John Iddenden
9th Field Company
September - October 1944
Survived the war?
Royal Engineers

Dangerous dinner....

Before the push up through the corridor, the Royal Engineers detachment had arrived in a small village called Meerbeek, in the vicinity of Brussels and Louvain.. My friend and I became very friendly with a family called DESMEDT. They had two young girls Marcella and Mellanie. I drove a 3 ton ‘Dodge’ truck, the only ‘Dodge’ lorry in the 9th Field Company R.E. I was in H.Q. company and was the Quartermaster’s driver. In my lorry were stores and sleeping bags. These were later issued to the survivors of the battle of Arnhem

On the night of the evacuation of Arnhem I made two trips from the Nijmegen Bridge to the River Rhine to pick up those who had crossed the River. We went with a few other lorries in the direction of the Rhine. It was very dark and we had no lights on and I did not know where we were going. On these trips I had no passengers with me in the cab.

It was a dark and wet night. We picked up some men as they trudged up the road, they were poorly dressed and some had socks over their boots. One of the first men I picked up was a man from my own company, Titch Greenwood.

My mate and I stayed in a school (The Pagoda?) in Nijmegen. Having had a meal, I think it was sausage and potatoes, we still felt hungry. We went inside the school to see if there was any food around. Suddenly a big stained glass window got blown in and I thought it was a shell explosion. They told us it was a bomb. I remember two men who were having a wash and shave were badly wounded. I helped carry them in and handed them over to some nuns. The nuns came probably from a building close by. My truck had 4 flat tyres and the canopy was like a sieve.

We unloaded all our stores and the survivors came into the trucks. We stopped in Louvain for the first night and Paddy and I ‘borrowed’ a jeep and went to Meerbeek to say goodbye to the Desmedt family. The next day we drove to Brussels airfield where the survivors flew back to England.

In the beginning of October we went to Ostend and loaded our trucks into ferries to go back to England. We drove back to Lincolnshire and I had to hand in my Dodge truck, which was scrapped. I then received a new Bedford truck.

John Iddenden

Copyright: D-Day, Normandy and Beyond

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