Soon it will be May 10 again – This is the time when we remember what our parents’ generation and their families experienced during the 5 years of the 2nd World War.
This is Jan Groenewegen’s story of May 10, 1940 – Rozenburg
(Rozenburg is a small island in the Waterweg (opposite the town of Maassluis) leading from the Port of Rotterdam to the North Sea)
May 10, 1940! WAR IN THE WEST … … … … … … … … ..
GERMANY AGAINST THE NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM AND FRANCE.
Memories of the first days of the war – experienced and written up by Jan Groenewegen (1906 – 1974) brother of Cor Groenewegen , Rozenburg, NL (translated by Petronella Schuurman – Groenewegen from the original Dutch document into English – April 27, 2011)
Published by JS – Burlington, April 30, 2021
What we as locals experienced during this time.
Rozenburg, NL – Early in the morning of Friday, May 10, 1940 – Many people are gathered in groups, staring at the sky. Some have already seen aerial dogfights. Our fast hunters, the G l ‘s, against German aircraft. Others have seen burning aircraft crash. Many faces show serious warnings of anxiety, yet people stay generally calm.
It is noteworthy, how low the enemy planes are flying. Before noon rumours are circulated with all sorts of stories. Radio announcements state that the German troops in the early morning crossed the border at various places. There is fierce resistance and many enemy aircraft are brought down. But there are also reports of ejected parachute troops landing in various areas.
In the morning at approx. half past three I wake up and my wife asks, “Do you hear all those aircraft?” Yes, I hear the planes, which in itself is nothing special, but there seems to be an usually large number of them in the air.
I get out of bed and come into the kitchen where I can see the sky over the harbour Waterway is indeed flooded with many black monsters. I walk into the front room and see only one man standing on the road, who seemingly appears to be enjoying the nice weather.
At the neighbours, Van Riel and Sala, I see no one. However, I hear in the distance some shooting. I think that is probably the Dutch Airforce holding training maneuvers and decide, being still sleepy, to go back to bed. Around seven o’clock, I get up and wash myself. I hear someone stumbling up the iron stairs. It is Krijn Pols, one of our machinists who steps into the kitchen and calmly observes: “They are really at it!” “Yes, is my answer, they certainly are holding great training manoeuvres.”Great training manoeuvres? Man, we’re in the middle of a war, we’re in the thick of it!” ”War?” I ask surprised, “With whom?” ”With the Germans,” said Krijn. He goes to work and I’m going to wash and dress and have a tea.
It’s a miracle that I take everything so calmly, although I simultaneously observe a great apprehension inside of me wanting to challenge this intruder. When I come down in the shop the staff is at work, but whenever bombers or large transport aircraft fly over the “Buurt”, (ie neighbourhood),everyone runs outside to the road.
Picture of the business of Jan, Piet & Klaas in Rozenburg
Just before noon, as I am standing by his garage with Adr. Hartman, speaking to him, we hear distant machine gun fire in the air. Later we hear that those were aerial dogfights in the west direction of the coast.
At the same time – almost half past eleven – I see in the direction of the Staaldiepsedijk (but known to the residents of Rozenburg – as the Brielseheuvel) an aircraft circling low, and then dropping out of sight. We get the impression that this is a German unit that has landed.
Hartman and I take steps to immediately jump in my “Opel” and drive to the “Heul”. There are many people standing on the causeway. From them we learn that in indeed a German plane has landed in the” Droespolder “, situated close near the bush owned by the Brothers Oosterlee. This machine landed in a wheat field owned by Jaap van Dorp. Twelve soldiers get out and start pushing to turn the plane so that it could take off again, but then immediately disappear into the nearby woods, to take cover. We drive by car as quick as possible back to the “de Buurt”, to the town hall to let the mayor know what has happened. Jaap van Dorp on his motorcycle riding at high speed had arrived a little earlier to bring the same message of doom.
The mayor phones army captain Smeele located in the “Sheurpolder” and requests as soon as possible that they send a military unit. This is not immediately possible, as in the Noordbankpolder, close to the Sheurpolder another German plane with l4 soldiers had also landed. This plane could not take off as it ended up in a ditch, with the landing gear broken off. The division of Dutch soldiers in the Scheurpolder were already engaged trying to capture the landed Germans. It was not easy to do as in the meantime they had taken cover in one of the barns of the Noordbank. So we could not expect help from there at this time.
The German soldiers had now left their cover in the Droespolder and had traveled to “de Heul”. There they asked Leen Luyendyk if he could tell them where they could find someone to lend them a truck. Leen referred them to Jan J. A. Pols by the Zandweg who had a Chevrolet for transporting cattle and vegetables to the auction at the market. Jan Pols had already seen this coming and had disabled his car just in time.
However. later Leen Luyvendijk was charged and arrested as he had provided information to the enemy and was sent to jail at Fort Hoek van Holland.
But the Germans were still at large and military aid was uncertain.
Already during mobilization a searchlight had been mounted in the “Oudepolder” Kerkdijk – close to Reijer van Gaalen’s, in his pasture, with a group of military operators. These soldiers had fired their guns at the German planes flying over the fields. Apparently the Germans did not like this, because early in the afternoon, a plane flew over very low, and dropped a few bombs in Blankenburg . One of those bombs fell in the ditch right behind the transformer boxes depot opposite the shoe store of Joh. Voorberg and the bookstore of J. M. Robbemond . As a result the windows and roof tiles of the surrounding houses, including Korsen Jack Kleijwegt, Pleun Breukel, C. Quak, the painter and the shop and café Sissy Santos were largely destroyed. It was fortunate that the bomb fell behind the dike and transformer boxes depot, but nevertheless it was a miracle that in this densely populated neighbourhood there were no personal injuries.
Old Joor Poldervaart stood on the dike, but because he was extraordinary hard of hearing barely noticed the bombs. When someone mentioned that a bomb had just exploded he said, “Oh, is that what it was? I thought I heard something.”
The second bomb fell outside the polder onto the so called “Zeven margen”, not far from the farm of Arie Barendregt Joh.z.
John Klink, an employee of Jack de Jong Sr. so called “the man of Trippie” had been busy spreading fertilizer. This man must have possessed imperturbable nerves, because the bomb exploded so close by him as he was spreading the fertilizer, that he was lifted, several feet off the ground by the air pressure. When he landed on the ground, he calmly continued his work. He apparently felt that you cannot stop for every “little” thing.
The “deafening noise” of aircraft continued to fill the air. All around, one could here stories and rumours that were more or less embellished. Later we discovered what had been true or false. Thus, the radio reported that an armoured train crossing a bridge to Maastricht full of German soldiers had been blown up. It was said that German paratroopers in peasant clothing and in Dutch army uniforms, had landed in Holland. In some cities N.S.B.ers (Dutch who sympathized with the Germans) had fired on Dutch soldiers and that there were many betrayals done everywhere.
Meanwhile, our mayor Esquire L.G. Just de la Paisieres telephoned for reinforcement to help capture the Germans who had landed in the Droespolder. This help proved still not possible, even though the mayor called a number of addresses, no soldiers could be transferred to assist with this. However, some operators who manned the searchlight from the Oudepolder were summoned to the center of Rozenburg.
Indeed, it was anticipated that the landed Germans, who were heavily armed, would try to occupy the town post office. The German soldiers were now out of the Graspolderdijk and were moving in the direction to the Waterweg.
During the afternoon it was told by Piet Van Darn that some Germans had called at the Zanddijk demanding to make a telephone call.
When I came home in the afternoon there were two Dutch soldiers from the searchlight in the Oudepolder, sitting in our livingroom. They had opened the windows and sat with their guns facing outward. This measure was necessary to monitor and guard the town post office. If in case the enemy soldiers would decide to actually get to the post office this was sure to cause a firefight. So my wife with Cootje and taking along what was most needed, decided to leave our house in order to avoid any potential hazards. Tea had been made and I poured the troops a cup and lit a cigarette and tried to remain as calm as possible.
