned the possibility of my returning to the Museum.  The suggestion was rather coldly received, and he was obviously embarrassed at the prospect.  He seems to prefer to have me outside the Museum, to be used as a consultant wherever he wishes, rather than to have me back and risk trouble with Hull.  All very well, but I am not going to stand for this sort of thing, and I will see that the Committee soon understand my position.

Had tea at Jacklin’s, then called at home.  Father very well.  Called at Winnock Lodge, and saw Dick Ralling from Southend.  He is now driving an old bus, converted for use as an ambulance, and was expecting to be called back at any moment.  They have been ‘standing by’ for weeks, but don't know quite what for.  All the drivers have been warned for action next week.

At 9 o’clock called at the American Red Cross Club in Priory St, with a message from Poulter to Miss Marie Wall, a delightful black lady of about 25.  Talked for an hour or so, and then to Boxted.  Clouds coming up again, and not many ‘planes about.  Hopes for yet another quiet night.

9th June 1944

Raining hard, and cold.  No ‘planes except one Thunderbolt which rose as I cycled past Severalls.  Couldn’t be worse weather for military operations.  Will give the Germans plenty of time to get their reinforcements moved up.

Busy chaotic morning, full of Labour troubles.  Meant to go home, but went to Holly Trees instead, and looked through Sir Gurney’s papers.  Tremendous rain began at 6 o’clock.  Good for crops, but bad for the troops.

Went over to the café for supper.  An alarm at 9 o’clock, but oddly enough felt no fear at all.  Heard ‘planes as I cycled to Boxted, and all-clear came just as I got there.

Councillor Ham ‘phoned to say he was releasing Stanway boys for pea-picking next week, which is beginning in the Tey district.

Wind still S. and glass only 29.3 at midnight.

8th June 1944

Cloudy and cold.  Few ‘planes out at dawn.  In late, Capt. Folkard annoyed, as well he might be.

News of the invasion not very good, and a faint rumour spreading that something has gone wrong.  Papers full of glowing accounts of the wonderful treatment given to wounded – nothing else.

Flag on the Town Hall today for the King’s birthday.

Hervey Benham bought some more manuscripts down to Holly Trees tonight, left them there for sorting.

Cloud coming up again and rain beginning as I went to Boxted.  Conditions must be terrible in Normandy.

7th June 1944

Few ‘planes out at dawn.  Dull and cold, but fine later.  They seem to have chosen rather unfortunate weather for their invasion.

Had a letter from Meg MacDougall at Inverness Museum.  Wish I was there today.  Noticed it had taken 5 days to get here and had been opened by the censor.  Fortunately the contents were quite harmless.

Tonight had tea with Diana, and then went to the Regal.  Afterwards had a coffee in the Milk Bar, and then went to supper at Balkerne Gardens.  Very pleasant evening, but at about eleven the sirens suddenly sounded.  Quite lost my head, told her I had to go to the Castle, and rushed out.  Went into Sheepen Fields, and felt terrible at what I had done.  The all-clear came about 1am and all the time the sky was full of American ‘planes, carrying navigation lights.  Walked home to Boxted and heard a burst of machine gun fire as I went by the station.  The guard parties, in their ridiculous helmets, standing on Mile End Hill.

Moon rising as I went to bed.

6th June 1944: D-Day

About 2am heard the sound of many ‘planes warming up at Wormingford, but soon went to sleep.  Woke soon after 3 to a tremendous roar, and looked out to see the whole sky filled with ‘planes, all carrying their navigation lights, dropping red and green flares in every direction.  Just before 4 the Boxted aerodrome lights came on, and all the Thunderbolts took off in pairs in a series of shattering roars, coming up over the house and flashing away to the S.W.  The sky was just a mass of gleaming lights of all colours, and the house trembled with the vibration of thousands of engines.  The moon, nearly full, shone on fleecy clouds in the west, and there were dark rain clouds drifting away to the North.  Have never known the Americans to take off before dawn, so guessed this must be something big, and was not surprised to hear on the 8 o’clock news that there had been heavy raids on Calais and Dunkirk and that British naval forces were off Le Havre, while the Germans had announced that landings were being attempted both by sea and air.

