(I also recently found this extract on the Internet titled Dutch Refugees – Copy added below.)
Escaping the Gestapo, to flee to Australia
By Jan Bastiaan
I was born in an Amsterdam hospital on April 21, 1920, because my father and mother were living on a barge ship and they were delivering a load of sand for the Amsterdam Council.
I was the third child after Riek and Willem, and the ship was becoming too small for three children. My father went to Diemen, an outer semi-rural area near Amsterdam, and started a grocer shop in the front room of our house.
Dad worked hard and saved up to buy a houseboat for us to live in and he paid mooring fees to a local farmer. Then Dad bought a motor boat and fitted it out as a floating grocery store. In those days barges were towed by a tug boat and were on the water for days on end. I can remember that on school holidays we were allowed to go on the boat with Pa.
We had to weigh all the sugar, flour and other loose produce. Nothing was packaged then except tea and coffee. It was during this time on the houseboat that my other sister, Diny, and two brothers, Adrian and Cornelius, were born. There were now six mouths to feed.
Dad was working such long hours it is amazing that he had time to procreate. After some time Dad and Mum borrowed money from a friend of theirs, and purchased an acre of land from the farmer where our houseboat was moored.
He obtained permits and built a general store, where both my parents sold grocery items as well as lemonade, coffee, tea, sandwiches and biscuits.
We children had to paint the planks after school until it was dark. Then when the shop was running we established a newsagent and delivered newspapers. Dad applied for additional permits to sell beer and wine and added on a café restaurant when all the family became involved. Mum worked as hard as Dad and never had any days off or any holidays. Dad sold the motor boat and transferred all the goods to the general store. The older children ran the home delivery service for those people who were no longer serviced by the motor boat.
On Friday after school I went by bike to get the grocery orders. On Saturday the older children delivered the items. When I was old enough, Dad put me into the café serving as a waiter.
I was only 15 when I started there. During the quiet months of winter our family hired a marquee at the local ice skating rink and sold refreshments.
We had to ride our bikes 3km to this rink in any weather conditions. As life went by, my older brother Will joined the navy and went overseas.
Naturally I got the urge to travel too after reading his letters and I joined the Navy in late 1938 when I was 18.
A year later war broke out. At that time I was in the Netherlands naval base at Dan Helder, Northern Holland, and had been allocated on a ship which was being built in Amsterdam, but they towed that to England without me.
I well remember the Germans coming in our bicycles and our commander didn’t want to surrender. So we shot at them. I can recall shooting one of them in the leg.
But what trouble we got after that encounter! They tried to bomb our depot ship but missed.
Most sailors were killed when they left the ship in a panic. My friend and I stayed on deck and looked where the plane was coming from and we ran to the other end.
Eventually I was taken prisoner and all the naval prisoners were placed on railway stations throughout Holland.
I was stationed in Utrecht which is the centre where most trains go in all directions.
We had to look out that people did the black-out properly. I don’t know which government made this decision, but the Germans were smart in that the general running of the invaded country was uninterrupted.
As a typical 18-year-old I did things I wasn’t supposed to do, such as fist fighting the Germans and running away very fast. I pinched food from the goods trains, which as being shipped to Germany. We had to learn how to re-seal the doors, which we did quite well.
I fed people at my boarding house by doing manual tasks at a farm in exchange for food. We were part of an underground movement with only 10 of us, because if you were picked up and questioned by the German Gestapo, you only knew a few people.
I was picked up by the Gestapo over a box of pistrols. Our group knew that a Duitch collaborator had delivered revolvers to a house in Utrecht.
One of the boys boasted to his girlfriend and she unwittingly told another person who happened to work for the Gestapo.
The boyfriend was never seen again. I was picked up from the boarding house early in the morning and taken to the Gestapo head office. They started questioning me and asked me if I liked Hitler. I said that I didn’t know, and that I had never met him. Then they asked if I liked my Queen Wilhelmina who had left me to flee to England. I answered the same way. He looked out the window and said that there was a car going to Berlin and I had to be on it.
So I said that was good, but that could I pick up some clothes and could I meet Hitler? Then he got angry and said That I must be mad. He pushed me down the stairs and I was lucky to get away from there alive. I know the Gestapo followed me for three days.
