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 The Belgiques

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Stephen Lock
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PostSubject: The Belgiques   22/7/2008, 21:21

Hopefully, there are a few Belgians accessing this site who can flesh this out a bit.

The Royal Belgian Army (which we (i.e. Canadians) referred to as 'Belgiques') had a significantly sized garrison at Soest consisting of five (?) Kasernes; two along the B-1, right across from each other (the one on the northeast corner of the B-1 and Hiddingser Weg, the main route into downtown Soest, is now demolished and a housing estate is going in there), one just south of the Married Quarters, one across the field to the west from the Married Quarters, and one somewhere in the eastern part of the southend of Soest, not sure where it was located at all.

At least, I think there was also one out that way...I could be wrong.

Most of the soldiers, all conscripts, in Soest during my time there were Grenadiers, Fusiliers, and Artillery. It wasn't difficult to spot a "Belgique" as few of these young soldiers dressed in civvies when out socializing at the various gasthofs and/or discos in Soest. Families were also present and the married quarters for them were along Hiddingser Weg, south of the B-1, across from the Canadian (and much larger) Married Quarter area, some located south of the MQs, and I believe some located west of us. There was almost zero interaction between Canadian kids and Belgique kids....no, not almost zero, it was zero! Odd....

Again, during my time in Soest (1970-71 then 73-74 when I returned to work there) it seems to me the Belgian soldiers were largely Flemish, not Walloon (French), although I am sure that varied.

I am not at all familiar with the regimental structure within the Royal Belgian Army.

I do know, however, the Belgiques left a far more permanent legacy in Soest than the Canadians or even the British did. There is a museum in Soest that is a Belgian military museum and of course many of their barracks, being in Soest proper as opposed to out in the countryside like the Canadian ones of Fort York and Fort Chambly, have been converted to other uses (well, one has been...it is now an agricultural college). The one on the southside (Adam, I believe) has been allowed to go derelict and, as I mentioned, the one on the north side of the B-1, along Hiddingser Weg (Straette...something), was demolished a couple of years ago now to make way for housing.
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Rainy
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PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   3/9/2008, 03:27

A Unit of the Belgian Army took over garrison duties from the 1st Batallion Grenadier Guards in March 1946
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PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   6/12/2009, 02:22

I believe that the Belgian Army also looked after the administration of Vogelsang Camp,which is now a German theme park.
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Goldmohur
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Registration date : 2007-03-10

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   6/12/2009, 15:28

Spent a few days staying at the barracks of the 5th Infantry Regiment at Caserne Rolin in Brussels.

It was very interesting and their standard (early 60s) of military accommodation/messing etc was relatively basic.

It was meant to be a kind of cultural visit to Brussels arranged by our WVS lady. Most of the lads did not avail themselves of any culture. They spent the time that they would normally have spent in the boozers near to our barrack gate in Germany in the boozers nearest to the gate of Caserne Rolin.
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Stephen Lock
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Registration date : 2007-12-28

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   7/12/2009, 03:13

I think much of the Belgian Army was "relatively basic", to be honest. I don't think the Belgian government put much cash into their mililtary at all. I know even senior NCOs and officers were paid far less than our guys were, or even less than you guys.

Now with regards to Vogelsang Camp....the name rings a bell but I cannot place it at all. Was it in or around Soest? That it is now a 'theme park' is somewhat amusing (or would that be ironic?). Disneyesque or more like something out of Brighton Pier?

I need a translation on "WVS", by the way.

