A Belgian whom we were “lifting” ("lorry jumping” is now the correct term!) pointed out to us a huge factory, now in English hands, which had been owned before the war by a German. Under cover of the so-called “factory” he had built a secret gun emplacement for a large gun, to train on this same fort and demolish it when the occasion arose. At this point we saw the first English soldiers that day in motor boats on the canal, and what a smile of welcome they gave us!
Presently we came to lines of Belgian Motor transport drawn up at the sides of the road, car after car, waiting patiently to get on. Without exaggeration this line was a mile in length, and we simply had to crawl past, as there was barely room for a large ambulance on that narrow and excessively muddy road. The drivers were all in excellent spirits, and nodded and smiled as we passed—occasionally there was an officer’s car sandwiched in between, and those within gravely saluted.
About this time a very cheery Belgian artillery-man who was exchanging to another regiment, came on board and kept us highly amused. Souvenirs were the aim and end of existence just then, and he promised us shell heads galore when he came down the line. On leaving the car, as a token of his extreme gratitude, he pressed his artillery cap into our hands saying he would have no further need of it in his new regiment, and would we accept it as a souvenir!
The roads in Belgium need some explaining for those who have not had the opportunity to see them. Firstly there is the pave, and a very popular picture with us after that day was one which came out in the Sketch of a Tommy in a lorry asking a haughty French dragoon to “Alley off the bloomin’ pavee—vite.” Well, this famous pave consists of cobbles about six inches square, and these extend across the road to about the width of a large cart—On either side there is mud—with a capital M, such as one doesn’t often see—thick and clayey and of a peculiarly gluey substance, and in some places quite a foot deep. You can imagine the feeling at the back of your spine as you are squeezing past another car. If you aren’t extremely careful plop go the side wheels off the “bloomin’ pavee” into the mud beyond and it takes half the Belgian Army to help to heave you on to the “straight and narrow” path once more.