The same men were on street corners following my progress between the boarding house and the station.
Then one day a fellow Dutchman, Jansen, said would I like to go to England with him? I took his address and passed it on to my leader. After checking within other groups of the underground, he said I could trust him.
Jansen knew a barge skipper who could smuggle escapees onto his barge and past the sentries. A pilot boat moored next door would be my passage to England if I could steal it away. They needed seamen to handle the boat and read a compass in order to reach England.
Sounded easy. So my naval friend Addy van der Craats agreed to come with me. When we reached the barge cabin there were eight men and one woman inside, Jansen included. A couple in the group, Mr and Mrs Levy were Jewish, and the Gestapo were after them. Addy and I were then told that we had these extras as passengers. I wasn’t worried as long as I could get free.
The boat we needed was not next to the barge but further up to the jetty, next to the German tugboat. There were two German sailors on the deck of the tugboat. Addy and I had to sneak up and climb over the side and down the ship’s ladder. Unfortunately there was a locked chain onto the German tugboat. I stayed in the cabin to check the motor, while Addy smashed the lock. The noise attracted the German sailors who shone torches at the boat. I hid in the cabin and Addy went down into the anchor hold.
After their light was extinguished and all was quiet we counted the steps taken by the sentry. We untied the boat and we went to the back of the adjacent tugboat. I was checking the boat and Addy climbed up a ladder to the jetty to get the others.
We brought them down two at a time. The underground officer had calculated the tides. We drifted out to sea. It was amazing that the German sailors had not noticed our boat.
We thought all our homework was done but we had not accounted for a new searchlight, which had just been installed. It went on when our boat was in the middle of the river but was sweeping to the left and we were heading to the right.
When it returned its sweep, our boat was out of range. A German Torpedo Boat came into the river and we saluted. They saluted back. They were so close I could see the officer’s face. I had on a naval cap and jacket, which was the same as the German ones. Addy hid on the other side of the boat. We had already hidden all our passengers. When we were out at sea we turned the motor on. We couldn’t find the water-cooling tap, but when we were far enough out to sea we could turn a torch on and locate it. The motor was red hot. We turned it off to let it cool down and we drifted towards Norway. I recorded the numbers on the buoys. Then we switched it on and we motored on for hours, but the motor broke down. I think there was a petrol block. Luckily there was a tool box on board and we could dismantle the fuel line and fix it. I got ill sucking the petrol line. The motor ran on for another couple of hours and broke down again.
We made a sail out of a storm cover, a mop, a hook and several lengths of rope. I again noted the number on each buoy we passed. In the UK, we dodged the mines, followed a fisherman and landed in Margate and were arrested by the home coast guard.
They had only one rifle between them, but we wouldn’t have escaped because we had reached our destination at last! They took us to Herne Bay Police Station and locked us in the cells overnight.
The next day we travelled by bus to London. There we were questioned for four days in a special interrogation house. Every day there was a different man asking the same questions.
The English were aware of our escape, but had to be certain about who we were. Over the BBC radio broadcast in London it was announced that Big John (Jansen) and Little John (me) had arrived safely and we sang a Dutch song. When the interrogation was confirmed we were free to go.
The English approached Jansen, Dhalhuyzen and I to ask if we wanted to work for the secret service. We agreed and they trained us to blow up railway bridges, etc. Every day we had to eat carrots because they said that we would see better at night. So one night they took us out in a truck and they put us in the middle of no0where and the instruction was that our house was West from there. We had to find our way home.
We went through a field full of cabbages, so we pinched some and gave it to the chef to cook for us. We were not popular. One day the commander had a party, so we sneaked out, past the sentry on the road and we walked five miles to a country pub. We enjoyed a few drinks and despite being in English uniforms we were picked up and returned to an angry commanding officer the next day. Jansen, who could speak English, said: “Sir, you have trained us so well that we have passed your sentries.” He was so pleased that he puffed out his chest and asked that we not do that again.
After all that training our Queen had to approve that we join the English Secret Service. She was concerned about all the innocent citizens of Holland who would be killed as a result of our sabotage and destructive missions.