The German soldiers did not show themselves.
After the mayor had tried in vain all afternoon to get a military detachment to come to Rozenburg, he decided to take and make a radical decision.
Some forty members of the Rozenburg Civilian Guard (Burgerwacht) were called in the afternoon to report to J. van der Knaap. We were all given a rifle and a couple rounds of live ammunition.
Daughters of J. Van der Knaap pinned a band around the arm of each of us, so that we would be recognizable to each other.
Under the leadership of the Commander of the Civilian Guard Jac. Moll F.z. and former President Mr S.C. Heiden, we went by bicycle in the direction of Zanddijk.
At the corner of Zanddijk – Zandweg he split us into two groups. One group led by Commander Jac. Moll would advance along the Vinkdijk. The other group under the command of S.C. van Helden went over the Zandweg to the Heul, so that via the Graspolderdijk we could reach our goal. In this way, the German soldiers were approached from two sides. Meanwhile however, they had nestled in the grain barn of Adam Barendregt Nz, on the Vinkdijk, behind the house and the marketgarden of A.van derVliet. When our group approached the Heul, Mr. VanHelden called a halt and asked for a volunteer to bike to the Graspolderdijk to see if the Germans had remained in their quarters. For this Ariel van der Meijde of “Kiewietenburg” made himself available.
Van der Meijde left his gun behind and rode as an ordinary citizen slowly through the Graspolderdijk. When Van Meijde did not immediately return the commander asked for two more two volunteers to move approx. two hundred meters further down the dike and act as an observation post. R.C.Booden, the butcher and I (Jan Groenewegen, jo b.) volunteered. We took position behind a thorn hedge where we could overlook the polder, so that if the Germans attacked us it would not be unexpected. Meanwhile, Van Meijde returned and reported that the enemy was still in the Barendregt barn. He also reported that the other half of our group of Civilian Guards were approx. 300 meters before the “Vink”, directly behind a levee. Hence they had a good view of the barn where the Germans were hiding.
Our Commander had no intention to attack the Germans, since we still hoped that a group of regular soldiers would arrive from the Scheurpolder. Indeed there were fairly reliable reports that some were coming. Anton (Tone) and Rocus (Rook) Geluk of the Scheurpolder just came from there with the wife of Rook and her child in their car.
They were the ones who could tell us if soldiers were on their way to help us. In the car sat a Dutch soldier, black as a gypsy with a revolver in his hand. He said, in the afternoon, after a fierce gun scrimmage on the Noordbank (de Vluchtheuvel), some landed enemy soldiers had been overpowered and taken prisoner. However, before we had any further assurance that help was on the way, our Commander took a different decision. He asked if there was a volunteer who could go to the Germans and summon them to surrender.
It was Daan Weeda who volunteered and per motorcycle proceeded to the covered barn of Barendregt. Weeda had worked in Germany for some time, so that made him a good candidate for the job.
Some time passed and it began to get dark when finally from the direction of Staaldiepsedi I heard a truck approaching. It was the long awaited soldiers from the Scheurpolder!
Among them was a Rozenburger, namely Peter Joh. Doorduin L.z. After their officer had received information from us about the situation, the truck drove cautiously toward the Germans. Our group also started to move towards the German location.
Meanwhile volunteer Daan Weeda had returned and reported that the Germans wanted to give themselves up. Initially they were not going to, because they felt to be surrounded by English and they certainly did not want to surrender to the English. Daan Weeda had assured them that they were surrounded by a predominance of Dutch soldiers. The Germans asked Daan Weeda at his solemn word that all were Dutch. After Daan Weeda had explicitly managed to convince them of that fact, then the Germans finally declared their willingness to surrender. If our forty Civilian Guards with rifles – mostly untrained – had been pushed into a firefight with them, then it would have been a disastrous outcome for us, because these 12 German soldiers were armed with rifles, hand grenades in their boots, and a heavy machine gun and revolvers.
Luckily it did not come to a fight.
Along with the group of Dutch soldiers who had already arrived, there came from the other side, along the dike of the Crown Lands Estate, another truck, with a detachment of Dutch soldiers. Our commander decided that the honour of the capture was given to the first group of soldiers who had arrived first from the ScheurPolder.
However, the Germans were surrounded on two sides to make sure they surrendered without firing a shot. Their machine gun and machine gun cartridges, etc. more than 12 boxes, were loaded on the trucks. That was not the only thing they had with them, but also: vitamin tablets, morphine tablets, powders, medicines and supplies for many days.
It was even said that they had tablets with them, on which they could live for more than thirty days! The German soldiers were now lined up with the Dutch soldiers in front and the Civilian Guard taking up the rear, and so the procession marched to “de Buurt” (neighbourhood), on to the town hall.
On the Zanddijk, were many people, and when we marched through, there was a spontaneous singing of the national anthem “Wihelmus.”
While we were marching, another German plane flew over very low, and could have opened machine gun fire on us. But the darkness had already set in, so they probably could not see us from the plane. Also in the “de Buurt” where the word had gotten out, there were many spectators along the route.
The captain of the Scheur Polder was initially planning to accommodate the Germans in the
barn of Abr. Qualm – next to the mill.
Since the barn was difficult to lock up, he judged it better to take them to take the Scheur Polder and then transfer them to the Fort at Hoek van Holland.
Some more trucks were needed for transport, as the vehicles of the Dutch soldiers would otherwise be too crowded. The vehicles of truckers J. van of Houtfen, A L Noordermeer, were used for this unique transport, – a total of four –. Dutch soldiers were placed around the Germans for security.
Since two of the Rozenburg trucks had to come back, the mayor was asked to appoint an escort. For one it was J. Marsman and for the other, I, Jan Groenewegen was appointed.
It was about half past eleven when the convoy of soldiers and prisoners left the “Buurt” and drove in the direction of the Scheur Polder. It was very dark and we were of course driving with our lights extinguished. The captain led in the front car, and from there gave orders.
Thus the entourage rode with Dutch soldiers, two Civilian Guards and twelve captured German soldiers, slowly, and cautiously through the night. Luckily it was pretty quiet in the air. The roar of aircraft engines, machine guns and artillery fire was temporarily silenced. Only in the distance we could hear occasional noise.
I sat in the cab of a truck next to a military driver. He said he lived in Tilburg. He had heard rumours that Tilburg was bombed and he was very concerned and anxious for his wife and child. To reassure him, I could tell him I had heard nothing about a bombardment in Tilburg. (We later heard that there had been no bombing in Tilburg)
There were so many rumours circulating that it was better not to believe anything unless it was absolutely confirmed.
At the junction Zanddijk – Zandweg, a soldier jumped on the running board of our car in order to catch a ride. We offered him a seat in the cabin, but he declined, it was going OK he said. So I gave him a cigarette, which he gratefully accepted.
Later I heard that he was named “the Belsch”. His nationality was Dutch, but he had spent a long time in Belgium. It seemed he used two or three dialects interchangeably, because he was difficult to understand.
At the beginning of the Zandweg, near the house of Mr. ter Haar, the captain signaled a stop. “The Belsch” jumped off the footboard. But because the sheath of his bayonet was between his knees, he slid underneath the still moving vehicle. We felt the rear wheels going over him and thought the worst. I jumped out of the cab and to our great surprise, “the Belsch” crawled out from under the truck. When I asked him whether anything was wrong he replied soberly: “Nothing! The wheel just went over my leg!” (L vdHout and A. Klapwijk were the drivers). “Is your leg not broken? No, I have a good set of legs. Everything is in order! ”
“I advised him to go and sit in the cab, but he disappeared again so he could receive orders from the captain.
After this interlude we drove further on the Zandweg, along the Staaldiepsedijk, through the Krabbe Polder. On the “Krabbedijk” near the bakery of Simon van den Berg we had to stop. The captain wanted to inspect everything.
