6th April, 1945.
INTERROGATION OF Anton GEHRELS
@ VAN KAMPEN
Source was sent to the field together with a WT-Operator to co-ordinate the activities of local resistance; he had but a short time in which to carry out this task, and was not given any specific targets for attack or other duties, apart from his main task of organisation.
ARRIVAL IN THE FIELD.
Source went to the field on the night of the 16/17th March, and had a very good drop near the town of OMMEN to a reception committee arranged by EVERT. The two agents were dropped together with their equipment but no stores.
GRUNT and his WT-Operator having landed in Holland were housed in the vicinity of the dropping ground, to recover from their journey and to spend their time here whilst arrangements were made for their future trip to the area of their future activities. Having been in the first house for about 24 hours, arrangements were completed for the two agents to travel to GROENLO, a distance of about 80 kms, which journey was accomplished on bicycles; for this reason only one of the two WT-sets was taken, the other being left behind with the bulk of the agents' personal equipment, which was to be sent on to them by HERMAN who was making all the arrangements.
Source stated that the HERMAN who was taking care of the travelling arrangements, happened to come from the Achterhoek, and so could make arrangements for the housing of the agents and could also arrange to introduce them to resistance personalities in the area. Other than these introductions source was given none, and had to make his contacts for himself, working from the safe house in Groenlo which HERMAN found for him. The owners of this house were fully aware of source's mission, and also of the fact that his WT-Operator was going to transmit from their house, which in fact he was able to do within four days of arrival. Shortly afterwards however source was able to make arrangements for the WT-Operator to go elsewhere.
PERSONALITIES IN RESISTANCE.
When questioned however, about his contacts in Holland source said that before he left UK he had been given the name of JOHAN of DEVENTER as being the local leader of resistance, but that on arrival in the field he found that the most important person in the area went under the name of EDOUARD.
Source was questioned about the leader of resistance and said that he had only met EDOUARD once or twice, but had a very high opinion of this man and of his ability , since he ran this local resistance movement on a very sound footing, and without any bickering or inter-party jealousy. Source was quite certain that EDOURD had been in charge of resistance at least since September, 1944, and that he did not think Edouard was identical with JOHAN of DEVENTER, although he said that he was not sure of this point, and it is just possible that JOHAN of DEVENTER has changed his name. He was, however, certain that the name of JOHAN of DEVENTER meant nothing at all to anyone in the district. Source thought that had there ever been a JOHAN of DEVENTER, although as stated it was just possible that he may have changed his name to EDOUARD, it was also just possible that he may now be known as OOM JO, but he did not know that either of these possibilities could be classed as possibilities. Source described EDOUARD as about 58 years old and an ex-Colonel of the Dutch Army, the bulk of whose services had been in the Dutch Colonies; he further stated that EDOUARD had, in the early days of the occupation, been a member of the OD, but had ceased to be active in that organisation when he realised that besides being insecure it was not likely to play a very active part in resistance against the Germans.
Source added that EDOUARD had now been overrun by British troops as had also his WT-Operator CHRISTIAANSEN, and an agent called MARCEL. He further added that he had heard news that the WT-Operator of DUDLEY was not dead but was in fact a prisoner of war in Germany.
Beyond these names source knew no others of interest, since he had only been in the field for a short time, and during that time had been working entirely on his own without contact with other agents.
On arrival in the field source found that the people of Holland on the whole were in good spirits and were not unduly depressed, although they were certainly very hard put to it to get enough to eat.
FOOD AND FARMING.
In country districts such as that in which source operated, the people could usually manage to fill their stomachs but little more, and the food with which they did this was of very poor quality, being mostly of vegetables and local produce; meat; and such commodities as butter, milk etc, were almost non-existent, due to the scarcity of beasts, and there was only sufficient of vegetables and other things on account of there being no facilities by which these could be transported to the towns in Western Holland, where the shortage was far more accute. Despite the lack of any form of machinery and all forms of fertilizers and shortage of animals, the farmers of Western Holland still manage to keep their land fairly well cultivated.
In source's area, resistance seemed to be well organised thanks to the work which had been done by EDOUARD, and in any event political and Party interests are not so rife in country districts as they are in the towns and source stated that the people whit whom he came in contact, although many of them had at one time or another belonged to different resistance elements were quite prepared to co-operate, and had in fact cast aside Party allegiance and joined together to combat the German Occupation. DUDLEY, of course, had been killed before source arrived in the field, but source gave it as his opinion from what he saw that this team had done very good works.
