On 21st August 1942 Dick (a Francophile and fluent French speaker) wrote to Chotie horrified at the list of French celebrities published as traitors for collaboration with the Germans. Some of the boats from the disastrous raid on Dieppe had left from the Sussex coast and the county had received attention from the Luftwaffe – Dick’s mother was shopping in Bognor Regis shortly before the Odeon was bombed and Dick, who “saw most of the action in the Channel” was “machine-gunned in the streets”. On 29th August he got very drunk with some French-Canadians, who may have been involved in the commando raid, carried out by mainly Canadian forces. He was still enjoying other delights of Brighton with frequent visits to the cinema, as well as the ballet. He seems very keen to become engaged to Chotie in his letter of 30th August, but as far as I know there was no engagement.
‘Polyfoto’ of Chotie just before her nineteenth birthday.
On 2nd September Dick passed his trade test as a Driver Mechanic with good results. He wrote to Chotie the next day to let her know he would soon be back in Dover and wish her a very happy nineteenth birthday. He’d also visited the opera and made a new friend, the Italian Benetti.
On Tuesday 8th September, back with 43rd Recce he wrote again:
5731671 Tpr Williams R
A/TK Troop, HQ Squadron
43rd Recce Regt, Recce Corps,
My Darling Chotie,
I'm in a lecture at the moment, so I'm writing this in my notebook under pretext of taking some notes… I got your letter this morning - for which many thanks. Hope you can read this scrawl but I never could write on my knee. Glad to hear you celebrated your birthday in style - wish I could have been with you.
(The bloke here is a yawning on about internal combustion engines - very dull after six weeks of it.)
By the way - in your last letter but one, you told me about your ‘change of employment ', but it was, if you remember, in the form of a postscript, which I missed of course, at the first reading. When reading it again at a later date (a very sound habit of mine), I came across it, and needless to say, would have congratulated you in my last epistle. Anyhow - nice work.
(I very much doubt whether you can make head or tail of this scrawl. I've got a job to understand it myself - but persevere, Darling.)
I have to keep answering questions all the time to this wretched man - a Sergeant from the Ordnance Corps. Up to now, I've managed to keep just one jump ahead of him. He's not really very bright - typical of the R.A.O.C.*, but writing a letter as well has its snags.
I've been enquiring about my leave, and may get it on the 16th i.e. next Wednesday (a week today), but it seems rather doubtful. What can you manage if I do? I'm afraid I can't say definitely, because the Squadron Office don't know themselves.
I've been put on fire guard for a week (!) which means I work evenings as well. I haven't been out since I've been here. Not that there's anything of interest. I went out on an exercise yesterday morning, and passed through some marvellous villages, would have delighted Frances B. Young**.
Glad to hear you met Jones. Where is he stationed these days, or didn't he tell you? Did I tell you that Brinner was on a course in North Devon?
Are the old Dorsets*** still with you? It would mean that they've been there a year now.
I've got a cross country to run this evening after tea, a Devil, isn't it, seeing that I haven't done PT of any sort for seven or eight weeks.
My two Scotch friends have gone on leave to bra’ wee Ayr, and left me disconsolate, although they are both in ‘A’ Squadron, and I don't see much of them. (The lecture has at last ended, 1½ hrs, so I'll finish this tonight - maybe...)
Well, Lulu, after the lecture I heard I'd been transferred from the Anti Tank Troop to the Mortar Troop****, and having seen the Troop Commander about my leave, feel more confident about the 16th - but remember it’s still not definite.
This mortar job appears cushy - driving - but not quite so cushy in action.
Well, Darling, I must close here with all my love,
always yours, Precious
P.S. I mentioned our “engagement” to the old folks at home in my last letter. I haven't yet had a reply ... keep your chin up, Lulubelle..
*Royal Army Ordnance Corps – responsible for supplying weapons, ammunition and equipment to the Army.
**A Frances B. Young wrote a biography of Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (an Elizabethan writer) but the origins of this reference are obscure.
***Dick’s original regiment (see Chotie Darling Part 1 ‘The Blue Cockade’) last heard of at Branksome in Poole.
****A Reconnaissance Regiment consisted of one HQ Squadron and three Reconnaissance Squadrons. Mortar Troop was one of the four Troops in HQ Squadron (with Signals, Armoured Tank and Admin) and used 6 x 3” mortars. Mortars are portable. Fixed to the ground they are used to fire small bombs in a slow high arc into the enemy at close range.
In September 43rd Recce received orders to mobilise complete with re-inforcements, which presumably would include Dick. There were Brigade exercises ‘Break in’, which Dick may have been involved in and ‘Break out’, which he would have missed while on leave.
Later in September the Sunday Pictorial (now the Sunday Mirror) published an article on the Recce entitled “The First Thrilling Story of Britain’s ‘Reccies’ – our Secret Army is Ready”:
“The men of the Reconnaissance Corps have taken on one of the toughest jobs in the war – the spearhead of our attack on Germany. They are as elusive as guerrillas, fast as scouts, tough as commandos…..every one picked for brain as well as brawn…everything is improvised, time reducing, hazardous…an army which will roam behind enemy lines…their job, to spy on the enemy a close quarters…every scrap of information they get will be fought for” etc.
(From ‘Beaten Paths are Safest’ by Roy Howard, courtesy of the Sunday Pictorial, now the Sunday Mirror.)
Back in Dorset Chotie had “a change in employment” – since she was in Beales’ knitwear department in June 1942 perhaps this was when she went to Plummers, the employment she recalled after the Land Army episode? Certainly her last civilian job before January 1943 was as a window dresser at Plummers (Chotie called herself a “Display Artist”).
Luftwaffe attacks continued with 5 people killed by a bomb not far from Chotie’s home in Parkstone on 11th September. In the Channel planes from Warmwell sank two armed trawlers on 9th September and 21 people died when a famous Poole flying-boat, the Clare, caught fire over the English Channel the 14th. A new aerodrome that was to play a critical role on D Day and in Operation Market Garden was now under construction at Tarrant Rushton.
Poole’s Small Scale Raiding Force successfully obtained captured German wireless operators and Naval codebooks from les Casquets lighthouse in the Channel islands on 2nd/3rd March but their founder and leader, Major Gus March-Phillips was killed in another raid on 12th/13th September on a beach at St Honorine in Normandy, later better known as ‘Omaha’ (from the D Day landings).
On 3rd September 1942 a National day of Prayer was held in Britain for the third Anniversary of the Declaration of War.
Germany began a major offensive in Stalingrad on 13th September with orders from Hitler that the entire male population of the city should be eliminated. (From ‘The Second World War’ by Antony Beevor, published by Weidenfield and Nicolson 2012) Fierce Russian resistance and cunning was eventually to save the city but Stalingrad became a legend for the huge numbers killed on each side – possibly 750,000 troops and approximately 40,000 civilians.
On the other side of the world thousands of Japanese soldiers and US Marines were killed on one day, 12th September, in the ‘Battle of Bloody Ridge’ over the airfield on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.