That gave me and some others the opportunity to get a few sandwiches and a glass of beer. When I wanted to pay I found that my wallet was lost … … … ..
And then the procession went on through the night, we passed by the “Vereniging tot Landverbetering”, i.e. the Society for Land Improvement, the Zeehondpolder, Schutsluis, Noordbankpolder (the Seal Polder, the lock, and the northbank polder) and so without any further problems we reached the dunes of the Scheur Polder.
At the beginning of the Scheurpolder roadway, near the farm of P.H. DeBruyne, and the brothers Geluk, the truck belonging to A L Noordermeer caught fire and so stayed temporarily behind. The other vehicles drove on to the “de Blokkeet”, also known as” (Volkskeet) People Hut “, or “The Shack “. This was the command post of the officers and also the quarters of the Dutch soldiers.
That same night the German prisoners were transported to the Fort at Hoek van Holland.
In the canteen I asked “the Belsch” if I could look at his leg. He pulled off his shoe and pulled stocking down to show that his leg was only slightly bruised. He was absolutely right: He did have good legs! But later I heard that he had to sit the following day because one leg was stiff and sore. In the canteen we noticed two coffins.
Here were the bodies of Lieutenant Theunissen and the soldier from Rotterdam. Both coffins were covered with the Dutch flag. These two brave men had already sacrificed their lives for the fatherland in the struggle for justice and freedom!
So, how did this tragedy in the Scheurpolder occur? Here are the details.
In the morning (it’s still the first day of the war, May 10) a German transport plane had landed in the Noord Bank Polder carrying 14 enemy soldiers.
The landing was improperly executed because the pilot did not approach the field in its length but in its width, which was considerably smaller and near a spot where it was horizontally separated by ditches. While taxiing over the field, the first ditch became a fatal obstacle. The landing gear broke off and the plane finally collapsed a few dozen meters further onto its belly. Takeoff was therefore impossible. The Germans got out and headed for the farm “Noord Bank” from which the residents had already fled. Only the superintendent was still present. He was forced under gun threats to cut the phone lines. The Germans then nestled in one of the barns of the “Noord Bank”.
Meanwhile, scouts of the Dutch soldiers in the Scheur Polder had duly observed the landing of German aircraft. At that time, however, they could not miss any soldiers to go and possibly capture the German troops. The anti-air craft battery platoon also had their hands full with their defence against the German low-flying Heinkels etc. and giving protecting for the coast terrain. Captain Smeele decided to harass the Germans in the carriage barn of the “Noord Bank” with grenades fired from the “Scheur Polder”. The barn was shot in half and the Germans took refuge in a ditch behind the farm workers’ houses.
Captain Smeele also had to focus on the other side, the north bank of the waterway. There were about 70 German soldiers who had been dropped off by a military transport aircraft that had landed on a piece of land behind the “Staalduinse Bosch” at the Maasdijk on the river side. The coastal batteries from Hoek of Holland now took the “Bosch Staalduinse” under fire.
In the afternoon a group of approx. 15 Dutch troops were sent to the “Noord Bank” under the command of Lieutenant Theunissen.
On the dike where the road to the Norwegian bank, also called “Schulppad” ended, the group split in two columns. One had to go to out along the Zeedijk to the Brielsche Maas and so get behind the ‘Eende Kooi’ around the dike and then right across to the Noord Bank. The other column led by Lieutenant Theunissen would proceed along the dike of the “Schulppad”, so-called “Dooie Gat”, and then directly to the “Noord Bank”. In this way, the enemy would be surrounded and trapped. In the middle of the polder between the Eende Kooi and Schulppaddijk and about halfway the Noord Bank, lay the crippled German (plane) Juncker. When about opposite to the plane, Lieutenant Theunissen called for a halt.
Through his binoculars on the “Noord Bank” he saw the enemy soldiers on the hill entrenched in a ditch. Believing that the other column was now at its agreed point near the Eende Kooi dike, he ordered machine gunner Huub Raymakers to fire his machine gun first at the plane to see if there were any more Germans left behind or in the Junker. This order did not fall on deaf ears, because Huub Raymakers was a good soldier, who was just itching for a fight. However there were no longer any Germans in or around the plane.
Then Lieutenant Theunissen commanded his soldiers to take up their positions behind the dike and instructed that the guns and the machine gun be set up and aimed at the ditch of the dike in front of the “Noord Bank”. “Fire!” commanded the lieutenant and a volley was directed at the ditch. The action was obviously to close for comfort for the enemy because suddenly a white cloth flag went up. They wanted to surrender!
Theunissen rose up from behind the levee and along with him a soldier from Rotterdam who had been lying next to him. At that moment a very tragic event happened. One of the Dutch soldiers continued firing several times. The Germans, thinking that the fight was continuing, fired back and Lieutenant Theunissen was hit and fell backwards! DEAD!
The soldier from Rotterdam dies beside him moments later! This was a terrible critical moment. Two dead, including the commander, so now the group leadership was gone. A corporal of the Navy takes the lead and gives Huub Raymakers the assignment to go over the dike and through the polder to contact the other column behind the Eende Kooi dike for help.
When Raymakers rolls down the dike and crosses the road, bullets whistle around his ears. He gains the ditch that runs through the polder and so crawling through the ditch comes to the other dike. Since the road, called the Schulppad, is also under fire from the Germans, it is impossible for him to go on.
Raymakers then returns back to the dike again and finds just four of his comrades, the corporal is gone and with the machine gun! “Where is the Corporal?” he asked “the Belsch” who had stayed, replies, “he has run away and taken the machine-gun too!”
The soldiers now abandoned with a heartfelt manner air their anger at the cowardly behaviour of the corporal. This is an awkward situation for the remaining men.
Two dead, two wounded and a corporal gone with the machine gun.
Raymakers asks the others whether they are also planning to flee.
“THAT NEVER!” says “the Belsch”. The others also confirm they are not thinking to just walk away.
Raymakers then takes the lead. From behind the dike, fire is again opened on the Germans. Whether the group behind the Eende Kooi opened fire, or because possibly the Germans were thinking they are now surrounded by a major force, again the white flag rises up for the second time!
“We will now be more careful, Raymakers said, you guys stay behind the dike here, I’ll nab them.” Does Raymakers think he can do it alone? No, that is impossible!
He was strongly aware that if the Germans knew that there are only a few Dutch soldiers behind the dike, they would change their mind and would not surrender.
Raymakers therefore devises an equally daring and cheeky-like – cunning plan.
Arriving at the group of Germans – still hidden in the ditch at the bottom of the “Noord Bank” hill – he summons them to throw down their arms, which they promptly do. Then he tells the German soldiers, that they must go over – in one by one intervals – to his companions behind the dike. He orders them to walk on the Schulppad and not go behind the dike before they are in sight of the downed aircraft.
He begins by taking away the weapons of the first German and then sends him along the agreed upon route. When this man had gone far enough, he tells the second to go and so the progress starts with intervals – up to the last man. He threatens them individually that they would inevitably be shot if they did not follow his orders … ..
After the last man Raymakers goes back to his group behind the dike.
“The Belsch” loved it! He enthusiastically enjoyed the look on the faces of the stunned Germans when they arrived behind the dike and see only four soldiers … … … ….
Some of them were cursing like sailors. But yes, they were disarmed, so it was over for them. Now – finally – the other column from the Eende Kooi comes along and together they march the prisoners to the Scheur Polder.
These Germans were then transferred to the Fort at Hoek van Holland.
The cowardly corporal, who absconded with the machine gun, meanwhile was locked up in the same Fort!
These were some of the trials and tribulations on the first day of the war on our island.
We arrive back to the ‘town center’ later that night from the Scheur Polder without further delay.
