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Inverallochy, Week 17: 23 April

First of all, apologies for the lack of progress this week. You see, we’re off down south for a few days—left on Friday in fact—and the gansey’s had to stay behind. (I’ve learned caution: the last time I tried to take knitting this big over the border I was suspected of sheep rustling.) Even so, I am practically, agonisingly, almost to the cuff; another week will see it finished.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d share with you a couple of fun things I learned this week about D-Day, the Allied landings of June 1944 to liberate Western Europe. Both, as it happens, involve parachutes.

The first one involved dropping dummy parachutists (known delightfully as “Ruperts”) to confuse the enemy. These were three feet tall man-shaped cloth bags filled with sand and attached to parachutes. About 500 were dropped the night before the invasion, in places where troops weren’t actually going to land. To add to the effect, real soldiers dropped alongside the dummies, with record players and fireworks: they played recordings of gunfire and set off the fireworks so that in the blackness of night it seemed like a major battle was taking place.

St Fergus’ in the Fog

Now that is rather brilliant, but I think the other idea is even better. The Allies desperately needed all the information they could get about the German defences and the troops stationed along the Normandy coast. So what they did, they parachuted cages with homing pigeons in them over the fields near the Channel, hoping French farmers would find them.

Sketching au plein air

In each cage, along with a pigeon, the farmer would find a set of instructions, some feed, a pencil and a piece of paper. All they had to do was feed the bird, write down any information they thought would be useful, tie it to the pigeon’s leg and set it free—whereupon it would fly straight back to Britain with the priceless intelligence.

Isn’t that great? Such a simple idea, and apparently very effective. Of course, you ran the risk of the Germans finding the birds first and writing notes to say the guns were all made out of chocolate, or something; just as I like to think of the dummy parachutists getting their record collections mixed up, so that sleepy Germans would be roused by a firework display to the accompaniment of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” or “In the Mood”, the 1944 equivalent of a rave…

Normal service will be resumed next week, with hopefully the happy ending.

4 comments to Inverallochy, Week 17: 23 April

  • Lois

    You’re making splendid progress! I always think it’s horse work knitting down sleeves. Though it means the end is in sight, they do seem to go on forever. Perhaps I should just have a family with shorter arms.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, I am three inches of ribbing away from finishing the cuff, so nearly there! (In future, I might start a campaign to make T-shirt ganseys a thing…)

  • =Tamar

    So this is a sort of Rupert post, eh?

    Lovely narcissus (is it redundant to compliment Narcissus?) and daffodils. Mine are all gone by now.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar, alas, such is the nature of living in the frozen north that spring is only just upon us. Travelling back from the Midlands to Caithness was like travelling back in time, from late spring ( pear blossom, trees coming out, hedges in bloom) to a sort of semi-Siberia.

    But we saw swallows today – more than one, which makes a summer in my book!

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