Friday, 21 November 2014

AT LAST WE MEET

After co-operating, with Egbert Hughes, on the story of Squadron Leader Boguslaw Pilniak of 304 Squadron, I finally got round to the task of writing Egbert's own story - which is here for all to see.  And after having done that we finally got to meet, last week!  My wife and I spent a night with him on our way to visit her sister in Essex.  We had a great time over a meal (which Egbert cooked) and a couple of drinks.
 
I am 23 years younger than Egbert (in years) but I hope that I can get to be his age and still be as active and as capable as he is.  All three of us had a great time and hope to repeat it in the future.
 

 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


 
 

EGBERT HUGHES

 

FROM THE DUTCH RESISTANCE TO THE RAF



 

 

 

THE STORY OF AN ENGLISH BOY

CAUGHT UP IN A EUROPEAN WAR

 

THE VERY BEGINNINGS



INTRODUCTION
Part of the philosophy of Blitzkrieg is that there is no need to declare war; this gives the aggressor the tactical advantage whilst the build up to it is a psychological assault on the nerves of the victims.  In the same twisted system of logic, the fact that the nations under attack are declared neutrals is immaterial. And this is how an Anglo-Dutch family was dragged into the Second World War.
On the morning of 10th May 1940, German forces moved into the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.  Their intention was to draw the French and the British Expeditionary forces deep into Belgium, away from the Ardennes and the airfields on the Dutch coast which the Luftwaffe needed as a springboard to attack England and to harass Allied shipping in the English Channel.

The Dutch Forces were little more than a nominal defence force with no tanks, few artillery pieces and only limited numbers of armoured cars andhe word.  The Dutch Air Force was limited to only about 140 antiquated aircraft, almost half of which were destroyed on the first day of the invasion.
The German assault was rapid but it met with considerable resistance.  The Hague was well, and courageously, defended against an assault by German paratroops, foiling the German attempt to seize the Dutch Government in the initial attack and heavy casualties were inflicted on the German troops who tried to seize the airfields at Ypenburg and Ockenburg.  But, stiff as the resistance was, the Dutch were ill equipped and unprepared to take on the might of Nazi Germany.  Queen Wilhelmina and her Government escaped to England, where they set up a Government in Exile.

In Rotterdam, up to 900 civilians were killed and 25,000 houses were destroyed in the bombing which had been concentrated on homes rather than defences or military targets.  Whilst negotiations for surrender were going on, the Luftwaffe bombed the city heavily, resulting in the previously mentioned carnage.  The Germans had an easy victory – but there was still resistance.
General Henri Winkelman (centre), just after signing the Dutch capitulation on 15th May 1940
© Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1969-097-17 / Hausen, v. / CC-BY-SA

His father, Edward Gerard Hughes, was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland (now Cumbria) in 1878 and his mother, Margaretha Stijns-Hughes, was born in Maastricht, Holland in 1888.  They were connected to the bulb growing industry in Spalding, Lincolnshire and travelled frequently to Holland.  In fact two of their four children were born there.

Edward Gerard Hughes

Margaretha Stijns-Hughes


Egbert himself was born on 27th October 1926 at No 12 Het Amerikaantje (meaning the little American Indian) in Gouda, Holland and was delivered by his Dutch Grandmother; he was the youngest of the four.  They moved to No 1 which was known as “The Point” as the house was on a sharp corner about fifty metres from the River Ijsel, where it was an active port with landing stages for the barges.  They lived right opposite the Schuttelaar coffee roasting plant and loved the deliciously overpowering aroma.

They lived right over a Kroeg (pub) but a very busy one that was frequented by sailors and was very rowdy on a Saturday night.  Of course Egbert had no memory of that.  When he was three years old, his father went out to buy some tobacco and was never seen again, leaving his mother with four children and very little money.  There were no benefits in those days but there was a charity which handed out food to the needy and they relied quite heavily on it.

They moved to a single storey rented property which had a garden and a ditch which led into a lake; he and his brother Ted had a raft which they floated down to the lake and spent their time swimming and fishing.