In the office of the Civilian Defense Guards I found the mayor Esquire L G Just de la Paisieres and give him a report of our trip.
The next morning early, the hum and drone of aircraft starts again. Going to work or doing business was the furthest from our minds. Everywhere you saw groups of people together discussing the overwhelming news of the German invasion communicated in the news and through the radio. It was said that already in the first days of the war, our air defense fighters had shot down 185 German aircrafts. That the IJssel line held its ground and that the enemy near Mill (N.Br.) had been beaten back. Moreover, we have relied on our Grebbeline and Waterline and with the Afsluitdike and our G 1 airforce fighters that we would beat them! We did not, however know, that most of these fast jets had been made inoperable through obscure causes, or that a large part of our army had already been paralyzed and beaten.
Saturday, I drove along with the Civilian Guard police patrol car. We passed through the Crown Domain Estate, the Krabbe Polder and Brielse Hill and then back to the “Buurt”.
There was nothing special to note, except the constant drone of planes, the roar of the guns from Hoek van Holland and the rattle of machine guns in the distance. However, some citizens were starting in making shelters to protect them from the planes.
In the evening we were assigned some soldiers that would stay with us in our house. A division of soldiers from the Scheur Polder had been sent to monitor the post office. The office of our business would be set up for as a sleeping place for a sergeant and four soldiers. One of the soldiers Hugh Raymakers, a Brabander came and boarded with us. Sergeant Kiers was by Van Riel and the rest stayed with other neighbours. Sergeant Kiers came to me that night asking if I could deliver with my Opel (car), an order that he wanted to convey to Captain Smeele in the Scheur Polder. Herman Oosterman also a Civilian Guard would come along. We took our guns with us.
It was already dark when we left. Again we drove with lights extinguished. On the Way to the Krabbe Polder some soldiers suddenly appeared from the grass shoulder of the road and called on me to stop. One of them came with a gun in his hand to the door and asked who we were. “Civilian Guards,” was our reply. “Legimitatiebewijs!” (Permission and identification papers) said the soldier. Well we did not have any. I pointed to the orange band around my arm. “Anyone can get a band,” remarked the soldier casually. In the meantime, I stepped out of the car. Suddenly the soldier turned his gun on my chest. He shouted excitedly: “Guys, they have guns in their car!” I did not feel comfortable with that particular gun against my jacket. “There is nothing special that we as Civilian Guards have guns with us,” I remarked. “I see that you are soldiers from the Scheur Polder, well we are on the way to Captain Smeele with an order from Sergeant Kiers.” “And you, I told the soldier that was still holding his gun against my chest, are private Hendersen who was once with us on a soldier’s night out last winter in Rozenburg and who played so brilliantly on the accordion.”
Finally, one of the soldiers seemed to recognize me and thus the danger was averted. We could drive on. The turmoil of the soldiers could be explained because all of us had heard rumours of treason. It had been told that the Germans were helped by the NSBers who would shoot up light flares that would signal the German pilots so they would know where they could land. Also sniper fire from houses and hidden places had been observed that had killed some Dutch soldiers … ….
There were a few individuals in Rozenburg who were picked up and taken to the Fort at Hoek van Holland. Among others, Mr. R. Sloots, the manager of the Association for Land Improvement and Mr. G. Staal of Scheur Polder farm, both suspected of favouring the enemy. Some who had been arrested were later released because they were found to be innocent. To minimize risk, however, most known local NSBers were searched out and locked up.
As we continued our way through the Crown Lands and onto the dike along the waterway near the lock, we unexpectedly came upon a truck with some soldiers. Some came directly at us and asked what we intended. When I told them that we were on the way to Captain Smeele, they asked us to notify him that they were stranded with a faulty vehicle.
Just as I looked across to the bridge at the Schutsluis (lock) the lock Keepers House, I suddenly saw someone raise a rifle with bayonet in front of the windshield of our car. I stopped and asked the soldier what that was all about. “Who are you?” he asked. We introduced ourselves and the soldier asked us to go back to the lieutenant, as he also had a message for Captain Smeele. The lieutenant asked us that when we got back to Rozenburg whether we could contact Warden Kruyswijk and the (duck) cage farmer Van der Meer, who had been evacuated there. We had to ask for the keys to the locked Schutsluis building.
The Lieutenant with his men would welcome the opportunity to make this their home as long as was needed. We promised we would do so.
Then finally we could go on our way to the Scheur Polder to deliver our message from Captain Sergeant Kiers to Captain Smeele.
It had become a journey with obstacles.. … … ….
Warden Kruyswijk was billeted in town with constable Hardenbol and so off we went to get the keys to his house. Kooi boss Van der Meer was in Zanddijk with his parents in the “verrolde” house, behind the Christian Reformed Church.
Here, just that afternoon, another fallen son had been brought home. He as a sailor on the Waterway, had just been killed. He had been onboard a pilot boat, which they said had a cargo of gold on board and was on its way to England but then had been bombed (betrayed by treason?)
Kooi boss van der Meer rode back to the Schutsluis (lock). When we arrived we were immediately brought to the Lieutenant. The house of Van der Meer in the meantime had been opened by the soldiers by sticking their bayonets in the door! The Lieutenant took the keys and asked us about the overall situation. Meanwhile he kept his revolver in his hand, even when he was lighting up his cigarette! Van der Meer took some mattresses out of his house and brought them into the back of the car.
On the way back through the Crown Domain Estate, between “number one” and “The Vink” I thought I saw a truck coming. It was pitch dark, so I sounded my horn with all my might, but the truck continued with renewed speed. In order to avoid a collision, I threw the wheel to the left and drove into the ditch at the bottom of the dike.
The impact was severe. The Kooi boss in the back seat banged into my back and landed on my neck. Herman Oosterman who had his rifle between his knees, got hit by the barrel of his gun giving him a big bump on his forehead. We jumped out of the car and concluded that it was Henk Hoffmann, Jaspert van der Hout’s driver who delivered us that ‘bargain’. I asked him how he could be so dumb and stupid, with no light to drive at such a speed.
But Hoffman was shaking from nerves and from the blow and the terror of the collision. He said he had to pick up soldiers in the Scheur Polder. We advised him to slow down a bit, as his wild driving could attract a couple of gunshots from deployed guards here and there. Hoffmann said that as he approached the ship’s light at the Vinkseweg he had seen something suspicious and sent someone back to the “Buurt” to get some soldiers to investigate. “What have you seen?” we asked. Yes, he suspected that spies or whoever were toying with the lights.
When we drove by we could see nothing suspicious. We saw lights flickering in the ship’s light but that in our opinion was only a reflection.
On the Zanddike there suddenly again appeared a car in front of us. We had to stop. It turned out to be a expensive luxury car. It was the “two-seater Buick” with a ‘Dicky’ seat owned by G. Staalduinen from Scheur polder. Out of the ‘Dicky’ seat jumped two soldiers with bayonets on their rifles and came over to our car. “Identify yourselves!” they yelled. “Civilian Guards” I cried.
After they had looked us over we could continue. But they also asked us if we had come along the ship’s light by the “Vinksweg” and had seen anything suspicious. We told of our meeting with Henk Hoffman, but expressed the suspicion that he had probably been mistaken by the reflections in the mirrors.
It was about half past twelve now before we returned to the town police station to report by the mayor. “So,” I said to the mayor, “I don’t like to go out again as Civilian guard without proper identification and permission papers. The risk to be shot by a Dutch soldier cannot be underestimated at this time.”
TWO DAYS OF WAR WERE OVER
Sunday May l2, 1940 – First Pentecost Day
Church services just continued as always, although less crowded. Many people had duties and service responsibilities such as a Civilian guards or as air protection defence personnel, but some groups are also busy digging shelters, for private or shared use.
