On 23rd May 1942 the new 'Starlight' radar system was employed successfully by RAF pilot John “Cat’s Eyes” Cunningham to shoot down the German flying ace Hauptmann Langur, whose plane crashed near Shaftesbury in Dorset. The Telecommunications Research Establishment, however, did not stay in Dorset. In May 1942 it moved inland to the safety of Malvern in Worcestershire – the Small Scale Raiding Force and Bruneval Raids were proving how vulnerable coastal locations were to attack.
Poole was the target for a large bombing raid on the night of 24th May, involving 60 German aircraft. Luckily one of the initial ‘pathfinder’ bombs fell on Brownsea Island setting off the pyrotechnic displays of the Elstree Studios’ decoy used to simulate burning buildings and successfully diverting the rest of the attack to the Island. Although several people were killed in Hamworthy by other Pathfinders - and a bomb falling near Chotie’s home in Parkstone killed a Home Guard - the ingenious "Starfish" (from ‘Special Fire’) decoy was a great success, attracting 157 tons of the 166 tons of bombs used in the attack – it may well have saved Chotie’s life.
A Starfish decoy in action
On the other side of the world the Japanese now held all of the Phillipines and were advancing into southern China along the Burma Road but in the Battle of the Coral Sea the American Navy prevented their landing at Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea).
Soviet forces experienced terrible losses to the German Army in the Second Battle of Kharkov (Ukraine) and the Crimea. Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect of the Jewish Holocaust, was shot by the Czech Resistance and died a few days later. Germany suffered its first 1,000 bomber raid on the night of 30th May when the RAF attacked Cologne, devastating the city. However, Rommel’s offensive in Libya in May 1942 led to his most famous victory in the Battle of the Gazala line. This also impacted on Dick’s future since the 50th Division’s Reconnaissance Regiment was wiped out in the Battle to be replaced shortly before D Day by 61st Recce, the unit Dick and his comrades were to fight in.
Eric Postles was already in the 61st Reconnaissance regiment, training in Northern Ireland but in May 1942 Dick was with the 1st Airborne training on the Bulford Ranges near Salisbury and moved there from Shaw House at the end of the month. On Sunday 3rd May he had his first flight, in a glider, but seemed unimpressed (possibly slightly airsick?). He met up with his brother Brin on Saturday 9th May and again the following Saturday. On Thursday 21st May he had a rather more illustrious meeting:
Saturday 23rd May 1942
5731671 Tpr Williams R
1st Air Landing Sqdn
My Darling Chotie,
Hope you will excuse my writing in pencil but expect you are used to it by now...
Many thanks for letter - as welcome as ever.
Glad to see you managed to get a swim in - which is more than I've been able to - not that I've got the inclination - seem to have lost all interest in that direction, which is probably a good thing as I always tended to overdo it. I rather think Brinner has also lost interest. If ever I get out of this show alive I'm all for a life of ease – swimming’s far too strenuous.
So Margaret has made it up with Ted to quote your own words. Well, well...On ne sait jamais*..
Had quite a thrill on Thursday - when we were inspected by the King & Queen and a score of Generals. It was a demonstration of Paratroops & Gliders etc. I hope Johnny knows what he's letting himself in for. At any rate he'll find out sooner or later.
Did you hear the “Barber**” this afternoon (Saturday)? Unfortunately I was working and missed it. I cursed my ill-luck bitterly.
Flying all the morning - cold & cloudy.
Lucky Diller - wish I was going down, or rather we were.
Books: “Portrait of a Village” Francis Brett Young**, “Blood & Sand” Ibanez - though rather dull gives quite a true appreciation of the life of a Torero.
Brinner may have moved by now - probably has. Near Winchester I believe - couldn't be worse than Oakmere Farm - I was horror struck when I saw it last Saturday.
Raining hard at the moment - very miserable - the weather I mean - I'm reasonably cheerful.
Well, Precious no news as per usual. Incidentally will you get in touch with Eric and get him to send me a GROUNDSHEET. MOST IMPORTANT!!! I'm about to be charged 18/- for one! Will you send it, Darling? (please...) - and I'll give you a big kiss...(Hope that will do the trick).
Well, bye, bye for now, Darling.
PS. I now drive a 15 cwt truck. It was called ‘ Evelyn’ but is now ‘Chotie’ - I painted it in Gothic’s.
all for you!
*French for “You never can tell”.
**Presumably the ‘Barber of Seville’, an Italian comic opera by Rossini.
***A mystery story set in the Black Mountains of Wales.
****A famous tale about bullfighting in Spain.
© Chotie Darling