Gérard Jeans is a former soldier-militiaman of the class of 1939. In “Le Coin des Anciens,” a serial of the Eben-Emael Fort alumni, he describes the daily life before the capture of the fort in 1940. Among his anecdotes, he explains how a soldier’s pay worked and the regular expenses that resulted.
“In those troubled times we had at the time, military service was seventeen months. During the first twelve months of service, the pay of the soldier-militiaman was 0.30 francs per day. Yes, you read that right: 30 cents per day. The brigadier-militia received 0.60 francs per day, payable at the end of the month. This pay was increased to 1 franc per day at the time of mobilization. If the militiaman went on leave, his salary was reduced by as many times 0.30 francs (or 1 franc) as the number of days he was absent from the garrison. From the thirteenth month of service, the families received 500 francs per month. It was then up to the militiaman to designate the recipient of this monthly payment. Some militiamen without families had only their pay to be able to buy either a pastry, or a beer at the canteen, or a pack of cigarettes.
I remember some of the prices charged at the time by the canteen. A small rice tartlet cost 0.60 francs and a glass of beer 0.75 francs. Private D. had no family, and he received nothing from anyone: money loans between soldiers were forbidden by the regulations. He was never able to leave the district because he didn’t have enough money. Nine francs a month was not enough! He couldn’t even afford an outing a meal a in a village restaurant.”
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