The Journey Nears an End

Posted: October 25, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Today we set out, in a warm drizzle, for Monchengladbach (spelled Munchen-Gladbach in the 1940s), where the 111th was based during the Dutch “Hunger Winter” of 1944-45. During that especially harsh winter, some 22,000 Dutch people died, thanks largely to German efforts to punish the local population for not cooperating with the Nazi effort.

All of Dad’s photos of those months showed snow on the ground. One photo shows their “home” in Monchengladbach, a three-story brick structure that looked sturdy enough to have survived the war. Our goal today was to find it.

img210 Our home at Munchen Gladbach, Germany, Spring 1945

But where to start looking? Like Heerlen, there is no tourist information office in Monchengladbach. Both are large, modern cities that Dad and his buddies would never recognize today. But a clue from my Welsh cousin, Andy Philpin, set us looking for a British Army base on the outskirts of the city, a place called JHQ Rheindahlen. (The British troops left this base this year, closing it down and turning it back to the German government.) We thought it might contain barracks dating back to the war years.

This part of Holland was the scene of much fighting in the fall of 1944, and the loss of thousands of Allied troops. The Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, six miles east of Maastricht, contains the graves of 8,300 American soldiers who died in the Netherlands during the war.

After much driving around (MG, as it is called here, covers a lot of territory) and questioning the nice guard at a largely deserted place called Ayrshire Barracks, we found JHQ Rheindahlen. Ed went to talk to the guard, an American ex-pat who was intrigued with our search and went in to get his German cohort to answer Ed’s questions. Ed showed them the picture Dad took of the building he lived in during the spring of 1945. The German man told him that it was probably part of the old base, where many Americans were housed during the war. It had been torn down years ago to make way for a huge soccer stadium and parking lots, now the home of the local team in the German Bundesliga, their top soccer league.

20131025-151929.jpg

So, the last spot where we could say, “Dad was here” is now a popular sports complex. We did continue to nearby Sittard, where Dad had photographed a windmill, but there was not a single one left, just another very modern city. However, modern-day turbine windmills are seen everywhere here; western Europeans seem committed to wind power.

We decided not to continue our journey to points north, to see the area of the Rhine River in Krefeld and Dinslaken (north of Dusseldorf) where Dad had taken pictures of blown bridges, because we knew what we would find: traffic-clogged cities with modern bridges. We are heading home, with hopes of learning more later.

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Comments
  1. StephieD says:

    That’s great you got to see these places, even if they have been modernized! It’s also nice to know that people there got excited about what you were doing, as we all are here!

  2. Andy Philpin says:

    This is brilliant and also reminds me of my time there – I believe a good friend of mine Dave Bagg who married a German girl still works at Ayrshire Barracks. Boy what a small world!!

  3. Wolfgang Heyn; D-41179 Moenchengladbach, Pauenstrasse 53 says:

    Good morning, the old building showing the “home” was not on/at the old airfield, we had in Moenchengladbach. This building is in the City beside the Police barracks (in formertimes maybe SS-training facility) on the “Webschulstrasse”, end of the street. You will find it very easily on Google earth. Today this buildung is used as home for families.
    The new soccer stadium is on the old airfield, the runway, built out of PSB, went exact through. In this area was at no time during war and postwar a building. Flying ended in SEP 1945, afterwards the area was handed over to the British Forces. The established a Depot for vehicle maintenance.

    • Andrea says:

      Thank you very much! We were not quite sure of this at the time we were there, and then we also later learned from one of the survivors that the unit was in the police barracks in town. You have confirmed that! Very much appreciated. I wish we had known when we were visiting the area. Will have to return!

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