Later they moved to another house close to where Egbert was born and he seems to have had a happy childhood enjoying all the usual pastimes and sports with a normal group of friends.

In the dark days immediately before the outbreak of World War II, the British Consul advised his mother to return to England where the family would be relatively safe from the uncertainty caused by the looming clouds of war.  However, she believed that Holland would remain neutral – as they had done during the Great War.

In Egbert’s words: the Germans put paid to that idea as they invaded Holland in May 1940 and rounded up all the undesirable aliens (in this case British subjects).  This meant that his brother John was arrested and taken away to a transit camp at Schoorl in Northern Holland and on to a prison camp near Breslau in Poland where he spent the rest of the war.

Egbert and his other brother Ted were told that they would receive the same treatment when they were old enough under the terms of the Geneva Convention.  However, they spent the rest of the war dodging the Gestapo and becoming part of a young Resistance group known as “For Netherlands’ Freedom” and later as part of the Interior Battle Forces which became very active after the failure of Operation Market Garden and the Arnhem debacle.

Egbert received a Certificate, a Resistance Badge and a letter of thanks from Prince Bernhard for his activities during his time in the Resistance.
Letter of thanks from Prins Bernhard



Certificate of Service in the Dutch
Binnenlandsche Strijdkrachten
(Interior Forces, which were the
formalisation of the Dutch Resistance)
Badge received by all members of the Resistance
Medals were not awarded
Photos © Egbert Hughes unless otherwise stated



EGBERT "DUTCHIE" HUGHES - A LIFE AT WAR

The following story is as told to me by Egbert “Dutchie” Hughes and represents his personal memories, as told to me, from birth to the end of the War:

On the morning of 10th May 1940, I was awoken by the drone of heavy bombers and the rattle of machine gun fire.  This could only be dog-fighting between the modern German fighters and the antiquated Royal Dutch Air Force in their ancient bi-planes.  I later learned that 65 of the 140 strong Dutch Air Force planes had been destroyed on this first day of fighting.

I looked out of the window and noticed a lot of Dutch military activity; I got dressed and went down to speak to the soldiers and ask them what was happening.  They told me that Germany had invaded The Netherlands and that heavy fighting was going on in some areas.  German paratroops had landed in all the strategic areas such as the Ports, airfields and even the grounds of the Royal Palace in The Hague.  However, the Royal Family had already fled to England, via Zeeland, and would establish a Government in Exile there.

After five days of heavy fighting, the Dutch Military authorities decided to surrender because of the heavy loss of life that had already taken place and to prevent any further unnecessary bloodshed.  On 15th May 1940, General Henri Winkelman signed the Dutch Capitulation documents.  However, this was not before the Luftwaffe received the order to stop bombing and Rotterdam received a serious pounding and many civilians and Dutch and German troops were killed in the fighting.

During the fighting, the sky was filled with smoke and the smell of burning paper; the sky was full of bits of burning paper.  Thousands of people fled from the battle areas, mainly on bicycles, and escapees from the burning city of Rotterdam gravitated towards Gouda.  My mother took in 19 refugees; the ladies slept in our beds and the remainder – including us – slept on the floor.

The next morning, a Dutch Army vehicle stopped outside our door.  I went to see and it was laden with soldiers, all in a state of shock, one of them was crying and shaking like a leaf.  I got a glass of water and held it to his lips, but he was shaking so much, he spilled most of it and his teeth were rattling against the glass – I don’t know what happened to them.

A few days later, I was standing on the pavement and heard the sound of a heavy vehicle; I saw a German tank come round the corner, with many marching soldiers singing their marching songs.  I took an instant dislike to their jackboots and their awful helmets.  They came to a halt and started knocking on doors asking for their water bottles to be filled.  I think they had been told to be friendly towards the Dutch people, because they were not hostile.

They went on and assembled in the Market Place; some of them started to take over buildings such as schools and warehouses, and the Officer in charge settled himself in the Hotel de Zalm in the Market Square.  The Germans wasted no time in exerting their authority – posters and signposts appeared everywhere, telling us that the penalty for disobeying German orders would be death.
 
