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. 24th January 1945

The entry from 24th January

Left Halton. Boys made commotion in NAAFI. Upheld our bad manners. Saw where rocket had fallen at Dagenham. Arrived at Hornchurch in Essex.

Grandad’s journey to his second overseas posting continues. You’ll know from the introduction that he wasn’t properly overseas until 27th January, so we still have three days of travelling to get to France. They didn’t have the Channel Tunnel back then.

There’s a lovely insight into the banter and camaraderie of the wartime military. The NAAFI, I think, was a kind of supermarket for the military. I wonder what level of a commotion it means? Would it be someone throwing a sandwich? Or throwing a punch. My Grandad was gentle man and so I should imagine that he would have looked down upon any unseemly antics.

And it doesn’t take long to find out that V2 rockets did fall on Barking and Dagenham just ten days earlier than this entry. This report from 2015 says a little about the impact they had. It must have been a reminder to the soldiers returning to the conflict that they had to get the job done.