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The Essex Record Office holds records about the county, its people and buildings and provides a useful resource for individuals interested in family, house and local history.

Ted Haley’s recordings in south Essex, 1965-1989

We are lucky to have a team of amazing Essex Sound and Video Archive volunteers, who give their time and expertise to help make the recordings more accessible. In this blog post, Lilly highlights some of her favourite clips from Ted Haley’s collection of recordings (ERO reference SA 20). You can read transcripts for all the clips below here.

Between the mid 1960s and the late 1980s, Edward ‘Ted’ Haley conducted a series of audio recordings and interviews in the south Essex area, focusing on Basildon and Southend-on-Sea. Over the course of the interviews, Ted met a variety of people with an even bigger variety of experiences and stories to tell, with folks such as Harold Whitely – also known as Rainbow the clown – and talented silent film organist Ena Barga, to name but a few. All these recordings, preserved at the Essex Record Office, give a unique perspective of late twentieth century Essex and unlock a door into the past of the town centres and high streets that we now walk around decades later.

Postcard showing boats at Marine Parade Beach, Southend, c.1955 (I/Mb 321/1/57)

The Second World War

The interviews Ted conducted in the Basildon area include many interesting anecdotes from those who experienced the Second World War, though the perspectives of the interviewees vary entirely from ex-soldiers and RAF veterans all the way to a member of the Norwegian Resistance.

In 1980, Ted interviewed a man named Alan Mitchell who was a volunteer during the war on the Royal Navy’s submarines. He describes his experiences during the war, including the medical examinations they experienced upon arrival at Gosport, Hampshire.

In this clip, Alan discusses the claustrophobia test they were put through (SA 20/1126/1)

He also interviewed another veteran, Robert Ramsey, who served with the RAF (SA 20/1140/1). In the interview, Robert tells the story of when he was shot down by a night fighter over Louvain on the night of 10 May 1944. He details how he ran to a French farmhouse and was given food, water and radio access by a peasant family who risked their lives aiding him and hiding him in a haybale on their farm.

Ted also interviewed Mike Karslake, who recalled his experiences of being a child during the Blitz in Acton, London. He begins with a story of how he was evacuated, with the help of his father’s quick talking, to his Nan’s house in North Devon. However, after a year, he returned home and experienced the Blitz with his mum and grandfather. Mike also recounts his schooldays during the war and how air raid sirens would even occur in school hours.

Mike describes how his grandfather handled the air raid warnings and how he was eating during an air raid warning in school (SA 20/1131/1)

In 1981, Ted interviewed a Norwegian woman, Borghild Mitchell (nee Gulbransen), pictured below. She describes her experiences during the war, watching her country being taken over by German artillery and the changes that meant for Norwegian society – for example, the curfews that citizens had to follow and the passes they had to carry when walking through the streets after the curfew. She also describes being part of the Norwegian Resistance and how this led to her being interrogated and her fiancé being killed by German soldiers. When Ted asks her about the interrogations, and she answers with a story filled with pain, yet a sense of loyalty and determination to stay true to the resistance is heard throughout her recount.

Borghild describes being interrogated and feigning a lack of understanding to give her more time (SA 20/1141/1)

Black and white photograph of a young woman with short dark hair and a white blouse.

Photograph of Borghild Mitchell aged 18, taken in 1942 (SA 20/1141/4)

Events in South Essex

As well as interviews with people living in south Essex, Ted also recorded important moments and events. On 10 September 1981, Essex Radio aired its first ever radio broadcast. Over the opening weekend, team members were introduced and in person interviews took place across Essex, including with the American singer and bassist, Suzi Quatro. Listening to this recording is very interesting as not only are you hearing how excited people were for Essex Radio to air, but you also get a snippet of adverts that were popular at the time – in some ways, even more telling about the time period than the interviews with 1980s Essex folk are.

An advert for Laylor’s car dealership in Brentwood and for Banks American Restaurant in Westcliff-on-Sea (SA 20/1127/1)

In 1985, Ted recorded a concert at Rochford Hospital. As part of the recording he interviewed Ena Barga, a musician who specialised in the organ and played for silent films throughout her career.

Ena discusses her dislike for modern music, followed by a recording of her playing the organ at the concert (SA 20/1148/1)

‘Royal’ date, a newspaper clipping showing Ena Barga and her sister Florence De’jong on the renovated Compton theatre organ at the State cinema at Grays (SA 20/1148/4)

The novelties of Southend-on-Sea

Some of Ted’s interviews in Southend and the surrounding areas, including Westcliff and Leigh, touched upon some of the novelties of these seaside towns, such as Rossi’s ice cream, rock candy and the fishing industry. The interviews he conducted delve into the fascinating history surrounding these seaside stereotypes.

His interview with George ‘Pie’ Osborne and Cecil Osborne covers the history of cockling that was a main source of income for many Southend folk in the early 1900s. Whilst the history of cockling, fishing and shrimping are key parts of this interview, a notable part of the interview is the accents of the two men, which they describe to be ‘local accents’. The dialect that they use in addition to this is compelling with one of which being the word ‘sawney’ being slang for the word simple.

George and Cecil talk to Ted about their accents – listen to how they pronounce words like ‘coat’ and ‘rope’ (SA 20/1557/1)

Black and white photograph of a man in a fisherman's jersey and flat cap, with a boat on the sea behind him.

