BOOK REVIEW: E J RUDSDALE’S JOURNALS OF WARTIME COLCHESTER
Posted January 15, 2016on:
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I find wartime diaries fascinating, and by that I mean diaries kept by ordinary people on the Home Front, not ones by military top brass, politicians and journalists. Since the advent of Kindle more and more people have been publishing private diaries kept by family members, and these are invaluable. They can bring home to you more than any amount of old propaganda films, or newsreel footage, what life was like for people in those exceptionally trying circumstances. Plus you don’t get all the airbrushing of history that can so often go on, even these days. For instance, I keep being told we had a better brand of politicians back then, and yet Home Front diaries all too often reveal that the powers-that-be could be every bit as interfering, bureaucratic and bungling then as they are now.
I had loved the Blitz Diaries by Ruby Side Thompson. Ruby was an Essex housewife who kept a full and frank journal throughout WW2. Unfortunately they seem to have been removed from Kindle recently, which is a shame as they are very interesting. Anyway, here we have E J Rudsdale, also of Essex.
E J Rudsdale was 29 at the outbreak of war, but he wasn’t called up because of ill-health. Instead he worked as a Curator at Colchester Museum, as well as doing his share of fire-watching duty, and helping out with the harvest on local farms. He is an affable narrator, with a nice line in self-deprecating humour, and a caring nature. There isn’t a shred of jingoism about him. Like Ruby he hated war, and both had to live through the full horrors of the bombing. I find it eerie when he records that they knew when a raid was imminent, as the BBC would fade from the wireless (so that the incoming Germans couldn’t pick up on it).
There are some fascinating observations on the arrival of the Americans too. He jokes about seeing two books side-by-side in a bookshop window. One about understanding our American Allies, and the other on Self-Defence For Women! (“Overpaid, Oversexed and Over Here”). There is also a telling bit where he sees a black American soldier doing police duty in the town, and notices that unlike the white officers, the black officer isn’t allowed to carry a gun, and has to make do with a truncheon.
Rudsdale lived in mortal fear of being Called Up, and there is a part where he has to go for a full army medical, and overhears one officer say to another that if he was any further down the fitness ranking, he’d be dead! Sadly Rudsdale would die in 1951 at the age of 41, but he’s left us with an interesting glimpse of life on the Home Front.