Theo Daalhuysen (Engelandvaarder) - Prinses Irene Brigade

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Theo Daalhuysen (Engelandvaarder)

Biografieën oud-leden
In Vaandeldrager  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  A.  Loontjes)
By  Harold Gough
Just  before 3 in the afternoon on Sunday 23rd November 1941, an unfamiliar small boat  drifted towards the shore at Reculver, watched rather apprehensively by local  coastguards, who had already alerted Inspector Charles Setterfield at Herne Bay  Police Station, in charge of local security. The boat was flying three Dutch  flags, but  after two years of war suspicion of the unfamiliar and unexpected lay very close  to the surface of everyone's mind. As the open boat approached, nine figures  could be seen-one a  woman of about thirty with dark hair. They, too, looked  anxious, unsure of their welcome; uncertain even in what country they were about  to make landfall.
 Finally, as the boat touched land, the nine exhausted voyagers stepped shakily  ashore to learn with relief that they had reached a friendly destination. From  the reception committee's point of view there were still doubts to be resolved,  an the out-of-season tourists were searched and interrogated, and their few  belongings removed for further inspection.
The  story They told was a strange one. The party comprised a young married couple.  Abraham and Greta Levi, from Assen in Holland, six single men and a married man  who had left his wife and  five children behind; all had left occupied Holland  to rejoin the war against the Nazis.
Two  of the men had been in the Royal Netherlands Navy, an three in the Army-one of  these had brought hls uniform with him; one who had been born in the Dutch East  Indies was anxious to go back here to join his parents who were already there. They  were all members of an underground organisation, but were mostly strangers to  each other until they received instructions for a rendezvous at the Hook of  Holland. There they met one of the ex-soldiers actually a railway engine driver,  who managed to steal a German ships  lifeboat.                                      '
The  traditional destination for vessels from the hook has long been Harwich in  Essex, but the journey was to be far from plain sailing. Even  the seamen in the party found the navigation equipment rather scanty-a portable  compass, and a small scale map of Europe.
 Before navigation in the open sea became a problem, however, came the matter of  getting away from the land. At 8.30 on Thursday evening they were all aboard;  then they pushed the boat away and rowed cautiously out of the harbor,fearful of  the searchlight mounted at the entrance. Even more frightening must have been  the time when two German S-boats swept by close at hand, and it was not until  they were w out to sea that they dared to start the petrol engine and head west  for England.
The  journey between the Hook and Harwich is little more than 100 miles, and the car  ferries cross in six or eight hours in comfort. The  Dutch party in their small open boat drove along trough. the night and all next  day, and ran into fog. Than their fuel ran out.
In  the fog of the November night, no longer under power, the boat was adrift in the  North Sea; The crew of anxious passengers rigged a sail, using a canvas hammock,  and they drifted slowly on towards the daylight of Saturday, knowing only that  they had lost any idea of where they were, just that they were now on a  southerly heading. The chief worry was how far  west had they gone before they  lost their engine and their direction, and where would be their landfall be now.
If  they missed the English coast on this heading, the next land was France,  occupied and unfriendly like their own.
In  nearly three days they saw no shipping, but not long before they sighted a low  coastline an R.A.F,-plane passed overhead, and a report of an unidentifiable  small boat was flashed to the authorities on the coast.
So on  Sunday afternoon their arrival was not altogether unexpected by the Reculver  coastguards, although the eight men an one woman still had no way of knowing  what reception they could expect-to be shot as escapers by Germans  in occupied  France-to be held as possible spies by suspicious British authorities perhaps  even fired  on as potential invaders in the heat of the moment. Finally, they hoisted three  Dutch flags and hoped these would be recognised and accepted as indicating  friendly arrivals.
 Inspector Setterfield was abie to reassure them as they stepped on to the beach  at Reculver, and after a brief interrogation they were taken under police escort  to the Herne Bay Rest Centre in Albany Drive, where they were first given a   meal, and then provided with a bed for the night.
Later  Greta Levi, described by the Evening Standard as 'demure and dark-haired' ,  said  "They gave us a wonderful tea. I shall never forget that tea. We ate so  much!"
The  refugees did not stay long in Herne Bay. Next day they were passed onward to the  Free Dutch authorities in England, where they were received by H.M. Queen  Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and each was awarded the Dutch Bronze Cross,  before dispersing to join the forces of their choice.
A  year later. Abraham Levi, who in civilian life had been a wholesale clothing  merchant had  reached Portmadoc in Wales, by way of the Midlands and Scotland.  His wife, Greta, who had also wanted to join the Free Forces had been  working with The Dutch Red Cross, was now pregnant, and  living with a farming  family at Matfield, near
 Turnbridge Wells, where, by coincidence, there was a maid who came from Herne  Bay.   

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.
Greta Levi,  born  1910.
Adriaan van der  Craats,  born  1921.
Jan Bastiaan, born  1921.
Theodorus  Daalhuysen,  born  1917.
Walrave van  Krimpen,  born  1894.
Gerardus van Asch,  born 1922.
Anton Loontjes,  born  1922.
