On 30 May US forces finally recaptured the Aleutian island of Attu from the Japanese. On 29 May the surviving Japanese soldiers had launched the largest banzai charge of the Pacific War: only 28 prisoners were taken afterwards, and over 2,500 soldiers died in the charge. Also this week, the RAF bombed the industrial city of Wuppertal in the Ruhr district of Germany, causing a firestorm and killing many civilians.
In Caithness the farming season was moving on. In the south of the county farmers had already sowed their turnips and swedes while in Stroma, as the John O’Groat Journal reported, “Corn is coming on, but there are some signs of grub in lea corn. Hay is also doing well. A number of crofters are getting ready for the sowing of turnips.”
As ever, children were being taken out of school to help. The log book of Gillock School records on 28 May: “The Begg family who had gone to live at Reaster, Lyth, left this school yesterday. E. Hossack is assisting at Peat Cutting, & K. Thomson and A. Bain are planting potatoes today.”
Three privates of the Highland Light Infantry pleaded guilty at Wick Sheriff Court this week for committing a breach of the peace and being drunk and disorderly in Lybster village (where many people went to buy alcohol, since Wick enforced prohibition at this time). As the John O’Groat Journal reported, the procurator-fiscal admitted that “the men were committing a disturbance, but it was not very serious.” They were fined £1 each. When asked if they had anything to say one of the accused replied, “Your whisky is too strong.”
On 24 May the police were notified that a “cylindrical shaped object” eight inches long had been found at Brabster in Watten: “I have examined it in the place where it is lying in the hill but I have not touched it.” A note at the bottom of the report adds, “Object removed and handed over to Armoury at RAF Station. Informed there that it is an instrument off a plane.”
Finally this week, the John O’Groat Journal’s correspondent “With Our Forces in the Middle East” reported the sort of conversation that will be very familiar to anyone from Caithness. A colonel in Tunisia stopped to ask the way of a C.M.P. [a military policeman]:
“Can you tell me… Bless my soul, I’ve seen you somewhere before! Have you ever been in my battalion?”
L-Cpl. Alistair Mackenzie smiled. “Were you ever in John O’Groats, sir?”
The Colonel gave a start. “Good heavens, it’s Mr Mackenzie, the manager of The Hotel, John O’Groats!”
“Used to be, sir,’ said L-Cpl. Mackenzie. “Now I’m trying to manage traffic – a much more difficult job.”
Coming soon! Week 196, 31st May – 6th June 1943, will be published on Monday 30th May 2016. To view previous issues please use the menus on the right hand side of the page.
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