In 1944, I was eighteen and a half years of age, and I was with the Royal Air Force in England. I was with a newly formed unit in the Royal Air Force known as 156 ADRU. That was Advanced Dispatch and Receiving Unit.
We landed in Normandy at Arromanches on Gold Beach in the British/Canadian sector. After the capture of Caen by the British and Canadians, the Germans were now being herded into a pocket at Falaise. In this operation, the Germans lost about two hundred thousand men, but another two hundred and forty thousand men escaped.
We were on the move now. We were fêted by the local population of the towns and the villages that we passed through. They lined the roads, waving and cheering, and throwing bunches of grapes into our outstretched hands. We arrived on the outskirts of Brussels in a district called Anderlecht, thirty-six hours after the departure of the Germans. We were called into a soccer field. We were immediately surrounded by hundreds of people wanting us to come to their homes.
The next morning, bright and early, we were loaded into our trucks and headed into Brussels. Our destination was a small airport in the district of Evere, which had been Brussels' pre-war airport. The RAF promptly named it B56, as the fifty-sixth airport captured by the British. After a couple of days getting organized, we were taken a few miles away from B56 to a small village called Melsbroek. Here we entered a huge airfield, which became B58. B58 had been built as a bomber airfield to be used against Britain. So B56 became our home, and B58 became our workplace.
With the Allies battling into the port, with good docking facilities, Arromanches with its artificial Mulberry Harbour was functioning to capacity, so Brussels B58 became a very important cog in the wheel, as a receiving and dispatch centre. In Brussels, ambulances lined up, and as soon as each aircraft had been unloaded, the interior of it was quickly converted to flying ambulance, with three tiers high of stretchers. The wounded soldiers were transferred to the aircraft, and within a couple of hours they were in a hospital in England.
As the Allies advanced into Germany, one of the first concentration camps to be liberated was Belsen, and they arrived at B58. The prisoners were still wearing their black and white striped clothing. I'll never forget their skinny bodies and shaven heads. It still brings a lump to my throat after sixty years.