By John Macklin
Ursula Dixon was young, beautiful, rich and restless. In the summer of 1932 at the age of 23 she returned for a holiday to her parents’ country house on the Dorset border and was picked up at the local railway station by a chauffeur who met the London train with Colonel Dixon’s yellow Rolls-Royce.
The inhabitants of the village, most of whom were her father’s tenants, glanced with varying degrees of interest as the young blonde woman, bronzed from a long vacation in the Mediterranean sun, sat languidly in the passenger seat as the stately limousine drove through the village on the way to her family home at the Grange with chauffeur John Mayes at the wheel.
Ursula stayed three weeks, the signal for a number of wealthy young men to escort her to a variety of functions organised by the country set. There was even talk of an engagement to the youngest son of a baronet but Ursula Dixon appeared to have no intention of settling down, and certainly not in sleepy rural Dorset.
Her languid approach to life masked a steely determination to do exactly as she pleased and she spoke of a plan to travel to South America. So it was that at the end of August 1932 the yellow Rolls-Royce took her back to the nearby station. A week later she sailed from Southampton on a P&O line bound for Brazil.
The plan was to join a party of wealthy adventurers to explore an unknown area of the Amazon. The feeling in Dorset was that when she had got adventuring out of her system she would return home, marry someone rich and settle down to the sort of life expected of her.
It was not to be. In April 1933 came the first news that Ursula Dixon was in hospital in Manaus suffering from a virulent form of tropical fever. For weeks nothing more was heard in the village although it was rumoured that she was returning home to recuperate.