Grandad’s Diary. 17th february 1945

Entry for 17 Feb

Lull in weather. Snaps plentiful in these parts. Evidently Jerry allowed free use of cameras helping his trade no doubt. Saw some snaps of floods and Jerry evacuations. Many horses left here.

The weather was presumably very important to Grandad, as it would have effected how much hydrogen to put in the barrage balloons. A lull in the weather was probably a good thing.

The German evacuation of Belgium, which they had occupied for 5 years was probably very significant to Grandad and the British troops, not least because around 400 000 Belgians were tried after the war for collaborating witht he Nazis, presumably some of those ‘snapped’ trying to leave would have been Belgians once loyal to their German overlords.

Grandad’s Diary. 16th February 1945

Very many V. bombs today. Went to St. Nicholas for bath. Big black market centre. Busy on operations these days.

Again – the contrasts. There are bombs raining down on Grandad and meanwhile he goes to have a bath. it must have been a rare luxury in such times.

And he’s getting busier too – more balloons to put up and more to maintain no doubt. It’s interesting that he writes so little about his actual war work – i.e. being a balloon operator. Maybe it wasn’t the thing to do, lest ‘Jerry’ get his hands on the information and use it against them. This had probably been inculcated into British troops in the preceding war years.

Grandad’s Diary. 4th February 1945

Entries from 4-10 February 1945

Quiet day. Visited friends. More coffee and tales. Jerry stole a lot and took all he laid his hands on.

A ‘quiet day’ for Grandad for drinking coffee and hearing stories about the oppressive regime of an invading force.

I wonder if the ‘friends’ were the people he visited three days earlier on the 1st February. Or by ‘friends’ does he mean another group of soldiers stationed nearby.

We all need quiet days from time to time.

Grandad’s Diary. 3rd February 1945

Entry for 3rd Fab

Went to Bruges. Shops full but very dear. Bought scents cosmetics. People well dressed and clean, wonderful complexions. Toured cafes at night but not worth. Beer same effect as water. Going to sites next week. People very sociable and tell of Jerry attrocities and greed.

A post of contrasts. A genteel picture is painted: prosaic shopping and contented people. Then a hint of a warning of action next week, against this background of terrible things that have happened.

After more than 2 weeks of entries, I finally see in this post that there is a word from my 70s and 80s comics – Jerry – British slang for the Germans in the 2nd World War.

The Belgians must have been watering down their beer for the various soldiers in their towns – everyone knows that Belgian beer is ridiculously strong. In fact Belgian Beer Culture has made the Unesco list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. They must have been hiding that from their visitors during World War II.

The comments about the ‘wonderful complexions’ is another hint of the contrast between occupied Europe – well off and well fed, despite the atrocities committed by the occupying forces – and Britain – deprived of vitamins, food beeing rationed and probably, in Grandad’s eyes, showing it in the quality of their skin.

I wonder if my Nanna was the recipient of the cosmetics that Grandad bought…