Photograph of Cecil Osborne, undated (SA 20/1557/4)

A sweet treat that many love about seaside towns such as Southend is a hard stick of rock. In one interview Ted talks to Mr. S Knatchbull who owned Grosvenor Confectionery and worked making handmade regular and lettered rock in 1979 (SA 20/1566/1). He discusses the rock making process, listing the ingredients and flavourings he used when ensuring a variety of tasty sticks of rock. He also talks about the largest piece of rock he ever made being 6 foot 6 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter. The humungous stick of peppermint rock travelled all the way into London, by train, to a charity fundraiser event in the 1950s.

In 1983, Ted interviewed Ugo Rossi, whose father – Augustino ‘Gus’ Rossi – partnered with Peter Rossi to establish the famous frozen treat throughout the Southend high street and waterfront. They talk about this partnership dissolving and how the waterfront shops were owned by Peter and the high street shops were owned by Gus. What’s most surprising about the interview is the price a Rossi’s ice cream used to be … 1 penny for a regular cone and 2 pence for a larger cone!

Ugo talks about his father’s desire for a Rossi’s ice cream to not be too sickly a treat (SA 20/1540/1)

Interesting folk 

Ted’s interviews show how each person has fascinating stories waiting to be told. One interview with Harold Whitely – also known as ‘Rainbow the Clown’ – particularly stands out. Speaking in 1981, Mr Whiteley talks about starting his career as a clown aged six, and his joy in performing as a youth and love for the intricate face paints and costumes of the clowns he saw growing up in a travelling circus. He also talks about the history of his family and circuses. His grandmother, Lorrina, worked in America in the circus under Barnum and Bailey’s circuses in America, a name most recognised from one of the owners P. T. Barnum. Furthermore, his grandfather’s circus performed for Edward, the Duke of Edinburgh (Queen Victoria’s son).

Harold describes his pleasure in being a performer as a child and also how he performed in front of smaller audiences as a clown (SA 20/1123/1)

An interview previously mentioned, with Alan Mitchell, was not only compelling due to its discussions on Navy training during the Second World War, but also due to the fact that Alan was a hairdresser before and after the war, making him knowledgeable on male hair trends of the mid to late 1900s. He and Ted discuss the era of the Beatles leading to a trend of long hair for boys and also the up-and-coming punk style of hair and fashion. Hearing their detached discussion in the punk style is particularly funny due to their lack of awareness of the style.

Ted and Alan discuss fashionable hairstyles for men and their opinions of the punk style (SA 20/1126/1)

Photograph from above of around twenty open reel tape boxes, with 'Southend' handwritten on the spine. In the middle of the image is a tape box showing a handwritten label with 'Pier personalities'.

A selection of Ted Haley’s open reel tapes.

Overall, the Ted Haley recordings are incredibly fascinating and a worthwhile listen. They delve into the people of the period and allow us to now look back onto that period with nostalgia or discovery, keeping that part of south Essex history in an audible time capsule, ready for your listening.

You can browse the full catalogue of Ted Haley’s recordings on Essex Archives Online and listen to them in our Playback Room in Chelmsford. You don’t need to make an appointment – all you need is an Archives Card. Find out more information about visiting us on our website. You can also find some of Ted’s recordings on Essex Sounds, our map of sounds from across the county:

A contemporary view of the Americans – the diaries of E.J. Rudsdale

Back in April, we held an event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of when the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) reached peak strength in Essex in the run-up to D-Day, Welcome to Essex. We were delighted that Dr Catherine Pearson gave a fascinating talk based on the diary entries of E.J. Rudsdale, about relations between the Americans and the Essex locals. We are even more delighted that Dr Pearson has kindly taken the time to turn her talk into a blog post. To mark the anniversary of D-Day, we have also recorded an edited version of Rudsdale’s entry for that momentous day.

Black and white photograph of identity card, with photograph of a man and a signature on the left side of the page and his name and registration number on the right.

E.J. Rudsdale’s travel identity card, 1946 (D/DU 888/66)

Eighty years ago, in the midst of the Second World War, Essex had become home to thousands of US service personnel in readiness for the allied invasion and liberation of occupied Europe. Essex Record Office holds a contemporary diary account by Colchester Museum curator, E.J. Rudsdale (1910-1951), which records the impact of the arrival of the USAAF in Colchester and the nearby USAAF airfields of Boxted and Wormingford.

Rudsdale was seconded from Colchester Museum in 1941 to become Secretary of the Lexden and Winstree District Committee of the Essex War Agricultural Committee for the duration of the war. This gave him a valuable insight into the development of the American airfields because the USAAF commandeered agricultural land from the Essex War Agricultural Committee for the construction of the airfields at Boxted and Wormingford.

Owing to the drive to increase agricultural production for the war effort, the Essex War Agricultural Committee viewed the takeover of farmland for airfields with some trepidation and a degree of antagonism. This is evident from Rudsdale’s first official encounter with USAAF personnel:

April 29 1943

Went to the Office of the Clerk of the Works [at Wormingford Aerodrome], … and found to my surprise that it was not Air Ministry men whom I was to meet but United States Air Force Officers.  Two of them I had seen [in Colchester], a Major Miller and a Lieutenant Walters. … Miller … looks the typical “small-town” American one sees in so many films, his worn, lined face surmounted by rimless glasses. … Walters was dark and dapper … The arrangement was that we all went off in two cars, driven by English girls in pseudo-American uniform, to inspect sites for a shooting butt.  I was supposed to say whether the site was suitable from an agricultural point of view.

As we moved off along the concrete perimeter road, through a desert of derelict farm land, I remarked “Well, there has certainly been a change since I was here last.  Why, you’ve changed the whole landscape.” I said this quite innocently, but at once Major Miller turned on me and snapped out “Well, wouldn’t you rather have us here than the Germans?” … He went on “We can’t bother about the convenience of a few British farmers, you know.”  It was obvious from his manner that he had already had a good deal of criticism since he came to England.

