The tale of how Major Frederick Browning met and courted Daphne du Maurier seems to belong to one of the novelist’s less likely plots.
The Major had read Du Maurier’s first novel, “The Loving Spirit“. Inspired by her description of the coastline of Cornwall, and also dreaming of possibly meeting the novelist herself, he visited the county to go sailing.
He did indeed met her and she liked what she saw. But as months passed they both baulked for one reason or another at marrying. In the end it was she who proposed to him. The church they wed in was the very one where an important fictional marriage had taken place as part of the story told in “The Loving Spirit”.
As with all career soldiers, Browning’s postings took him away often. As WWII advanced, he rose to be General, formed the First Airborne Division (Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, Normandy) and commanded the First Allied Airborne Army at Arnhem.
Browning’s decisions and contributions before and during the Battle of Arnhem can be found still being debated among enthusiasts of military history. It was he who warned Montgomery, to no avail, that Operation Market Garden was reaching for “a bridge too far”.
The General ended his hastily scribbled letters home to his wife, son and daughters with “kisses from the Boys”. The “Boys” were his childhood bears who travelled everywhere with him, packed in a briefcase.
This material is from my reading of “Daphne du Maurier, A Daughter’s Memoir“, by Flavia Leng.
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