On a Wednesday evening in April, 68 years ago, two soldiers from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (Reme) appeared at the door of your house in a small town a few miles outside
A radar mechanic (me) and an electrician, they were attached to a mobile
The Germans were in retreat and the war was moving towards its end in
The four ack-ack guns on their carriages, the radar cabin with its own generator, the miscellaneous piled-up wagons and other vehicles were all parked around a housing estate for an overnight stay, and the billeting officer had arranged accommodation for the night with friendly local people to save having to pitch tents again. On a spare piece of ground nearby, a mobile kitchen was set up.
You were so welcoming to us that night. Communication took place in broken English, bad French and with many gestures. We sat in your living room and you told us about your family - you had two children away from home - producing all the family pictures from happier times. You asked us about our own families and about life in
We were supposed to return to the mobile cookhouse for our evening meal but you persuaded us to stay and share your supper instead. It was generous of you, indeed, for your supplies were still meagre compared with our army rations. It brought home to us how the civilian population had suffered under the occupation. And you thought that this was the occasion to produce what was left of a precious and long-saved liqueur.
At last, quite late, you showed us to our room - and, for the first time in seven months, we had a real bed to sleep in instead of a straw palliasse on boards. How well we slept. Too well, as it turned out!
Because we had not returned the night before for our army supper (and as attached Reme personnel, we were not included in any formal roll call) our absence had not been noticed.
Unknown to us, the next morning's move had been brought forward - to first light. The first we knew about it was our host appearing at our bedroom in a panic to tell us they were all waiting for us downstairs. We stared out of the window and there was the whole convoy drawn up ready to move off while we were still in bed.
Happily, the amiable
So, to our Belgian family for that one night in 1945, here's a voice from the future to thank you again for your kindness and hospitality. You won't be around to hear this because you were middle-aged then and I'm 90 myself now, but perhaps your children have family and so your spirit may still live on somewhere in
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