Queen Wilhelmina refused to sign. Jansen and I returned to the navy where he became a radar operator and I went to Scotland to learn submarine detection.
I was assigned to the Therk Hiddes, a destroyer for three years. We were sent out to the African coast, and under British command, assisted in the Battle for Madagascar. Later on we were stationed at Fremantle, under American command, and did escort duties from the Middle East, such as bringing the 9th Division home to Australia and New Zealand troops to their home.
We received an order to travel to Darwin and were attacked by Japanese planes on the way. A significant order was to rescue about 800 Dutch and Australian commandos, and Timorese women and children from Timor, and we knew that three ships had already been lost trying to complete this difficult task.
We had loaded plenty of Swan Lager beer before leaving Fremantle and we invited Australian servicemen on board to our party. We drank the lot and this added to our Dutch courage. Luckily we managed to avoid bombing and torpedos from the Japanese and after two trips we were loaded up for the third trip with all the rubber. We looked like a merchant ship.
While we were sailing back to Darwin on the first trip I met a man called Bruce Smith who had been one of the commandos hiding from the Japanese. He asked me if I would see his beautiful mother in Melbourne if I got back before him.
He forgot to tell me he had two beautiful sisters. I went out with the eldest Heather first, but Heather never answered my letters. Nancy, the youngest child, did and to cut a long story short I married Nancy on August 6, 1946, while I was on four day leave.
Eventually at the end of the war I was discharged and my Navy offered to book my passage back to Australia in two years’ time. So I went around to all the harbours of Europe to find a passage back. I met a New Zealander in Rotterdam when I was giving directions to him and he mentioned that his ship was looking for two seamen.
We went back to the Captain straight away and he couldn’t sign me on because only the Swedish Consul could do that. At the Consular Office there was a tall woman who directed me to the foreign ships office.
The clerk at the desk was not looking up at me when I arrived so I threw him a packet of Lucky Strikes on the table. He still didn’t look up but asked for all my details and he processed my card.
I returned to the Swedish Consul and I received notification to board that ship on Saturday. I was supposed to get tropical immunity injections, but I forged the Doctor’s signature instead. I still had to get a police clearance that I had no criminal records. Fortunately I knew someone at that office from the Navy and I got cleared in that time. I worked on the Swedish tanker on the day shift, but I didn’t work hard enough and they put me on the Dog Watch 12 midnight until 4am, 12 noon until 4pm.
While on the tanker I was sent a telegram from General Motors Holden offering me a job as an electrician. It turned out that my sisterin- law worked with a lady at White Crow whose husband was the employment officer at GMH. She mentioned that I was an electrician and her husband knew that they needed one.
The tanker came into Sydney and Nancy was waiting there. Back in Melbourne I went straight to the SEC and with a B-class permit was able to start work at GMH.
While I worked there during the day I attended night school to familiarise myself with regulations in Victoria and to obtain my A-class license. I worked six years at GMH and learned a lot about machinery.
I decided to start electrical contracting for myself and worked seven days a week and 24 hours a day on emergency calls. I purchased an electrical business in Malvern Road, Toorak, and with Nancy’s help we operated the business from this shop.
We were in hardware and electrical gifts for 12 years. Nancy retired from the shop when her mother died as there was no-one to look after the children. I went on contracting from the family home in Elwood. We moved to Brighton in 1972.
We lost our first baby, but were fortunate to have a son Ross, who is now a Periodontist, and a daughter, Janice, who is an Optometrist. We had a very happy married life for 50 years and nine months, after which time Nancy succumbed to Pancreatic cancer. One of Ross’s patients asked about the name Bastiaan, because the group she volunteered with, were trying to trace Jan Bastiaan. That same night I was given the telephone number of Mrs Levy, the only women in the boat all those years ago. I was given the number of one of the men, Tony Loontjes.
Both were alive and well and living near each other in Utrecht. I rang them and arranged to travel to Holland to have a reunion. My friend Dorothy Shapter travelled with me to that meeting.
She said that when we all saw each other we just looked and cried. Greta was 90 years young and Tony was 80. I have been over with Dorothy a second time and we regularly correspond.
