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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Day 8 - Horse Meat and a Pompous Spectre!

"After this we quickly crossed the bridge and noticed my grandmother appearing like a banshee from under a previously burned and shelled skeleton of an army car.  She was swearing and cursing and waving her arms in anger after the disappearing "flying machines", she should have had a machine gun!


To stay here any longer was asking for a repeat performance so we gathered our wits together and took a last look at the monument of King Albert which had been slightly touched by shrapnel and had been part of the shelter. It turned out to be have been a good shelter after all but you never know after listening to the droning and feeling the vibrations all around us.


We also saw the sluices opened by the brave sluice guard that had let the waters through. The fishing hangers seemed to have had a good few bombs, also the sheds and boats. Now it was time to proceed on our march back now following close to the ditches along the highway. Soon we came to Westende and Middelkerke and were on homeground. From here we saw German Dorniers deliberately bombing a convent with the red crosses clearly visible for miles around. What a cruel thing to do! What was Goering and his henchmen up to. We were tired and fed up with these silly war games and didn't know what to expect in Ostend. The war was not even over!


We decided to call in on my mum's sister, Elisa, in Middlekerk, which not too far off  - her placed was a bit inland and veered off towards the polder. As it turned out later it was just as well that we did go there We turned off at St. Willibrod's Church, still called after him in Middlekerk and arrived in no time at my Aunt Elisa's safe house. Everybody glad to see each other. What a surprise!.


Of course, they had never left - wise people that they were, unless you wished to be blasted away it was best to stay. Everything seemed to be on its last legs now and they said we might as well stay until the end - who knew what was still in store for us now, with such an unscrupulous adversary to cope with.  Hun, German, what was the difference. 


Anyway, our welcome was warm and cordial and that was the main thing -, everybody was glad to see each other intact. In the fields and a good distance from the house, my Uncle Odiel had made a little shelter.  As evening was setting in we could see Ostend in the distance, straight over the openess of the wind swept prairies - that's what it looked like.


Similar to Dunkirk it was covered in smoke, burning all over with fires We could hear the pounding of incessant bombing, planes flying away and coming back relentlessly with another load. Nothing was over yet.  We sensed and knew that so many souls were expiring during this useless slaughter so  we thought it better to get to the shelter in time.


The mother of my uncle sat with her Alsation dog; which was very nervous, sensing the atmosphere.  The lady religiously declaring that this was the anti-Christ at work and we ourselves felt that we had had a belly full of it!


We were in the grips of the last moments.  It was intense and you could feel the tension also but we were all together. A consolation, somehow, against the terror of what might be in store for us together with a feeling of utter desolation pressing down on us. This was the intention of the enemy to take the last spiritual resistance away for his own cruel inner sadistic satisfaction.


The heaviest of his punishment was poured out on the so called Jewish quarters, the nice Chapel Street, and the huge hotels on the dike full up with wounded soldiers as well as the docks and workers quarters.  What a kiss of death, the Casino went too.


The fires on the wood docks were tremendous and lit up the evening sky, they illuminated their targets perfectly. A couple of planes dropped their loads near us at an old German shelter called the "dronkenspit," named because of the way it was tilted by a delayed explosive - giving one the impression of feeling drunk while walking down the spiralling stairway.


The dike near us had also received bombs and a Belgian horse team had been decapitated. The following morning, as all the shops were closed, saw my dad and uncle deciding to use the opportunity to stock up the larder against more shortages.  As nobody objected both went out and cut steaks from the fresh killed horses.  It didn't take them long before they returned like hunters with their dripping slabs of fresh meat.


The big news was brought back that the British Fleet, mostly destroyers, was laying in front of the coast at a close distance watching and any minute a fierce dual between the advancing German forces and the fleet was expected - with us in between! After distributing the meat, we quickly went back into the shelter with no hanky panky! The confrontation would be terrible, just imagine the size of those guns, keep on praying!


After a while of unusual quietness nothing seemed to be happening ... the real fighting was over. Secret agreement, stalemate, whatsoever, we were safe. A silent non-aggression pact .....  Not long after this we reappeared like groundhogs from the flimsy hole.  We will never know how close it all was, thank goodness.  Subconsciously, one likes his country, his city, his people and when something tantamount to a catastrophe of certain and horrible proportions happens than it stays imprinted on your mind forever - there is not much left to ones imagination.


Under cover of the trees towards the sea the German grey coated columns kept moving along behind us, keeping to the canal of Passchendaele.  Endless columns just like 1914-18 when some people remarked that,"they must be going in circles to produce such lengthy amounts of robot-like soldiers keeping on continuously".


An Artillery of articulated guns had taken up position next to us, starting to give regular salvo's?? at the soldiers at Nieuwport. I suppose our King thought it better to give up than risk complete annhilation....  We were still in our little shelter, expecting the worse to happen at any time.  In a way, it was a relief on hearing the news of capitulation and at the same time we were apprehensive as to this situation would entail.....


Running to the house we saw Germans passing by on their vehicles.  It had started to drizzle now, the sunshine was gone and gaiety with it - somber, grinning faces passing by, especially one on his motor bike looking at us pompous with victory. What a spectre to envisage for the coming years......"

To be continued ...

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