German propaganda poster urging Dutchmen to join their forces
Failed because of the superior German attitude towards the Dutch
 
At some point, after the invasion, I returned to school, but one day a German teacher arrived – probably to promulgate some German propaganda – and I made my resentment noticeable.  I decided to leave school and took a day course in engineering at the Technical College; later, I changed to evening classes but this soon became impossible because of the curfew imposed by the Germans.
Map showing Gouda  (top right) in the direct invasion line to Rotterdam
 
It did not take long for the Germans to round up all the Foreign Nationals and, early one morning, they came and took my two brothers away – giving them time only to pack a bag.  They told me that I would be next, as soon as I was old enough.  Ted and John were taken to an Internment Camp at Schoorl, in Northern Holland in transit to a camp near Breslau in Poland.  John spent the next five years there, but Ted was released with the warning that he would also be sent there in due course.
 
Reporting the news to the British People
The London Evening Standard - 10th May 1940
 
Image© London Evening Standard
 
This was not to happen as we spent the next few years dodging the Germans.  John had been the bread winner and so we had been deprived of a source of income.  I decided to apply for a job with a company who made buses for the Dutch Railways.  I reported to the foreman who told me that I had to pass a test before I could be employed.

He took me to a long bench, fitted with several vices holding a long drive shaft and he gave me a scriber, a long metal ruler, a centre punch, a hammer and a cross-cut chisel.  My task was to make an oil groove along the length of the drive shaft.  I spent three days on this test and suffered a bloody left thumb but the foreman was pleased with the result and I got the job.

My first job was bending the tubular steel to make the frames for the seating on the buses and later, to make the fittings that would be necessary for the proper working of the automatic doors.  Very shortly afterwards, the Germans took over the factory to manufacture and repair military vehicles.

I thought it a good idea to slow down the progress on the German vehicles, if I could, and I saw an opportunity to start a one man saboteur action.  I could trust all my workmates except the doorkeeper and so I had to be wary of him.  One of my better moves was to damage a machine tool which would take two months to replace.  Another way of slowing them down was to alter the measurements on some of their drawings so that the finished components would be too big or too small to be of use – delaying their progress again.

Welding was a major part of the construction process, but the welders only had an oxygen bottle on their trolleys and the acetylene had to be accessed from a plant outside via valves around the site.  I was responsible for maintenance of the plant and for the correct mixture of calcium carbide and water in the acetylene supply.  This was another opportunity to delay production by increasing the amount of calcium carbide in the water.  The plant walls were made of compressed straw in case of an explosion, and that is just what they got.  Mind you, I was the one who had to repair the damage and get the acetylene supply going again!  It soon became obvious that I would be in serious trouble if the Gestapo became suspicious – especially being a Brit.  I hate to think what they would have done to me.

I had to jack in the job, even though this would mean there was no money coming in again.  However, help was at hand; one day, a gentleman from the International Red Cross came to see us and told us that he was able to offer the British citizens a monthly loan so that they were not forced to work for the enemy.  My brother and I quickly accepted this offer, which had to be repaid after the war – although we were never asked to repay it.  It was a life saver and I have no idea how they organised it with a War on.

EARLY RESISTANCE

One day, I received a Post Office Giro envelope containing a note asking me to meet someone at a house in town.  My curiosity got the better of me and I went.  On arrival at the house, I found the door ajar and I went in.  The place was empty and I went upstairs and, in the front bedroom, I found a Bible on a table.  As I looked at it, a man appeared in the doorway; he seemed to know all about me and, in conversation, he asked me if I was interested in joining a resistance group to perform tasks that would release more mature men from some of the minor jobs.  I agreed and he told me I would have to swear allegiance to Queen Wilhelmina.  He then told me to go home and I would be contacted if and when required.

The jobs we had to do were cleaning guns, manning road blocks and observation posts to note German movements in and out of town, weapons training and instruction in street fighting.

