nr 6, juni 1986, is een brief te lezen die was toegezonden door Theo
Daalhuysen. Hij beschreef
daarin hoe hij weer, via A. Loontjes, in contact kwam met de vereniging van
oud-strijders PIB en
vertelde daarin dat zijn ontsnappingsverhaal in een Engels blad was opgenomen.
Hieronder ziet u
het resultaat, uiteraard in het Engels, om aan de originaliteit van het verhaal
geen afbreuk te doen. (met dank aan "De Schakel" en
DUTCH REFUGEES AT HERNE
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
they missed the English coast on this heading, the next land was France,
occupied and unfriendly like their own.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
v.l.n.r. Aad van der Craats, Jan Bastiaan en Jan Jansen
The full list of this brave group of refugees is as follows:
Abraham Levi, born 1910.
Adriaan van der
Jan Bastiaan, born
Gerardus van Asch,
Johannes Jansen, born 1917
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 1948 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
Introduced by Harold Gough
Bygone Kent, Vol.5, number 5, May 1981, 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.
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.
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".
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 U 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
For quitte a
it ran like a top, perhaps an hour or less; then it started to splutter and
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.
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.
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
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 tor 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.
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
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.
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 sec 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.
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.
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.
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 theAlbert 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.
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, wich transferred me in 1958 to the U.S.A. where I now live in
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.