(D/DU 888/26/3 pp.568-571)

It was clear that greater accommodation on both sides was necessary for establishing more harmonious relations and Rudsdale’s next encounter with American personnel was of a warmer nature.  On 1 July 1943, he was called to Boxted Airfield to discuss the USAAF’s further plans for the site and wrote:

… Major Anderson of the USAAF … was very affable. … [He] looked at the lay-out plan, and said: “This is a mean site, I guess this is the meanest site I’ve ever seen.”  Then we went into various details, and their final requirements were not unreasonable. …

We rode all over the site in two jeeps – old [Gardiner] Church [a member of the Lexden and Winstree District War Agricultural Committee] was very tickled, and said “These are the things for farming, boy! I’m going to have one o’they after the war!”

(D/DU 888/26/4 pp.819-822)

In 1944, Rudsdale visited Wormingford Airfield in order to rescue historic timbers from Harvey’s Farmhouse, which was demolished in the course of the aerodrome’s expansion, and his diary entry recorded:

January 15 1944

Thick fog this morning, and bitterly cold. … we got busy loading the moulded ceiling timbers, with the help of three Land Girls. The driver ventured onto the mud, against my advice, and soon the lorry was stuck fast, so that no amount of tugging could release it. Took one of the Land Girls … and went off to see if we could get any help. It was very strange to wander about among planes and lorries in the thick fog, hearing the accents of America and Ireland intermingled as we passed groups of mechanics or labourers.

Found the big hanger, which thrilled the Land Girl a good deal – “Well,” she said, “I never thought I should see the inside of a hanger.” Neither did I.

… The sergeant could not do enough for us, and within a matter of minutes [an] enormous tractor, … was ploughing through the mud towards us. … [a] wire was attached to the lorry’s front axle, the motor raced, and out she came, … leaving behind four pits almost as big as graves, where the wheels had been.

By this time … we … set off back to Colchester… first collecting one of the Land Girls from the pilot’s seat of a nearby ‘plane, where a sergeant was showing her the controls. …

(D/DU 888/27/1 pp.48-51)

Rudsdale also discussed the black servicemen and women who formed part of the American Forces and were regularly seen in Colchester. African-American service personnel were employed as drivers or military policemen or worked in supplies or in the construction of aerodromes. Under American segregation orders, black troops had their own club in Priory Street in Colchester, and white troops had a club in Culver Street. However, Rudsdale and his fellow curator, Harold Poulter (1880-1962), regularly talked to the black service personnel. On 10 June 1944, Rudsdale wrote that he had ‘called at the American Red Cross Club in Priory Street’ to deliver a message from Poulter to a Miss Marie Wall, who Rudsdale described as a ‘delightful’ black servicewoman ‘of about 25’ and went on to record that they ‘Talked for an hour or so’. (D/DU 888/27/3 p.491).

Colcestrians do not appear to have been in favour of American segregation orders. Rudsdale noted black and white Americans troops sitting in the same café in Colchester in February 1944, albeit at separate tables (D/DU 888/27/1: 25/2/1944 p.182). He also recorded that black service personnel staged a week’s theatre performance at Colchester Repertory Theatre in December 1944 (D/DU 888/27/5: 30/11/1944, p.820).

Black and white photogrpah of five men in uniform and another in a smart outfit and trilby hat stood on top of castle walls.

American servicemen on the Castle Walls, Colchester Castle, 1944. Harold Poulter, Curator of Hollytrees Museum, is in the centre of the photograph and Lieutenant Stich, Public Relations Officer at Wormingford Airfield, is on the left (D/DU 888/27/4 p.590)

The positive developments in Anglo-American relations in Colchester were made apparent in late 1944, when the Americans were invited to stage an exhibition at Colchester Castle. The display was the brainchild of Lieutenant Stich, Public Relations Officer at Wormingford Airfield and Harold Poulter, the Curator of Hollytrees Museum. The exhibition, entitled The England that America Loves, featured paintings and photographs of English scenes that had appealed to the American troops during their time in the UK (Colchester Museum and Muniment Committee Report 1948, pp.5-6).

Black and white photograph of a stone building with wooden timber structure and exhibition panels. A woman sits on a bench and a man sits on a pallet in the foreground.

An American serviceman and a woman visitor at The England that America Loves exhibition at Colchester Castle Museum, 1944 (Courtesy of Colchester and Ipswich Museums)

Black and white photogrpah of a crowd of people in coats and uniform looking at exhibition panels.

Visitors to The England that America Loves exhibition at Colchester Castle Museum, 1944 (Courtesy of Colchester and Ipswich Museums)

The shared experience of war was a further factor in bringing the allies closer together. One of those who participated in the Castle exhibition, Lieutenant-Colonel Elwyn G. Righetti, a pilot at Wormingford, lost his life on 17 April 1944 when his plane went down over Germany. A party to celebrate his 30th birthday had been prepared for him back at the airbase to which he never returned (Benham 1945, p.57). Such tragic incidents increased the local community’s gratitude for the sacrifices being made by the Americans.

Four men in uniform stand around a man in ceremonial robes. Behind them is an exhibition of artwork and a stone wall behind that.

Pilots of the 55th Fighter Group, Wormingford Airfield, meeting the Mayor of Colchester at The England that America Loves exhibition at Colchester Castle Museum, 1944 (Courtesy of Colchester and Ipswich Museums). Left to right: Lt-Col Elwyn G. Righetti (who lost his life on 17/4/45 over Germany, aged 30); Col George T. Crowell; Arthur W. Piper, Mayor of Colchester; Col Joe Huddleston; unknown.