 Johannes Jansen, born 1917
In  1973, Mr. Jansen wrote to Herne Bay Police in the hope that they could help him  locate the open lifeboat which had brought the party safely to Reculver more  than thirty years earlier. It seems his search was unsuccessful; although one  pleasure boat which has plied from Herne Bay beach since 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  history.
 Introduced by Harold Gough
In  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.
In  July 1985 this article was reprinted, in English, in 'De Schakel', the journal  of a Dutch organisation of wartime escapers, and, as a result, one of those  brave travellers has send me his own account of this voyage in an open boat from Thursday to Sunday, 20-23rd November 1941. While it shows that ay  outline was correct in general terms, Theo Daalhuyzen's version written from his  own memories deserves publications in its own right. With  his permission, I have 'edited' the story without omitting any details.
He  begins by describing the occupation of Holland and the beginning of the  resistance, as yet little organised, individuals and small groups  plaguing  the Germans where and when they could. The decision taken by these nine  people to escape and carry on the war outside Holland was sparked by SS  atrocities in the Amsterdam ghetto and the rounding-up of saboteurs and  resisters "we knew we had to escape".
What  follows is Theo Daalhuyzen's own story of that escape. The  escape was carried out 'on a wine and a prayer' and theoretically should have  failed completely. Instead, the whole affair ended  successfully on 23rd  November when we landed on the English coast, utterly exhausted and hungry and  thanking God it was all over. But was it really? After 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.
Luck  was still with us. Hook of Holland had  been turned info a Schnellboat base and  the well-known ferry port was crawling with enemy shipping. There was still some  daylight left, and so it was too risky to contact the ninth member of our group,  Van Krimpen, who had left Utrecht two weeks earlier and had managed to find a  small boat tor us with the help of a local skipper. Many of f-duty sailors were  prowling the streets looking tor romance, so we decided to blend in with them to be less conspicuous, and to play the same game.  Obviously the walking local beauties did not know us, but even so, after a while  our tactics began to work and we enjoyed talking and joking with the girls while  we kept an eye on the Germans. Some of the krauts eventually began to give us  some black looks, and some of the girls no doubt suspected that something funny was going  on. but they were great and never gave us away.
 Finally it was dark enough for us to slip away to the harbour, where a Dutch  skipper and his wife welcomed us aboard a largo river barge moored alongside one  of the docks. Despite the obvious risks they were taking they made us coffee and  sandwiches, which revived us enormously. By  giving us shelter that night they most probably saved our hides.  Meanwhile, Van Krimpen, Craats and Bastiaans managed to break the lock off the  chain with which the small boat was secured to the German ship at the other side  of the harbour, and moved it away to the opposite side where they had located a  steel ladder that went straight down to the water. The skipper had been acting  as the lookout and went back to fetch the rest of us.
After  gratefully thanking our hosts (who must have given a sigh of relief) we made our  way to a little boat, which turned out to be an old Dutch lifeboat formerly part  of the Coast Guard and requisitioned by the Germans. It seemed about 16 feet  long with a small cabin covering the engine. By then it was quite dark and a  mist was coming up from the sea, making it very difficult to find our way to the  ladder without falling off the dock. One of the men was carrying a cookie tin  filled with delicious sandwiches by the good skipper's wife, and going down the  ladder -a very difficult job even with both hands- his toot slipped. In trying  to regain his balance he dropped the tin  which then hit the cabin and bounced off and sank, setting up a terrific clatter  which echoed round the harbour. To us  it sounded like an explosion and for a moment we were petrified. Although we  heard voices raised questioningly aboard the German ship just a few feet away  from where Jansen and I had dropped flat on our bellies, no alarm was given and  after a few minutes we joined the others in the boat.
For  obvious reasons we could not start the engine while still inside the harbour; we  had brought the paddles for that. It turned out to be a hard battle because the  boat was heavy to move due to the tide coming in, and at one time  we were slammed against the pilings at the entrance to the harbour. With  superhuman effort we managed to push ourselves away into the open sea-where  immediately the boat became easy prey to the increasing forces of waves and  currents. For a long time we could hear sounds from the shore and a couple of  times a big searchlight started sweeping round the harbour area, sometimes  coming quite close to us. We were all down on the floor. It seemed to take hours  before we could decide to start the engine after first having to break the lock  on the cabin door. We had delay doing so, however, because we could hear the  sound of a boat engine coming closer an closer. Everyone was down on the boards  again. The boat came so close it sounded as if it was going to run us down  and a quick look over the gunwale told-us that a German torpedo boat was  crossing our bows to starboard less than 30 feet away.
We  were expecting the worst, because only a few weeks before a boat with several  Dutch ex-navy officers had been machine-gunned out of the water with no  survivors. Although we could see this boat very clearly they did not stop. The  same thing happened about 15 minutes later. We could not belief our luck but we  sure thanked the good Lord for taking care of us. I think we got away with it  because there was a heavy patch of fog on our port side. Our boat was painted  white an blended in with the fog and was therefore hard to see.