And so comes what we were promised was to be the great climax of the whole war, when the great allied armies are to storm “Hitler’s fortress” and “liberate starving Europe”.  But where is the excitement we were promised?  And the hardships?  We were told that on “D-Day” every road would be shut, all trains stopped, no buses, and everybody living under siege conditions.  Yet all is just as it was yesterday – buses running, trains running, soldiers marching out to training, little children going to school, prostitutes popping in and out of the house in Military Road.  At the office, hardly a mention of this great “final” battle, except to remark on the noise of ‘planes during the night, and say wisely “Ah! As soon as I heard them, I knew it was the invasion.”

No troop movements here, but some bren carriers were coming into the town soon after midnight, when one blew up just on the Borough Boundary, by Skipping Street, completely destroying two houses on the east side of the road, and breaking a lot of windows.  The driver was killed, but nobody else was hurt.

Went out to Horkesley at 6, to see the sugar beet competition.  Just beginning to rain, but there was a good show, in a field at Potter’s Farm, belonging to Alec Page.  Work began at 7, and went very well, while bombers and Thunderbolts roared overhead on their way to Normandy.  One huge flight of Thunderbolts came over from Raydon.  Rain began harder, and when it was all over we went into the farmhouse and had beer and whisky, after which the Chairman gave the prizes, and made a rousing speech, all about what a great day this was, etc.
Went along to the Observer Post at 9, for another 4 hours training.  Am doing very badly.  Felt terribly nervous, and wondered if there was likely to be a raid tonight.  Weather got worse, but still planes came back from France, and the aerodrome lights were on.  Some ‘planes landed with headlights like motor cars.
The Wormingford road was opened again this morning.

Rain got worse after 1am and was thankful to get into bed by 2 o’clock, tired out.

5th June 1944

Rain during the night, but fine this morning.  Glass still down, and S.W. wind very strong.

Soon after lunch, Hugh Gray phoned from Fordham to say the road between Wormingford and Fordham running through the aerodrome had been closed by the Americans and no milk could be got out from the farms.  I tried to phone the aerodrome and Rotchfords, but all the phones were dead, and could get no reply at all.  Race and Finlay and all their families are quite shut off from the rest of the world, as are also the people in the cottages.  Most extraordinary state of affairs.  Must be something very big in the wind.

Gray said the local police had been unable to get into contact with the American commander, and all approaches were guarded by tommy-gunners.  Actually to block the road is absurd, as no part of the flying ground can be seen from there.

Went home twice today.  Father seems very well. Tonight phoned Revd Benton about Sir Gurney’s books, but he did not seem to be very interested.  Shan't bother any further.

Dull warm evening.

4th June 1944

Up at 10.  Bright and cool.  Planes going out at 11, and heard a heavy explosion to the south, which shook the house.  Had a bath, and went over to Dedham to get my field-glasses.  Told them joke about an American farmer – he bought a pedigree bull, which proved useless for service.  However, it was such a fine beast that he decided to charge a dollar a head to see it.  One man came, said he wanted to see the bull, but was too poor to pay a dollar.  “Poor?” says the farmer, “Why?” “Got a big family”.  “How many?” “Twenty four.” “Christ! Come on in, I want the bull to have a look at you!”

To Horkesley at 5, to the post.  Heard that the explosion this morning was a ‘plane crash at Feering. 

Wind S.W. tonight, half a gale.

3rd June 1944

Fine and cool.  Quiet dawn.  Horses coming in from the meadow, cuckoos calling in the wood.  Curious how few cuckoos there are this year.  Called at home.  Father seems very well.

This afternoon went to the Corn Exchange.  What strange looking characters there are there, some cruel looking, some stupid, a few kind, most very ugly.  Arranged for two judges at the sugar beet singling competition which we are holding at Horkesley.

