Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Tragedy of GI and his lover from drapers shop

OPERATION Crossbow is a little-known story about how the Allies used 3D photographs to thwart the Nazis’ weapons of mass destruction before they could obliterate Great Britain.

Spitfire pilots would take the photographs and then the best minds at RAF Medmenham, which is now the Danesfield House hotel and spa, would try to make sense of them.

Hitler spent a fortune researching these weapons in the hope they could win him the war.

But the air base had a secret weapon of its own — a stereoscope, which brought to life every contour of the enemy landscape in 3D.

A BBC documentary about the subject was shown in September but there is so much more to this story from a local point of view.  

It’s well known that American soldiers were based in and around Henley. Some of them worked at RAF Medmenham and were based at Phyllis Court Club in Henley. 

Given the top secret nature of their work, soldiers would take it in turns to stand guard outside armed with a service revolver and 12 rounds.

Pte John Waters, a 39-year-old from New Jersey, was a model maker for aerial reconnaissance at RAF Medmenham.

On July 14, 1943, he caused great alarm when he deserted his post and went into Henley to confront Doris Staples, a 35-year-old local woman whom he had been seeing, at the drapers shop in Greys Road where she worked. He then shot her five times.  

The American detachment at Phyllis Court received a call from Henley police station, saying: “One of your Yanks has just gone into a shop in Henley and shot and killed a woman and is now refusing to surrender.”

Police officers and firemen laid siege to the shop where Waters was inside refusing to give himself up. He fired two shots, one of which shattered the window of a shop opposite. The firemen attempted to flush him out with their hoses but when this failed police used tear gas and then broke down the door.

They found Waters in the outside lavatory leaning against the wall after trying to shoot himself dead.

In fact, the bullet had shattered his jaw, mouth and palate and came to rest just in front of his brain.

Nevertheless, he recovered sufficiently to stand trial for Doris’s murder in Watford on November 29, 1943.

He was convicted and sentenced to death and then hanged on February 10, 1944.

For those who would like to learn more about the work at RAF Medmenham there is a book called Operation Crossbow — the Untold Story of the Search for Hitler’s Secret Weapons by Allan Williams.

If anyone knows any more about Doris or her family, please get in touch.

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