Grandad’s Diary. 22nd-28th April 1945

Entries for week beginning 22nd April 1945

22nd April – Bumped into Jack Davies who was in our first crew at Moss Bank. Bill Whatling here in dock for fortnight. Spending our days doing jobs simply to pass away our time.

23rd April – Got two oranges today with rations. Plenty of good grub yet. 974 Squadron packing up. Groupie called at camp for usual officers sightseeing tour and looting expedition.

24-25th April – Everybody not so enthusiastic as to chances of going home. Only move likely to be to Wesel to rest of squadron. It is said Yankee General won’t allow us to move. He wants us for bridges even now.

26th April – Thousands of Jerry PoWs just outside Rheinberg. Big camp for displaced people in Wesel. Yanks taking some of the bridges down. One of the boys at Wesel damaged by mine. Trod on trip wire.

27-28th April – Heard that four Yanks lost their way underground in a Saltmine while on a looting expedition. Had been missing for three days and all attempts to contact them without success. Weather very poor. Cold wet windy. Very miserable and boys browned off realising futility of the the job and lack of any social life.

Again, the feeling this week is of uselessness. The only reason my Grandad is still here is because of an American General feeling nervous about his bridges, and so wanting the barrage balloons up just in case. And so Grandad has to wait.

And he provides more evidence here of looting. Again groups organised by the officers arrive to have a ‘tour’, which includes looting. Not only that but 4 yankee soldiers have been lost down a saltmine on a looting expedition. There is no clue here as to whether they were found. Looting of art was a theme throughout the war, but the fact that on the Allied side there was looting too seems to have been often overlooked, although there is plenty of evidence that it happened. There is a saltmine near Wesel, but the famous looting-artwork-saltmine incident of the war involved the Merkers Saltmine, which is close to the centre of Germany, although who, knows, perhaps this is what inspired our lost Yankee soldiers.

Grandad’s Diary 1st-7th April 1945

Entries for week beginning 1st April 1945

1st-4th April – Touched Holland but recrossed frontier after few miles. Countryside similar but not so many of our large villages. Entered Germany but didn’t see any signs of Sigfuld Line. Damage everywhere. Every house in ruins. What a sight of ruination. Landed near Rhine below Walsam and near Rhineberg. On advanced wing H.Q. Not a sign of civilians and everywhere shelled to hell I suppose from both sides. Dead cattle lying about and huge pile of contents outside each house. Looted and thrown uselessly to one side. Ridiculous and shameful I think. Here pianos stolen by officers. Pork very often. Just bill whatever is needed and all lost -concious.

5th April – Pathetic to see refugees returning and passing by with bundle of all they have left. Imagine Poland etc. Can’t agree with official attitude re: treatment of Germans.

6th-7th April – Think it will come back against those who try to solve post war world peace. More and more refugees passing by. Clearing up dead animals now beginning to smell. Wagons carrying POWs packed like sardines. One turning corner had sideboards crashed and scattered Jerry on to road killing few of them. Still no mail. Yanks very good to us. Much better than British conditions. Yank delight in wrecking.

Wow! What a week! Grandad is finally in Germany and the entries are full of theorising and opinion. He doesn’t think much of the treatment of Germans and think it will come back to those seeking peace after the war. He think the looting is shameful. He observes that US soldiers (the yanks) have better conditions than their British counterparts, but they delight in wrecking things. He observes that German prisoners of war are killed by being packed too tightly in a lorry.

Remarkable.

When he mentions the ‘Sigfuld Line’ at the beginning, I imagine he is talking of the ‘Siegfried Line‘, which was Gemany’s equivalent of the French Maginot Line – that great, outdated defensive system that was thwarted by Germany’s use of the tank.