Belgians from Newcastle!


Bare feet, well water, spricks, burning whins, sunburn, going to bed late… these are the things I remember best about my childhood.

Yes, a strange childhood then during the War years. Ration books, coupons, margarine, fresh eggs, country butter.

I have a distinct memory of awaking of a morning to the sound of strange voices in the street. These were voices such as I’d never heard before. I’d jump out of bed and race down the stairs unto the street. 

Suddenly I was confronted with a horde of khaki-clad men in uniform. They were all sitting on the ground, their backs against the gaol wall. Some were sleeping, other glad just to rest weary bones having marched through the night from some barracks or other. Some were munching on chocolate or apples or army bread. 

By now the street was crowded with curious onlookers. Neighbours and their children were vying with one another to identify the unknown accents. There were always a few ‘experts’ who had travelled ‘the world’, courtesy of John Fishers boats. These would swank their superior knowledge with an arrogant air.

‘Belgians!’ one offered, confident that none could disprove his theory.

‘They’re from France, and that’s for definite!’ another countered.

The news trickled through, a day or two later, that the men on the street then were British soldiers from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Our local ‘experts’ lay low for a while!

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