Postcript: I was sad to hear two weeks ago that Greta Levy died at 94. I’m so glad I met her again. We were lucky.
DUTCH REFUGEES AT HERNE BAY
By Harold Gough
Just before 3 in the afternoon on Sunday 23rd November 1941, an unfamiliar small boat drifted towards the shore at Reculver, watched rather apprehensively by local coastguards, who had already alerted Inspector Charles Setterfield at Herne Bay Police Station, in charge of local security. The boat was flying three Dutch flags, but after two years of war suspicion of the unfamiliar and unexpected lay very close to the surface of everyone’s mind. As the open boat approached, nine figures could be seen-one a woman of about thirty with dark hair. They, too, looked anxious, unsure of their welcome; uncertain even in what country they were about to make landfall.
Finally, as the boat touched land, the nine exhausted voyagers stepped shakily ashore to learn with relief that they had reached a friendly destination. From the reception committee’s point of view there were still doubts to be resolved, an the out-of-season tourists were searched and interrogated, and their few belongings removed for further inspection.
The story they told was a strange one. The party comprised a young married couple. Abraham and Greta Levi, from Assen in Holland, six single men and a married man who had left his wife and five children behind; all had left occupied Holland to rejoin the war against the Nazis.
Two of the men had been in the Royal Netherlands Navy, an three in the Army-one of these had brought hls uniform with him; one who had been born in the Dutch East Indies was anxious to go back here to join his parents who were already there.
They were all members of an underground organisation, but were mostly strangers to each other until they received instructions for a rendezvous at the Hook of Holland. There they met one of the ex-soldiers actually a railway engine driver, who managed to steal a German ships lifeboat. The traditional destination for vessels from the hook has long been Harwich in Essex, but the journey was to be far from plain sailing. Even the seamen in the party found the navigation equipment rather scanty-a portable compass, and a small scale map of Europe.
Before navigation in the open sea became a problem, however, came the matter of getting away from the land. At 8.30 on Thursday evening they were all aboard; then they pushed the boat away and rowed cautiously out of the harbor,fearful of the searchlight mounted at the entrance.
Even more frightening must have been the time when two German S-boats swept by close at hand, and it was not until they were w out to sea that they dared to start the petrol engine and head west for England.
The journey between the Hook and Harwich is little more than 100 miles, and the car ferries cross in six or eight hours in comfort.
The Dutch party in their small open boat drove along trough. the night and all next day, and ran into fog. Than their fuel ran out.
In the fog of the November night, no longer under power, the boat was adrift in the North Sea;
The crew of anxious passengers rigged a sail, using a canvas hammock, and they drifted slowly on towards the daylight of Saturday, knowing only that they had lost any idea of where they were, just that they were now on a southerly heading. The chief worry was how far west had they gone before they lost their engine and their direction, and where would be their landfall be now.
If they missed the English coast on this heading, the next land was France, occupied and unfriendly like their own.
In nearly three days they saw no shipping, but not long before they sighted a low coastline an R.A.F,-plane passed overhead, and a report of an unidentifiable small boat was flashed to the authorities on the coast.
So on Sunday afternoon their arrival was not altogether unexpected by the Reculver coastguards, although the eight men an one woman still had no way of knowing what reception they could expect-to be shot as escapers by Germans in occupied France-to be held as possible spies by suspicious British authorities perhaps even fired on as potential invaders in the heat of the moment. Finally, they hoisted three Dutch flags and hoped these would be recognised and accepted as indicating friendly arrivals.
Inspector Setterfield was abie to reassure them as they stepped on to the beach at Reculver, and after a brief interrogation they were taken under police escort to the Herne Bay Rest Centre in Albany Drive, where they were first given a meal, and then provided with a bed for the night.
Later Greta Levi, described by the Evening Standard as ‘demure and dark-haired’ , said “They gave us a wonderful tea. I shall never forget that tea. We ate so much!”
The refugees did not stay long in Herne Bay. Next day they were passed onward to the Free Dutch authorities in England, where they were received by H.M. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and each was awarded the Dutch Bronze Cross, before dispersing to join the forces of their choice.
