On 6th April 1943 Chotie moved to Markham Camp at Easton-in-Gordano (east of Bristol and the River Avon and south of the important port at Avonmouth). She joined ‘B’ troop of the 462 Heavy (M) Anti-aircraft Battery as a radar operator or 'spotter'. Easton-in-Gordano also had rocket firing or ‘Z’ sites and it may have been these that terrified her on her first night as ‘Ack-Ack
Rosemary Stewart was ‘B’ troop’s Lance Corporal and she remembers Barbara Chalkley as the only girl who insisted on using eye lash curlers (with boot black if she couldn’t get mascara) before going on parade.
Dick had written to Chotie on 28th March while home at Pagham (Sussex) for a few hours. He’d ‘passed out’ of his first 3 weeks of pre-OCTU training at Aldershot: “ie the hard graft and get it much cushier for the next six – nearly all theory” and his sister Diller was also home prior to enlistment.
He wrote again on 11th April:
My Darling Chotie,
Many thanks for your letter and the news of your change of address. Hope you prefer it to Oswestry, - at least you’re a little nearer home ….
I shall be here for the next seven months or so – at least in this neighbourhood I suppose.
‘Fraid I don’t know Bristol – all the blokes in my room at Dover came from this most antique of ports, and, needless to say, consider it the model town of the whole country. The Clifton Suspension bridge is considered one of the chef d’oeuvres* in the structural engineering world. I also know a BA who lives at Clifton, hails from the varsity. That about finishes my knowledge of the town. Glad to hear you’ve made a friend there. Always seems to help matters.
I’ve dropped for Guard Commander for Tuesday next so I’m spending the weekend blancoing etc.
I start on wireless tomorrow – for a fortnight then a fortnight gunnery – then leave and Sandhurst, maybe…
I believe I told you there’s an RA** crowd here (ATS). Always seem to be doing predictor stuff.
(Have stopped writing to have chat with bloke who’s hobby was mountaineering – very interesting. Another bloke here – the medico - says his greatest ambition in life is to become a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron! Nothing like aiming high, is there? He’ll probably make it.)
We’ll have to arrange something about my next leave. You may be able to get a 72hr or something. I’ll let you know all details when they arrive.
Had two days out driving last week. Went to Brighton on Thursday and Oxford on Friday. Saw Gloucester*** arriving through Oxford in his Rolls. (One of his Rolls). Also went through Bicester, Aylesbury, Windsor Great Park, etc. Made quite a change as I don’t really know this area.
The country round here is pretty marvellous but the Army of course have got their hands on most of it. There are literally hundreds of period houses, mostly Tudor cottages which have been used as weekend hide-outs, I should imagine. It makes me wince every time I see the military in them.
I’m reading (in brief snatches) Gabriel Chevallier’s ‘Clochemerle’, which is a rather licentious tale of life in a French village. Very amusing.
I’m boring you again I suppose so will close here. Will let you know of any developments as regards leave, etc
All my love
P.S. Excuse envelope – it’s all I have.
* ‘chef d’oeuvre’ – French for masterpiece
** RA – Royal Artillery
***Presumably Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester and third son of King George V. He was appointed potential regent by his brother George VI should he die while his daughter, the future Elizabeth II was a minor.
© Chotie Darling
History was with the Poles in April 1943. On 12th April German radio announced the discovery of the remains of nearly 15,000 Polish officers and intelligentsia near Katyn in Russia. The massacre had taken place in April 1940 but was denied by the Soviet Union until 1990. It caused a diplomatic crisis among the Allies.
On 19th April German troops stormed the Warsaw Ghetto and met with fierce resistance. The Polish Jews managed to hold out for another month as the Ghetto was destroyed by fire and flood – those that survived were sent to the Treblinka death camp.
In North Africa the Allies were approaching victory as their forces from the east and west met in Tunisia on 7th April. Allied planes from African air-bases shot down a record number of Luftwaffe planes on 18th April but over Germany the RAF and US Eighth Air Force were suffering huge losses.
One of the most famous successful attacks on an aircraft was the US destruction of the plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto, the Commander of Japan’s Imperial Fleet, shortly after he’d ordered the greatest Japanese air strike since Pearl Harbour against Allied bases in the Pacific on 17th April.
Hitler was busy giving pep talks to his European allies to keep them in the war, particularly Italy. Britain and America had agreed at the Casablanca Conference that their next step after Africa would be the invasion of Sicily but the US were not yet convinced they should advance into Europe via the Italian Peninsula before attempting to cross the Channel. (From ‘The Second World War’ by Antony Beevor, published by Weidenfield and Nicolson 2012)