Grandad’s Diary. 27th January

Entry for 27th January 1945

Left early for craft at Tilbury Docks. Tied up all day. Twice as many men aboard Confusion and discomfort Rumours that we leave midnight. So different this trip to that of ‘D’ Day. Wonder how our H.Q. will make out other side. Still trying to carry out static site boating.

I’ve done a lot of ‘wondering’ about my Grandad over the past few posts. It’s good to hear that he did some wondering too. I’m presuming the obvious: that the weather was so bad compared to the D-Day landing that it would be difficult to make out the other side after the trip across the English Channel. But of course it might be something to do with working out the identity of people they would meet when they finally made it overseas.

I’m pretty sure I’ve got the last word in the entry wrong. Could it be ‘looting’, ‘louting’ or ‘booting’? Or something else entirely? I know that barrage balloons were used to defend shipping, so hence tending towards the ‘boating’ translation, although the phrase itself doesn’t make sense.

Either way it must have been so frustrating to be shut up on that boat all day. Grandad had made pretty good time since departing from Wythall four days earlier. Spending an entire day on a boat waiting to depart must have been tense and dispiriting for everyone.

Grandad’s Diary – Introduction

It is a tiny book. It measures 10cm in height and 7cm in width – perfect for fitting into a small pocket in an army uniform or pack. Its pages are an especially thin-type of paper that means the ink my Grandad used can sometimes be seen through the back of the paper it was written on. This makes it difficult to read in places.

My Grandad’s Diary: a very small book.

On the first page is written, quite simply, the dates that Grandad served overseas. It is strange that only ‘overseas’ service seemed to ‘count’. There isn’t much of a record of service in this country in either this diary or his service book – only time overseas is recorded. I had thought that by winning the ‘Defence Medal’ it would mean that Grandad had served significantly in this country, and that may be true, but it turns out that all members of the Armed Services who served were eligible for the Defence Medal.

The first page of my Grandad’s diary, including his own handwritten note of when he served.

You can see clearly how Grandad noted that he served overseas from the 5th June 1944 until 29th September, then from 27th January to 13th May. This shows that he was overseas the day before D-Day on 6th June 1944 and was still overseas on the 13th May 1945, 5 days after VE day on the eighth.

I have no record of his service in the first stint, nor indeed why he came back home in September. I wonder when he found out about D-Day. There must have been quite an element of secrecy to keep the date a surprise from the Germans. And I wonder what his experiences were in those days. Like many, I have seen the visceral ‘Saving Private Ryan’. I wonder, as an RAF balloon operator, how close he got that kind of action.

I will probably never know. But what I can find out as an insight into his second stint. I have his diary and can begin looking at his story from 23rd January 1945, the date of his first entry.

That’s the next post.