A year later. Abraham Levi, who in civilian life had been a wholesale clothing merchant had reached Portmadoc in Wales, by way of the Midlands and Scotland. His wife, Greta, who had also wanted to join the Free Forces had been working with The Dutch Red Cross, was now pregnant, and living with a farming family at Matfield, near Turnbridge Wells, where, by coincidence, there was a maid who came from Herne Bay.
The full list of this brave group of refugees is as follows:
Abraham Levi, born 1910.
Greta Levi, born 1910.
Adriaan van der Craats, born 1921.
Fan Bastiaan, born 1921.
Theodorus Daalhuysen, born 1917.
Walrave van Krimpen, born 1894.
Gerardus van Asch born 1922.
Anton Loontjes, born 1922.
Johannes Jansen, born 1917
In 1973, Mr. Jansen wrote to Herne Bay Police in the hope that they could help him locate the open lifeboat which had brought the party safely to Reculver more than thirty years earlier. It seems his search was unsuccessful; although one pleasure boat which has plied from Herne Bay beach since 194.8 carrying passengers and anglers is known to have been built during the war in Germany as a lifeboat, it had been purchased in that year at Margate, and nothing is known of. its earlier history.
Introduced by Harold Gough
In Bygone Kent, Vol.5, number 5, May 198-1, I published a short article headed “Dutch Refugees ? Herne Bay’ m1″‘ based on information provided some years ago by the late Mr. Charles Setterfield who, as Police Inspector at Herne Bay during the Second World War, had the duty of meeting eight Dutch men and one woman who had crossed the North Sea in an open boat and landed at Reculver. The names of these nine escapers from occupied Europe were printed at the end of the story.
In July 1985 this article was reprinted, in English, in ‘De Schakel’, the journal of a Dutch organisation of wartime escapers, and, as a result, one of those brave travellers has send me his own account of this voyage in an open boat from Thursday to Sunday, 20-23rd November 1941. While it shows that ay outline was correct in general terms, Theo Daalhuyzen’s version written from his own memories deserves publications in its own right. With his permission, I have ‘edited’ the story without omitting any details.
He begins by describing the occupation of Holland and the beginning of the resistance, as yet little organised, individuals and small groups plaguing the Germans where and when they could. The decision taken by these nine people to escape and carry on the war outside Holland was sparked by SS atrocities in the Amsterdam ghetto and the rounding-up of saboteurs and resisters “we knew we had to escape”. What follows is Theo Daalhuyzen’s own story of that escape.
The escape was carried out ‘on a wine and a prayer’ and theoretically should have failed completely. Instead, the whole affair ended successfully on 23rd November when we landed on the English coast, utterly exhausted and hungry and thanking God it was all over. But was it really? After many years most of the excitement and, yes, terrors experienced during our adventure are still fresh in my memory…. seven men and one courageous woman boarding the train in Utrecht dressed in heavy dark clothing and hopefully looking like fishermen from the coast, one of them carrying canoe paddles wrapped in a piece of sail cloth, no more than two to a seat so as not to arouse suspicion , two of us armed with pistols in case we ran into trouble because the Gestapo of ten checked identity cards on the trains; at least we might be able to take one or two of the bastards with us. In Rotterdam we had to change trains to Hook of Holland in the centre of the once-great port had been reduced to rubble with some walls still standing up, reaching to the heavens like a silent cry of revenge. I remember the hate and contempt
welling up in me tor the madmen who had committed this senseless crime.
Luck was still with us. Hook of Holland had been turned info a Schnellboat base and the well-known ferry port was crawling with enemy shipping. There was still some daylight left, and so it was too risky to contact the ninth member of our group, Van Krimpen, who had left Utrecht two weeks earlier and had managed to find a small boat tor us with the help of a local skipper. Many of f-duty sailors were prowling the streets looking tor romance, so we decided to blend in with them to be less conspicuous, and to play the same game. Obviously the walking local beauties did not know us, but even so, after a while our tactics began to work and we enjoyed talking and joking with the girls while we kept an eye on the Germans. Some of the krauts eventually began to give us some black looks, and some of the girls no doubt suspected that something funny was going on. but they were great and never gave us away.
