In April 1942 Malta was awarded the George Cross for "heroism and devotion". America hit back at Japan with the Doolittle raid on Tokyo but the Japanese were close to victory in the Philippines, had landed in Dutch New Guinea (West Papua) and attacked the Royal Navy base at Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In Germany the last meeting of the Nazi Reichstag gave Hitler complete power as ‘Supreme Judge of the German People) and on 24th April the Luftwaffe began the famous Baedeker raids on English historical cities, beginning with Exeter.
In Dorset Weymouth, Hamworthy, Poole and Swanage also suffered bombing attacks in April 1942. The Telecommunications Research Establishment made an important breakthrough with the beginning of radar ground-mapping (known as "Starlight") that could be used by bombers at night or in cloud and a new master station for the direction of RAF bombers from southern Britain was erected on Bulbarrow Hill near Hilton in central Dorset.
Combined Operations HQ at Anderson Manor, near Poole, was organising commando raids such as the abandoned Myrmidon and Operation JV and planning for the Dieppe offensive.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited the Lulworth ranges to see the new Churchill tanks on 6th April. On 12th April Churchill was shown a demonstration of glider and parachute troops by the 1st Airborne Division. Their commanding officer Major-General Frederick “Boy” Browning was assisted by Brigadier George Frederick Hopkinson, known as “Hoppy”, who had founded the General Headquarters Liaison Regiment. .
It is tempting to weave a thread of connection between Dick’s intelligence role in Dorset, the development of radar, the secret signals GHL regiment (known as Phantom) and Combined Operations HQ – all based near Poole. Perhaps some personal encounter had led Dick to volunteer for Air Landing, instead of the parachute troops?
Whatever the course of events on 21st April 1942 Dick was posted to 1st Air Landing Reconnaissance:
Pte 5731671 Williams RK
1st Air Landing Coy
C/o A.P.O. NOTTINGHAM.
Arrived here safe and sound on Monday Evening.
This is one hell of a crowd. Discipline isn't in it. They're trying to break the Guards peace time standard and believe me they're doing it. Everything has to be blancoed* up to scratch nearly every day. I shall get little or no time off.
The only good thing about it is the leave. Apparently they get Seven Days every nine weeks or so - which is amazing for the Army.
I start on a course on Monday next - it's just like being a rookie all over again.
The Company here is billeted in a marvelous old house – Elizabethan* - with hundreds of rooms, banqueting halls etc.
Incidentally you must write to the address as shown, and not the one you already know - for security reasons. You might advise Diller or Mother if you write, as I've had to give them the Nottingham address of course.
For Pete's sake, how long's the war going to last? I only hope your mother's right, when she says it will be over this year.
I'm afraid I can't say anything of local interest, etc as these letters are sometimes censored for security reasons.
I miss you already, Darling - how am I going to feel in a month’s time?
I'm afraid I must close here as I have a hell of a lot to do. Please write soon my Darling as I feel b----- lonely.
all my love Precious,
*Blanco was a cleaning compound used on the cotton of army uniforms. ‘Bull, Blanco and Brasso’ meant getting uniforms immaculate.
** Shaw House, Newbury, Berkshire - the base for 1st Air Landing Reconnaissance Squadron mentioned in their wartime diary in the National Archives, Kew. This grade 1 listed Elizabethan Building is now owned by West Berkshire Council and open to the public.