Le Sapin de Noel de Genval.
In November, on the eve of his 90th birthday, my Dad regaled us with few of his stories from the 2nd World War. These stories are few and far between, none heroic, infrequently told.
A few years ago he wrote down some of his memories about his early life and I will transcribe these notes and maybe one day share them with you. For now, here is the story of the Christmas Tree…
My Dad signed up for the army in 1941 but has also managed to get a scholarship to Manchester University to study French. He was allowed to start his course but started his Infantry training just after Easter in 1943.
Skip to the Summer of ’44. He was not involved in the “liberation of Belgium” but was posted there shortly afterwards. His first posting was in Molenbeek where he was befriended by the family of a girl who would later become his wife, my Mum.
Dad was then stationed in Genval, an area south east of Brussels with a lake and pine forests. He kept in touch with the family in Molenbeek (obviously….) and would hitch a ride or get a tram back to Brussels as often as possible and would get the tram back. There was no stop outside the camp so, to get the tram to stop, he would climb outside and unhitch the connector from the overhead electric line which would bring the tram to a juddering halt.
Come December, he was determined to provide the family that had befriended them- and the girl he fancied- with a Christmas tree. So off he went, into the forest with some mates and a saw and began cutting down a tree. The local gendarme,who stopped and asked them what they were doing, was fobbed off with a totally hypocritical ” no comprendo” and they were allowed to continue.
Slight logistical problem- how to get the tree to Brussels? Easy really. You tie the tree to the bumper at the front of the tram…. And so it happened.
I love this story because it tells me something about my Dad that I never saw in my childhood.
And it is great Christmas story too.
Joyeux Noël Gelukkig kerstfeest.