From the battlefront we hear only vague confusing rumours, such as: Our troops are withdrawning from the IJssel line but have kept their stand at the Grebbeberg at Rhenen, where there is fierce fighting. In the “Peel” there is a stand off. Germans are seeming to try to reach the Afsluitdike from Friesland. They are bombing the Fort at Kornwerderzand, from the air but without result. This Fort covers the Afsluisdike and any attempt by the Germans to gain the dike comes to failure. Also there appears to be two Dutch destroyers in the Wadden Sea, which also control access to the Afsluitsdike with their deadly fire.
Then this news: that many Germans are killed in their still persistent efforts to capture the Afsluitsdike.
At the town hall there is a constant watch by Civilian Guards. This Sunday morning it’s my turn. A group of workers are busy in front of the police station digging a bomb shelter. The police station is in fact designated as headquarters for the Air Protection defence. Young girls are listening to the radio reports that give the route of the enemy aircrafts and then write these into a report. The girls do this together by rotating two hours on and two hours off. The mayor is very busy with incessant telephone calls, telegrams, meetings etc. Meanwhile, I walk with a rifle over my shoulder back and forth in front of the town hall.
I smoke one cigarette after another and occasionally check out the bomb shelter construction. Around eleven we get coffee. By twelve there is a little distraction. A German bomber comes flying low over from the west, behind the mill of Van der Wilt. Suddenly he is overtaken by a Dutch hunter. “Ha!” we thought, now we shall see something! The hunter streaks through the sky with machine guns rattling, but then veers off in another direction. The bomber was not hit conclusively, as it seems to continue its way undisturbed. Too bad, this was an incomprehensible setback.
The Sunday does not bring any further noteworthy events. As directed by the Commander of the Civilian Guard, I do duty again in the evening at Maassluis ferry moorings together with Civilian Guard Bouw Leeuwenburgh. The guard duties would last four hours. We went in at six o’clock. It was pretty cold and so we camp behind the bicycle hut of brothers Van Dam to keep warm. Our task was to stop all persons who wanted to board the ferry and then ask to see their ID proof and if they carry with them suitcases and packages to open them for us to check.
During the early evening we are busy. There are mostly people from (provinces of) Brabant and Zeeland going home or to visit family. There were some for The Hague, Haarlem, Amsterdam and even for Den Helder. Many were on bicycle, some even on foot.
Train travel was not without problems and not always possible. The military had first say to the trains as necessary troop transportation. Some railway lines and bridges had been destroyed and made impassable. Some areas were occupied by German paratroopers. The island IJsselmonde e.g. was from the first day of war – May 10 – occupied by the enemy. It was also told that out of some Rhine-ships in the Rotterdam port, on the morning when the war broke out, there suddenly many Germans soldiers appeared. Even news that out of the Velo factories near the Barendrecht bridge armored vehicles and tanks appeared suddenly. In any case, it was determined that on the first day of the war all the bridges on the island IJsselmonde had easily fallen into Germans hands. But not the Maasbrug bridge in Rotterdam. On this bridge, the Marines of Rotterdam immortalized their reputation. With fierce anger they defended the bridge and held it till our final surrender.
About this action the following was first told to us: Any German soldier, who tried from the left bank to approach the bridge was a marked child of death. One enemy soldier, who had come close to the bridge and had taken hold of a machine gun, thus swiping the bridge, was suddenly attacked and killed by a Marine! This Marine had crawled along the outside of the bridge railing from the other side and had taken the German completely by surprise. Germans in rubber boats who had tried to gain the right riverbank were stopped dead by the Marines who awaited them on the banks and with the butt of their rifle smashed the brains of the enemy or kicked them back into the water and drowned them. “This saves bullets,” said the Marines. After the first days of the war, the story was that most of the Marines had been killed. Later it appeared that only few were killed right there. The destroyer the “Jan van Galen” had helped to protect the Maasbruggen and thereby also played a big part in launching the defence of Rotterdam. Also that it had shot down a few German fighters. In the last days of the war, however, this hunter was hit and sunk.
On the second day after the ‘capitulation’ (the Dutch stopped fighting) (Thursday May l6) when I visited devastated Rotterdam, I could still see traces of the struggle for the Maasbrug. There were spots of blood on and before the bridge, shot through uniforms, guns, etc. On the broken iron joists of the bridge I could see were the bullets had banged against the steel railings. Here and there were still vehicles riddled by bullets. The iron lion statues on “the Lion Bridge” also had bullet marks! Here and there pieces were shot off and a lion was missing an eye. Nevertheless, the lions still stood proud and fierce glaring into the world! Was not that the true symbol of the Dutch Lion?
Although injured, but once recovered, again shaking his mane proudly!
Back to the guard duty at the Maassluis ferry.
Among the passengers who we had checked was one of Austrian nationality. Everything that was German, or appeared as so was distrusted. We detained this young man briefly, and sent a message to the police station. Village constable Hardenbol came and checked his papers and subsequently let him through for transit. Some Dutchmen who heard this young man, including a lawyer (he said he was a lawyer), made a lot of fuss around this arrest, especially since they thereby also missed the ferry. The “lawyer” had an especially big mouth. I exhorted him to calm down as he might be the next one to be detained. That helped!
As the evening progressed it became quieter, and steadily colder up on the Hill. I buttoned up my coat as tightly as possible and we started to walk back and forth without really warming up any.
Finally we came up with an idea to send someone to Stoffel van Dam to get the key to the bicycle shop. When we got this we could go inside and find some wood through a hatch from under the floor, so we could warm up the stove!
“There, said Bouw Leeuwenburgh, that’s better!” From then on we took turns outside to keep watch. It was now dark and if someone did come along, we held up our rifle as a stop sign.
Mr. ter Haar, the Ferry Commissioner came around to ask us whether we knew who had the key for the siren unit. He suspected that the mayor had sent someone to take away the key. He was clearly annoyed and grumbled that he would not let himself be treated as a rascal (kwaai jonge). Since he was known as a NSBer (Nazi sympathizer), naturally he was not to be trusted. (with the key)
Around ten o’clock, we were relieved by the blacksmith Peter Moree and someone else, and we could go home. I came in through the office, and there rested the ‘guardians’ of our post office, and in the middle sleeping quietly Sergeant Kiers. It was the first time in the three days of the war that I could turn in for some night rest.
Second Pentecost day – Monday May 13, 1940
It is obvious not a real celebration day under these circumstances. The sufferings of war, the insecurity, the fate of our boys on the battle lines, the many stories doing the rounds, the constant drone of enemy aircraft, tends to prevent people to think about the meaning of Pentecost. They think of the impact that the war has, what is the meaning of this all.
Increasingly the focus is on the West! Where is the assistance that is so often spoken about? Where are the British? Where are those planes? Where is the famous British fleet? Didn’t they promise they would help us against the Germans? All these questions are constantly asked, but remains to be responded to … ….
The radio reports that our troops on the Grebbeberg line remain steadfast against the intruder.
Also it is reported that many planes are being shot down. But, what about “the Peel”, can they hold on there?
However, generally it seems that the enemy paratroopers and other landing troops have been captured. At the airport bases of Ypenburg and Valkenburg and near the Ockenburg estate, and in the vicinity of Dordrecht, most of the enemy paratroopers did not survive their landing on the ground.
After lunch, I am go with soldier Raymakers, upon order of Sergeant Kiers, to bring a report to Captain Smeele in the Scheur Polder. We will go with my own Opel and brother Peter Groenewegen will come along.
In the North Bank Polder the downed German plane lies still stranded in the middle of the beet field. Raymakers proposes to stop and investigate the plane. Just as we stop, from the other side of the “Schulppad”, (in the direction of the Scheur Polder), a truck drives up.
Suddenly a shot is fired from the truck. Raymakers sees that they are the soldiers from the Scheur Polder and makes a sweeping motion with his left arm to stop.
They drive towards us. “Why did you shoot?” Raymakers asked.. “Oh, that was only meant as a warning”, they said, “to find out who you were”.