As the War went on, food became harder to get, so sometimes I would get on my bike and cycle into the countryside to buy milk from the farms.  On one such occasion, on my return home along a narrow dyke, I was confronted by a German armoured vehicle.  I had nowhere to go and no choice but to stop.  The Officer, in a grey leather coat, held up his hand to stop me.  I was searched but was carrying nothing suspicious, so my personal items were returned to me, although they kept my papers and the soldiers took three of my six bottles of milk.

The vehicle had broken down and they had no radio communications so the Officer gave me a note and an address in Gouda to get assistance.  I hated to do it but I had no choice as he had my papers and my name and address.  The following morning a gefreiter (corporal) came to the house and brought my papers back with two cigarettes.  None of the family smoked, so they ended up in the dustbin.

Ted and I had several safe houses, around the town, where we stayed at times; one of mine was a sweet shop run by a lady with three daughters.  Her husband had been taken away by the Germans and sent to a camp somewhere in Germany.  One of her daughters worked in the hospital which had both Allied and German wounded servicemen as patients.  I used to collect her from the hospital and often chatted with our wounded (and also with the German wounded, to avoid suspicion) whilst I waited for her.

On one occasion, on the way home, we were walking down a dark, tree lined lane (just after curfew).  We heard the marching footsteps of a German patrol.  We stood close to the dark fence of a coal yard, in the hope that they would not see us.  Unfortunately we were seen and they took us to an office in a warehouse where we were guarded by two members of the feld gendarmerie, armed with machine pistols.  I held her hand to steady her.

A young SS Officer entered the room with a female interpreter; he sat down and she stood beside him.  She was looking at me as if she knew me – quite possible as Gouda was a small place at the time.  She was probably at school with me.

The Officer was holding my ID card; he did not notice the two red lines and the word “Vreemdeling” meaning foreigner.  The girl did see it and she looked at me as if to say “You are in trouble”.  He asked me the same questions several times as if he was trying to trick me into giving a different answer.  He asked me why I had to escort the girl home from the hospital and he got angry when I asked him if he would let his daughter walk home through a town full of enemy soldiers.

He told me I was old enough to go to Germany to help with the war effort but first I would be taken to the Gestapo.  That would be fatal as they would have found out that I was British – and God knows what they would have had in store for me.  We were escorted outside and ordered onto a half track, when the interpreter started a heated argument with the Officer (maybe she was his girlfriend).  I do not know what she said to him but he ordered us down from the half track, gave us a very strong warning and told us to go.  That lady most probably saved my life; we ran and ran and, with hearts beating like a drum, made it to the house.

There was another incident when I was standing on the pavement and two other fellows were talking a little further on and two ladies were standing behind me chatting.  A German vehicle came past and stopped at the corner of the street by a large building which accommodated German Officers.  A podgy, middle aged Officer came around the corner and ordered us to go with him.  He must have noticed I was missing because he came back around the corner and shouted to come here.  I did not move.

Egbert  (centre) with friends Henk and Jan
Taken in Gouda in 1942
They, and the Gestapo, had no idea he was British!
©Egbert Hughes
 
He came up to me and drew his gun and I was looking straight down the barrel of a 9mm Luger.  He said: “Come, you have to work!”  I replied, in German, that I do not work for the enemy, to which he said that they had been here for three years and we were all Germans, now.

I said that maybe all those people, but not me because I am British.  He was still pointing the gun at me and I was astonished when he told me to prove it.  I gave him my British passport and he clearly did not read English or Dutch but, as he flipped through the pages, he must have noticed the word Police on the permit to reside in Holland because he said it was in order, holstered his gun, clicked his heels and walked away.  I think I had really tried my luck that time.

In September 1944 the Resistance put us on standby for an Allied invasion and potential action in support of them.  This was the event later filmed as “A Bridge Too Far” where the Allies failed to capture the bridge at Arnhem and the invasion failed.  As a result of this we were stood down and that part of Holland was not liberated until May 1945 – at the very end of the war.

