Sunday, 14 July 2019

Army rule dims Brussels Gaiety

The newpaper archive is such a great resource. I keep finding fascinating insights into various aspects of WW II.

Like this little article about British troops on the town in Brussels. They certainly hadn't wasted any time. This article was published on 29th September, just a couple oif weeks after the liberation of Brussels on 4th September.

""11.20 bed” Army rule dims Brussels Gaiety
From HILDE MARCHANT Brussels, Thursday.
THE great call in Brussels last night was "Teem, gentlemen, plees," for by order of the supreme military command all cafes, restaurants and night clubs are to close sharp at eleven o'clock.

This order came into force last night, with a heavy penalty for troops who broke it and were not back in billets at 11.20 p.m.

So this capital, which normally has the gayest night life of any in Europe, goes quietly to bed at an hour when it would usually be just getting lively.

The proprietors of these night life places are quite angry at the order, mainly because they make money hand over fist on any of our boys who want a night's leave dancing and drinking.

For this town, like Paris, is enjoying a glorious, dizzy drunk on the franc. Prices are incredibly inflated, and in spite of the kindness and hospitality, one of the embarrassments of being a liberating army in this area is that you pay three and four times the normal price.

Our boys on leave have little enough money to spend and it does not go very far when you consider the franc at 175 to the pound and a glass of inferior, vinegary wine at 43 francs.

I was not surprised, when last night met two boys from Durham — Sergeant Fred Young and Private George Tomkinson - rather disillusioned about the bright night life of the continent. Said Fred Young: “When I was in Durham I always wanted to come to these places over here. And now I'm here I want to be Durham.”

But take the day these boys have had on leave. They got twelve hours. They queued for hour to check in with the military police. Then they queued for two and a half hours at the Paymaster's office in a bank to draw a few francs to get about.

This is one of the troops greatest irritations. There is one clerk to handle hundreds of men who want leave money.

I went to the bank myself  yesterday and saw battle-weary and stained men standing for two hours or more get to the counter.

I have seen British troops counting out their money before they could go into a cafe for a beer. They have their pay all right, but it costs them five shillings for a couple of glasses of beer that an English pub would be ashamed to call lager.

Something must done about the rate of exchange, for while the boys appreciate the flowers and fruit that were pelted on them when they entered the town, they would now appreciate a reasonable rate of exchange to cover the inflated prices they meet everywhere.

So for the most part twelve-hour leave from the front in Brussels means walking round the town, looking at sights, buying few souvenirs and little beer and then returning happily to camp.

I understand that this problem prices and exchange being considered the military authorities, and it is likely that troops will be able exchange their pay for a much higher rale, unless prices are brought down to near normal.

This would mean that military personnel could get a better rate in order to meet the dizzy scale of charges."
Daily Mirror - Friday 29 September 1944, page 5.
 Typical that the British introduced a closing time of 11 PM. Just like back in the UK.

The prices really do look outrageous. 5 shillings for a glass of crap wine is really taking the piss. There probably wasn't much beer around, and what there was wouldn't have been very strong. By late 1944 very late brewing was going on on German occupied territory due to a shortage of raw materials.

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