And it does not surprise me at all that 'the lads' chose not to avail themselves of any culture while visiting Brussels (they were, after all "lads"!) but chose instead to -- as Goldmohur so cleverly worded it -- spend time "they would normally have spent in the boozers near [the] barrack gate in Germany in the boozers nearest the gate of Caserne Rolin...." Not the least bit surprising given the probable age, background, etc. of your average young squaddie. Not really the type to spend an afternoon wandering through museums and cathedrals or attending concerts...and Belgian beer is soooooo good!!! LOL
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nobby clark
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PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   7/12/2009, 11:49

Rolling Eyes The WVS is the Womans Voluntary Service (weavers) were based in most garrison barracks to help the needs of young single soldiers,in a spiritual and helpful way I must add,there were a few crackers amongst them but most were matronly ladies who did their best.
Its now known as the Womans Royal Voluntary Service.
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TonyE
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Places Served : Hannover, Bielefeld, Camp Borden, Camp Petawawa, CFB Kingston, Korea, Soest, Cyprus, Lahr.
Registration date : 2009-01-09

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   7/12/2009, 16:20

The Belgiques in Soest were Flemish,the Walloons French speaking units were in Werl,they kept them apart.

We had WVS in Fort Henry one of them took care of the needs of my S/sgt, he was a widower,she was young for WVS in her forties and a bit chubby,but they managed.
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Stephen Lock
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Registration date : 2007-12-28

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   7/12/2009, 19:26

Thanks for the translation on WVS there, nobby (despite the eye-rolling LOL)....

TonyE...now that you mention it, yes the Soest Belgiques were Flemish and I do recall the ones in Werl were Walloon (Francophone) which worked out fairly well given the Canadians had a French-Canadian bunch at Ft. Louis (and maybe Ft. Anne?) -- VanDoos, maybe?

No doubt the two sets were kept apart LOL....If the tension between Canadian Anglo- and Francophone troops was noteworthy, the tensions between the two populations of Belgians (Flemish in the north and Walloons in the South) was infamous. They couldn't stand each other, even in Belgium!

I recall "Werl Belgiques" coming in to shop at CANEX fairly often...however, 'their' French was decidedly different than 'our' French (e.g. French-Canadian...which was markedly different from Parisian French...looked down upon by the French French as little better than some sort of patois...slangy and low class, which of course it wasn't...it was just a different dialect) and it made for some amusing -- to us Anglophones -- interactions.
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Goldmohur
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Number of posts : 93
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Localisation : Doncaster
Cap Badge : RAOC
Places Served : Gutersloh, Duisburg, Bracht, Rheindahlen. Also Non BAOR, Blackdown, Corsham. Shoeburyness, Ty Croes, Aden, Bicester.
Registration date : 2007-03-10

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   8/12/2009, 14:35

I remember at the morning flag raising and guard mounting event, the Belgian Officer of the day paraded whilst smoking a cigar, which amazed us. The barrack rooms were large tiled floored affairs with bunk beds I think. Food was cooked it seemed by whoever was detailed off to the cook for the week, rather than our much maligned Army Catering Corps.

Whilst it was almost natural that boozing went on whether in BAOR or in Caserne Rolin, I did feel a tad sorry for our WVS lady who had gone to a lot of trouble with the arrangements and who had made no secret of the cultural nature of the trip which was free. I did not go in for much culure either but I was one of the two visitors who did at least venture into the City Centre, a short walk from the Barracks.
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Stephen Lock
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Registration date : 2007-12-28

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   8/12/2009, 19:51

Ah, the trials and tribulations of volunteerism! Best laid plans of mice and men (women).

One can't help but admire the....perseverance I suppose....of such types.

I don't know how long the dear lady had been involved with the WVS but she no doubt soon learned the wisdom of that George Bernard Shaw quote "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

Gosh, three cliches in a row!! LOL

Was this effort a one time off sort of thing or did the powers that be continue to try and institute such 'cultural exchanges' knowing those involved were far more likely to investigate the culture of hops than anything?

Nice idea, but anyone who has spent any amount of time around young bored soldiers could have told you excursions to museums and other cultural touchstones would not be on their list of things to do!

As I think of it, even attempting, back in the day when such things would not have been viewed as 'politically incorrect' or 'culturally insensitive', to motivate young single soldiers to attend Church Parade without considerable grumbling and feeble attempts at sabotage would be a challenge. A weekend spent in Brussels or any other "cultural centre" would be that and more!
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Stephen Lock
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Cap Badge : Pads Brat
Places Served : Father -- Canadian Army. Served Hemer, Soest, and Wetter
Registration date : 2007-12-28

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   8/12/2009, 20:11

Returning to the original thrust of this thread....

