Monday, 6 October 2014


Eileen has returned to the site of a concentration camp where she worked as a translator following the end of World War Two. The notorious Fort Breendonk, situated near Antwerp, was captured by the Nazis during their invasion of Belgium; re-purposed into a prison camp for political prisoners, resistance members and Jews, the site witnessed innumerable tortures and executions until its liberation by Allied forces in 1944.

Eileen was in Belgium to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the death of dambuster Guy Gibson, and hadn't originally intended to revisit Breendonk. Her reluctance is understandable. Not long after VE day, Eileen was drafted to unearth, and to explain to RAF officers, the extent of the atrocities carried out in the camp; on top of the horrors related to her, which included human waterwheels and boiling-water showers, she also had to contend with the Belgian collaborators then imprisoned there.

However, with the assistance of two RAF cadets, ultimately Eileen took the opportunity to, in her own words, 'lay a ghost to rest', and spent a day touring the memorial museum into which the camp has been converted. Though glad to have done so, Eileen described the trip as 'very sombre'. Much of what she recalls from her service remains: the blood-stained posts to which prisoners were tied prior to being shot, the gallows, the mud field in which prisoners were buried up to their neck.