Many thanks for your letter received yesterday. Glad to hear you’re still alive & kicking, even though rather over-worked…
Well, Precious, I have got an item of news this time, as, since last writing to you, I’ve been on and passed a War Office Selection Board for Commission. It will mean a long and arduous task ahead but with proverbial luck and good management I see no reason why I shouldn’t be successful in this respect.
I am now waiting to go on a pre-OCTU course, which may last any time before eventually getting to an OCTU. After that it’s about six months of merry hell before getting the old commiss!
What a game it is,,,I had three marvellous days on the Board, as all the time you’re there you’re treated as an Officer – even waited on at table by ATS….
Marvellous old Georgian House and Estate* has been loaned to the W.O. for this purpose and the owner had the decency to leave all his furniture there. The pictures alone were insured for £120000!
You spend three & ½ days there doing just about anything the human body can do – and more, - intelligence tests, exams, interviews with Brigadiers, Colonels and psychiatrists etc.
First question the last mentioned asked me, was “How many women have you slept with?”….
Shook me – rotten.
Most of the paintings I knew – several of Manet, Monet, Cézanne etc. so I had an interesting chat with the Brigadier and visiting woman M.P. Apparently the owner used to buy still life & his wife, the nudes. Some of the nudes shook us …..All excused like strip-tease, under “ART”.
I’ll let you know any further developments should they arise.
I wrote to and had a long reply from Benetti** the fellow at Hove. Sent me a
letter full of arias, and invitations to stay with him. The bloke’s a genius on arias. Hope to look him up on my next leave, which brings me to a sore point.
I’ve had the wretched thing cancelled indefinitely! Heaven knows when I’ll get it. However one can’t talk of commissions and leave in the same breath I suppose.
Saw ‘In which we serve’*** this week. Wasn’t very impressed I’m afraid, though Captain’s wife’s speech was rather brilliant.
Must close here Darling
All my love
*Brockham Park, Betchworth, Surrey.
**See letter of 3rd September 1942 – Return to Dover.
***Patriotic British war film – ‘the story of a ship’ – directed by Nöel Coward and David Lean and starring Nöel Coward. Celia Johnson played the Captain’s wife.
© Chotie Darling
140,000 candidates attended War Office Selection Boards during the course of the war. Dick was one of the 60,000 successful candidates.
In 1943 a further instruction was given to WOSBs - that no questions about sex and religion should be asked by psychiatrists.
(From ‘The British Army and the People’s War’ by Jeremy A. Crang)
43rd Recce continued Troop & Squadron Training to Friday 26th February when there was also an All Ranks Dance. On Saturday 27th there was Maintenance and the Commanding Officer’s Vehicle Inspection as usual, as well as ‘Recreational Training’.
Church Parade was held on Sunday and there was a presentation of a certificate for Good Service to Major B.V.J. Vigrass by the C.O. Major Vigrass also received an MBE and the Territorial Decoration during his career.
Troop & Squadron took place again on the 1st and 2nd March. At 5pm on 3rd March the Regiment moved out of barracks to take part in Exercise Spartan, the
first Home Forces exercise for the invasion of Europe and the largest exercise the British Army had ever carried out but Dick was not with them.
(From the War Diary of the 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment held by the Archive and Reference Library, the Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset.)
28th February 1943 – Operation Gunnerside, the most successful of the sabotage attacks on the Telemark heavy water plant in Norway destroys the Germans' capacity to provide heavy water of a sufficient quality for nuclear bombs. The Norwegian commando saboteurs were trained by SOE (British Special Operations Executive).
28th February 1943 – German wives of Jewish men gather in Berlin to protest against the deportation of their husbands to concentration camps. By 8th March over 1,000 wives have gathered and Goebbels releases 1,500 Jewish men to stop the protest spreading. (From WW2-net Timelines.)
Eric Postles February 1943
“61 Division moved back to England. After many rumours and much speculation we went by rail to Larne, onto Stanraer and ended at Roman Way Camp, Colchester (a regular army camp) for Exercise Spartan.” (Extracts from ‘My War Years’ by John Eric Postles ISO used by kind permission of the author.)
Tony Rampling probably joined 61st Recce after they returned to England. Having completed his basic training in Norwich in autumn 1942, he’d been posted to Barnard Castle, where he learned to fire a Bren Gun in the Royal Armoured Corps until January 1943. This skill and his intelligence would have marked him out as a potential Recce man. He was briefly placed in the Royal West Kent holding regiment before joining the Reconnaissance.
1st March 1943 – American Jews held a mass rally in Madison Square Gardens, New York to pressure the US government into helping the Jews of Europe.
Early in March 1943 Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (SS leader) visited Treblinka where 8,000 Jews and Gypsies were killed between 1942 and August 1943 and ordered that all the corpses were to be dug up and burned. The ashes were spread far over the surrounding countryside to hide the murders. This work took eight months. (From ‘The Second World War’ by Antony Beevor, published by Weidenfield and Nicolson 2012)
2nd to 4th March 1943 – in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea US and Australian air forces successfully attacked a convoy carrying Japanese troops to New Guinea. Thousands of Japanese soldiers were killed and the eight transporter ships and four destroyers were sunk. The Americans had adopted a new technique of ‘skip-bombing’ – coming in low and bouncing their bombs in by the side of the ship to explode. This gave them daylight supremacy in the sea. (From ‘The Second World War’ by Antony Beevor, published by Weidenfield and Nicolson 2012)
2nd March 1943 – heavy bombing of Berlin by the Allies
2nd to 4th March 1943 – in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea US and Australian air forces successfully attacked a convoy carrying Japanese troops to New Guinea. Thousands of Japanese soldiers were killed and the eight transporter ships and four destroyers were sunk.
3rd March 1943 – 173 people were killed by suffocation and trampling in Bethnal Green underground station when panic set in. (From WW2-net Timelines.)
END of Chapter 7
43rd Reconnaissance – the beginning of the end
and Part 2 RECONNAISSANCE.