Finally it was dark enough for us to slip away to the harbour, where a Dutch skipper and his wife welcomed us aboard a largo river barge moored alongside one of the docks. Despite the obvious risks they were taking they made us coffee and sandwiches, which revived us enormously. By giving us shelter that night they most probably saved our hides. Meanwhile, Van Krimpen, Craats and Bastiaans managed to break the lock off the chain with which the small boat was secured to the German ship at the other side of the harbour, and moved it away to the opposite side where they had located a steel ladder that went straight down to the water. The skipper had been acting as the lookout and went back to fetch the rest of us.
After gratefully thanking our hosts (who must have given a sigh of relief) we made our way to a little boat, which turned out to be an old Dutch lifeboat formerly part of the Coast Guard and requisitioned by the Germans. It seemed about 16 feet long with a small cabin covering the engine. By then it was quite dark and a mist was coming up from the sea, making it very difficult to find our way to the ladder without falling off the dock. One of the men was carrying a cookie tin filled with delicious sandwiches by the good skipper’s wife, and going down the ladder -a very difficult job even with both hands- his toot slipped. In trying to regain his balance he dropped the tin which then hit the cabin and bounced off and sank, setting up a terrific clatter which echoed round the harbour. To us it sounded like an explosion and for a moment we were petrified. Although we heard voices raised questioningly aboard the German ship just a few feet away from where Jansen and I had dropped flat on our bellies, no alarm was given and after a few minutes we joined the others in the boat.
For obvious reasons we could not start the engine while still inside the harbour; we had brought the paddles for that. It turned out to be a hard battle because the boat was heavy to move due to the tide coming in, and at one time we were slammed against the pilings at the entrance to the harbour. With superhuman effort we managed to push ourselves away into the open sea-where immediately the boat became easy prey to the increasing forces of waves and currents. For a long time we could hear sounds from the shore and a couple of times a big searchlight started sweeping round the harbour area, sometimes coming quite close to us. We were all down on the floor. It seemed to take hours before we could decide to start the engine after first having to break the lock on the cabin door. We had delay doing so, however, because we could hear the sound of a boat engine coming closer an closer. Everyone was down on the boards again. The boat came so close it sounded as if it was going to run us down and a quick look over the gunwale told-us that a German torpedo boat was crossing our bows to starboard less than 30 feet away.
We were expecting the worst, because only a few weeks before a boat with several Dutch ex-navy officers had been machine-gunned out of the water with no survivors. Although we could see this boat very clearly they did not stop. The same thing happened about 15 minutes later. We could not belief our luck but we sure thanked the good Lord for taking care of us. I think we got away with it because there was a heavy patch of fog on our port side. Our boat was painted white an blended in with the fog and was therefore hard to see.
The tension was counting by the minute, but after a while we settled down again and decided to try to start the engine. At first the procedure was puzzling, until we discovered that a separate button had to be pressed white swinging the starting handle. After we finally got it going it ran fine – for a while. Most of us had become quite seasick by then because the weather had become very rough and our little vessel was being tossed about like a nutshell.
Once we got the engine going things became a lot more comfortable because the boat was much more stabilised and it was much easier because the we could cut across the tops of the waves. It was not long after that we ran into trouble. Smoke started pouring out of the cabin, the engine was overheating and we had to turn it off. We discovered that the cooling system was not working. After a long search (fortunately we had a signal torch with us) we found a closed valve in the intake line under the floorboards. By then the engine had cooled off and we were able to start it again. For quitte a while it ran like a top, perhaps an hour or less; then it started to splutter and died.
A check of the fuel system showed dirt-clogging the filters and, from the look of things, it appeared that sometime before we arrived at the harbour another patriot had managed to put a handful-of dirt in the tank, so al to stop the Germans using the boat.
By now things were getting critical because it was well after midnight and we had to get away from the coast before daylight. Several times we managed to get the engine to run periodically. The weather was becoming increasingly worse and whenever the engine stopped the waves took over and we were L serious danger of getting swamped any minute. In the end we were all so sick that no-one cared anymore.
