Personal Papers of 883440 Sergeant R.C. Couzins

Christmas Day on 28th December and clean Belgians

Read by Geoff Cordingley

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At 5.10 on the morning of Christmas Day 1944 I was awakened and told the Battery was moving at 5.30. Tut-Tut.

It was as cold as hell.

Thank the Lord the crew had been up since 4 am and were ready to move, while we waited we sang carols and watched a buzz bomb {V1} go over. Before it was light we had drunk a bottle of brandy between us and I had a nasty idea the driver was a little daffy. He was.

We landed up at NAMUR on the MEUSE and went into action on the hill overlooking the town. It’s a lovely place set in a valley, we were there two days and then away to the South through Dinant, DINANT. We followed the river through some lovely scenery, 5 enemy tanks had penetrated to Dinant two days before and were destroyed. We went into action at FALMIGNOUL miles out of range but ready for any funny business.

Here we had our delayed Christmas dinner on the 28th of Dec. The food was good and we had a decent time. Here we paid in Francs, for the time {we} were at Jodoigne we were broke. (I had 50 Guilders)

Life was – is – quiet, the leave party is already thinking of home, January is full up so we have to wait our chance in February. (Falmignoul 30.12.44).

1st Jan 1945. (Still at Falmignoul)

There is a sign of movement now and I don’t suppose we shall be here much longer, the weather has definitely turned a little warmer. We had a very slight fall of snow which barely covered the ground, its thawing in places though in others the road is still like glass. The guns are sitting on the side of the hill very quietly for a change, each one has its tent nearby with a smoking chimney, for we haven’t been into Germany for nothing, and all is peaceful. Our tent is dug in just over a foot and has a layer of straw on the floor to make things more comfortable. A light is rigged up from the S.P. so in the evening we are more or less comfortable. It has mostly been like that all along, except where we have not stayed long enough to collect straw & dig in.

Three of the crew, including myself, sleep about 200 yards away, in a fairly large house occupied by an old man of 73 who looks after himself. He scrubs the stone floor & cleans the stove, (and eats some of our rations.)

It’s a queer thing but you hardly ever (almost never) see an open fire-place. In kitchen and living room are stoves, some are simple affairs and others are plated & polished till you dare hardly touch them. One reason may be that they haven’t seen any decent coal at all, its either just dust (which they wet down) or else a mixture which looks like block mortar, which is sometimes shaped like eggs & hardened. In Germany I saw (and burned) coal bricks which were as good as some we used to burn at home. That was while we were on the Geilenkirchen sector, we had to walk ¼ mile through mud & mines to a wrecked farmhouse for the coal.

Another general thing is the tiles. Tiled floors in living rooms as well as kitchens, sometimes half way up the walls as well. It makes for easy cleaning but looks cold before you start so I don’t like it. They are very clean in both Belgium & Holland. Every Saturday yards & pavements are swilled down in spite of heavy traffic splashing mud all over them as soon as they are finished. They get on your nerves in a way, I used to say that as soon as they get two bricks close together they had to scrub them, as every scruppy little path or yard got its regular scrub.

In the towns, windows come in for a share of this swilling, brushes on long handles being used. The young girls do most of this cleaning (which goes on Saturday afternoon as well as morning) and I’ve often wondered what the girls at home would think if they had to swill the yard down instead of going to the pictures. One I shall never forget was working in the farm we stayed in for three weeks at Reek near Grave. Up at 5.30 to milk the cows and strain the milk into churns which she carried down the drive to the road. Each churn stood 2’6”, one bloke helped her once by carrying one handle and he was glad to get to the road! On Monday she did a big batch full of washing that made us blush for shame. All day she scrubbed at different things and even at night she had to sit by the fire knitting. She was always chuckling as happy as a lark, one of her favourite tricks was to upset the T.S.M.’s1 kit and scrub underneath. One day two blokes stood watching her milk the cows and she nearly drowned them, she had an arm like a man and I bet anyone trying to get fresh would be nearly stunned. She was a great gal.

The situation regarding the German push into Belgium is not altogether clear. The whole news is not given out and that which we have is sometimes days old. I am not sure of how the line looked before the push or of how far Jerry advanced but there is a distinct triangular shaped bulge into Belgium. {The Battle of the Bulge} If you draw a line on the map from ECHTERNACH (about halfway down the eastern frontier of LUXEMBURG), to ROCHEFORT (to the east of Dinant) and from there up to MALMEDY you would have a general picture of how we stand. The Yanks have pushed a corridor through to BASTOGNE and with luck, more troops etc they will either cut the point off or cause Jerry to retire. Even as it is Jerry is being held and his swift advance checked. It will be a good job when he is thrown out of Belgium altogether, the Belgians hate the Germans more {than} the British can understand.

1 TSM – Troop Sergeant Major

This page was added on 26/06/2013.

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