I asked Raymakers why the others responded to his arm signal. He said that this sign was a recognised army signal for all soldiers.
The driver of the truck was Henk Hoffman (again) and the men were on their way to remove the gas tanks from the German Juncker.
We leave the Opel standing at the roadside and walk in between the beets to the aircraft. Now from nearby, we could see the broken landing gear of the plane. As Raymakers had already indicated the plane had been fired at by a machine gun. Well, the aircraft was full of bullet holes. My brother Peter and I got into the plane to check it out thoroughly. There was room for twelve people. On both sides of the plane were six fixed seats and two seats behind the steering mechanism. One of the soldiers had apparently been airsick. One seat was smeared with food debris, apparently brought up from someone’s stomach. In the back of the plane was a sort of luggage department. In it we found bandages, a stretcher and other equipment that we did not recognize immediately.
There was also a manual that indicated, if necessary, how to make or repair an auxiliary wing, tail or construct a makeshift rudder that could be required in case of a possible forced landing and it looked as if it could be done actually with large clothespins. We took a look at the pilot’s seat, and then sat down and tried various manoeuvrings with the handles. We could move both the altitude and the rudder mechanisms including the flaps. Everything appeared to be functioning fine.
Meanwhile, the soldiers were busy removing the fuel tanks from the wings.
Private Smit, still known to us from the O. and O. evening in the “Hall for Christian Organizations” in Rozenburg, appeared to have an innate knack for such a job.
Raymakers was looking around in the vicinity of the aircraft.
When I went after him, he was walking with a German revolver and a German hat. He had also found the pilot’s notebook. “So, he said, we will hand this over to Captain Smeele.” As we walked back to the car, he tried to see whether the gun was in working order, but it seemed defective. He was so carelessly fiddling with it, that I asked him to please be more cautious. Jokingly he swung the gun over to Peter and me, but for that I was definitely not prepared. The butt of the gun appeared to hold the bullets. This became more apparent when after some fumbling, the butt closure sprung loose and eight bullets could be seen inside. Raymakers pushed the bullets neatly back in place and then tried the gun again. After pulling the trigger twice, “Pats” it went off. “You see how imprudent it was to be waving that thing just now?” I remarked.
Coming to the Opel, Raymakers wanted to go and take a look again on the other side of the dike along the “dead hole”, because from there they had also indeed shot at the Germans. Later, in “Noord Bank” he also wanted to take a look. The Germans had lain in coverage here and he wanted to take another look see. “Perhaps we can find a machine gun or maybe a dead German.” We investigated the spot and the immediate environment next to it, but our search found only footprints and shell casings.
Back to the car and in the direction of the Scheurpold onto Captain Smeele.
Raymakers volunteered the report and then presented the Captain with the objects he had found near the aircraft.
Meanwhile we went in the kitchen and soon we were given a delicious bowl of pea soup with bone, by the cook. While we sat there having our feast, the farmer of the “Scheur Polder Farm”, Mr P H de Bruijne entered the kitchen. When I asked him how it was going, De Bruijn said that he was worried about his wife and children. The constant shootings and bombings made staying in the Scheur Polder extremely unsafe. His wife and children had already spent one day and a night in the shelter. Other workers with women and children had also stayed most of the time in the shelter.
I suggested to De Bruijne that he with his wife and children should come to our house. “For my wife and children I would like that,” said De Bruijne, “but I can not walk away from my farm business just like that” “Let us agree then, that our home is open to you when and if you think staying here is really no longer justified”, I offered him once more.
After the pea soup we just drove around in the Scheur Polder. It was very noisy. In the mouth of the waterway were several English warships, one constantly fired on the “Staalduinse forest”. There were still seventy or so German soldiers, who had landed there in the first day of the war. Also, whenever German planes appeared over the coast and threw bombs, the British warships fired frantically on these aircrafts!
Bomb fragments flew around us and we with the soldiers jumped in the shelter, because even the return fire could be risky. The soldiers asked us how the war was going, because they had heard rumours that it was going bad for us. We tried to encourage the soldiers and advised them to calmly wait. The stories doing the rounds were indeed varied. The one story about the dike and the Grebbeberg line persisted, and it seemed to be correct. “But the Germans were on the Moerdijkbrug because it was too late to blow it up. One person said, the necessary dynamite had been removed and another said that the fuses had been disabled.
The story was that: German soldiers with a machine gun had forced a Dutch truck driver to drive them over the bridge. The Dutch soldiers on the other side saw the truck coming and did not realize what was happening till the last moment before being overwhelmed by the enemy. Already the first day of the war, 133 German paratroopers had landed in a circle on the southern side of Moerdijk. At four o’clock in the morning, German paratroopers were inside the village of Moerdijk and forced the inhabitants at gun point to show them the way! One of villagers was forced to bring one of the enemy to the civilian guard at the lock, he even mentioned the name of the lock keeper! In any case, the Moerdijk Bridge was the key to the heart of Holland. Its capture had been accomplished surprisingly quick and overwhelming – and yet so simple and easily – by the German occupation forces!
Raymakers had conveyed his message to Captain Smeele and we could now return to Rozenburg. Near the “Seal”, a farm of the “Land Improvement organization”, and near the Noord Bank, I discovered that we had almost run out of petrol.(gas) I asked Mr. Drost, the manager of the “Seal” (a good friend of mine) for some gasoline. We drove to the pasture, where the gas was stored in barrels and pumped ten litres. Raymakers gave him a receipt, so he could get payment later. After a little while as we drove up the hill where the director of the “Land Improvement Organization” lived (Mr. R. Sloots, who was accused as a NSBer during the war days and had been imprisoned in Fort at Hoek van Holland), there suddenly came a car with soldiers from the Scheur Polder. The car was on patrol and came from “the Buurt”.
While we were chatting with them, Raymakers carefully studied the Krabbe Polder and said, “Give me your binoculars again.” “What do you see?” I asked. He squinted in the direction of the A. Boogerd, farm “Noorder Farm” on the Lange Kruisweg. “There are a dozen guests there in uniform, who are they and what they are they doing?” grumbled Raymakers. “We should go in, as we need to know who they are! decided Raymakers.” So we got into the Opel, and a sergeant from the Scheur Polder, a Rotterdammer, also hops in with us. Near the “Kroondijk” past the thatched barn of L. Mol (Leendertje Sago) we stop. We crawl up against the dike and peer into the polder. Through my binoculars I saw that indeed the soldiers had located themselves in the vicinity of Staeldiep”. “We will drive a bit further,” concludes Raymakers.
At about one kilometer away from “Pothof” (the lock of “Staeldiep”), we stop again and Raymakers and the Rotterdammer sergeant with his gun in his hand creep up the dike. Piet and I follow.
“We want to know who these guys are, and if they are Germans or spies we will shoot them dead (in dutch it says: we will shoot them upside down…(overhoop) “That’s good and well Raymakers, I remark, but you have nothing but a revolver and we don’t even have our guns with us.” “Let’s go over the Brielle Hill, get our guns first and try to get some more men to join us. At this moment you and the Sergeant have two revolvers but we have nothing, what is that compared to ten or eleven men. In that event if they are actual enemies and therefore might well be armed, it will definitely be goodbye for us.” They all agree.
So we get back into the car and drive at breakneck speed to the “Krabbe Dijk” and the “Brielse Hill” back to the “Buurt”. Raymakers reports to sergeant Kiers and we get another soldier Gees Visser, one of the Rozenburgers from the Zanddijk to go with us. I myself now had taken my gun from the town hall and we drive quickly away. I suggest crossing over the “Vink” to get there faster. On the “Vink” we stop to use the binoculars and explore the grass Polder. We see nothing and drive to “number one”. That was approx. 400 meters away from the “Pothof” but no matter how long we look, we see absolutely nothing.
