Tuesday, August 20, 2013

As, Belgium Revisited

August 20, 2013 - When Bill and I went to As and Opglabbeek in Belgium three and a half years ago to see the place where Dad had bailed out of his plane, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get back. But I did and my daughter Holly did too. An old friend of mine from the 1950s in Echternach, Luxembourg and his wife were our hosts during our wonderful visit back in time. Jemp Friedrich and Lony Hansen drove us to the Mardaga on Monday, August 5, 2013 where we met our old friend Karel. Jemp told us that my Dad was his first hero – how about that! He said that Dad didn’t say very much about his being wounded and shot down but I guess that was enough for a teenager who had read all about the Spitfire pilots.

We walked in the hotel and there was the plaque that my cousin John had designed and had made hanging on the wall in the lobby. And Karel had arranged to have two pieces of the plane framed to hang beside the plaque. It was quite moving to see it again.

We met Karel who took us to all the spots – Y32-Ophoven airfield, the school where the officers and pilots stayed and where the hospital was that treated the wound in Dad’s right arm. And then we went up behind the Mardaga to see the crash site of Dad’s Spitfire. I had seen the area very briefly in the winter of 2010 and did not walk in but did this time. I felt kind of odd and awed by it. There’s nothing to see on the ground. There are trees now, there weren’t any back then. It’s very peaceful now. 

We all went out to supper as the Mardaga’s restaurant was closed on Mondays. Karel told us that his and William’s book on the war will be coming out in 2016. They are finishing up some interviews and the mayor has most generously agreed to pay for the publishing. This book was started, in part, as a result of our visit three years ago. People have just now started talking about what happened in their community all those years ago.

Since Lony and Jemp had not heard all the details that Karel had been sending to us, they asked lots of questions and it was good to hear it all again.

Karel had brought 3 pieces of the plane with him for me to take home. There is a pump, an exploded piece of ammo and a piece of aluminum which could have come from the body or the wing. I will be bringing these back to Canada.


There are not enough words to thank Karel and all the other people who have helped me and my family understand and know more about who our Dad was in a vital part of his life.

And for those who might be interested in this 2013 trip to Europe, please go to http://2013anne.blogspot.ca/.