With the arrival of VE Day on 8 May 1945 and the close of hostilities in Europe, there were opportunities for the troops to relax and local people were invited to visit the US airbases. As the USAAF prepared to leave Colchester in July 1945, they presented Colchester Corporation with a silver rose bowl to thank the town for its hospitality and this remains part of the City’s regalia today.

Black and white photograph of a group of people, including men in uniform and a man and woman in ceremonial robes. The man in the centre of the photograph holds a silver bowl.

The presentation of a silver rose bowl to Colchester Corporation to thank Colchester’s inhabitants for their hospitality towards American service personnel, 1945 (Courtesy of Colchester and Ipswich Museums)

After the war, American veterans made regular visits to the UK to remember their time in Essex and to pay homage to fallen comrades. One ex-serviceman wrote to the curator of Colchester Castle in 1988, that the veterans ‘would like to see a museum exhibition depicting their life as it was here in Colchester from 1943-1945 … with its bitter sweet memories’. (Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Historic Displays & Exhibitions file, Lewis to Davies, 22/11/1988). Colchester and the Castle Museum, therefore, remained as touchstones for the veterans’ wartime experiences in Essex.

Black and white photograph of Colchester Castle, with trees and plants in the foreground. There is a notice on the grass.

Colchester Castle Museum, 1944, a photograph by Lieutenant Stich, USAAF. Note the air raid shelter sign in the rose bed (D/DU 888/27/4 p.586)

In this excerpt from Rudsdale’s diaries, read by the ERO’s Neil Wiffen, he recalls 6 June 1944 – D-Day – from being woken up by planes warming up at Wormingford Airfield at 2am to hearing the King’s speech on the radio at the end of the day. You can read a transcript here.

Colour photograph of open diary, with handwritten notes across both pages.

Dr Catherine Pearson will be speaking to us about E.J. Rudsdale at ERO Presents on Tuesday 3rd September. Book your tickets on our Eventbrite page.

References

Primary sources:

Rudsdale, E.J., (1939-1945). ‘Colchester Journals’, Essex Record Office, ERO D/DU 888.

Colchester and Ipswich Museums, ‘Historic Displays and Exhibitions’ archives.

Secondary sources:

Beale, A., (2019).  Bures at War: A Hidden History of the United States Army Air Force Station 526.

Benham, H., (1945).  Essex at War, Essex County Standard: Colchester.

Pearson, C., (2010).  E.J. Rudsdale’s Journals of Wartime Colchester, The History Press: Stroud.

8th Airforce Historical Society: https://www.8thafhs.org/research/ Accessed 16 April 2024.

Archive of the American Air Museum in Britain, Imperial War Museum Duxford, including the Roger Freeman Collection of USAAF images: https://www.americanairmuseum.com/archive  Accessed 16 April 2024.

Black GIs in Britain: https://mixedmuseum.org.uk/brown-babies/black-gis-in-britain/  Accessed 16 April 2024.

Colchester Museum and Muniment Committee Report 1944-1947 (1948): https://www.esah1852.org.uk/library/files/C0938954.pdf  Accessed 15 May 2024.

US Black Servicemen in Suffolk in WW2: https://www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/sharing-suffolk-stories/us-black-servicemen-in-suffolk-during-wwii/  Accessed 16 April 2024.

USAAF Airfields: Guide and Map, East of England Tourism.  http://www.ukairfields.org.uk/uploads/7/0/8/5/7085670/usaaf_airfields_guide_and_map.pdf  Accessed 16 April 2024.

Recordings of D-Day experiences in the Essex Sound and Video Archive: 

SA 1/455/1: ‘Essex at War’, BBC Essex programme, 1989; role of Southend and Leigh in D-Day

SA 1/634/1: Interview with John Hayes on BBC Essex, 1990; serving as an RAF Ground Technician at Southend airfield in the run up to D-Day

SA 1/1183/1: Interview with Clifford Pontbriand on BBC Essex, 1994; American D-Day bomber pilot at Stansted

SA 8/540/1 (Colchester Recalled reference 2057): Interview with Alfred Douglas Chignall, 1989; serving in the Royal Navy during D-Day

SA 8/948/1 (Colchester Recalled reference 2208): Interview with Fred Ramplin, 1990; serving in the army during D-Day

SA 8/14/1/6/1 (Colchester Recalled reference 2141): Interview with Harry Finch, 1990; involvement in the D-Day invasion, including movements of warships

SA316 (Colchester Recalled reference 1272-4): Interview with Lance Corporal Ken Lambert, 1994; involvement in D-Day with the 8th Battalion Middlesex Regiment

SA443 (Colchester Recalled reference 1621): Interview with Fred McIntosh, flying instructor, at a reunion of American airmen, 1992; covered the Arnhem parachute drops.