The  tension was counting by the minute, but after a while we settled down again and  decided to try to start the engine. At first the procedure was puzzling, until  we discovered that a separate button had to be pressed white swinging the  starting handle. After we finally got it going it ran fine - for a while. Most  of us had become quite seasick by then because the weather had become very rough  and our little vessel was being tossed about like a nutshell.
Once  we got the engine going things became a lot more comfortable because the boat  was much more stabilised and it was much easier because the we could cut across  the tops of the waves. It  was not long after that we ran into trouble. Smoke started pouring out of the  cabin, the engine was overheating and we had to turn it  off. We discovered that  the cooling system was  not working. After a long search (fortunately we had a  signal torch with us) we found a closed valve in the intake line under the  floorboards. By then the engine had cooled off and we were able to start it  again.  For quitte a  while  it ran like a top, perhaps an hour or less; then it started to splutter and  died.
A  check of the fuel system showed dirt-clogging the filters and, from the look of  things,  it appeared that sometime before we arrived at the harbour another  patriot had managed to put a handful-of dirt in the tank, so al to stop the  Germans using the boat.
By  now things were getting critical because  it was well after midnight and we  had to get away from the coast before daylight. Several  times we managed  to get the engine to run periodically. The weather was becoming increasingly  worse and whenever the engine stopped the waves took over and we were L serious  danger  of getting swamped any minute. In the end we were all so sick that  no-one cared anymore.
When  day broke (Friday) things had not improved, except that we could no longer hear  or see the coast. We cleaned and restarted the engine, but found that we were  unable to navigate with the small compass we had and could not get our hearings  as the sun was bidden behind a heavy cloud. We only knew that we had to go due  west to reach the British coast, and that we had lost a great deal of valuable  time.
The  waves were still immense and when after a while the engine broke down again we  were unable to do anything about it. Th vomiting had stopped, but the nausea and  heaving continued long afterwards. Later that night we took the watch in turns  while the others tried to find shelter inside the small cabin, which was rather  hard to do because there was only room tor about tour people and the rest had to  stay  outside or find room on top of the engine.
 November is a bad month 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.
Early  Sunday morning, however, we woke up to find the sea smooth and calm and within  a short time we were all feeling a lot hotter The sun was trying to come through  an our sailors decided we were off course again. For a while  we managed to wake up the old engine again and set a westerly course going full  speed ahead, although we were getting worried about the low level of fuel in the  tank.
Later  that morning we came across some large ships that looked like freighters. Some  had  been sunk with only the masts and tunnels sticking up above the water,  others were turned upside down; they looked like Allied ships and  we wondered how many brave people had lost their lives there. We continued our  course and  later that morning noticed smoke on the horizon to the east of us.
We  went in that direction tor a while, hoping to meet friendly ships, but a  bombardment started up long before we got there and we changed our minds. We did  not 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.
Later,  sitting   the bow-end of the cabin, I noticed something on the horizon far ahead of us.  Was there a high sea coming up? It was a long time before i could make it out, but suddenly i turned  around yelling "Land-ho!" Was  it England? We had no idea then. But after 44 years i recall our emotions when  we set foot on the beach at Reculver and stood there singing our National  Anthem, Wilhelmus, utterly exhausted. tears streaming down our  faces. And I shall never forget the friendliness of the local people and  officials, once it had been determined that we were indeed refugees and not a  bunch of German spies.
After  being taken to London we were interrogated for three days by British  Intelligence and obtained security clearance before becoming guests of the  Netherlands Embassy. We also had  tea with Queen Wilhelmina, and a coded signal  was sent via Radio Orange, "C 1 1/2 has landed  indicating to friends in  Holland that we were safe and well. (My friend Jan Jansen was very tall and  lean, while I an on the short side, and in underground circles we were dubbed   'Watt and half Watt'). We were given the choice as to which branch of the Free  Dutch Forces we wanted to join. Jansen and Bastiaans went into the Navy and I became paratrooper  with the 'Prinses Irene Brigade', then stationed in Wolverhampton.
Our  outfit was among the first to ride triumphantly into Brussels in 1944 - we were  on our way to Holland, to liberate our own people! But fate decided otherwise.  We were held up at 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.
When  I left hospital I was given a desk in London preparing for the demobilisation in   Dutch Army personnel. In June 1945 I married an English girl and was later  posted to The Hague; while there I traced Jan Jansen again.
 However, conditions in post-war Holland were chaotic and I returned to England  for demob in 1947; after about six years my wife and I emigrated to Canada where  I found a job, wich transferred me in 1958 to the U.S.A. where I now live in  Indiana.
Early  in 1948 I was contacted by Tony Loontjens, who back in 1941 was one of our  crew. We have now learned something about some of other refugees; Abraham Levi  was killed in action in Holland and his wife, Greta, the one woman in our party,  lives in Utrecht. Jan Jansen  is now disabled; Gerard van Asch, who lives in  Australia; Walrave van Krimpen, who stole the boat, died by enemy action  in the Merchant Navy - but we have lost touch with the two  others, Adriaan van der Craats and Jan Bastiaan.
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