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Squadron Leader P Laughton-Bramley
David Belfield
Plaque erected in the Municipal Gardens

Aftermath of War - Berlin 1946

by David Belfield

David Belfield was born in 1929 in Spalding, Lincolnshire, but moved to Stockport as a child. His mother was from Farnworth and when his father was reported missing in the Second World War, his mother moved back to Farnworth with the family. David volunteered for the Navy but was called up into the Army in February 1946, joining the Manchester Regiment, and later, because he was serving his time as a builder, was transferred to the Royal Engineers. Training in bridge work and explosives followed, and then he found himself sailing from Harwich, with no idea of his destination.

"We docked in Holland and were sent to Berlin, arriving on Christmas Eve at 7 pm, at Smuts Barracks. The barracks were next to Spandau Prison. I was in the 338 Construction Squadron and our job was to destroy Hitler's bunkers. We did this by boring holes into the walls, along the centre and then filling them with explosives. It was a job which took nearly 12 months and we thought we should be called the destruction squadron.

Berlin was divided, like Germany, and in 1948 the Russians imposed the Berlin Blockade, sealing off all rail, road, and canal routes upon which the city depended for fuel and food deliveries from the sector occupied by the Western Allies. However they overlooked the possibility that West Berlin could be supplied by air and the Berlin Airlift started.

We were involved in building runways and taxiways for the planes. Berlin was devastated with so many buildings demolished. Women and girls picked up all the bricks and rubble working all day, day in day out, for rations of food, like soup. The people were starving and literally had nothing. Any men available drove diggers loaded with the rubble to the airfield to make runways. The airfield was just fields with some wooden huts where there was a makeshift canteen. It was a fantastic operation, plane after plane arrived with supplies, one after the other. I remember one day a plane had a burst tyre, and blocked the runway. It was pushed out of the way immediately by a bulldozer, to free the runway (277,000 flights were made in total).

We were paid in paper money with HM Forces stamped on it and this could only be spent in the NAAFI. Cigarettes were used for bartering on the black market. The ration was 110 cigarettes, a bar of soap, and sweets or chocolate, which could be bought for 5/9d.

I was also in Hamelin for 2 months, a beautiful town and the only place I saw that was untouched by the war. It was more or less untouched, even though everywhere else was in rack and ruin.

I came back to Farnworth in May 1949, completely out of cash but was lucky in that I received some money from the army that was due to me in back pay. I worked as a painter for Vantona, working at all their mills, spending summer outside and winter inside. Later I worked as foreman for Entwistle's and then ETN Transmissions".