SA779 (Colchester Recalled reference 1532): Interview with Arthur Parsonson, 1988; NCO with 431st Bty, 147th (Essex Yeomanry) Field Regt, Royal Artillery, 8th Armoured Bde during D-Day (see also Imperial War Museum interview)

SA 20/1138/1: Interview with Geoff Barsby, 1983; serving in the Royal Navy during D-Day, covering the Canadian landings, escorting the battleship Nelson, and being based off Normandy

SA 20/1533/1: Interview with Jack Nelson Wise, 1981; serving in the Royal Navy, operations in preparation for D-Day, MTBs

SA 20/1/47/1: Interview with Howard Stone, 1984; serving as a Telegrapher Air Gunner in the Fleet Air Arm during D-Day

SA 20/1/22/1: Interview with Sylvia Ebel, 1983; serving in the ATS during D-Day, D-Day preparations at Eastleigh, near Southampton

SA 79/1/1/1: Interview with Alec Hall, 2016; serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps during D-Day; stationed along the east coast of England, then travelling to Arnhem by glider

SA 79/1/3/1: Interview with Alfred Smith, 2016; serving in the Royal Army Service Corps during D-Day, driving his lorry onto Gold Beach, Normandy

SA 79/1/4/1: Interview with Ken ‘Paddy’ French, 2016; serving in the RAF during D-Day, flying over American troops at Omaha Beach

SA 79/1/5/1: Interview with Alfred Fowler, 2016; serving in the Royal Navy during D-Day; being involved in the dummy convoy to Norway

SA 86/1/3/1: Interview with Ron, 2017; serving in the Royal Navy during D-Day, escorting HMS Belfast on HMS Ulster at Gold Beach

SA634: Interview with Olive Redfarn, 2012; working on HMS Leigh, printing instructions for D-Day in the weeks beforehand [including her own diary entry of the 6 June 1944]

‘I Remember Them With Affection’: the USAAF in the Essex Sound and Video Archive

Feeling inspired by our recent conference on the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) in Essex?

In the Essex Sound and Video Archive, we preserve dozens of interviews with American servicemen and those who worked and lived alongside them during the Second World War. Take a listen below.

You can also browse the conference programme with links to further resources here.

Photograph of silver tape reel with black magnetic audio tape. Two handwritten labels read 'I remember them with affection'.

Radio programmes

The BBC Essex documentary ‘Essex Airfields at War – I Remember Them With Affection’ (SA 1/643/1), broadcast in 1990, is a substantial account of the history and role played by airfields in Essex during the Second World War. The BBC Essex archive also includes the original, unedited interviews recorded for the documentary, including interviews with an American soldier who helped build Willingale Airfield in 1942 and British RAF and WAAF operators who recall the Americans well.

“We just worked constantly in mud, mostly up to our knees… Concrete flying all over the place, and lorries running up and down runways which are partly built.”

Excerpt from interview with Ken Arnold, a US Engineering Battalion soldier who built Willingale airfield in 1942 (SA 1/635/1). Ken met his English wife in the Forces canteen in Epping. Read a transcript here

In 1992, BBC Essex celebrated the 50th anniversary visit of USAAF veterans with another documentary, ‘Overpaid, Oversexed, and Over Here’ (SA 1/1927/1). The anniversary also saw reports on a reception for the veterans at Silver End (SA 1/888/1) and a tea and dance at Cressing Barns (SA 1/889/1).

“We don’t have enough words in the English language we use over in America to tell you how we feel about your welcome… It’s wonderful, and we sure appreciate it.”

Excerpt from a BBC Essex report on the 50th reunion event in Silver End (SA 1/888/1). Read a transcript here

Other relevant BBC Essex programmes include the 1989 documentary ‘Wartime in Essex’ (SA 1/463/1) and interviews with American pilots Clifford Pontbriand and Julian Woods, who were both stationed at Stansted (SA 1/1183/1 and SA 1/1740/1).

On Essex Radio, the 1989 documentary ‘World War Two in Essex’ (SA 11/503/1) also features interviews with people about the American air bases in the county.

Oral histories

The Colchester Recalled oral history group also recorded many returning American airmen at the 50th anniversary visit in 1992, alongside BBC Essex. The archive (SA 8/8) includes 59 recordings at reunion events in Essex and beyond – at Black Notley, Chelmsford, Stansted, Wormingford, Debden, Great Saling, Earls Colne, Rivenhall, Boreham, Braintree, and Boxted as well as Madingley and Duxford.

Excerpt from an interview with David E. Hubler about his memories of Boxted Airfield at the reunion of the 394 Bomber Group and Eagle Squadron, Black Notley, 1992 (SA 8/8/4/1). Read a transcript here

Saffron Walden-born, Pennsylvania-based Mona Johnston talks about meeting her American husband during the war (SA 8/8/25/1). Read a transcript here

We also preserve a number of interviews about specific airfields: in 1994, Wethersfield Local History Group recorded their discussion of the airfield there that had closed the previous year (SA 24/866/1); and in 2003, the Essex Record Office interviewed four members of the 394th Bomb Group Association about their memories of Boreham Airfield during the war (SA268).

“So I haven’t liked orange marmalade since…”

One member of the 394th recalls the things he was most surprised by at Boreham Airfield (SA268). Read a transcript here

There are other references to the Americans scattered across the oral history collections – people who lived near the airfields during the war often recall the novelty of the newcomers, and the dances, candy and nylons that came with them. Many of those interviewed in the Silver End oral history project (SA733) talk about their childhood memories of the American soldiers at the nearby Rivenhall Airfield.

“This American serviceman came along and he talked to me, you know, and he more or less said, ‘Are you watching the planes?’ … and he said, ‘Would you like to go in one?'”

Silver End resident Derek Gilder talks about playing in one of the bombers on Rivenhall Airfield when he was 8 or 9 years old. Read a transcript here.

In April 2024, we were fortunate to find the real Geraldine who the 322nd Bomb Group at Andrewsfield had named a B-26 Marauder after. Last week our very own Neil Wiffen visited Geraldine to talk to her about the experience.

“Once they’d got the name on, and that, I said to them, I don’t want you making any holes in my plane, okay?”