By now, the times were very hard for civilians and occupying armies alike.  Everything was in very short supply and the shops were empty.  Keeping warm was a problem too; there was no gas, water, electricity, water, fire wood, coal, paper or candles.  My mother made up a bowl of water with a little oil floating on the top; a small square of very thin metal with a hole in it held a piece of candle wick.  Together they made up a very feeble light.

With the onset of autumn, the weather became very cold and there were heavy falls of snow, which made matters worse.  Ted and I used to go to bed at 4pm, just to keep warm.  By December, there were people starving and dying of the cold and it became known as the Hunger Winter.

THE HUNGER WINTER

To ease the situation at home, I decided to make for a safe house in the country.  I strapped my kitbag onto my bike and waited for a moonlit night before setting off on my perilous journey.  It was a bit hair-raising, the front tyre sliding all over the place in the snow.    It was not a proper tyre;  it was made from the solid rubber of an old lorry tyre,  held together at the ends by a strong piece of wire.
I pedalled out of town along a minor road, passing the German Military Police Headquarters, on the way.  They were not out and about in the cold and snow, but I could hear them singing as I cycled past.

After going up a small hill, the road intersected with the main road and ran alongside a canal, right opposite the bridge I had to cross.  A sentry came out of his box and shouted “Werda!” meaning who goes there?  At that same moment a German motorcyclist appeared and the sentry turned his attention to him.  I saw my chance and pedalled past at high speed across the bridge.

There was another sentry at the other end of the bridge and he must have thought I had been checked out because he waved and shouted “Gruss Gott”.  He must have been an Austrian conscript and I answered him with the same greeting and cycled on to enter the village of Waddinxveen and then turned right along a dyke.  I reached my destination and slid down the dyke with my bike.

I knocked on the door of a cottage and a big dark shape of a woman let me in; she brought my bike in and then led me up a flight of bare wooden stairs.  She told me so find a place on the floor against the wall.  I wrapped myself in my blanket for warmth but in no time I felt like I was being bitten all over – the place was infested with fleas.

As dawn broke, I noticed several faces peering over the side of a crib and they suddenly jumped out of it and left the room.  Shortly afterwards, the woman appeared from an adjoining room and with her there were three little girls; they also went out of the room.  As it got lighter, I looked at the boys’ crib; it was filled with straw, smelled heavily of urine (they must all have been bed-wetters) and was crawling with fleas – the source of my overnight discomfort.

I made my way downstairs and, as I reached the ground floor, I noticed that the front window was missing and there was snow everywhere.  It was sparsely furnished and had a sideboard with its doors hanging off and clothes hanging out.  I learned that they never washed their clothes but when they could no longer wear them they simply put on new ones. The woman worked for local farmers who all gave her the cast off clothing of their own kids.

I walked along a corridor at the end of which was a scullery, also with a broken window and with snow lying around and piled up against the wall.  I entered the living room, which was full of dirty looking kids, and the eldest boy – whom I called Piet – told me that the large stove was still warm, but they had no more wood.  I told him that we must get more wood or we would all die of hypothermia.

Piet and I went down the meadows and found some deserted trenches, shored up by wood.  We dismantled a substantial amount of it and made four trips each carrying it back to the house.  In no time, the stove was burning again and the room was nice and warm.

Piet’s younger brother had long hair and a filthy face so I decided to spruce him up a bit.  I filled a bucket with snow and heated it over the stove, resulting in half a bucket of warm water.  I cut his hair and thoroughly washed his face; he looked really good and when his mother came home she hardly recognised him!

Piet told me that his Grandparents had a smallholding not far away and he was worried about his Grandfather.  Apparently they had had a blazing row and, in the argument, his Grandmother had lost the sight in one eye.  They never spoke again and he was banished from the house to the barn.  Piet asked me to go with him to check up on his Grandfather.  As we entered the barn, the awful smell hit me; I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that this was the putrescent smell of gangrene. The old man was wrapped in a couple of old coats and his feet were covered in wet sacking.  I told Piet that we had to get his Grandfather to hospital as he was in a very poor state.

