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 5th-8th March 1945

Entries from 5-8th March 1945

5th March. Worse night yet for Doodies but no damage roundabouts. St. Nick for baths. Ordered flowers through W.V.S. for home. Good new from all fronts. Confident of early victory.

6th-7th March. Heard story from farmer who was prisoner in Germany. Untold hardship in escaping. Terrible food in camps. Menfolk waited on and almost carried about by their women. Certainly boss of the house. Women adore their children and care for them more than do our women.

8th March. Terrible day for Doodies. Continuous and feel blast when one falls miles away. Majority of them fall in Scheldt.

Doodlebugs dominate. The sense of oppression from the constant bomardment really comes through Grandad’s Diary. By this time all of the German sites were out of range of Britain so their V1 weapons could only hit Belgium. And hit Belgium they did. Still, Grandad has heard good news from all front and is ‘confident of an early victory’. Hooray!

I understand that Grandad did not meet my Nanna until after the war, so it is likely that he was sending flowers home to his mother, of whom I know virtually nothing about. The WVS or WRVS, was the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, now known just as the Royal Voluntary Service. The wikipedia entry tells me that it existed mainly to support the soldiers in terms of food, shelter and sanitation, although clearly they did even more that as Grandad organised a delivery of flowers through them.

What an interesting observation Grandad makes about gender roles in Belgium. Not only were women there the ‘boss of the house’, but they were also more caring to their children.

Grandad’s Diary 18th-23rd February 1945

Entries from 18th – 25th February 1945

18th Feb: Floods steadily subsiding after 8 weeks.Everybody cutting down trees for firewood coal costing £2/18/- Cwt went to Ghent 55 miles away. Shops very dear.

19th Feb: Lovely old church and cathedral. Orchestra in NAAFI. Long day there but enjoyable. Went to cinema there. ‘Fanny by Gaslight’ Met Peter Highfield on 967 Sqdn.

20th Feb: Lovely weather but not much sleep. Doing well on black M. market. Many doodies over, after shipping on Scheldt.

21st Feb: Narrow escpae from doodie. Saw one unexploded en route for Blighty. Headache probably due to Doodies and loss of sleep.

22nd Feb: On pass. Took snaps and went to St. Nicholas. About cheapest shopping centre. Good black market. One of the boys suffering from shock from nearby doodie. Near to us.

23rd Feb: Busy these days long days too. Laying off beer. Most cafes with attractive looking girls to overcome poor quality of beer. Not worth the money.

There is a growing sense in Grandad’s posts of the impact of the ‘Doodies’ (Doodlebugs: V1 Flying Bombs) on the troops. Whilst he has not referred to any casualties, the constant threat of them seems to becausing stress-related headaches and ‘shock’.

Fanny by Gaslight was a 1944 film that was very popular in Britain.

I love that he saw past the ‘attractive girls’ at the cafes and decided to save his money by avoiding the poor quality beer.

Grandad’s Diary. 11th February 1945

Entries from 11-17th February 1945

On Scheldt Estuary. Still plenty of water from floods. Bartering for eggs. Plenty of D bugs around. Saw British jet planes.

I’m pretty sure that the jet planes Grandad saw were the Gloster Meteor, as these were the only jet planes that saw service by the British in the 2nd World War. That must have been an exciting and encouraging sight as it was superior technology to the ubiquitous Doodlebug flying bomb that was still causing problems. I included a bit of detail about the V1 flying bomb in yesterday’s post.

I love the contrast between the rather prosaic need for eggs and this new technology – jet engines.