Geraldine talking about the Marauder being named after her (SA966). Read a transcript here

To see what Marauder squadrons looked like at the time, see ‘Pioneers, Wolfpacks, and Widow-makers: The Story of Boxted Airfield’ (SA811). You can also watch the East Anglian Film Archive’s documentary ‘GI Airmen in East Anglia’ (VA 1/47/1) in our Searchroom.

To explore more recordings, search Essex Archives Online, or take a look at the Essex Sound and Video research guide on the Second World War.

Mystery motorcycle riders

Among a recent deposit of postcards is this one showing a man and woman on a motorcycle with sidecar. But who are they?

A postcard showing a man and woman on a motorcycle with sidecar from the Dowsett Collection (catalogue ref: A15840)

The licence plate is clearly visible which means that we can look it up in our Vehicle Licensing Registers (C/DF 11). An Enfield with the licence HK3016 was registered to Frederick Jay, High Street, Mountnessing on 8 June 1917. Is this an image of Frederick Jay on his new Enfield motorcycle? Or is it another person with aspirations of one day owning such a machine?

Register of motor vehicles ‘M2’: motor cycles showing entry for Frederick Jay (catalogue ref: C/DF 11/17)

 

The photograph was taken by Geo. Francis Quilter, a photographer in Ingatestone, who’s listed in the Kelly’s Directory for 1917. In the same Directory is Harry Raven, dairyman, whose shop can be seen in the background of the postcard, and Mark Wells, cycle agent, who operated from Ingatestone High Street. At this time motorcycles were often called “cycles”, so it is likely that this cycle agent sold motorcycles, perhaps even the one shown?

Mountnessing is about 2 miles south-east of Ingatestone and was home to two people named Frederick Jay – a father and son. The 1911 Census tells us that the younger Frederick, then aged 21, was a boarder at 3 Redcliffe Road, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford while working as an “Engineer Journeyman [ball bearing works]”. By 1921, he was back at his parents’ house in Mountnessing and working at the Hoffmann Manufacturing Company.

Marriage Register from St Giles Church, Mountnessing showing the marriage of Frederick Jay and Kate Everett on 3 Jun 1922 (catalogue ref: D/P 73/1/10)

On 3 June 1922, Frederick Jay married Kate Everett at St Giles’ Church, Mountnessing. Is the woman in the sidecar Kate or one of Frederick’s sisters? Sadly, we will probably never know for sure, but it’s nice to imagine that this is an image of Frederick Jay, the proud new owner of a motorcycle which he used to commute from his home in Mountnessing to work at the Hoffmann’s premises in Chelmsford.

Geraldine and Martin – Can you help?

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In this blog post Archive Assistant and B-26 Marauder fan, Neil Wiffen, seeks assistance with some research.

For years I have known a story about Geraldine and Martin who lived in the vicinity of Great Sailing. ‘And who were they?’ I hear you ask. Well, in Roger Freeman’s B-26 Marauder at War (Shepperton, 1978 – copy in ERO Library) there’s a picture (p. 109)Cover of publication called B-26 Marauder at war by Roger Freeman of a crashed B-26 Marauder named Geraldine, with some of the crew that flew it, and the following caption: ‘Wake over Geraldine … Parents of the real Geraldine returned the naming gesture by having their baby son christened Martin!’ This marauder was part of the 322nd bomb Group based at Andrewsfield near Braintree.

‘Interesting’ I thought, and I stored that piece of information away. Fast forward almost 40 years (really!) and in preparing for the forthcoming Welcome to Essex: remembering the USAAF mini-conference, I was looking through the picture resources at the National Archives of America (National Archives NextGen Catalog) and I came across the photo mentioned above, along with another of the actual Geraldine which, with information from it, enlarges on the story of the naming.

Geraldine examining “her” B-26
(US National Archives reference 342-FH-3A45703-52864AC)

Text that accompanies the photograph:

Little Miss Geraldine, pretty British youngster who lives next door to a 9th Air Force base in rural England, watches a ground crew Sgt. [Sergeant] paint the 80th bomb on the fuselage of “her” B-26 Marauder. Geraldine almost daily inspects the bomber bearing her name, watches from her bedroom window each time it takes off on missions. Geraldine’s baby brother carries out the bombing motif – he was christened “Martin”, for the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, M[arylan]d., builders of B-26 Marauder medium bombers.

Now, a couple of us at the Record Office have had a look to see if we can find a relevant birth for a Geraldine (not at all a common name in the 1940s) with a brother Martin, who lived in the vicinity of Andrewfield, and failed! Not having a surname doesn’t help but, knowing how many of you are out there working away on family trees and research across the county, can you help? We’d love to hear from you if you have any further information.

And not only on this, if you would like to share any memories you may have of when the Americans were over ‘ere then please do get in contact. And, perhaps we’ll see you on the 27th April as well – tickets are selling fast.

Over to you!

Neil

Welcome to Essex: remembering the USAAF

 

Tickets are selling fast for our forthcoming event, ‘Welcome to Essex’: remembering the USAAF.

Saracens Head in Chelmsford (Now 'The Garrison') was used as the American Red Cross.

The Saracens Head in Chelmsford (Now ‘The Garrison’) was used as the American Red Cross Service Club.

