500 miles to victory. Day 9

Day 9, Belgium Liberation

With northern France won, Allied troops pushed into Belgium in early Sep 1944. Major cities of Brussels and Antwerp were liberated quickly, and the V-1 rocket launching bases nearby fell along with the cities. German troops attempted to hinder the usefulness of the Antwerp port by attacking with V-1 and V-2 rockets, but the rockets were not accurate in their attacks and the port facilities remained standing. The city itself, however, bore the burden of the rockets that ran astray.

Liberation of Belgium Timeline

2 Sep 1944 Canadian troops crossed into Belgium.

3 Sep 1944 British Second Army captured Brussels

4 Sep 1944 British 11th Armoured Division captured Antwerp, Belgium.

5 Sep 1944 British forces reached Ghent.

7 Sep 1944 British 11th Armoured Division crossed the Albert Canal.

8 Sep 1944 US Army capture Liége & Canadian forces capture Ostend.

10 Sep 1944 Allied patrols crossed the German border.

11 Sep 1944 Scottish 15th Division crossed into the Netherlands near Antwerp.

2 Nov 1944 Canadians captured Zeebrugge, the last pocket of German occupation.

4 Feb 1945 Belgium was reportedly free of German forces as of this date.



Derrick watched the Battle of Britain as a teenager and said “I want to do that”. As soon as he was old enough he signed up for the RAF. He was sent to join 112 Squadron and flew Kittyhawks off a beach in Italy, until he was shot down and taken prisoner of war. In the harsh winter of 1944 he was forced to march, along with thousands of other prisoners, hundreds of miles with very little food or water, to flee from the advancing Red Army. Once the war was over Derrick continued his RAF career, becoming a Squadron Leader.

His story is truly fascinating, a story of hardship and endeavour. Project 71 were lucky enough to be able to work with Derrick and get his memoirs into a book. He has kindly donated all proceeds from the sales to Project 71. For more details please go to http://www.project71.co.uk/shop.

Day 9. Today was a straightforward day, mostly following cycle paths at the side of very straight roads. Which would be fine apart from Belgian roads being awful! Block paving with sunken blocks, huge potholes, concrete slabs and brain shaking cobbles. It was another long hot day, but 52 miles closer to Arnhem and it saw me pass the 500 mile mark. Still not quite in Arnhem yet though. I arrived at the campsite and reception was closed so I loitered for a bit before someone came over. He didn’t know where the boss was so told me to set my tent up and someone would come over if they wanted any money. They didn’t, so I had a free night next to the lake. Again, the bar was closed for winter so it was another pasta in soup for dinner night.



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