De Pannenaar Henri Rogie writes a book about a moving war experience: “I will never forget Margaret”

De Pannenaar Henri Rogie writes a book about a moving war experience: “I will never forget Margaret”
De Pannenaar Henri Rogie writes a book about a moving war experience: “I will never forget Margaret”

The novel ‘Vakantie in De Panne’ was published by the 93-year-old Henri Rogie. The flag does not exactly cover the load, because in the book the author tells how he experienced Operation Dynamo in the Panne at the age of 11, but it is even more about a very special friendship. “I will never forget Margaret.”

The elderly, yet always spry Henri Rogie has had an exciting career. Born and raised in De Panne, the former French teacher now lives in Ostend, but he will never forget what he experienced in his seaside resort during the early years of WWII. What’s more, he wrote a novel about it that perfectly shows how the events of that time affected him. He can talk extensively about military life, and certainly that of the navy, because Henri rose from ordinary sailor in the reserve corps to frigate captain, lieutenant colonel so to speak.

‘Vakantie in De Panne’, his first work in Dutch by the way and quite exceptional at his blessed age, may not be a non-fiction book, but it is based on personal experiences and vivid memories. And that’s what makes the novel so captivating, but also very emotional. “The story takes place in May 1940”, Henri starts off. “I was 11 years old at the time and lived in Villa Blanche in De Panne, just fifty meters from the sea. My father was called up as a soldier and had to help in De Panne to defend strategic points such as the Cable in De Panne. Thousands of refugees poured into the seaside resort under the fire of the German Stukas. Among the refugees I happened to meet a sweet girl of my age, Margriet. She came from the Kempen and that was the beginning of a very close friendship. You can really love each other even at that age. The holiday had also started and we were not aware of the horrors of war that surrounded us. We played for hours on the beach and in the gardens of the little castle Sunny Croft, where my grandmother worked as a companion. We went hiking and biking. Holiday everywhere!”

Operation Dynamo

Operation Dynamo started on May 28. Some thirty thousand British soldiers of the Second British Army Corps were evacuated not only in Dunkirk, but also in De Panne. Henri and Margriet experienced it up close. “We could see the whole beach from Villa Blanche”, Henri vividly recalls the dramatic events. “Trucks were stacked as a bridgehead, yet many soldiers drowned. I will never forget those images. One day Margriet left and I never saw her again. But I’ve never forgotten her. I later tried to find her, but never succeeded.”

And now Henri wrote a novel about it and it was good, though. “Unfortunately I have to say that at my age you start living more and more in the past and with your memories. I won’t win a Nobel Prize or earn anything from it,” Henri concludes with a smile, “but writing this book has done me good.” (Dany Van Loo)

You can order the novel ‘Vakantie in De Panne’ by making a deposit of 19.90 euros and 5 euros for shipping costs to account number BE 76 0000 4255 3795 of the author. Do not forget to mention your home address.

The article is in Dutch

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