In the spring of 1944, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) reached peak strength in Essex during the run-up to the hotly anticipated invasion of Europe — D-Day. Week after week new units of the USAAF flew into recently constructed airfields across the county, to start participating in the air campaign against the Luftwaffe and German coastal defenses. Small, rural villages across Essex became the center for many hundreds of American servicemen to descend on, to look at the ancient architecture as well as go in search of a pint of warm English beer! For the locals their quiet roads were filled with unsurpassed numbers of trucks and Jeeps buzzing around, ferrying men and material about the countryside. Overhead the air was filled with aircraft, Mustangs Thunderbolts, Flying Fortresses, Liberators, Havocs and Marauders, and many a morning was interrupted by the thunderous sound of hundreds of thousands of horsepower engines warming up.

Join us 80 years on from these momentous times for this mini-conference to remember the impact the Americans had on the county, both in how they shaped the physical landscape as well as making memories with the locals. Remembrance will be a theme running through the event, the date on which it is being held being of particular significance to one of the speakers in relation to one of those Americans who flew out of Essex.

This mini conference will see a series of short talks given on various aspects of,
predominantly, the Ninth Air Force, although mention will be made of the Eighth as well

– there’s just so much to discuss!

 

 

For further details and bookings please visit: www.essexrecordoffice.co.uk/events.

Reduced price ‘early-bird’ tickets are available If you book before mid-day on March 14th – don’t dilly-dally as tickets are selling fast. We look forward to seeing you there.

Where there’s a will, there’s often an archaic word!

Chris Lambert, ERO Archivist

The ERO’s collection of wills, stretching from 1400 up to 1858, is widely used by family historians, but also by those trying to get closer to our ancestors’ material lives and their mental worlds. In particular, wills can tell us about the language that they used. A query from our friends at the Oxford English Dictionary recently brought this example to our attention.

One page of Black ink on paper, secretary hand, sentence concerning temes loaf outlined in black

Will of Thomas Leffyngwell of Pebmarsh (catalogue ref: D/ABW 23/83)

It comes from the will of a man from Pebmarsh called Thomas Leffyngwell, made in January 1553 when he was sick and probably close to death (will reference D/ABW 23/83). Having made over his landed property to his two sons, his main concern was to provide for his wife Isabel. The two were to pay her, in quarterly instalments, a pension of £1 6s.8d. (half each), and to provide her with food, drink, clothing, a room called ‘the nether chamber’ with a bed, and a cow that they were to keep fed, winter and summer. And then, as if thinking that perhaps more detail was needed:

‘… Item I wyll that myne executores shall / delyuer unto Osbell my wyffe wekely one pote wythe ale off too galons & a [word struck through] / Temes loffe wythe a chese as often as nede shall requyre …’

Close up of manuscript. Black ink on paper, secretary hand, sentence concerning temes loaf outlined in black

Close-up of the section of the Will of Thomas Leffyngwell concerning “Temes loffe”. Right-click the image and open in a new tab to see an enlarged copy

All perfectly clear, except just possibly that bit about ‘a temes loffe’. ‘Loffe’ is easy enough if you give it a long ‘o’, but ‘temes’ may puzzle you as it certainly did us. It turns out that this is the earliest known reference to a ‘temse loaf’, meaning ‘a loaf made of finely sifted flour’. To temse, you see, was to sift, and a temse was a type of sieve, especially as used for bolting meal. A ‘temse loaf’, therefore, was one of several contemporary expressions for a better sort of bread – a class distinction as well as a culinary one, even in the 1500s.

The word temse itself, of Anglo-Saxon origin, survived into the 20th century, although seemingly restricted latterly to the brewing industry. The burial register from Pebmarsh unfortunately did not, and so we do not know whether Isabel lived to enjoy her ration of bread, cheese and ale. One can only hope that Thomas’s careful instructions were useful to her as well as to the makers of dictionaries.

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi in Essex

When you visit the Essex Record Office, you will see a selection of artwork from Essex County Council’s collection displayed on the ground floor and in the Searchroom. One of the pictures to catch my eye during my first week at the Record Office was a signed screenprint called “Untitled” (1965) by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005). The overlapping patterns in this print are reminiscent of his earlier work creating collages made from newspapers and advertisements.

Juxtaposing patterns in yellow, green, red and blue, on a yellow background
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), “Untitled”, 1965. Signed screenprint. 23″x 23 1/2″. Essex County Council art collection 329.

I’m familiar with Paolozzi’s work from my time at the V&A as their Archive of Art and Design looks after the amazing Krazy Kat Arkive of Twentieth Century Popular Culture. Paolozzi was one of the founders of the Independent Group which met in London from 1952-1955. This group is considered the forerunner to the Pop Art movement in Britain. In 1954, Paolozzi established Hammer Prints Limited with fellow artist, and Essex resident, Nigel Henderson and they designed wallpapers, textiles and ceramics in Henderson’s studio at Landermere Wharf, near Thorpe-le-Soken. Paolozzi and his family moved to Landermere the following year and lived in one of the now Grade II listed Gull Cottages. While living in Landermere, Paolozzi was a visiting lecturer at Colchester School of Art.

Landermere was a hot-spot for artists and designers. Other residents included Sir Basil Spence, the architect of Coventry Cathedral and advisor to the Basildon Development Corporation designing Basildon New Town, and John Hutton, a glass artist whose work can be seen in Coventry and Guildford Cathedrals, and the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

This screenprint and the other works of art in the collection can be found on Art UK and on the ERO’s Flickr page. And you may also be interested in a previous blog on Art in the Archives available to read here.

Planes, trains and automobiles (but mostly planes)

Chris Lambert, Archivist

Surprise presents are the best. The Record Office recently welcomed an unexpected gift from the Friends of Hylands House, who had acquired this splendid wedding album.

