Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Map of the Route

Index to Diary Entries

Publishing the diary in daily instalments necessarily resulted in the entries appearing now in reverse order. To read the diary in its proper order, just start at the beginning and follow the links at the foot of each post to the next entry. 

Here also is an index of entries: 

  1. June 1944: Waiting at Home Farm
  2. Thursday, August 3, 1944: This is it!
  3. Friday, August 4, 1944: Concentration Area
  4. Saturday, August 5, 1944: Marshalling Area
  5. Sunday, August 6, 1944: Embarkation Area
  6. Monday, August 7, 1944: On The Ship
  7. Tuesday, August 8, 1944: France
  8. Wednesday, August 9, 1944: Le Manoir
  9. Saturday, August 12, 1944: La Folie
  10. Sunday, September 3, 1944: Lieurey
  11. Thursday, September 7, 1944: To Abbeville
  12. Friday, September 8, 1944: Brias
  13. Saturday, September 9, 1944: Back to the Farm
  14. Tuesday, September 12, 1944: Beaucamp
  15. Thursday, September 14, 1944: Camphin
  16. Barter and Ballgames in France
  17. RAF 5 - Seclin 2 - Germans 0
  18. Café-Concert, the Fun Fair and Free Suppers
  19. Friday, October 20, 1944: Oostacker, Belgium
  20. To Ghent by Tram
  21. Moving into the big house
  22. Tuesday, December 12, 1944: Ravels, Belgium
  23. Christmas 1944
  24. Tuesday, January 2, 1945: Near Turnhout, Belgium
  25. In Germany

In Germany

In Germany

The diary, of course, came to an end, suddenly, on January 2, 1945 and I have no idea when or where the unit went next, however, I have to include this last photo that was amongst the family photos. On the back, in my father's handwriting, it just says "In Germany."

Monday, 21 March 2022

Tuesday, January 2, 1945: Near Turnhout, Belgium

Near Turnhout, Belgium

During the evening of Jan 2nd. was when we had our next bit of excitement. 

I had got on watch at five o'clock and was sitting in our receiver van when a little while later there came a terrific crash, the van lifted, the trap doors came up and all the power went off. I switched on the ancillary lights to see if there was damage in the van but there didn't seem to be any except that the bench that the radios were on had come adrift. I then opened the door and jumped outside. As it was dark I couldn't see very much at first but I could hear a lot of kids screaming in a house next to us. A couple of the boys went around there and I went down the field towards another vehicle where I could hear someone shouting. By this time my eyes had become accustomed to the darkness and I could see a little way. I soon began clambering over large lumps of earth anything up to 2ft across and I had to made a detour to avoid falling over. I eventually reached our transmitter van and found one of the mechanics crawling from under the van. When all the facts were known it transpired that a V2 [1/2] had landed in the field between the two vans, leaving a crater 15 ft deep and 30 ft across. 

As the ground was soft the blast rose up from the crater at a high 
And there the diary ends, mid sentence. Spoiler alert: he lived to tell the tale and bring back the diary, of course, but I suppose that "sh*t just got real" and finally, he heeded the ban on writing a diary. 
  1. V-2 rocket
  2. Jan. 02, (17:34 hours) - Batt. 3./485, (Site 131), V-2 rocket fired, impacted near Turnhout a few km from the Belgium-Netherlands border. (*JP)

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Christmas 1944

"Pheasant as usual, I suppose cook?"

Very soon we started getting ready for Christmas, the decorations were put up in our two rooms in the school and plenty of beer was laid in. On Christmas day, I passed the morning getting cleaned up and changed into my blue battle-dress. We called in the Café on the way to dinner and sampled a few Cognacs. Then we went into the school sat down at the tables and waited to be served by the officers and N.C.O.s. 

First of all every man got twenty cigarettes and a block of chocolate, and then the beer was brought round, one bottle per man. Tomatoe (sic) soup was served first and then came the chicken, roast beef, roast potatoes and all the rest of the good stuff. It was a very good dinner and so was Christmas pudding with rum sauce that followed. 

When everybody had finished, cigars were handed round and the usual few speeches were made. All through the meal everyone was kept well supplied with beer. Then we all cleared out and went into the next room where our bar was now open. First of all we finished off a lot of free beer and then the rest we had to buy. There was plenty of chocolate and sweets about, so I proceeded to tuck into everything. Soon it was tea time and trifles, blancmange, cakes and a lot of other things were brought in. The tea lasted all through the evening. I went to another of our film shows during the evening. I didn't feel like going on guard that night but it had to be done.

The next afternoon, Boxing Day, I was playing football for the unit against a civilian team from the surrounding villages. It was a very good game and we won 3-2 although we should have got more.

Saturday, 19 March 2022

Tuesday, December 12, 1944: Ravels, Belgium

Belgium - Turnhout. Around Grote Markt (Main Market) http://www.microtoerisme.nl, CC BY-SA 3.0

On the 12th. of December we had packed up again and the advance party moved off. The next day the main party went and on the 14th. I left with the rear party. We had had to stay behind to clear up a couple of houses and load another waggon. There were only six of us in the rear party so one lorry was sufficient. We left just before dinner-time and headed for Antwerp. We passed through there without being hit by any V-1's that were continually falling in the town. Next we came to Turnout (sic) and about five miles further on we arrived at our destination in Ravels.

This time all the billets had been organised before the move so it was an easy matter to get my kit into the right house. We were using a school as a cookhouse and everybody was billeted with the civilians all through the village. I was in the Miller's house but although he seemed quite well off we didn't have such as good time as some of the boys. 

I only went to Turnout (sic) a few times and then only for a bath. I didn't bother to go to look at the shops as I had heard it wasn't much good. Our sole means of entertainment here was our own film shows and quite often we managed two a week. The one and only Café in the village wasn't much good and I only went in a couple of times.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Moving into the big house

A big house in Oostacker (not necessarily the one mentioned). Vlaamse Gemeenschap, CC BY 4.0

When we had been at Oostacker four weeks those of us not in billets moved into a big house and occupied the first floor. The Belgian family lived downstairs but we didn't see very much of them. The six of us managed to get into a room together. It was nice to be able to look out of the windows and see the rain pouring down without hearing it on the roof. Very soon we found that there would be scrubbing of floors and stairs to do but as it only came around once a week it wasn't too bad. The cookhouse was put in a house across the road.

I had a dose of constipation so I wasn't able to go out for a couple of weeks but after that I went to town again. I wandered around the shops for a while and then went to the E.N.S.A. [1] Cinema to see Tommy Trinder in "Champagne Charlie". After this came tea in the Canadian Legion, and then we saw and E.N.S.A. show called Jack Radcliffe "Revels of 1944". This was a very good show.

While we were at Oostacker two Army chaps used to come along with a small truck and give is a film show each Tuesday afternoon. Even with this portable equipment it was always a very good show, which usually lasted over two hours. Some of the films shown were "Higher and Higher", "On Approval", "Meet the People", "Going My Way", and "Heavenly Body". 

We managed to fix up a football game here with 15071 who were situated only the other side of Ghent. As this unit had nearly all of the old 103 Maru [?] team we didn't think much of our chances. As it was we did better than we thought and only lost 3-1. I played goalkeeper and was kept very busy.

My third trip into Ghent came after we had been here nearly seven weeks. I went in on my own and did the same thing as I had done before. A walk around the shops, a visit to the Cinema to see "Up in Mabel's Room", then tea in the Canadian Legion and this time straight back to camp. I had one more similar visit to Ghent before leaving there.

"Dead 'ot on fluff under beds . . ."