Monday, 27 April 2009

The Scraper's Diary, 8th March, 1947, Duesseldorf

Things are evening out now, more regular meals and hours.

Yesterday we reached Bad Oeynhausen at 5.30, two hours late, and loaded our kit onto the two lorries that are staying with us for the tour. We boarded the coach and drove to some RASC camp twenty miles away.

In the Naafi later, we met the fringes of the black market, but were not interested.

Today we drove here, and saw many terrible acres of devastation in Hamm and Duesseldorf. Ten times worse than London.

The aptest comment I have heard happened in the coach:

"Well, well, well. So this is Germany. What's trumps?"

Hamm and Duesseldorf are blitzed to blazes, but apparently there's plenty of black market here. From what I've seen of them, the Germans are more happy, warm and well-fed round here than I had expected. It's rather ironic to think that we won the war, when we came over on the boat with hundreds of repatriate Germans, and I've got several years to serve.

Len gave a German waiter a Woodbine today. He jumped to attention and saluted. What a situation! Fags cost 8d for twenty.


9th March

I have made the acquaintance of the black market.

We played at the Opera House last night and three women and a man were waiting for us. At our approach they displayed tablecloths, aprons, shoes, lace and cheap jewellery.

They name a price, in cigarettes, and you can usually beat them down to half price. The women's faces bore a peculiar expression, half of eagerness and guile and half of resignation. They seemed to try to get a good bargain, and yet at the same time, know that cigarettes were worthless.

It's all a false position. Cigarettes cost us 8d for twenty (75 a week), while on the black market they fetch five marks each. For bartering purposes, a cigarette equals one mark, and one mark equals sixpence on official exchange. However, for one mark one can buy about a shillingsworth in the shops.

It's all screwy. I give sixty cigarettes for an electric iron. It thus costs me 2/6d, while the vendor gets three hundred marks for the fags, - roughly £15, - a good bargain both ways.

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