Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Sabotage on the railway line, 1943

In the early morning of 31 July 1943, our village's peaceful slumbers were interrupted by an explosion on the railway line to the south. The Resistance had successfully attacked a German troop transport, causing fairly substantial damage to the train itself and to the railway line.

These pictures were taken by a German soldier and developed by a local chemist who had the foresight to run off some extra prints:

(Pictures copied from this article.)

Although local legend speaks of 250 dead Germans, and reprisals prevented by a local cigar manufacturer who bought off the Nazi commandant with a barrel of cognac, the truth appears to be that five Wehrmacht and two local Belgian railway staffers were killed, a couple of dozen wounded, and twelve carriages and, most dramatically, the locomotive were derailed. The Resistance set off the bomb with electrical cables salvaged from the brief war of 1940, which were of English manufacture and therefore allowed the embarrassed Germans to pretend that British parachutists were responsible.

One sunny morning last weekend I decided to try and locate the bridge where all this happened. It is here, down a very overgrown lane, just about visible on Google Earth. I had difficulty in deciding if the train had fallen off the eastern or western side of the bridge (the line runs more or less north-south here); in the end I think it is the eastern side, partly because I think the sun may be on the left in the comtemporary pictures (though I suspect it was a cloudy day) and partly because the train was coming from Leuven at the time of the attack, and since Belgian trains presumably then as now were on the left track it would have been on the eastern side of the line.The path approaching the eastern side of the bridge is so overgrown that I couldn't take a decent distance shot; this is it from the other side:

Going back to the eastern side, I reckon this is the corner that features particularly in the first, second and fourth photos above (incidentally the fourth picture is clearly taken from an elevated standpoint, perhaps on top of the carriage visible in the second photo and being lifted away in the fifth):

And this is the eastern side from a different angle:

All very quiet and neglected now. But very odd to look at the scene of the attack sixty-eight years later.
Tags: world: belgium
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