Dick’s regiment in Dover had been joined for Christmas by the Canadian Reconnaissance Regiments and pilots from the Royal Australian Air Force – about fifty in all. Dick reported to Chotie that he’d had “rather a quiet Christmas” , although he drank “eight pints of beer with Xmas dinner”. Eric Postles had his Christmas dinner with his troop in a café in Portrush, Northern Ireland
Although 43rd Recce had resumed Section training after Christmas they were given a half day on 1st January. Dick would presumably have been involved in the vehicle maintenance inspection by Lt-Col Crawford, the Commanding Officer, on 2nd January but got out to the ‘theatre’ with his new friend Alex Johnston (later killed in the sinking of the Derrycunihy with other members of 43rd Recce soon after D day). They saw a strip-tease act featuring a 12 foot long python. Dick, himself an amateur pianist who could play by ear, was most impressed with Alex’s rendering of Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, the theme tune for the war film ‘Dangerous Moonlight’.
Dick had won a bet on the progress (or lack of) the Allies in Tunisia. He wrote to Chotie on the evening of Sunday 3rd January wishing her luck with her entry to the forces.
Section training continued – Dick won two cross-country runs (43rd Recce diary records these as held on 28th December and 4th January) and completed a forced route march.
Meanwhile Chotie had joined the Army. She was ‘embodied’ into the Auxiliary Territorial Service at No 1 Training Camp, Northampton on 8th January. Her first days there would have involved nit inspections, VD and pregnancy tests, vaccinations and visits to the dentist, as well as assessment for her future role in the army. On 11th January she filled out a qualification form applying to be an Anti-Aircraft spotter with the Royal Artillery (or second choice an equipment orderly with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps). Although she was one mark below the minimum in something called SP23 her other scores were good and she was “very keen to be on a gun site” so she was recommended for the Ack-Ack. (Ack Ack was the name given to the anti-aircraft guns in the same way that the German anti-aircraft defences were called 'flack'.)
Dick wrote to her on the same day:
5731671 Tpr Williams, R.K
Mortar Troop, HQ Sqdn 43rd Recce regt.
Recce Corps, Home Forces
My Darling Chotie,
So you’re in the Army at last…._ and from your letter things don’t appear to be too bad.
I should imagine by now you know all about innoculation….Just ignore it. Personally we always welcome it as it means 48 hrs in kip – that is TAB* of course, not ATT etc.
Northampton seems rather a far cry from Dorset, but you may be posted farther South of course. It’ll be the helluva way to go just for 48 hrs though.
You say the clobber seems stiff – and soft cloth at that….
I’ve just done an amazing thing – for me, or rather two amazing things – won two cross-countries inside a week! Shock nearly killed me. Had a forced route march today over ploughed fields. Half the troop fell out. I made it all right, but it left me with a swine of a headache. All those who fell out go on a charge automatically.
Expect you’re bored stiff reading all this tosh! Specially if the innoc. Got you down. We are always urged to get about and forget it, but I just give in and relax in bed.
It’ll be a change to write to you at another address….
Pretty chilly here, expect it’s the same with you. We pinch about ½ ton of coal a week from various sources.
Haven’t heard from Brinner for ages – and Eric needless to say has always failed to write. Brinner’s still somewhere in Essex I suppose.
Did you hear about Monica’s effort? Baby daughter – 9lb 4oz something. Helluva weight. Mother did tell me her name. I’ve forgotten I’m afraid.
Re. Xmas present. Is there anything you want? Or would you rather I send you the shekels? Don’t be afraid to let me know will you in your next epistle.
Met an Eire padre last night. Ex boxer from Dublin Varsity. Found quite a lot in common. Opera, Georgian Houses etc. Quite a lively argument about the Church. Had to admit we both had our own points….
Don’t forget to give me a lucid description of the Sarn’t-Major. Yes Ma-am….
Must close here, Darling.
Hope I get the address right.
All my love
P.S. Don’t let ‘em get you down….
* Typhoid inoculation
© Chotie Darling
On 12th January Chotie’s enrolment into the ATS was approved and she would have begun basic training with lots of drill, parades and inspections, tests on Army regulations and getting used to the Army life. I don’t think Chotie would have found it hard to look smart, although forcing her abundant blonde hair up into her cap was always a problem:
“How well I remember Barbara, – she had the most lovely smile and the most beautiful hair which she had great difficulty in keeping up above collar level as laid down in Kings Regulations!” (Rosemary Cowley/Stewart, pers comm).
Chotie in the ATS
On 13th January 1943 the call-up (compulsory military service) in Britain was extended to single women of 19 – Chotie’s age.
In the Warsaw Ghetto the first armed resistance by Jews to the concentration camp deportations succeeded in securing a temporary halt to the transports.
French resistance to the Germans was growing as the French communists joined with General de Gaulle’s Free French (in opposition to the Allies’ appointment of Vichy France collaborators to lead in North Africa). However, on 30th January Vichy France established a secret police force modelled on the German Gestapo and called the Milice.
That day, the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of Nazi Germany, the Allies bombed Berlin by daylight in a propaganda coup and the following night the RAF began to use H2S the first airborne ground scanning radar system (developed by TRE in Dorset and Malvern), greatly improving their accuracy.
A ‘Combined Bombing Offensive had been agreed by the US and Britain when Roosevelt and Churchill met at the Casablanca conference on 14th January, with the Americans attacking the Luftwaffe and aircraft factories by day and the RAF continuing to bomb cities at night. They also agreed the plan for the invasion of Sicily - Operation Husky – although they were meeting fierce resistance from the Germans in Tunisia. (Rommel’s forces defeated both French and US forces at the battle of Fäid Pass on 23rd January.)
The war in North Africa was at least diverting desperately needed support from German units on the Russian front. The Red Army at last succeeded in breaking through the German encirclement of Leningrad (St Petersburg) and moved in to crush the surrounded Sixth Army at Stalingrad. On 31st January the German commanders at Stalingrad surrendered.
US and Australian forces finally achieved victory over the Japanese in Papua New Guinea and the Japanese began a planned withdrawal from Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
The Allies could now feel that the Japanese were not invincible and, when the news of defeat at Stalingrad leaked out, German citizens began to realise they might not win the war. The Allies capture of Tripoli, the capital of Libya, on 23rd January signified the end of the Italian Empire.