IAmA 94 year old (former shipbuilder, now philatelist) that had to flee Belgium for three months in 1940, but ended up repairing German commercial ships for four years after that. AMA!
Hello, I’m sitting here today with my grandfather. He was 19 years old when the war started in Belgium and in the past he told me about his escape from Belgium. I decided to write it up and post an AMA. Here goes! We’ll start answering questions in 20 minutes.
Proof 1: Imgur Picture of him
Proof 2: Imgur Life insurance from his shipbuilding company, issued in 1936.
My grandfather has been a shipbuilder all his life. When he was 19 years old the war broke out in Belgium. Because he had lost his father some years before and was an only child he avoided conscription / being drafted in the Belgian army.
On the morning of May 9 it was announced by the bellman/town crier in his town that he had to flee from the German invasion. Thus started his long journey to avoid capture by the Germans. Along the way he saw his fair share of German bombers flying over, but he was always lucky. His journey led to Dunkirk where he was almost arrested because the French gendarmes thought he was a German paratrooper. When that was cleared up he and his fellow refugees had to board three large ships, destination unknown. The first two days on board a lot of German bombers passed, which led to a lot of confusion in the dark ship’s hold. He was only allowed to leave the hold on day three.
After five nights on sea they reached the French city Brest. The original plan was to go to Britain, but that plan was soon scrapped because of the German U-boats. This is when he heard that the other two ships were bombed and had sunk. He was very lucky.
Then he was brought to Lourdes by train. There he had it quite comfortable, he slept in barracks and he was properly fed. After a few weeks he received a letter from home, telling him it was okay to travel back. The Germans would arrest you in Paris, but you could travel home without problems. His three week journey back started, some parts on foot, some parts by train. He arrived home on August 4. Belgium was occupied by then. Because of his experience as a shipbuilder he was allowed to stay in Belgium, working on commercial ships.
Nowadays my grandfather fills his days with collecting stamps. He’s got two big cabinets full of them, I might upload a picture of that if people are interested.
edit 1: some formatting
edit 2: we'll be staying online for another twenty minutes
edit 3: that's it folks, signing off, thanks for your questions!