It belonged originally to Dorothy Cadwell Taylor, heiress to an American leather goods fortune, who ended her life as the widow of an Italian count. In between, while living the life of a wealthy socialite, she had been married briefly to Claude Grahame-White, a pioneering British aviator whom she had met while crossing the Atlantic on the ‘Olympic’.

Black and white photograph of bride and groom leaving the church with scouts as guard of honour

Bride and groom leaving the church, May 1912

The marriage took place in May 1912 at Widford church, seemingly for no better reason than that both parties were friendly with Sir Daniel Gooch, a railway magnate who had bought Hylands House and offered it for the reception. The wedding was one of the social events of the year, receiving a huge build-up in the press – only somewhat dampened by the loss of the ‘Titanic’ in April. The Great Eastern ran a special train from Liverpool Street, although Grahame-White himself and several others – including the representative of the Daily Express – arrived by plane, taxi-ing on to the lawns at the back of the house. Public flying demonstrations were given during the day, and even the wedding cake bore the model of an aeroplane. The whole event was a confection of money, modernity, celebrity and speed, with a country house and its grounds used as an almost theatrical backdrop. of Hylands House

Black and white photograph of wedding party (mainly men with some women nearly out of shot) posing with a biplane in front of Hylands House. Groom and several men on the biplane wing. Bride standing in front of the biplane in white wedding dress

Wedding party posing with a biplane in front of Hylands House, May 1912

Black and white photograph of the bride and groom leaving by car surrounded by wedding party throwing confetti

Bride and groom leaving Hylands House in their wedding car, May 1912

Fans of motor transport were not entirely left out: the wedding car, a present from groom to bride, was a Métallurgique, made in Belgium. Dorothy herself, however, seems to have had a liking for Rolls Royces. Tucked into the back of the album is a letter of 1951 from a now aging Claude, writing from his flat in London to his very much ex wife in New York. He tries to explain the difficulties he is having in getting her Rolls repaired: the garage is slow, they are blaming a shortage of steel (which he does not believe), and anyway there is no demand for second-hand cars, especially with petrol at 3s.7d. a gallon (about 4 pence a litre) …  Elsewhere he commiserates on their mutual problems with osteopaths, mechanical and human frailty seemingly now going hand in hand. The glitz of Widford must have seemed far away.

Ornate, four tiered cake topped with a model aeroplane

Wedding cake, May 1912

If you are registered on Essex Archives Online, you can see full-size images of the complete album at document reference D/DU 3465/1. The wedding photographer, improbably enough, was our old friend Fred Spalding of Chelmsford, and you will find several photographs of his that seem to exist nowhere else.

Black and white photograph of a man (Mr Grahame-White at the front) and woman, Miss Dorothy Taylor sitting in a biplane. The man is wearing a suit and tie and the woman is wearing a dress or skirt and shawl.

Mr Claude Grahame-White and Miss Dorothy Taylor on a biplane, 1912

Essex Record Office publications now available online!

Just in time for Christmas, Essex Record Office has teamed up with Museumshops.uk to make our publications available to purchase online for the very first time. Many of these publications have been printed in limited numbers and were previously only available from the Essex Record Office Searchroom.

Our shop can be found at https://museumshops.uk/shop/essex-record-office/.

Over this week we will be taking a look at some of our most popular publications, all of which can be bought from our online shop!

The Great Tide

Front cover of "The Great Tide"Written and researched by Hilda Grieve and Published in 1959, “The Great Tide” told the story of the county’s relationship to the sea, the meteorological conditions preceding the flood, the events of 31 January and 1 February 1953, and the subsequent rescue, relief, and restoration efforts in meticulous detail, drawn from six years of careful, patient research. It has since been described by the writer Ken Worpole as “one of the great works of twentieth century English social history”.

This title has been out of print for some time, but was re-printed by Essex Record Office in 2020. This seminal work should be on the shelf of any student of modern history

Examples of English Handwriting 1150-1750

Written by Hilda Grieve in 1954, “Examples of English Handwriting” is an illuminatingFront cover of Examples of English Handwriting 1150-1750 exploration into the chronology of early English penmanship, drawing from six centuries worth of Essex’s parish records, Examples of English Handwriting reads much like a handbook for the aspiring historian. It is a must have for anyone seeking to read the historic documents that are cared for at ERO and countless other archives. Complete with a variety of visual examples, the work diligently elucidates semantic change, typography, abbreviations, letter strokes, and Anglo-Saxon history.

Hilda Grieve’s precious legacy as a didactic county archivist is captured in this classic work of palaeography, with this 1981 edition merging two of the prior volumes published by the Essex Record Office.

Pilgrims and Adventurers

One of our most popular titles is: “Pilgrims and Adventurers”.Front cover "Pilgrims and Adventurers"

“No English county has stronger links with the East Coast states of America than Essex.”

 On a now mythical autumnal day in 1620, an English fluyt, designated the “Mayflower”, dropped its anchor on the shores of what is now Massachusetts: its passengers, puritan separatists and adventurous individuals, would disembark onto the foreign soil following the lead of Capt. Christopher Jones, his skeleton crew, imbued with a belief in manifest destiny. Pilgrims & Adventurers explores the foundation of the United States: how the likes of Columbus & Walter Raleigh laid groundwork for a theologically ruptured England to flee in search of a New World. The book charts the initial voyage of the Essex pilgrims to the raising of the early settlements: Plymouth Colony, Providence; the attempted conversion of Indigenous Americans, and conflicting theses of Philo-Theology that would continue to divide the early colonists.

Written & published in 1992 by archivist John Smith, this work is a concise introduction to the hitherto unexplored study of the Essex people on the colonisation of North America.