Source's impression of resistance in the area as a whole was that it was running more or less by itself under the leadship of EDOUARD, since communication with Western Holland were so bad that it was quite impossible to keep in touch with official control as represented by DELTA-C in Amsterdam; possibly because of the good results obtained, and because of the communication difficulties, EDOUARD advised source to work so that people in different areas were each enabled to run their own show, without depending upon very much liaison with other areas.
In view of his mission it was a little surprising to find that source knew nothing whatever about the quantity or types of arms which had been dropped in the area or knowledge of whose hands they had passed into, though he had been told by EDOUARD that all available arms had already been distributed to individuals.
PROGRESS OF THE BATTLE.
Having arrived in the field on the 17th March and installed himself at Groenlo by the 20th of that month, source's activities coincided more or less with the break out of the Allied Armies from the bridgehead in the neighbourhood of Emmerich. Source and his contacts listened to the BBC, but could not learn much from the news in view of the security blackout which pertained at that time, and as a result of this he was unable to judge accurately of the military situation, so that so far as any activities in relation to the battle were concerned, he was completely mislead, and not able to do very much, since before they knew it or expected it, the Allied Armies had started to advance from Emmerich and swept right passed the area of Groenlo.
THE ALLIED ADVANCE.
The Germans stationed in the area of Groenlo were mostly elements of a parachute division, and there were a great many of them, source said that he was informed that these particular troops had not been in the area for very long, but so far as he could see while they were there, their behaviour towards the population was correct, and they were not unpleasant more or less keeping themselves to themselves. With the approach of the Allied Armies, however, a wave of wholesale requisitioning took place, this requisitioning appeared to be carried out by every sort of person from the Feldgendarmerie down to individual soldiers of different units, and covered practically everything on wheels, cars, lorries, carts and even bicycles and perambulators. The Germans allowed the better known collaborators to retain such vehicles as they might posses so that they could evacuate them and their belongings with the retiring trrops.
With this motley collection of vehicles, the majority of the German troops withdraw from the area before the Allied Armour arrived, but scattered about all over the place were small bodies excellently equipped with every kind of arms, who were left for the purpose of organising pockets of resistance, whose job it was to resist, carrying on operations for as long as possible; the local resistance helped the Allied Troops in clearing up these pockets of resistance, since not being informed of the progress of the battle, there was little that they could do before the arrival of the Allied Armour, though they did make some attempts to hold various bridges. That these attempts were successful seems to have been in source's opinion more due to good luck than good judgement, since resistance groups waited until the Germans had crossed them and then rushed the demolition party and endeavoured to hold them until the Allies arrived, they were successful because the Germans were in so much hurry that they had no time or inclination to carry out many demolitions, and the Allied troops were so hot on their heels, that they quickly came upon the scene after the resistance had taken the bridge. The casualties of resistance in this work source states were surprisingly light.
Source himself having been given no targets and no specific task to carry out during the Allied advance, the first real news that he had of the position was when a L.O. arrived to pick him up and take him back to the S.F. Detachment on the 2nd April.
HOLLAND - GENERAL SITUATION.
Source seems to know absolutely nothing about the general situation in Holland, and it is understandable that the people in the locality in which he worked looked upon Western Holland almost as a foreign country, presumably because of the poorness of all forms of communication. Source said that since the occupation of Holland, the Germans had taken over the whole telephone system, and had disconnected the country circuits and in many places removed the instruments. Doctors, hospitals and some Red Cross centres were the only places that were allowed telephone facilities.
Source's district did not seem to have been very much hit by the deportation of labour for Germany.
After the liberation of the area, members of resistance took over the civil administration in co-operation with the local police and the Marechaussee, both of which bodies were highly thought of.
Source had certain complains to make about the equipment with which he was sent to the field, he regretted that he was not able personally to check the packages, since the contents did not tally with the list which had been given to him. He gave two specific instances of shortcomings in this respect. The first of these being the maps with which he was issued, which he said were pre-war maps and quite out of date, and in any event covered the whole of the East of Holland with the exception of the district in which he was working, for which area he had no maps at all. The second instance was that of the micro-prints of reception committee conventions of which there were supposed to be two. Source only found one of these which he passed over to No. 2 S.F. Detachment at Grave.
Further criticisms which source had to make of the difficulties which arose through the WT-Operator not being under the orders of the Organiser, and the trouble which he experienced in living down the bad reputation which some SOE agents had earned for themselves in Holland, where they looked upon, according to source, as unsuitable people of poor type who gave a bad impression of irresponsibility and lack of security. Source is one of the many agents who have particularly drawn the interrogator's notice to the inadvisability of sending eastern types into Holland, and it certainly would appear as though the single agent in this category is becoming the subject of widespread discussion in occupied Holland.
Wie is deze agent MARCEL, is hij dezelfde persoon als Bock en Robeck? Voor welk bureau werkte hij?