We hastened back to the house and I wrote a note asking for urgent help.  I waited on the top of the dyke and several people walked past.  I stopped a young girl and asked if she was going to Gouda; she said that she was and so I asked her if she would deliver the note to the Red Cross Station.  She did deliver it and, the next day, two women arrived with a makeshift stretcher suspended on a frame between bicycle wheels.

We took them to the barn, where they put on masks and lifted the old man onto the stretcher then set off on the long journey back to town.  We heard later that he had had both legs amputated but he had not been strong enough to withstand the shock and he had died.  Piet was very upset at the news.

For all the hardships and lack of hygiene, Piet’s mother managed to get a supply of food from the farmers she worked for and we never went too hungry.

By the beginning of 1945, the bombing of Germany increased and we saw many bombers passing over on their way to deliver their deadly load.  One day, as we were watching the bomber stream, hundreds of them, passing overhead, a man standing near me – probably a Nazi sympathiser shook his fist in the air and said that if he ever got his hands on an Englishman, he would kill him. Little did he know that he was standing next to one!

The time had come for me to return to Gouda, but the Germans were very active in the area and were checking the papers of everyone at the bridge so it was difficult for me.  Piet’s mother was very brave; she got on her bike and did a reconnaissance along the canal.  She returned and told me that she had arranged with a farmer to row me across the canal away from the bridge.  He was brave too as it would probably have meant facing a firing squad if he had been caught with an Englishman in his boat.  So, I made my farewells and Piet Was very sorry to see me go.

Once across the canal, I had no trouble getting to Gouda and, apart from a Group of Germans on the corner of my street who just looked at me, I was home.  My mother was surprised to see me and said that she didn’t know how she was going to feed me. 

The big anthracite stove was gone and in its place was a small, round stove on which was a little pan with a white substance in it.  I asked my Mother what it was and she told me that it was something the Germans had issued and it was even difficult to mix with water.  The bread rations were meagre, the slices of brown bread were very small indeed.

Starvation was taking a hold and Queen Wilhelmina asked Churchill, Montgomery and Eisenhower to do an emergency food drop to the people of Holland.  They were reluctant to do so as the aircraft would have to fly very low indeed.  Eventually, an agreement was made with the Germans, the local commanders agreed not to fire on the aircraft providing they flew along strictly demarcated corridors and were unarmed.  As a result, many tons of food were dropped and the Germans honoured their agreement.  One man was killed after being hit by a container and movement of the food was very slow due to the lack of transport – but it was a beginning.  Operation Manna saved many lives in Holland during those closing days of the war.
©New York Times
2nd May 1945
 
British aircraft delivered 6,680 tons of food to Holland (including Gouda) as part of Operation Manna and the Americans delivered about 4,000 tons as part of Operation Chowhound.  This was almost immediately followed by Operation Faust in which 200 lorries were used to deliver food to Rhenen which was also behind German lines.  The grateful Dutch people spelled out a message in Tulips! which could be read from the air; it said “MANY THANKS”.
 
A typical food drop during Operation Manna
 
Food, Peace, Freedom - a locally produced plaque
Giving thanks for the food drop of Operation Manna
and looking forward to peace - only days away
 

FINAL DAYS OF WAR - AND THE AFTERMATH

After the German capitulation, many Dutch people came out on the streets waving Dutch flags – this could be very dangerous as there were still armed Germans everywhere.  The following morning we went into action; I put on my gear and went into action.  I went into the barracks, a large former children’s home with a big courtyard, and was surprised to see the results.  Some people must have got this place ready, right under the noses of the Germans.  There were at least 200 bunk beds, guns, helmets and ammunition.  There was also a Guard Room, a cycle repair shop, first aid post and kitchen.
Young members of the Binnenlandsche Strijdkrachten. 
Egbert is third to the right of the man with the Sten gun
©Egbert Hughes
Ignoring the Germans, we were set to work immediately.  Our Commanding Officer arranged a meeting with the German Town Mayor where it was decided that they would leave peacefully and we would get on with the various tasks necessary in Post-war Holland.  We were tasked with arresting all the Quislings, male and female collaborators and German sympathisers and the guard duties.  We also did our best to stop the groups of people who were intent on cutting off the hair of Dutch girls who had slept with German soldiers.

