“I left Beales to become a Land Army girl, age seventeen, after a tiff at home. A lovely farm at Church Knowle in the Purbecks. Miss Grace, the farm owner, let me live in her beautiful cottage under Creech, the highest point in the Purbecks. Walking across fields in early morning, the mist fell in between the hills like small lakes, quite awesome. Also awesome was my cycle ride from Corfe Castle station to Church Knowle, on a moonlit and part cloudy evening. How ghostly Corfe Castle looked.
The Land Army was not for me. After too much rich food I suffered a bilious attack and hours of mangold pulling, milking cows and trekking across fields took its toll. Dad took great pleasure in saying I had been invalided out of the Land Army much to my annoyance. Beryl* joined at a later date and made quite a success of it.” (From ‘Chotie’s Story’)
*Beryl was Mum’s younger sister, ‘a success’ in the Land Army.
Winnie Lawes and Beryl Chalkley, Chotie's sister, in the Land Army.
Reputedly my mother lasted three weeks in the Land Army before she was ‘invalided out’, always a source of much amusement in our family. Dick’s posting to a location so near to her home may have had some influence on her desire to leave the rural idyll of Purbeck.
There are no letters from Dick between 7th October 1941 and 20th April 1942, (the Missing Winter) when records show he was transferred from the Dorsets to 1st Air Landing in the Reconnaissance Corps.
The British 1st Air Landing Brigade was formed on 10th October 1941. On 27th October Lord Louis Mountbatten became Head of Combined Operations and appointed Frederick Browning as commander of the Paratroops and Airborne Troops, which on 31st October became the first Airborne Division.
On 15th October the Nazis initiated Operation Reinhard, the plan to systematically murder all Jews in land under German control. In France there were large-scale ‘punishment killings’ of civilians in retaliation for the assassination of German military commanders by the Resistance.
Churchill was still hoping that the USA would enter the war in support of the Allies – on 31st October an American warship was destroyed by a German U-boat while escorting a British convoy.