When day broke (Friday) things had not improved, except that we could no longer hear or see the coast. We cleaned and restarted the engine, but found that we were unable to navigate with the small compass we had and could not get our hearings as the sun was bidden behind a heavy cloud. We only knew that we had to go due west to reach the British coast, and that we had lost a great deal of valuable time.
The waves were still immense and when after a while the engine broke down again we were unable to do anything about it. Th vomiting had stopped, but the nausea and heaving continued long afterwards. Later that night we took the watch in turns while the others tried to find shelter inside the small cabin, which was rather hard to do because there was only room tor about tour people and the rest had to stay outside or find room on top of the engine.
November is a bad month for being on the North Sea as every sailor knows. The storm did not let up until late Saturday, although at times there was a break in the clouds which enabled us more or less to pinpoint the position of the sun. We had been able to rig a small sail and the wind made it easier to set course in a westerly direction after determining that we had been too far south. Nothing exciting happened that night except that someone spotted what looked like a sea-mine bobbing in the water. We never did get close enough to it, which was just as well.
Early Sunday morning, however, we woke up to find the sea smooth and calm and within a short time we were all feeling a lot hotter The sun was trying to come through an our sailors decided we were off course again. For a while we managed to wake up the old engine again and set a westerly course going full speed ahead, although we were getting worried about the low level of fuel in the tank. Later that morning we came across some large ships that looked like freighters. Some had been sunk with only the masts and tunnels sticking up above the water, others were turned upside down; they looked like Allied ships and we wondered how many brave people had lost their lives there.
We continued our course and later that morning noticed smoke on the horizon to the east of us. We went in that direction tor a while, hoping to meet friendly ships, but a bombardment started up long before we got there and we changed our minds. We did not see any planes at that time. U-boats? We decided to keep away from whatever it was, keeping a sharp look-out for periscopes… Before midday our petrol supply was nearly finished so we rigged our sail again.
Later, sitting the bow-end of the cabin, I noticed something on the horizon far ahead of us. Was there a high sea coming up? It was a long time before i could make it out, but suddenly i turned around yelling “Land-ho!” Was it England? We had no idea then. But after 44 years i recall our emotions when we set foot on the beach at Reculver and stood there singing our National Anthem, Wilhelmus, utterly exhausted. tears streaming down our faces. And I shall never forget the friendliness of the local people and officials, once it had been determined that we were indeed refugees and not a bunch of German spies.
After being taken to London we were interrogated for three days by British Intelligence and obtained security clearance before becoming guests of the Netherlands Embassy. We also had tea with Queen Wilhelmina, and a coded signal was sent via Radio Orange, “C 1 1/2 has landed indicating to friends in Holland that we were safe and well. (My friend Jan Jansen was very tall and lean, while I an on the short side, and in underground circles we were dubbed ‘Watt and half Watt’). We were given the choice as to which branch of the Free Dutch Forces we
wanted to join. Jansen and Bastiaans went into the Navy and I became paratrooper with the ‘Prinses Irene Brigade’, then stationed in Wolverhampton.
Our outfit was among the first to ride triumphantly into Brussels in 1944 – we were on our way to Holland, to liberate our own people! But fate decided otherwise. We were held up at the Albert Canal, only a few miles from Dutch border’ by desperate German resistance on 9th September 1944, I became involved with a phosphorus hand-grenade and was shipped back to England for skin-grafts at Basingstoke Hospital burns unit. When I left hospital I was given a desk in London preparing for the demobilisation in Dutch Army personnel. In June 1945 I married an English girl and was later posted to The Hague; while there I traced Jan Jansen again.
However, conditions in post-war Holland were chaotic and I returned to England for demob in 1947; after about six years my wife and I emigrated to Canada where I found a job, which transferred me in 1958 to the U.S.A. where I now live in Indiana.
Early in 1948 I was contacted by Tony Loontjens, who back in 1941 was one of our crew. We have now learned something about some of other refugees; Abraham Levi was killed in action in Holland and his wife, Greta, the one woman in our party, lives in Utrecht. Jan Jansen is now disabled; Gerard van Asch, who lives in Australia; Walrave van Krimpen, who stole the boat, died by enemy action in the Merchant Navy – but we have lost touch with the two others, Adriaan van der Craats and Jan Bastiaan.