22nd May 1945: Pilsen to Reims  by quietpurplehaze

22nd May 1945: Pilsen to Reims

"On Tues 22-5-45, we only had to wait until mid-day to see lots of planes arrive. As long as there were more than 24 we were O.K. We counted them, about 40 in all and we knew then our luck was good.

When our group was called, we went towards a plane (I believe they were all Douglas type). The pilot then informed us he had room for only 14. That was a big blow. The chap in charge of our group had our names down and so he said the first 14 on his list would go and the remainder would go on the next plane.

Bill was lucky, he got aboard but when ‘Martin’ was called out I found another Martin there beside me. After a reference to initials, it was not me and so I was very, very disappointed. However, I managed to get aboard a plane later that day and at 2.20 p.m. we started off into the air.

It was a grand sensation, flying, whilst my stomach behaved itself. I felt quite O.K. until some unfortunate individual opposite started to vomit and soon I wanted to follow suit.

When I was able to, I gazed out of the window behind my seat and watched the land underneath pass by. We were flying fairly low and I could see quite clearly the view under us. The houses looked so small and the roads so narrow. I could see a plane flying next to us and now and again we seemed to drop a bit quite suddenly which was the cause of our vomiting. We were travelling through air pockets all the time which made the plane jolt about. The last time I was sick I felt like lying down and so made myself comfortable on the floor. I soon fell asleep and when I awoke we had touched down and the men were starting to file out!

I soon learnt we were at Reims in France.

On leaving our plane, we were soon aboard waiting lorries. These were driven by black fellows from America and could they drive!!! We scorched along at a terrific pace and every minute I wondered whether the lorry would remain on its wheels. We passed buildings which looked very much the worse for bombing and I was very interested as this was my first visit to France.

We reached the end of the journey after ½ hour or so of hectic hanging on and found ourselves at a huge transit camp which was run entirely by Americans. We were soon eating WHITE BREAD, EGGS, BACON ETC., ETC., and boy oh boy how delicious to taste these wonderful things of which we had always dreamed! It was gradually dawning on us that we were at last FREE. It was all so very exciting, having a really comfortable shower bath, a complete change of clothing and what a real thrill to have such things as candy and chocolate bestowed upon us. I began to wonder when I would wake up."

from the diaries of my dad Bert Martin 1941 - 1945

n.b. the map extract is from an old map which was also amongst the items my dad brought home - Reims in the west, Pilsen in the east - now lodged in the museum with his diaries (not sure if my original highlighting is very visible)

© The Second World War Experience Centre.
© IWM (5193) 1981.
What an eventful day for your Dad and bacon and eggs and a bath at the end of the journey must have been wonderful for him.
May 22nd, 2016  
Wonderful. Thanks for sharing his story.
May 22nd, 2016  
@onewing @gillian1912

Thank you both - 3 more days' posts to get him back to England!
May 22nd, 2016  
I am hooked!!
May 22nd, 2016  
Very clear image Hazel, must have been like arriving in paradise for your Dad, looks like his ordeal is almost over, so pleased to hear his diary is available in a Museum:)
May 22nd, 2016  
I'm really enjoying your Dad's diary Hazel. He was a very good writer!
May 22nd, 2016  
bep
Still fascinating.
May 22nd, 2016  
Freedom must have really been like a dream for your dad :) Another terrific extract Hazel!
May 22nd, 2016  
Nearly there and wonderful life is getting better for him after his long ordeal . Did your Mum know he was on the way back or was it a total surprise to her.?
May 22nd, 2016  
Amazing. Thank you for sharing Hazel.
May 22nd, 2016  
Your dad wrote this down so well. I can feel his joy of being free at last. I fascinates me and I sincerly hope we will never have to go through that!
May 22nd, 2016  
Away from the days of imprisonment with home within sight . I can not start to think what he must be feeling at this point , at least the full English breakfast was so inviting as he got nearer to crossing over to dear old blighty !!
May 22nd, 2016  
Your father's writing gave me the sense of being where he was...so well written and descriptive of his ordeal.
May 22nd, 2016  
The best extract yet zhazel, you can really feel the excitement for them! So good to read such a detailed diary. I am looking forward to reading of their feelings on touching down in England after all that time!
May 22nd, 2016  
I'm really enjoying these extracts and thanks for sharing.
May 22nd, 2016  
Another fascinating story, Hazel, and great capture too.
May 22nd, 2016  
@wendyfrost

Wendy, I've never thought of that & nobody to ask now that Betty also is no longer with us. I suspect she probably did not know. When he was captured in 1942, he was reported as missing and for 6 weeks my mum did not know if he was dead or alive.
May 22nd, 2016  
@pcoulson

Yes, the original diary plus a copy of my transcript is in the Second World War Experience Centre in Leeds. I was a bit reluctant to let it all go but the director was very persuasive and so enthusiastic, also Ray thought it a good idea so I agreed. I have my transcript on the computer and on disk, and some bound copies and all the images etc.
May 22nd, 2016  
@quietpurplehaze Very pleased to hear that you retained a copy Hazel, when we finally go our dad to record his wartime experiences we sent a copy to the Imperial War Museum and its included in the second would war soldiers diary section:)
May 22nd, 2016  
Wonderful its all been said
May 22nd, 2016  
Wonderful picture and story.
May 22nd, 2016  
These entries are really interesting. I've been enjoying reading them. Thanks for sharing.
May 23rd, 2016  
What a exciting day that was!
May 23rd, 2016  
Continue to marvel at his stoicism
May 23rd, 2016  
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