Grandad’s Diary 12th May 1945

Entry for 12th May 1945

Lovely day on beach. Such a fine stretch of sand. more fighting and destruction here between Belgians. Belgian soldiers taking over duties to relieve English and Yanks.

And today another post of contrasts. The war is definitely over for Grandad. VE day has passed and he can enjoy a lovely day on the beach at ‘The Blackpool of Belgium’: Blankenberge. But this is against the background of Belgians getting their own back on those who collaborated with the Germans. Wikipedia tells me that there are 27 pages on Belgians who collaborated with Nazi Germany. The generic references to trouble with collaborators from Grandad would indicate that there were quite a few more.

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 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.