Had tea at Jacklin’s.  Very full, big crowd.  Sat with a very pretty dark girl on one side and a very deaf man on the other.  Went to see Alderman Blomfield, but nothing very important said. 

To Holly Trees, found Poulter very depressed.  Saw an exhibition arranged in the Castle called “Bombed Churches”.  Found it was actually arranged by the Congregational Churches, and illustrated only their chapels, with a photo or two of St Paul’s and the Temple Church to make weight.  Some of the captions were made deliberately misleading, such as one showing the ruins of a chapel at Southport, which said “In 1680 we founded a chapel at Southport.  In 1940 the Germans destroyed our buildings” or words to that effect, implying that the wretched shack knocked down was the original building of 250 years ago.

To Boxted at 8.  Heard gunfire and machine guns far away, in a lovely calm evening.  Moon showing through clouds, and a big  flight going out at midnight.  Dozed in the armchair, and awoke to find it was 4 o’clock, with dawn showing in the east.  Went up to bed, thankful that another night was over.

2nd June 1944

Fine and cool, sunshine and high rolling clouds.  A few ‘planes going out.  Talk in café at lunch about a big explosion in Cambridgeshire [EJR later note: 'This was in Soham Station'], where an ammunition train has blown up.  The press have not said where this happened, but a woman who lives above the café said she was sure it was at Littleport because her brother lived there, and she was going to send a telegram at once to ask if he was alright.  Another woman, in the café, was telling how a friend of hers had heard that her brother’s name had been mentioned on the Japanese radio, as being alive and well in a prison camp.  This had been picked up by a listener in the South of England.

Alan Gifford phoned from Chelmsford this afternoon and offered me a seat on the National Council for Rural Industries, to represent the Eastern Counties.  Pleased to do what I can, and accepted at once.

To Repertory Theatre tonight – good.

Afterwards went to Holly Trees.  Poulter told me a story about soldiers and prostitutes breaking into Berechurch Hall and stealing a quantity of stuffed birds.  Why I don't know.  He also told me that Rabett, of the Lexden and Winstree Rural District Council, heard Poulter talking about my criticisms of the Council’s attitude on rural housing, and that yesterday he (Rabett) phoned Poulter to try to find out who had been making these criticisms.  Poulter would not tell him.

Going back to Boxted saw a huge grey owl winging slowly through the dusk near Solway Brook.  ‘Planes coming back low beneath the clouds.  Tried to make some ‘phone calls from Woodside, but the exchange would not answer.

Bed at 1a.m.

1st June 1944

Dull, and cooler.  No ‘planes about all morning.  Engledow ‘phoned again about Mrs. Allen.

Heard today that nearly 400 gallons of milk from the Tey district were wasted on Monday through being left on a lorry all day in the boiling sun.  The transport of milk is now undertaken by the Milk Marketing Board, which takes no precautions whatever to safeguard the supplies.  The farmers have no redress at all, and have the milk sent back to them.  It cannot be made into cheese because neither the Milk Marketing Board nor the farmers have the means of doing so, the art having been quite lost in Essex.

Called at home this evening, rain just beginning, making everything smell fresh and sweet.  To Holly Trees, and collected some more papers from Benham.  Then to Boxted, and at Mile End saw there had been a confirmation, the little girls in their veils and white dresses running across the churchyard from the church to the schoolroom.  The Bishop of Colchester came out, and got into a small green motor-car with a woman driver.

Glorious sweet peas in the garden at Woodside, glistening after the rain.

Had supper, listening to the ‘Itma’ show on the radio, then cycled over to the Observer Post at Boxted, to report there. 

E.J. Rudsdale had now been called to undertake Royal Observer Corps duty.  A full description of the Observer Post near Boxted and Great Horkesley where he worked is given in his book. E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester.  The Observer Post can still be seen today.  CP
Noticed some hay cut and cocked at Holly Lodge.

Bed 11.30.  Quiet light, although clouds had come over.