7-9th May – V-Day. St. Nich full of excited drinking people. Flags dancing cafes full. Civvies relieved not so us. Much damage caused by underground movement burning and destroying property of collaborators. No police action and watched by crowds. Very puzzling to me to see such fine property destroyed. Foresee much trouble in Belgium between these parties. Excuse for looting, etc.
After all that.
2 stints of active duty overseas in war. Risking his life for King and Country for nearly a year.
And when it’s over Grandad is in a foreign country watching something that ‘puzzles’ him – behaviour that he foresees will cause much trouble in the future.
This is a far cry from the VE day that I was hoping for.
Many celebrating V day but not official. People waiting for announcement parading the streets and standing in crowds.
Ah. The calm before the party… A full week ago Grandad observed the Dutch partying prematurely, and now the Belgians are at it. I wonder how much premature partying happened on the streets of the UK at this time. Tomorrow’s post on “V-Day” is strange because there is some confusion about whether VE day is 7th or 8th March.
It is a tiny book. It measures 10cm in height and 7cm in width – perfect for fitting into a small pocket in an army uniform or pack. Its pages are an especially thin-type of paper that means the ink my Grandad used can sometimes be seen through the back of the paper it was written on. This makes it difficult to read in places.
On the first page is written, quite simply, the dates that Grandad served overseas. It is strange that only ‘overseas’ service seemed to ‘count’. There isn’t much of a record of service in this country in either this diary or his service book – only time overseas is recorded. I had thought that by winning the ‘Defence Medal’ it would mean that Grandad had served significantly in this country, and that may be true, but it turns out that all members of the Armed Services who served were eligible for the Defence Medal.
You can see clearly how Grandad noted that he served overseas from the 5th June 1944 until 29th September, then from 27th January to 13th May. This shows that he was overseas the day before D-Day on 6th June 1944 and was still overseas on the 13th May 1945, 5 days after VE day on the eighth.
I have no record of his service in the first stint, nor indeed why he came back home in September. I wonder when he found out about D-Day. There must have been quite an element of secrecy to keep the date a surprise from the Germans. And I wonder what his experiences were in those days. Like many, I have seen the visceral ‘Saving Private Ryan’. I wonder, as an RAF balloon operator, how close he got that kind of action.
I will probably never know. But what I can find out as an insight into his second stint. I have his diary and can begin looking at his story from 23rd January 1945, the date of his first entry.
There weren’t many surprises as I looked through my Grandad’s service record. I have been meaning to write about it for a few years and so I have scanned over it a few times. The headlines of what he did in the war that I outlined in the last post were already known to me. However, when I digitised his service record and therefore had to look at some of the more wordy pages in more detail, a couple of things stood out to me that I hadn’t previously realised.
The first of these was that the service and release book was just that: Grandad was only released from service at the end of the War, he wasn’t discharged. The book is full of references to this in the small print, and in some places, the print isn’t even so small – take a look at this page:
“NOT BEEN DISCHARGED”… It’s pretty ominous.
It made me wonder what life was like immediately after the war. The archive pictures of VE day look pretty awesome – but I suppose there must have been a tension that with so much of the World having been at war, things might flare up again.
Grandad finished overseas service on 13th May 1945, 5 days after VE day which began on 8th May. VJ day is 15th August, a full three months later, but the official signing of the surrender document, and therefore the end of the 2nd World War proper didn’t take place until 2nd September. Grandad was released from service on the 5th September.
That must have been a strange few months. The soldiers had worked so hard up until May 1945 to achieve Victory in Europe and the languished around (my guess) for the rest of the Summer until Victory in Japan was achieved. I wonder what that must have felt like – was there an expectation, or even a fear of being called up to the conflict with Japan? Was Grandad weary of war by then and desperate to finish?
It must have been a joy to finally have that release document signed and be able to start a life away from the threat of war on the 5th September. But the threat still hung over Grandad: he had NOT BEEN DISCHARGED and therefore could have been called up for a remobilisation at any time.