Grandad’s Diary. 10th February 1945

Entry for 10th Feb

Left late. Passing through Ghent St. Nicholas. Wonderfully straight roads. dogs pulling carts. St. Nich one time Jerry officials rest house. Pro-German. Landed at Doel. Warm reception with several doodlebugs close by. ‘D’-bomb alley here.

Ah. Action.

Grandad has left the comfort of touristy Blankenberge and has crossed into the war zone. And while this does not mean man-to-man fighting, it does mean the constant threat of V1 bombs – doodlebugs.

I see that Doel, close to Antwerp which was mentioned in an earlier post as a potential destination for Grandad, is now scheduled for demoliton to make war for the expanding port of Antwerp.

The V1 flying bomb had been developed by the Luftwaffe and was used during the Summer of 1944 as a ‘vengeance weapon’ for the terror bombing of London. By October 1944 however, the last V1 site in range of London had been overrun by Allied forces and so the doodlbeugs were targeted at Antwerp to stall the Allied advance. Exactly where Grandad was.

I’m intrigued by the phrase ‘Pro-German’. I wonder if it means that St. Nicholas had been pro-German, or it still was? And if the latter was the case, did the ‘liberating’ forces receive hostility and vitriol from the locals?

Grandad’s Diary. 5th February 1945

Entry for 5th Feb 1945

Contradictory reports as to state of affairs in Antwerp. Better wait and see. No Naafi here, only Red Cross Canteen. not efficient.

A reminder that on the 31st January, Grandad had heard that things in Antwerp were awful. At that time, Antwerp was dubbed ‘the City of Sudden Death’ because of sheer volume of V2 rockets that fell upon the city. It must have been a frightening prospect – travelling to a city where death could fall upon you at any instant.

Grandad mentioned the NAAFI back on 24th January when he was still in England. The NAAFI was the ‘Navy Army Air Force Institute’ and was essentially all of the canteen, bar, club, supermarket needs of the military forces rolled into one.

I may have been unfair to the Red Cross Canteen here. In Grandad’s earlier entry he mentioned the ‘commotion’ some his of fellow airmen caused on 24th Jan, indicating a certain lack of control or disorganisation. Here I have translated Grandad’s words as ‘not efficient’, but he could have written ‘neat & efficient’. It could be that he thinks the Red Cross Canteen is actually better than the NAAFI.

Grandad’s Diary. 31st January 1945

Entry from 31st January 1945

Nothing to do. Standing by. Hear Antwerp is awful. State there po buys bombs. Spent evening in Red Cross more preferable to drinking awful beer in Cafes.

I just can’t get that third sentence. The ink from the previous page has bled through making it very difficult to ascertain what the words are. I think it relates to the comment about Antwerp being awful.

And Antwerp was awful. This post from a website about the V2 rocket claims that Antwerp at that time was refered to as the city of Sudden Death. More rockets fell on Antwerp than London.

I suppose the awulness of the conditions that Grandad was hearing about made his sudden comfort in Blankenbarge somewhat incongruous, or even banaal. I can imagine that putting your feet up and drinking Belgian beer was probably not the easiest thing to do when just a few miles ago death and destruction could rain upon you at any second.

I wish understood that middle sentence!