After the Canadians left Soest, and during the time the British occupied our old forts and the Married Quarters, the old Soest Senior High School on St. Lorenz Weg went to the Belgiques.

Given the animosity most of the boys who attended Soest Sr. High had towards all things Belgique, that our school became a Belgian school is true irony!

However, in all fairness, I must say they kept it very much as it was and maintained it quite well. My only regret was the demolition of our Teen Hut out behind the school (and facing onto that odd little road running alongside the Milch Bar and in front of the Soest Heating Plant) and the building of a large modern annex to the school.

I was, by then, living in Iserlohn and going up to Soest about once a month and remember being quite saddened by seeing my beloved Teen Hut -- as crappy as it was! -- boarded up and then demolished. I originally thought the annex to be a gawdawful piece of architecture but, over the years as I viewed various photos of those who went back, came to realize that actually it 'fit' quite well with the school.

There used to be a link on www.ruhrmemories.ca to the "new" Belgian school but I believe the link has since been taken down.

I don't know what the building is now....I assume still a school for those families -- German civilians, mainly -- who now occupy the old Married Quarters. I hope so. So many memories are embedded in those walls and hallways and I would like to think in my more Romantic moments that those memories still hover, somewhere, and inform the current occupants on some level.

Silly, I know....but there you have it.

The school, I assume, was built in the mid-50s or early 60s and the look of the main foyer, with its sweeping staircase, large2-storey plate windows and chandelier, was very "60's".....ditto for the school down in Hemer, by the way, which is now a German elementary school.

The old Bellgique Officer's Mess, over in the field across Arnsberger Strasse (?) to the west of the MQs was likewise a fine example of 50's Moderne with it's sweeping kidney-shaped roofline and large windows.

I never attended anything there but I recall the Belgiques sometimes put on some fairly swanky affairs to which certain Canadians --not always officers -- were invited. Apparently, the design of the interior was far superior to anything one might find in the Officer's Mess in either Fort Chambly or Fort Henry!! The building is probably derelict now as well, like so much else from 'our time' there.....
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Rocky
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PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   11/12/2009, 10:35

This link may be of interest to you Stephen:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Canadian-Army-quarters-in-Soest-Westfalen-Germany-RP_W0QQitemZ290378628752QQcategoryZ20255QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp4340.m263QQ_trkparmsZalgo%3DSIC%26its%3DI%26itu%3DUCI%252BIA%252BUA%252BIEW%252BFICS%252BUFI%26otn%3D10%26ps%3D63
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Paul
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Registration date : 2008-04-06

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   11/12/2009, 18:10

Rocky wrote:
This link may be of interest to you Stephen:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Canadian-Army-quarters-in-Soest-Westfalen-Germany-RP_W0QQitemZ290378628752QQcategoryZ20255QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp4340.m263QQ_trkparmsZalgo%3DSIC%26its%3DI%26itu%3DUCI%252BIA%252BUA%252BIEW%252BFICS%252BUFI%26otn%3D10%26ps%3D63

I am reasonably certain that the building in the middle is/was a school. I have seen that photograph before somewhere. Thaey are not long completed if the date given is anything to go by.

Over to our resident soest expert Laughing

Paul.
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TonyE
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Registration date : 2009-01-09

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   11/12/2009, 18:25

Correct Paul,that was the Junior School,where my younger daughter started in Kindergarten.She'll br 50 on 24 December.I can see my old apartment 24 Wilhelm van Hollandweg just in front of the tree line. Above that the building in the fields with a rotunda was the officer's club
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PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   11/12/2009, 22:35

nobby clark wrote:
Rolling Eyes The WVS is the Womans Voluntary Service (weavers) were based in most garrison barracks to help the needs of young single soldiers,in a spiritual and helpful way I must add,there were a few crackers amongst them but most were matronly ladies who did their best.
Its now known as the Womans Royal Voluntary Service.

