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War memories 

April 10, 2018 April 2018 No Comments

By Tony Pyl

Our grandmother lived in a town close to Rotterdam. We often went to see her, cycling there through lovely countryside. When action had quietened down after the sudden bombing of the city, we went to visit her again. She took us sightseeing through black, ruined Rotterdam.

Everywhere dark, black windows stared us in the face, the streets were covered in rubble and glass crackled under our feet. I stared at this scene in horror and yet was fascinated. The picture has never left me.

Meanwhile a whole army invaded our village. Germans with horses and carts and field kitchens. They took possession of the empty houses in the village.

We children were excited about these Germans and hung around them. They were very friendly towards us and dished out lollies.

We still had fun, in Winter we tobogganed on the snow-covered sand hills and skated on the canals. Those wartime Winters seemed to have been very cold, I remember plenty of ice and snow.

On other occasions, we would jump on the back of German horse and carts and take a ride. Once the horse bolted but we jumped off in time. Another time the cart stopped and the driver came around the back with his whip. We didn’t wait to see what would happen next!

The sand hills and beach became forbidden areas and the Germans built huge underground bunkers. As well they laid mines on the beach and put metal barriers in the sea water to prevent the allied army landing. After the War it was all cleaned away but I got a deep cut on my leg from a piece that was left behind and I still have the scar today.

In the abandoned house next door to us lived some German Officers. As there was already a shortage of fuel, they told us we could use their coal – they had plenty. However, the next lot of officers had other ideas. A furious officer came to our door accusing us of stealing their coal and threatened to put us in jail.

My mother got angry too and asked him whether he had a wife and children. He said he did so my mother replied “Well I hope that they are also sitting in the cold…” We didn’t hear anything more about it after that.

Later those Germans came and asked for our swing because it had a lot of good wood in it for their stove. My mother said “Yes, but I want two loaves of bread for it.” “No No” they said angrily but my mother stood firm and said they couldn’t have it. This time they threatened her with the Police but eventually came back with the bread instead.

In another house across the street was a German canteen. An Austrian was in charge of it and when we children were bored, we went to talk to him in the hope of getting some chocolate or oranges. He usually obliged and said it was to give to our grandma but we ate it ourselves.

One day some soldiers came over to ask if they could grind their coffee in our mill. While they were there my father started a conversation about nasty Hitler and how unpleasant things were. Two of them agreed and said they didn’t want to be in the army but if they refused, they would be shot. The third one was all for Hitler, he was a Nazi.

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