- Contributed by
- Dover District Libraries
- People in story:
- Ray Dalley
- Location of story:
- Somewhere in Belgium
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 October 2004
Letters Home - September 1944 — Part Two
Never in all my life shall I forget our entry into Belgium! The roads seemed to be full of shouting and cheering people, there were Union Jacks, Stars and Stripes and the Belgian flag everywhere. It seemed a mass of Black, Yellow and Red, all over the place.
People were madly waving to us, and we in return acknowledged with a wave of the hand. We all stood on our lorries as they swept forward, where we were pelted with pears, apples, tomatoes, and even grapes. I felt as though I were Montgomery himself driving along! Some of the places we entered into we were the first British troops they had seen. It made no difference, old and young alike were smiling and greeting us. We were fêted, garlanded and indeed everything was ours! Once our lorry stopped for a few minutes and I had the chance to speak to a well to do woman with three daughters. They all came running up to greet us and loaded us with bag-fulls of tomatoes and pears before we moved off.
For four long and weary years they had awaited liberation. One year! two years! three years! And now the long-awaited day had come! Ours was the welcome of welcomes! Our own people could be no more enthusiastic. Coronation and Jubilee day had no comparison with this! I can quite understand the rumour arriving from Belgium that the Germans had signed an armistice.
Such is the joy of liberation! I hope I never have to witness such a scene in England!
That evening we pitched our tents in a field before going on in the morning. Hardly had we arrived in the place before the civilian population had ‘gate-crashed’ the guard and were seething all around us. Great was their amazement to see we were going to sleep in tents, and after a while they had arranged for every single one of us to sleep in their own homes, but our Officers declined the friendly invitation. That evening the local baker took me and our little gang celebrating. We went to a café where we had been, singing and dancing of a style- really a kind of jig. This was their first merriment and smile for four years. We would have celebrated in Champagne but the Germans had taken every drop. They also looted everything they could lay their hands upon. It is such a natural habit with the Bosche that a special order of the day was given by the German High Command “Forget your suitcases for the moment and think more of your guns”. The conquered countries have been stripped bare of everything, even to the youths as slaves in Germany.
Our welcome into Belgium has been profound, and even now the intoxication of it all is still with me! Indeed, it was sufficient to remain with me the rest of my life!
The Church bells, which were once silent, now seem to be working full blast overtime, and there is a continuous peal from their interior now. Pictures of King Leopold and Queen Astrid adorn most of the windows; the people idolising the royalty as much as we do over in England.
These are the Low Countries, and, as such, are very vulnerable to flooding. An intricate system of flood-gates, dykes, and locks have been cleverly devised to counteract such a menace. Once again our great friend the Bosch has made full use of such a situation. He has opened the flood-gates, breached the dykes, and blown sky-high the locks, rendering vast stretches of cultivated land under water. Your familiar
sounds now change from, bombed out! To flooded out! Many hundreds of families have had their homes destroyed in this manner. Mile after mile of country lies flooded; just the main roads being visible above the surface. It brings a chilly atmosphere to this part of the country as well.
I’m enclosing a souvenir. It was pinned onto several of us by a Belgian woman for “killing a thousand Germans.”
Glad to know that Auntie Lil enjoyed her stay with you all. Did she experience any of the flying- bombs?
I’m trying to send some cigarettes home to you as these are the only cheap things here. Everything else is too expensive. Will you send my gum-boot socks.
Don’t worry about us here as we are all OK. Yes! Dennis is here and the same shower of scorpions.
My French is coming along by leaps and bounds, but I could kick myself for not having taken more interest.
You have read Sapper’s War Stories, Dad. The majority of the settings for those very scenes I have seen. Do you still go fire-watching, roof-spotting, and what-have-you?
It must be grand to see the lights of London lit up once more, and travel about without that fear of the darkness.
Have you been out lately Bubs, and how are you faring now that you are back in Thames House? I suppose you get a good stodge lunch times nowadays- you lucky devil! What would I give for some!
Remember me to the Vicar and give my thanks for his letter.
I could make full use of a 48hr pass right now- but its wishful thinking.
Are you still in your little job mum- hope you are quite well- no colds etc!
Cheerio for the present.
My love for you all,
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