The siege of Leningrad, which was to last until January 1944 began on 8th September 1941. The Germans also captured Kiev in Russia on 19th September, carrying out the notorious massacre of Babi Yar there. More than 33,000 Jews were killed – the largest single mass killing of the Holocaust. At the beginning of October Hitler began his attack on Moscow.
Meanwhile Dorset and the Hampshire border were used for the filming of 'The First of the Few', the story of the Spitfire, starring Leslie Howard and David Niven and featuring pilots from RAF Command. Niven had left Hollywood to rejoin the Army at the start of the war and, although he did some work for the Army Film Unit, he also commanded ‘A’ Squadron of the secret GHQ Liaison known as ’Phantom’, which specialised in front-line communications. ‘A’ Squadron were based on the south coast behind Poole Harbour in Dorset working with ‘V’ Corps (part of Southern Command) for the defence of Hampshire and Dorset.
Also in September Dick’s unit, the 70th Battalion of the Dorset Regiment moved to Bournemouth while its companies guarded RAF Ibsley (the main location for the film above), RAF Hurn, RAF Warmwell and the cliffs at Canford (where Chotie was later to live).
Chotie, now aged eighteen, had joined the Women's Land Army. Dick, who’s enjoying the Autumn countryside in Hampshire, writes to congratulate her but then, in his next letter, reveals that his HQ Company is moving to the Branksome Chine area in Poole on the weekend of 20th/21st September. Although this must have been frustrating, with Chotie now moving out from Poole to a farm somewhere in Dorset, Dick also seems intent to “go elsewhere”. He writes to Chotie at Church Knowle (where she’s working on the farm near Corfe Castle in Purbeck and living in Miss Grace’s little cottage at Cocknowle) saying he “should be out off this punk crowd in a month or two”. His family also has plans to move from Poole back to Herne Bay in Kent, where they lived when Dick was a child.
On 7th October Dick had a medical, prior to his transfer, passed in A1 condition and wrote Chotie his last letter for some time:
My Darling Chotie,
Just a few lines to let you know that all is well, and that I still love you, EVERYTHING.
I'm now feeling much better and though still on the sick list, hope to be OK again in a few days time.
I had a letter from Brinner (NO not Monica*, Darling...) who appears to be enjoying himself.
I do little or nothing all day with Eric, which gets pretty boring after a while. He had a parcel today and is, consequently, feeling quite cheerful, and sends his love (brotherly).
I was medically examined this morning re transferring, and was categorised A1. - not that it makes any difference. I'm afraid there's no news, of course, as nothing seems to happen.
Marjory, as I hear from Diller, who still corresponds, has now found her true love (etc), and may now cease to cause me sleepless nights. It's about time she had a change of front and policy. That's the only snag of going back to Herne Bay**. But at any rate we hope she's married by then and in safe hands.
This pen’s horrible to write with. Needless to say, it’s Eric's! He has everything on the thin side.
I've managed to find Cocknowle on a large-scale map - so I now know whereabouts it lies.
As regards next Sunday, I'll borrow a bike from Somewhere in England and be around sometime about 3 pm to 5-30. At any rate, I'll write again before then.
Well, Darling I must close here as it's time for tea, and I must rush to post this.
I managed to get a Dorset Brooch, which will do, I hope, until I get into a Genuine Regiment when I'll send you another.
Bye, bye Darling
All my love
* Dick’s former girlfriend – see letters of 12th November 1940 and 31st March 1941
** Dick’s family were planning to move back to Herne Bay from Poole
© Chotie Darling