As well as answering any number of questions, both on the day and then afterwards by email, David made some very helpful introductions to others who were researching the story of army chaplains in the Second World War. One of these was a woman called Jenni Crane who bought a suitcase in a junkshop – and then discovered it had belonged to one Padre George Parry, who was killed on D-day. And she put me in touch with Frank Treble, whose father Harry had left an unpublished memoir about his D-day experience. All fascinating.
Anyway, in the course of our conversation, David mentioned that a number of padres were sent for highly secret battle training in Northamptonshire just before D-Day. On asking for the location, I discovered to my surprise that it was a little village called Church Stowe, barely six miles up the road from where I lived at the time.
It was tough training, too, using live ammunition. Believe it or not, some of it is still lying in the surrounding fields, all these years later. While I was talking to David I remembered an incident that took place only a few weeks before our conversation. My husband and I were driving down the A5, past the turn-off to Church Stowe, when were stopped by police. They told us that they had closed the road while an Army bomb disposal unit removed a stray piece of unexploded ordinance.
This picture comes from inside the church, sadly usually locked these days, where the men have gathered around the tomb of a knight. For inspiration, presumably.