I was in Belgium just after the war as part of the Allied
Commission set up to help the occupied countries and
I have mixed memories of that country.
I remember the mud and the bumpy cobblestoned roads but also the quiet genuine gratitude of the Belgians. I was billeted for a while in Sant Lievens-Houtem, near Ghent, with a Dr Lafort who was the local vet. I supplied him with petrol so that he could make his rounds and often went out with him, marvelling at how such a small man could handle huge cows and bulls with seemingly little effort. His payment was mostly in farm produce from his apologetic farmers.
Serving men live in a world of their own, and seldom allow civilian intrusion into that world. One day Ghent, next day Eindhoven, but speaking for myself I felt very sorry for what the people had suffered, but I also felt sad that some of their women had their hair shorn because they had gone out with Germans. We were so well treated by Canada that I think we felt a little guilty that the real victims in the war were the civilians, children in particular. I will never forget the pathetic children who hung around our mess halls for food.
I remember Belgium as a sad place, devoid of sunshine and happy noises.
I have returned a few years ago and of course it was totally different - a much more happy place. Vive la Belgique !
Raymond is a member of the MEMORIES Panel of Elders. You can click here to write to him.