Heijboer, who lived at “Number one” comes out and we ask him if he might have seen ten or twelve men here in the area. “Yes, they came through here in the afternoon and looked around the “Staeldiep” “Were they civilians or soldiers?” we ask.
“Soldiers and sailors or marines or something,” thought Heijboer. And there was also an officer. “Could you notice if they were Germans or Dutch?” “I do not know, but we were told here that they were Germans” he says.
That was all Heijboer knew.
The four of us creep back against the dike and “roll” over it, being sure not to make ourselves a target to shoot at on top of the dike, just in case there really were enemies around. From behind the dike, we look over the crest at the whole area, but find nothing. Gees Visser creeps to the waterfront, down to beyond the curve of the dike but sees nothing either. Raymakers now suspects the group is hiding behind the Dwarsdijk. That is the piece of dike from the “Pothof” to Adriaantje Mol on the waterfront. He suggests that we ride with the car to within a hundred meters from the “Pothof” then carefully park at the curb. That happens and at the agreed point we leave the Opel.
Raymakers is now just below the crown of the dike on the right and the Rotterdammer at the same point on the left. They both creep along the dike. Gees Visser goes by the ditch at the side road, and I on the other side of the road along the ditch. Following this plan, we cautiously move forward. “Look,” Raymakers says a moment later, “here they have cut the telephone wires.” Gradually we began to believe that things are not in order. “If we get on top of the Dwarsdijk, we will see more” reckons Raymakers “and take into account that the shooting may start anytime”. “Take off your safety catch,” he orders. Raymakers is a born commander! And indeed able to lead and notice all sorts of things that others do not see so readily.
While we are crawling ever so slowly, with our fingers on the trigger, I feel frankly, that this adventure could suddenly end badly.
Four against ten, or more … … … .. Yet I remain remarkably calm.
Raymakers advises me to stay behind because I am untrained. But, I could not let those boys go by themselves, so I follow.
Down by the sidewalk Raymakers gives the signal to halt and goes on alone to the Dwarsdijk. That last little crawl up, until he can lift up his head and see the “Crown Domain Estate” is a tense moment I will never forget. After all, we were overly convinced that these people back there were waiting for us and were actual Germans or spies. Therefore we expected all the more that at any time gun fire would sound once Raymakers’ head protruded above the dike … … …
But nothing happens!
Raymakers jumps up, raises his rifle and cries, “Come on!”
It’s crazy, but I felt relieved first, and secondly, hugely disappointed! But, all well and good, where did these guys go?
At the next corner of the Kroondijk we see a luxury car approaching.
When it gets close by us we flash a stop sign and it appears that it is M J (Teeuwisse) Lievaart, the garage owner from Rozenburg. I ask him whether he might have seen some foreign troops or possible suspious persons. Yes, he had seen an officer with sailors on the “Land Improvement”. They were laying telephone lines along the river embankment and had come through the Crown Domain Estate. So those were finally the persons we had made all the fuss about!
Back to the Opel we went and onto the “Land Improvement” to drive the Rotterdammer sergeant back to his unit. Then we drove back to town.
While on the Zanddijk we heard a plane roar and the barking of guns. We stopped and saw German bombers flying to the coast. They dropped their bombs over the English warships near Hoek of Holland, but none were hit. The British fired on the aircraft, but also without result.
This afternoon, R C (Roel) Booden, the butcher had been locked up in the cell inside the fire hall. This was due to him telling fantastic war news stories in his shop to his customers. He had said to the people that the meat supply had become totally confused. He said that there was now almost nothing available. So the mayor took this as “unnecessarily provoking unrest” and called on constable Hardenbol to lock him up.
“There were actually more people who could not control their nerves or gave their imagination free reign. Henk Hoffmann, driver of Jaspert “van der Rout, came with a truck to the Post Office and told the sergeant that there had been heavy bombardments in the Scheur Polder. Soldiers were killed and buildings were burning.
Raymakers and I had just come back from that direction and knew that nothing untoward had happened. I convinced Henk Hoffmann that he should have better sense not to tell such stories, especially if you are not sure whether something is true or not.
We had just come from there and so we knew the current situation. He muttered a bit with disappointment, but I warned him I would make a report of his tale if I caught him again needlessly worrying people.
While we were enjoying the evening meal, P H de Bruijne from the Scheur Polder came driving into the yard with his wife and children in his car. His wife and the children came crying out of the car. It had become very deafening and noisy in the Scheur Polder and dangerous because of the flying shrapnel. They were keen to avail themselves of my earlier offer to stay with us. Mrs de Bruijne along with the other workers wives and children had already spent two days in the shelter. Our guest room was fixed up so they had a place to sleep. This allowed De Bruijne and his wife and their children for the first time during the war days, to have a peaceful night’s sleep. This had been the second Pentecost day l940.
Tuesday, May 14, 1940 – Where are the British?
Why are there no British aircraft? Where is the British landing fleet?
These were the dominant issues raised in these first days and repeated time and time again. Before the war, they had always said that if one German soldier crosses the Dutch border, the English would come immediately and land an army on the coast.
Wasn’t there supposed to be 1500 airplanes in England, standing ready to take off and repel a German invasion of the Netherlands?
But it was now clear that the Germans had broken through “Peel Line” and that the boys at the “Grebbe Line” had had a hard time of it, but still no help from the West.
Yes, but wait! .. … …. Help did come, it was argued, there was an army, right now, of thousands of French invading the province of Brabant preparing to strike back at the Germans! But reality turned out quite different.
That morning again I had to stand guard, but it was different. Along the Bomendike, a military truck (a brand new Dodge) had rolled off the dike into the garden of Mr J C de Haas of Dorsser, right in front of his spacious house, villa ‘t West.
They knew the car could not get out on its own so I asked my brother Pieter to come with a tractor. A deranged soldier had expressly driven the vehicle down the embankment because he had been told that the Germans were coming from Voorne and Putten! (two islands to the south of Rozenburg) The soldier had already poured gasoline over the hood of the car to destroy it! The Germans were not going to get his possession. Residents of the Bomendike including Freek Dijkstra Bergwerff managed to calm him down, and persuade him not to torch the vehicle and so the car was not burned.
When Piet arrived with a “Fordson” tractor, ropes and chains were attached to the car and it was pulled back up against the dike with the help of 15 or so residents of the Bomendike lending their services by pushing and shoving.
Jan Aart Vark guided the “Dodge” after consultation to the Scheur Polder as that seemed the best solution.
De Bruijn left this morning for the Scheur Polder to check on his farm business.
Yes, so is the Dutch farmer. Although there are dangers threatening his business, he is not likely to let it go. There were many similar examples those days.
In the morning our BSA motorbike was claimed by Sergeant Kiers. It was given to a soldier, named Smit, who was sent to explore Voorne and Putten and Hoekse Waard. Daan Weeda was given to him as an assistant. Daan went on his own motorcycle.
From twelve noon to two o’clock Bouw Leeuwenburgh and I stood guard again at the Masssluis ferry to stop and ask passing strangers for their identification papers and to search through their suitcases etc.
Meanwhile for the citizens of Rozenburg a ban was announced on sailing to Maassluis, except with special permission from the mayor.
While we were on the Veerheuvel, (Ferry Hill) position, we suddenly saw some British planes arriving. Would this be the long awaited help coming??
Whether there were also German planes overhead, we could not perceive, but there was a lot of shooting in the air and shrapnel clattered onto the cobblestones. We took cover behind the Veerdam. There were only a few English planes unfortunately, which glowing red in the sunlight, flew further inland.
In the meantime an incessant military motorcade had arrived from the Brielle ferry to sail over to Maassluis. It appeared that during the night and already this morning many military motorcades had passed through. We feared that this was not a good sign. Our troops seemed to be in retreat. Inside the Red Cross vehicles we saw the injured. A wounded soldier was moaning in a car with a bandaged arm. Another supported by an officer wandered around, apparently in order to resist the pain.
