Following my last blog on the lining of the Cut more has come to light. It seems No. 10 Company NCC of conscientious objectors (COs) may have been here in Chitterne preparing the way for the arrival of troops from the USA. Besides working on the Cut, or Chitterne Ditch as they termed it, they were working on the village roads. Perhaps strengthening them for the future movement of army vehicles and providing hard-standings.
The work of the COs in Chitterne finished on 3rd November 1943 as noted about halfway down on this document from National Archives. This must have been about the same time that the residents of Imber were given 6 weeks to leave the village. So it was all happening on the Plain in late 1943.
TF who has kindly shared these documents from the National Archives with us says his CO father kept the War Diary up-to-date. The note bottom left on the above letter is in his father’s handwriting.
No, 10 Company NCC finally finished work in West Wiltshire in February 1944 when they moved on to the Salisbury area.
Soon after the work of the COs finished in Chitterne the US 978th Field Artillery Battalion arrived in the village. I believe they were billeted at Chitterne Lodge and Racing Stables, which the War Department had purchased from Ronald J Farquharson in about 1937. The WD also owned Chitterne Farm and Manor Farm by this time, but both were being farmed, by Robert Long at Chitterne Farm and William and Tom Limbrick at Manor Farm. So it’s not likely the troops were at either farm, they must have been housed at the Lodge and Racing Stables.
The US battalion, equipped with 155mm Howitzer guns, were here to prepare to support the invasion of Normandy which had started on D-Day, 6th June 1944. The 978th landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy on the 26th June 1944.
Many thanks to TF for providing the fascinating information about the COs and the documents from the National Archives.
Additional information from: The American GI in Europe in World War II: The Battle in France by J E Kaufmann & H W Kaufmann.