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.

15th-21st April

Entries for week beginning 15th April

15th April – Told that Germany has to feed Belgium and Holland and to have smaller rations herself. Hence activity on ost farms etc.

16th April – Two British POWs called today after escaping. On way home went to Wessel. Many damaged bridges across river including one blown up by our bombs. Well fortified here.

17th April – C.O. given german car intends to sell it for 5 gold watches. So he has painted it green and made it appear RAF car. Lovely hot weather.

18th April – Passed through Wessel. Most ruined place I have seen. Awful 11000 civilians believed killed. Yanks still building bridge over Rhine. One dedicated to to Roosevelt.

19th April – Dismantled Jerry winch of site for Candenstory. Foresee much study for some old bounders. First havient for 5 weeks. 95th Sqdn returned home.

20th April – Good trip. Almost too many bombers over again. Conference today at long probably to decide if and when we go home. Told that Rhoda was a mother of a son on 16th.

21st April – 980 not gone back but standing by for dispersal. Hear that TAF want all men. Plenty of rumours as to when and where we return. 976 packing in and plenty of activity on behalf of officers. No need for us here now but hear Yankee general wants us about. On the other hand, Yankee officers say we can go.

I had some problems with the 19th April. There are a few words I cannot translate and it means I can render very little meaning from that entry.

However the overall feeling of this week is one of ‘making up the numbers’. Grandad’s unit only seems to have one job during the week – the one that I can’t quite work out properly on the 19th. And then there’s the talk of units packing up and Grandad’s assertion that they are not needed. It seems that they are only still here because an American general wants them around.

Wessel, or Wesel was a strategic port on the Rhine that was heavily bombed prior to it’s capture. 97% of its building were destroyed. I’m not sure about the civilian deaths that Grandad refers to – its population certainly fell from 25000 before the war to 1900 upon capture, but whether that was from bombings or evacuation, I don’t know.

I note that there is another hint of official corruption with the entry about the car that will be painted RAF green and then exchanged for gold watches.

And also some family news. Rhoda, Grandad’s youngest sister had a son. His name was Harry. Unfortunately both Rhoda and Harry died before i was born, so I never met them.