Not all Germans surrendered immediately and groups of SS troops were still giving trouble and so the Commanding Officer sent men to guard the road blocks and to prevent any rogue troops from coming back into the town and barricading themselves into buildings, causing more casualties.

ID Card as Dispatcher for the emergency
evacuation of Gouda as the German Army
had flooded large areas to delay the Allies
©Egbert Hughes

I and another fellow were sent to a road near Reeuwijk to stop any Germans trying to get back into town.  We took up positions behind a concrete anti-tank barrier, from where we could see the advancing Allies (probably the Canadians) on the High Road, some distance away.  Suddenly a small German motorised column appeared from under the viaduct and began to advance in our direction.  We fired several warning shots and the Germans replied with a salvo of Spandau machine gun fire which scattered concrete chippings in all directions.

The Allies heard the commotion and rushed to the scene where they dealt with the renegade Germans.  A Canadian Jeep with a Sergeant manning a Bren gun came to a halt beside us; they thanked us and told us to go home.  We reported the incident to our C.O. when we returned to the barracks.

Gouda Interior Forces Bronze Plaque
Origin unknown
One evening, I was detailed guard duties and found that I was to be responsible for a candle lit cellar containing nine German prisoners.  They were probably SS and members of a Deathshead group; they were very dangerous men just waiting for interrogation and I was glad when my shift was over.

On the Sunday morning we went to Scheveningen dunes near The Hague where many officers were meeting and we had to stand outside and guard the marquees.  Although it was May, it was cold and wet and I was shivering.  An Officer handed me a glass of whisky through the tent flaps and said that it would warm me up.

After a few weeks, our duties were coming to an end and after handing in my ID, sten gun and armband, I took on the job of an armed guard for the Canadian garrison.  They gave me a German made machine pistol and the food was excellent!  After they left, I became an assistant with 67 Forward Main Store Section, British Army of the Rhine. Under Captain Larkin, who was also the military town Mayor.

At one of his cocktail parties I met a German Jew named Hugo Kahn and his son Helmut (the rest of the family perished in concentration camps) and they offered me a job in their newly founded instrument factory, mainly making drawing instruments.

After working there for several months, I was called to the office, where I was confronted by a very rude man from the Ministry of Labour.  He told me that I had no right to work in Holland without a work permit.  I lost my temper, I was very angry indeed and he left, saying that he would be back that afternoon.  Indeed, he returned with a female Immigration Officer and they decided that, as an alien, I would be deported.

I was taken to their Head Office, where I was seen by the Head of Department.  He was a very nice elderly official; he looked through my Passport and found the letter from HRH Prince Bernhardt thanking me for my efforts during the war.  He returned my passport and said that my deportation order was officially cancelled.  He wrote a letter and told me to go to Rotterdam and sign on as a ship’s steward.  I did just that but they told me that I could not be considered for the job because I was British not Dutch.

On my way home, at the railway station, I picked up an English newspaper in which I saw that the RAF were looking for engineers.  When I told my mother that I would like to join the Royal Air Force, she was all for it.  She bought me a ferry ticket from the Hook of Holland to Harwich and gave me £5 – which was the maximum permitted at the time.  I packed a wicker suitcase and, on 28th February 1947, I set off for dear old Blighty and endured a very rough crossing to Harwich.

This was the end of an era and the start of a new one.  During my time in Holland two Gouda men died in battle; eighteen Resistance fighters were shot by the Germans; another eighteen did not return from prison and forty five people were killed in bombing raids.  Several hundred Jews perished in concentration camps; sixty people did not return from forced labour camps in Germany; hundreds died of cold and hunger and we were bombed six times between 25th February 1941 and November 1944.  The railway was heavily bombed as it was the main junction for trains from Germany to The Hague and Rotterdam and many nurses were killed when the RAF bombed the hospital.