Fraternization with the locals.

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by Owen, Sep 11, 2007.

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  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Have our Veterans any good stories about how they and their mates got on with the local populations of the countries they served in?
    Any funny stories?
    Any sad stories?
    Or were you all too busy fighting the war to get chance to meet them ?
     
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Owen
    This memory comes to mind.


    Sunday 22nd. October 1944
    Through Firenzolia, roads murder as it had rained all night and was still raining. Had to evict eyeties out of house for Major Mouland. Carried set up mountain to try and contact Batteries. Near Div cemetery.

    The entry in my diary brings the scene back immediately to mind.
    At the time I was still being called upon to act as an unpaid interpreter.
    We had arrived at this small farmhouse complex and Major Mouland decided it would do nicely as B.H.Q and sleeping accommodation for himself and the other officers. He told me to explain to the very belligerent looking owner of the property that it was being commandeered by the British Army and that he, the owner, would have to leave forthwith.
    I tried to sugar the pill as nicely as I could by explaining to the farmer that he would be re-compensed in due course but that leave he must. The Italian wasn’t having any of this.
    “Spara!” he said vehemently, “Shoot me!” ..."Spara! Non posso far'
    più!" or, in other words “You can’t do any worse to me!” and he demonstrated this by tearing open the front of his shirt and offering his broad chest to Major Mouland.
    The O.C. turned peevishly to me and said “What’s he bloody talking about Goldstein!” I explained what the farmer had said to which Mouland replied, equally vehemently “ I don’t want to shoot the bloody man! ....tell him not to be such a stupid bloody idiot!”.
    Somewhere along the way reason must have prevailed and I vaguely remember that the house owner was allowed to stay in his house by keeping two rooms upstairs, from where he was able to keep an eye on his property, while BHQ remained down below.
    With reference to my use of the word 'eyeties', this was common parlance in the days in which it was written, were I writing it today I would have used a less offensive word.

    There is a final postscript.

    As a result of posting this story on the BBC WW2 Archives I was contacted by the late Major Mouland's son who had seen the relevant article.
    I was immediately concerned that I might have painted his father as being too brusque and offered to add an addendum or tone down my description.
    "Not at all" was the reply, "that's just how he was" and so my description stays as I originally recorded it !
     
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Great story, Ron.
    Where would have the evicted Italians meant to have gone or didn't the Army care?
    Were you greeted as conquering heroes anywhere?
     
  4. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Short answer ? Hardly likely, anyway this was strictly at local level and the OC would have had powers to take over properties such as the farmhouse.
     
  5. marcus69x

    marcus69x I love WW2 meah!!!

    Great story Ron. I like the way you say it was being comandeered by the british army. It's a case of 'GET OUT'. But that's got me thinking...

    If the guy was allowed to stay in his property aslong as he was out of the way, shouldn't have this been the common practise over the rest of where the war was being fought? Was it really necessary to kick these people out of their homes? Aslong as the army had the room it needed within the property to carry out their necessary tasks, shouldn't the owners have been able to stay aslong as they didn't interfere?
     
  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Owen
    I think we both deleted the same post together !

    Apropos being treated as conquering heros I can remember only two incidents.

    The first was driving through Bari in September '43 shortly after landing in Italy at Reggio di Calabria.
    The locals turned out to cheer us through the streets and oranges and grapes were hurled at us, presumably as peace offerings. I remember all too well an orange getting jammed under the clutch pedal of my 15 cwt Bedford Wireless Truck :)

    The second time is noted in my diary:

    Friday 14th April 1945
    Moved over Santerno. Some M.G. nuisance and one H.E. about twenty yards away. Bags of prisoners. Kiss from Signora. "Liberatoris !". Chasing after Tedeschis with 30 Browning blazing !

    The closing stages of the war in Italy was like an episode from The Wizard. As we chased the Germans ever Northward the local civilians greeted us with bottles of Vino and cries of "Liberatoris !" and life was good..... we were glad to be alive and to have survived.... regrettably others were not so lucky and some were killed with only weeks to go before the end of hostilities.

    Marcus

    The niceties of life were rarely considered at the sharp end and it was rare that the poor civilians were considered as anything else than a hindrance in the war zone.

    Hindsight has always been a wondrous thing.
     
  7. kfz

    kfz Very Senior Member

    Great story Ron. I like the way you say it was being comandeered by the british army. It's a case of 'GET OUT'. But that's got me thinking...

    If the guy was allowed to stay in his property aslong as he was out of the way, shouldn't have this been the common practise over the rest of where the war was being fought? Was it really necessary to kick these people out of their homes? Aslong as the army had the room it needed within the property to carry out their necessary tasks, shouldn't the owners have been able to stay aslong as they didn't interfere?


    Marcus,
    Dont forget BHQ is a nice juicy target, for the civies own protection they should leave.

    Kev
     
  8. marcus69x

    marcus69x I love WW2 meah!!!

    Marcus,
    Dont forget BHQ is a nice juicy target, for the civies own protection they should leave.

    Kev

    Aye, I suppose. Never thought of that.

    cheers
     
  9. louisaj

    louisaj Junior Member

    I found a flyer yesterday amongst my Grandfathers things, inviting people to come and watch a cock-fight. I have attached it but in case it's not clear, this is what it says:

    BOUVIGNIES. chez Demoru Gustave
    GRAND CONCOURS de COQS
    50-150 organise par Les Mousses
    au profit des coqueleux mobilises

    Dimanche 21 Avril 1940
    Tirage au sort 15 h - Mise au parc 15 h 30

    On Sunday April 21st at 3.30pm, Will you come and look at the great french cock-fights where you will see the famaus champions of this country.
    At Demory house in Bouvignies.
    Military price, 5 francs.