Vogelsang is near Koln. The barracks ,though incomplete was one of Hitlers dreams of a modern day castle. It was thought to be one of the breeding camps for the Master Race. Certainly the wooden beds we used there in the early /mid "70's were all inscribed "1939". It had an olympic size swimming pool, in fact thats where I learnt to swim., and a massive lake at its base.
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Stephen Lock
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Registration date : 2007-12-28

PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   12/12/2009, 06:34

Paul wrote:
Rocky wrote:
This link may be of interest to you Stephen:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Canadian-Army-quarters-in-Soest-Westfalen-Germany-RP_W0QQitemZ290378628752QQcategoryZ20255QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp4340.m263QQ_trkparmsZalgo%3DSIC%26its%3DI%26itu%3DUCI%252BIA%252BUA%252BIEW%252BFICS%252BUFI%26otn%3D10%26ps%3D63

I am reasonably certain that the building in the middle is/was a school. I have seen that photograph before somewhere. Thaey are not long completed if the date given is anything to go by.

Over to our resident soest expert Laughing

Paul.

There are actually two schools shown:

The one in the foreground was, as pointed out, the elementary school and was also used as such, I believe, when the British lived in the MQ area.

In the middle background is Soest Senior High, my alma mater. The whilte oblong structure just to the right of it (east) would be the heating plant...directly behind that, at 10-A Kanadischer Weg, would have been my married quarter flat.

The Officer's Mess off in the field that was mentioned....this was the old Belgique Officer's Mess I mentioned earlier. Quite a good piece of early 60's architecture, actually, with huge 2-storey plate glass windows looking south over the fields.

The photo...which I have also seen before but cannot now remember where...certainly shows a rather bare looking housing project (seidlung auf Deutsch) which became much improved by my time there with the expansive trees everywhere.

I have no idea, as I think of it, what was previously on this site....farmer's fields I suppose. And I have no idea who paid for the construction of the Married Quarters, schools, and heating plant....I suppose we did, but at the same time I can hardly imagine the Canadian Brigade Group forking out that sort of dough (and not just for Soest; Hemer and Werl and Unna too). The politicians in Ottawa would have had a fit!!!! But clearly, it got done and has stood the test of time....the buildings are still standing and in reasonably good repair 50-odd years on. Better repair than I am 50-odd years on, I can tell you LOL
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Stephen Lock
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PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   12/12/2009, 19:24

As an addendum to the above:

I recall a conversation with someone, I forget who, or perhaps reading on the 'Net, about how in the fields south of Soest -- possibly when the MQ site was being built I am now half thinking -- evidence of megalithic settlements, or Bronze Age settlements, were found. I certainly was not aware of any such finds while in Soest.

There were certainly Germanic tribes all across the Boerde, the flat regions surrounding Soest, and down into the Sauerland, the hilly areas around Hemer and out towards Balve.

The main tribe in the Soest area -- the name escapes me at the moment -- were tied in somewhat with Arminius (aka Hermann the German). They are now extinct or at least assimilated into the general population.

Other tribes were Lombardy, Belgae, Franks, etc.
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PostSubject: Re: The Belgiques   14/12/2009, 02:28

The Belgique Army had Land Rovers and Bedford RL's .The Bedfords appeared to be underpowered compared with ours.
One cold morning in February I was on my way with my unit to an exercise at Camp Vogelsang (my last before demob).Being the usual REME tail end charlie, I spotted a Land Rover at the side of the road with its bonnet raised. Assuming that it was one of ours, I pulled over only to find that it belonged to the Belgique Army. The German ADAC (equivalent to the RAC or AA) was trying desperately to get the engine going. After taking a brief look at the vehicle,I asked my oppo to fetch an old Carburettor that we had tossed into the back of our Bedford before leaving camp. A quick transfer of a few parts and the Belgique Land Rover was on its way. I can still recall the looks on the Belgique driver's face as well as that of the ADAC mechanic. They probably still think that the Brit REME VM's are magic.
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