Dedicated to the memory of my mother
and all those who hold the forever young of war in their hearts.
Part 3 Lieutenant Williams
Chapter 9 61st Reconnaissance
From 30th October 1943 and for the rest of his war Dick was back in the Reconnaissance Corps. He’d served as a Trooper in 43rd Recce from July 1942 to March 1943 and before that was briefly in the legendary 1st Airlanding Reconnaissance.
The Recce Corps had two official mottos “From One Learn All” (Ab Uno Disce Omnes) and “Beaten Paths are Safest” (Via Trita, Via Tuta). Their unofficial motto “Only the Enemy in Front…..Every Other Beggar Behind” was going to prove only to true for the 61st Recce in NW Europe (see ‘Beaten Paths are Safest’ by Roy Howard, Brewin Books, 2004).
The Recce Corps role was “that of the cat’s whiskers – armoured, mechanised transmitting whiskers. Those who served had to be intelligent, enterprising, brave, enduring and highly skilled” (Arthur Bryant on the 1940 Bartholomew Committee: PRO WO106/1741). It also helped if they were slightly short – like the riflemen of old (‘A Dorset Rifleman’ edited by Eileen Hathaway) they were less conspicuous and could also fit into their rather small vehicles (Anthony Rampling pers comm.). Dick was only 5ft 6½ inches when he joined up at the age of 18.
Anthony Rampling was already in 61st Reconnaissance when Dick joined the Regiment - and has kindly agreed to help me tell their story.
Coming from a little village called Tendring, not far from Colchester in Essex, Anthony had never even travelled as far as London before he joined the Army. He was sent to Norwich – quite a big adventure! – but that autumn Norwich Barracks were like a prison. “You had to take paper and string with you to post your belongings home”. So began 6 weeks of square bashing and inoculations. “Everything had to be so neat.”
Posted to Barnard Castle in the north of England (County Durham) Tony learned to use a Bren machine gun with the Royal Armoured Corps and passed out after 6 weeks at the beginning of 1943. He was sent to the Royal West Kent holding regiment but soon joined the 61st Recce.
61st Reconnaissance Regiment were camping in a field between Chalfont St Giles and Chalfont St Peter in the Buckinghamshire Chilterns, not far from Tring. Anthony was placed in the Assault Troup of ‘B’ Squadron – Dick’s squadron to be.
He remembers the Regimental CO, Lt-Colonel Sir William Mount (the current Prime Minister’s grandfather), sent them off on a 100 mile route march, sleeping out and living rough. Many men ‘cracked out’ with blisters, etc. Tony finished the march but collapsed when they got back to Chalfont St Giles. They were at Chalfont St Giles for some time - there was a dance there with about two girls and hundreds of troops - then they moved around, settling eventually at the Medieval Lympne Castle in Kent for coastal defence duties. Tony remembers “It was very eerie on guard there at night."
Dick hadn’t arrived at the Castle yet
- after receiving his commission he had 9 days leave
and met up with Chotie at Pagham.
1st November 1943 – US Marines begin the Bougainville Campaign (Operation Cherry Blossom) to regain this large island, east of Papua New Guinea, from the Japanese who had been in occupation since April 1942. By the end of March 1944 the Japanese had retreated to the remoter parts of the island. US forces handed over to the Australian Army at the end of 1944 but combat operations on Bougainville only ceased with the Japanese surrender on the island on 21st August 1945.
3rd November 1943 – in Operation ‘Harvest Festival’ the Germans kill 42,000 Jews working in forced labour camps in the Lublin area of Poland. (From WW2-net Timelines and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.)
Over 3 million Polish Jews lost their lives during the Holocaust - 90% of the Jewish population.
6th November 1943 – the Russian Army recapture Kiev, the largest city in the Ukraine.