    Would this have been an invite from the locals or something the military would have set up for themselves?

    Can anyone translate the French bits for me, my foreign language skills are sadly rubbish!
     

    Attached Files:

  10. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Surely there were no naughty goings on, after all there was an order to that effect.!!!!!!!
     

    Attached Files:

  11. louisaj

    louisaj Junior Member

    :D

    Surely there were no naughty goings on, after all there was an order to that effect.!!!!!!!
     
  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Quick on-line translation of ;-
    BOUVIGNIES. chez Demoru Gustave
    GRAND CONCOURS de COQS
    50-150 organise par Les Mousses
    au profit des coqueleux mobilises

    Dimanche 21 Avril 1940
    Tirage au sort 15 h - Mise au parc 15 h 30



    Free Translation and Professional Translation Services from SDL International
    BOUVIGNIES. with Demoru Gustave BIG COMPETITION of ROOSTERS 50-150 organizes by Foam Them to the profit of the
    coqueleux mobilize
    Sunday April 21 1940 Circulations to the exit 15 o'clock - Put to the park 15 o'clock 30
     
  13. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Dad told me about the family he and 3 others were billeted with in Eindhoven.

    The Mother had insisted that her guests sat down at the table and she and her 3 small children disappeared into the kitchen.

    Mother returned a few minutes later, a large serving tray in the air in one hand, the children dancing along behind her.

    The soldiers could not smell any food and wondered what treat was in store for them.
    She proceeded to lay the serving tray on the table, and there in the middle was, ONE egg bedded on straw. The children were so happy, the soldiers were nearly in tears, they suddenly realised that these poor people had less to eat than they had.

    The soldiers were at a loss to know what to do or say. Sgt. Kenny "Porky" Hearns broke the ice by running off and getting some supplies from elsewhere, (he had a friend in QM's stores). returning and giving the family a feast. Apparently it was the first egg this family had seen in over 2 years.

    It brought home just how much the Dutch people had suffered, yet they were still willing to share what little they had.
     
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  14. louisaj

    louisaj Junior Member

    Humbling tale 51Highland.

    Owen..doesn't make much sense translated either!
     
  15. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The cock-fighting event was not an official British military one, although the authorities would have been glad that the troops were not spending their time in the cafés or less salubrious establishments !

    It seems to have been a benefit event to raise funds for the "mobilised cockfighters" - the local owners who had been called up, probably a sort of hardship fund. The French troops were notoriously badly paid even when compared with the British and were reported as jealous of the disposable incomes of the British, even after sending money home and the compulsory deductions for 'barrack-room damages'. This event seems to have been an attempt to redistribute the wealth !
     
  16. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I think that 'Les Mousses' would have been the local organising club and it all occurred at Gustave Demoru's place.

    I've no idea about the technicalities of the event, although it still goes on in this part of Belgium. Vicious looking birds with long hooked spurs.

    Would the 50-150 be some sort of size or weight classification or could it be the experience of the birds, if they lasted that long ?
     
  17. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Dutch men were heard to complain, " The Germans steal your bike, but the Tommies steal your girl friend"
     
  18. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Dutch men were heard to complain, " The Germans steal your bike, but the Tommies steal your girl friend"
    :lol:

    WW2 once again leaves a long trail:
    [​IMG]
    Will we be seeing Dutch football fans with "I want my Girlfriend back!" on their tee-shirts whenever they play England?
     
  19. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    This is a story as told by my father in his own words.

    In Italy the interpreter invited me around to his place. He was a professor on the staff at the British HQ based in the old sub base area. His wife was up in Florence under German control at the time, she couldn’t get back down to Taranto as the Germans were occupying the Florence area. And he’d got his only daughter with him, she was lucky that she wasn’t with her mother otherwise she’d been stuck up there. This particular night she got a bit frightened when she saw this gun. It was a cold night and I was wearing my greatcoat and she just saw the butt of the revolver sticking out of my greatcoat pocket. I assured her that everything was going to be ok. Her father of cause spoke several languages he assured her everything was ok as she didn’t speak no English. So every time I had to speak to her, her father translated. I was carrying the revolver at the suggestion of this Captain I was driver/batman for. We were to go on a special mission together but I became ill with pneumonia. Where we were going to end up I don’t know, I might of ended up bloody very well dead.

    Cheers

    Paul
     
  20. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Looking back at my Diary entries I see the following;

    Tuesday 7th. November 1944
    Moved early morning. Through Florence to a small village called Tavernelle. Our billet a beautiful estate is about two miles from it. Settled in & guard 'slept in'

    Wednesday 8th. November 1944
    P.T. first thing in morning. Working on truck all day. The Italian/American family here speak perfect English. All the Wireless Ops , with the exception of 280 Bty. are here.

    The Amici-Grossi Estate
    The family who owned this estate were like something out of a novel. Husband and wife were both beautiful in looks and dress and the two kids spoke incredibly good English. On one occasion we mentioned that we would like to buy some apples. The young boy, he must have been about twelve years old, took us to a hut on his father’s estate. He ordered, there was no other word for it, one of the men there to get him some apples and when I wanted to pay the man for his produce he said to me "Don’t give him any money, they’re only peasants!". I still don’t believe what I heard that day but I assure you it was gospel!

    ps
    Looking back at the piece I wrote in the my family's book in 1988 I wonder if I am being entirely fair to the youngster. Perhaps his English was not so perfect and "Peasants" was not an exact translation of the equivalent word in Italian. Nevertheless he said "Peasants" and it still rankles today.
     

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