Then I noticed Minnebreucker, the warehouse manager of the International Harvester Company from Rotterdam sitting on an automobile! We press each other’s hand and I ask him what all this troop movement is really all about and where are they going? Minnebreucker takes me aside and tells me that the Hoekse Waard where they came from has already been captured by the enemy. “Remember, said Minnebreucker, don’t let anyone know what I have told you, as it will make unnecessary trouble!”
When we return to the car some soldiers express their outrage over the betrayal by NSBers. A little further on I see Jaap Pols from “The Heul, known if not as NSBer but certainly having pro-German sympathies. I warn the soldiers not to speak loudly. “What, says Minnebreucker, I would love to knock in his brains with the butt of my rifle”. The others try to calm him. An older officer comes along and said, “Calm down guys, it doesn’t do us any good.”
A depressed mood falls over the crowd, as they all have a vague notion that it is not going well. In the afternoon we see big black clouds of smoke rising above the “Matex” gasoline and oil storage facilities in Vlaardingen.
Now there were indeed British, and Canadians, who had landed by Hoek van Holland but only with the intention of destroying warehouses and other supply dumps. They had now moved up to Vlaardingen and continued to destroy more oil tanks which continued to smoke until late in the evening. With the dark skies it appeared almost as a total eclipse.
Also in Hoek van Holland ammunition and other stocks were destroyed, so that they may not fall into German hands. There were about two hundred British and Canadian troops who had come ashore at Hoek van Holland, but left again before falling into German hands.
Arie Noordam, the farmer of the “Bonnenwoning” from the Staelduinse woods came over this afternoon for tea. He belonged to a group of soldiers who patrolled and monitored Rozenburg as well as keeping an eye on the village post office. We had not heard from Smit and Weeda all day, but by evening they showed up.
Smit had a lot to tell. They had also been to Old Beijerland and been chased by a German army truck, from which they were constantly being shot at. “The BSA, explained Smit however, could go devilish fast, so that the Germans had no chance to hit me. But that is because the engine is English workmanship”. “Nevertheless, he continued, we nearly got caught, there is a dent in the gas tank from a machine gun bullet!”
However, Smit was known among his comrades as a story teller, because the dent in the tank had been there for some time. Daan Weeda also had escaped without a scratch.
By evening gloomy and serious messages began to get through. The Germans had surrounded the “Grebbeberg” and had cut-off the heroic defenders of this historic defence line. Also the Hoekse Waard was already in the hands of the enemy. While initially vague at first but becoming more persistent we heard the rumours circulating that Rotterdam had been heavily bombarded.
During the evening as we were eating at about six o’clock, Raymakers was called out by Sergeant Kiers. We looked outside and saw Sergeant Kiers with the other men of the Post Office guarding unit standing on the corner by the white iron fence in front of the house of Van Riel near the ditch. We could see that their faces were serious and that something unusual was going on.
At one point a soldier from Rotterdam, put his arms and head on the white bridge railing and cried like a child … The Bruijne and his wife were with us at the window watching. “What could be wrong?” asked De Bruijne. I did not understand it either, but the fear came over me that this could relate to some very serious events.
Finally Raymakers came back into the yard. He walked like an old man and with a bowed head as he stumbled to the door: I went to meet him and asked why he looked so bleak. “I may not tell you,” Then I said, “I will ask no further questions”.
Just before the front door Raymakers turns around and asks, “Will you keep for yourself what I am about to say as long as necessary?” “Naturally, I replied, but if you are sworn to remain silent, then say nothing:” “I trust you,” said Raymakers, “and therefore I tell you this: It is over for us, the war is done. Everything is and has been in vain … ”
Passionately, he adds, “And that had not been necessary, if only our army had been ready. If only there had not been so much betrayal. With a few hundred thousand soldiers and reliable officers it would not have ended this way. ”
Yes, this simple Brabant labourer, Raymakers, this man was a real Patriot, a true and good soldier. He had shown his mettle during the last five days of this war.
We arrive in the living room and my wife, De Bruijne and others ask directly what had happened. We can not tell them.
At seven o’clock the news came over the radio. Then followed the official notice that our Commander in Chief General Winkelman had consulted with our Queen and the Government and the decision had been reached to lay down our arms. The bombing of Rotterdam and the threat of the further bombing of several other cities had been the decisive factor, it was a difficult decision.
In several places there had been heavy fighting. Our soldiers did their best and many, even thousands, have given their highest sacrifice, namely their life for the Fatherland. But we have had to bow to this major force. Only now in the province of Zeeland, the struggle continues. Queen Wilhelmina and the government have crossed over to England.
Then we heard the “Wilhelmus” played … ..
It is hard to put into words what a terrible disappointment this announcement was to me in the first moments we heard it.
Our small but beautiful and free Holland, with its world-famous agricultural and horticultural
concerns, cultural spheres, world known tugboat and sea merchant fleet, with its vast colonies and with its hard working people, a people with a high ideal of liberty and freedom, with its proud independent sentiment, now betrayed and overwhelmed by an army of powerful German ….. neighbours … … … … .. … ..
Separated from our beloved house of Orange that had been attached to its people with strong bonds throughout the ages we were now alone.
You feel abandoned, in a prison, unconditionally delivered into the hands of the executioner
Gone is the illusion to maintain our defence, to fight against this brutal invading killer, to keep up the struggle against this injustice, and hold out till help comes one day … … ….
In “de Buurt” the people stood here and there in groups to discuss the latest news. When later I walked with de Bruijne near the barber’s shop of Sala, they asked us if we had heard the radio messages and whether it was true that we had surrendered.
We had no choice but to say yes.
There was a defeated atmosphere among the people. Also by the town hall there were people who once again asked the question: “Is it true?” I told them I had heard the message myself via the radio. One person was angry and snapped: “Are you still not wiser than to believe this? Those are all false reports, because the radio station in Hilversum is in German hands!”
Another replied: “Surrendered? Impossible! If it was really so bad, they would have called up the reservists to help out.”
What naive ideas about modern warfare this man had!
But the root cause of many of these remarks was the fact that no-one as yet could and would believe what had happened.
Later that evening De Bruijne with wife and children left to return to the Scheur polder farm.
During the evening it becomes clear how heavily Rotterdam had been bombed. Especially the inner city was almost completely in ruins. This bombardment on an undefended town, with hundreds of thousands of women and children by the enemy forced us to surrender. With the further threat that also Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht would undergo the same fate, if the Netherlands did not surrender and so to prevent even greater destructions, Commander General Winkelman while staying at “White bar” on the Vliet near Rijsoord had ordered the surrender which was signed later in the evening.
I ran into pastor Brouwer in the Veerlaan.
“Is it not terrible?” he said with emotion in his voice, “What will this bring?” Yes, Reverend, I replied, “that, only time will tell. But the bad news is that we owe this defeat to those people, who for years have screamed: “Disarmament! Disarmament!” ‘ No men and not a single penny for the army! The result is that our military was only a caricature of what we really are.”
That same evening, the soldiers left the Post Office. They all came here to say goodbye, and Sergeant Kiers thanked us with kind words for the use of our office.
It was really sad for us that these boys, with whom we had spent five exciting days of the war and with whom we had shared joys and sorrows, now had to leave.
Raymakers became very quiet. We gave him some cigarettes and apples along for his homeward journey. I went with them to Veerheuvel. Raymakers shook my hand and promised to come and look us up. Sergeant Kiers also promised in the holidays that he would again come to Rozenburg. The group stepped into the ferry boat and crossed over to Maassluis.
The war was over for us.
We were an occupied country!
Written in Rozenburg – July 2, 1944
By Jan Groenewegen the older brother of Cornelis Groenewegen.
Jan was part owner with Piet and Klaas Groenewegen (all brothers) of farm implement repair and dealership in the town of Rozenburg.