D- Day to the Baltic — Eric Allsop — 11th May 2015.

At a time when we are cel­eb­rat­ing VE Day 70 years on, we are indebted to our fore­fath­ers who fought in WW2 to ensure we have the free­dom and way of life we enjoy today.

Eric Allsop, a member of Stumperlowe Probus Club gave us a stim­u­lat­ing and emo­tional talk on D-Day through to the Baltic.  He was there. It was his jour­ney. He exper­i­enced the hor­rors of war, the highs, the lows and the camaraderie of his fellow sol­diers.  Previously, Eric has spoken about the D-Day land­ings.  Now he was taking us on his jour­ney from the Normandy beaches through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and on to the Baltic.  On the Normandy beaches he was assigned to a group of 12 sap­pers with their vehicles as part of the task force to san­it­ise the beaches and land­ing areas.  Marshalling areas were set up so that men, vehicles and sup­plies could come ashore. Thousands of mines were cleared over 6 weeks and even­tu­ally in excess of 2000 vehicles/day were coming ashore ready to push into Europe.

Eric’s unit was attached to for­ward  moving troops and his detach­ment were tasked with ensur­ing the infra­struc­ture of roads and bridges were in place for the advan­cing troops.  Bridges and pon­toons were built across the Seine and the Rhine.  He described beau­ti­ful vil­lages where locals wel­comed the sap­pers,  birds singing and the still, quiet coun­tryside.  He described scenes of utter des­ol­a­tion , the horror of being shelled con­tinu­ously for long peri­ods and being buzzed by German jets.

There were moments of humour when pon­toons had minds of their own, trams were used as mine detect­ors much to the anger of the local mayor and when a deserter gave Eric and the armed escort the slip.  Yes, the old routine of vis­it­ing the toilet!!.

Eric and his com­rades helped lib­er­ate the Belsen con­cen­tra­tion camps.  The smells, sights and hor­rors have lived with him to this day. He saw piles of dead bodies 8 feet high, 20 feet wide and 100 feet long.   He wit­nessed the dig­ging of mass graves and the bull­doz­ing of those bodies into those graves.  The stench was unbear­able and you have to remind your­self he was only 21.  No coun­selling or social work­ers on hand in those days!!  He was around Belsen for 3 weeks and during that time 26,000 bodies were buried.  Local Germans knew what was hap­pen­ing but many were in denial. The stench said it all.

Eric’s unit moved onto the Baltic as there was a pos­sib­il­ity that Russia had designs on Denmark.  The war in Europe was over but Eric and his unit were given trop­ical kit for a Far East post­ing.   A kindly officer men­tioned that if he applied for a com­mis­sion he would be spared. —-  He was spared and fin­ished his war in Essex and was demobbed with the princely sum of £55, roughly £1/month served.

An absorb­ing talk given to an audi­ence who were spell­bound by the con­tents. We owe so much to the likes of Eric and his gen­er­a­tion.