Grandad’s Diary 8th-14th April 1945

Entries for week beginning 8th April 1945

8th-9th April – anything German. Seen three pictures this week in old barn. Kept busy making wing comfortable. Scandalous behaviour of officers. They like this life and outsiders come for two days visits in rota from Antwerp and St. Nicholas to loot, look around and say they have visited Germany.

10th April – Returned refugees trying to repair their houses and of what little stuff is left. What a job. Jerry civilians holding aloof and making no more to fraternise. Probably know our ruling. Yanks repairing local trains and railways.

11th April – Some mail today. Heard we could return if officers so willed but they like it too much here, socially and financially, but won’t be long now. Regular half-way camp this.

12th April – Visited by ‘M’ balloon party looking for new sites near Munster for pamphlet distribution. Hellish numbers of bombers above. Yanks and ours pass each other near here.

13th April – Went to Orsoy. Civilians not allowed back there due to nearness of Rhine. Disappointed and surprised that river is as narrow as it is. Very fast current though. Can’t imagine the job the sappers had.

14th April – Yanks building another bridge. Bailey this time. Went across. Duisberg only captured this morning in the distance 2 miles away. This district end of Ruhr valley where there is still a big enemy pocket. Some of the lads going to Paris for a couple of days.

I register two kinds of disappointment from Grandad this week. He is disappointed that the officers are behaving so poorly and encouraging looting. And he is disappointed at the size of the Rhine. One makes the other quite supercilious and yet it is an interesting reflection on the normalness of this record. Why wouldn’t you be disappointed if you’d heard all about his magnificent river that was such a barrier into Germany and when you get there it seems smaller than expected?

Munster is not the place in Ireland (obviously) but is actually M√ľnster.

And a ‘Bailey’ is a type of bridge. I’ve found archive footage of an actual Bailey bridge across the River Rhine. I wonder if this was the one that my Grandad went across…

Grandad’s Diary. 19-24th March 1945

Entries for this week.

19th – 21st March. Lull in doodies but getting up earlier for operations. Other flight standing by for move to Rhine. Wonder if we will go. heard that Bill Whatling was over here on craft. also Jock Phillips. Smashing weather and plenty of work. Joined by crew from other flight. This squadron with very little systems for operational duties. Many bombers passing on way to Germany. Rockets on way to England. Not heard from Tom.

22nd March. More gen (duff) as to what is likely to happen. Rhine most popular fancy. Definitely going to Blankenberge on Saturday.

23rd March. Talking to man from St. Nichs on jetty. First time in 5 years he had seen Scheldt. Told of German hardships. Brother fined 100,000 francs for celebrating publicly loss of Bismarck.

24th March. 60,000 Jerries passed through Dock port. Left for Blank. Sorry to leave, especially the good people in the billet, and don’t fancy staying in Blank too long. Only 2 crews return. No idea what is happening to the others. We are not popular with the heads of our own squadron.

This is the week that Grandad is on the move again. The Doodlebug threat is lessening and while the odd V2 rocket still flies past to England, more and more Allied bombers are seen going the other way. The tide turned back at D-Day and now is beginning to race into Germany itself, with talk of Grandad’s unit being moved to the Rhine.

It’s still only talk though. His use of the RAF slang word ‘duff’ indicates that he knows the men are just gossiping about it. In fact, there are some interesting insights into the Balloon ‘Flights’ here. It seems that Grandad is not that impressed with the other flight – their systems are just not up to scratch. Also, Grandad does not think the high-ups in the squadron are impressed with the ballon units. This could be Grandad hinting at the other flight having broughr both local balloon units a bad reputation, or it could be that by now the commanders have realised that the balloon units are not that effective at a tactical level. I can’t tell.

It’s nice to hear Grandad mentioning some names of friends. I have no idea who Tom is and why he should be significant.

And finally the insight that is most fascinating to me is hearing views from the locals. We hear again of the difficulties of living under occupation – the man at the jetty tells his story of his brother landing an almighty fine from the German authorities for celebrating the loss of the Bismarck. The Bismark’s success in sinking HMS Hood, symbol for Rule Britannia, had hurt British morale badly at the lowest point of the war for the UK, so the sinking of the Bismark must have had a similar impact on German forces, hence the harsh fine.

Grandad’s Diary. 12th March 1945

Entry for 12th March

Some of the lads gone to Rhine for hauling supplies. Went to St. Nicks for bath. Doodies quieter wonder if Jerry evacuating Holland.

Is it me, or does Grandad have a bath every Tuesday? How civilised.

Meanwhile could it be that the oppresive threat of the doodlebug bomardment is coming to an end. Grandad doesn’d know for sure – all he knows is that fewer are coming over. Could it be that the Germans have fired them all and are now running away? Of course these days we could find out that sort of information from a range of news channels, radio, Twitter and so on, but Grandad, unless he was informed by military channels or rumour from people he met, just had to guess…