WILLEM (JAN) VAN DER VEER.
REPORT ON SAS OPERATION TO GOBBO RECEPTION COMMITTEE.
by Sgt. W. v.d. Veer.
I left England on October 9th 1944, with three other agents called BOB, NIEK and GREENWOOF. The Halifax took off at 9.10 p.m. and the journey was quite good. At about 11.30 p.m. we reached the DZ. GREENWOOD jumped as No. 1 myself as No. 2 and NIEK as No. 3 (at a place called VEENHUIZEN, which is on the border of FRIESLAND and DRENTHE in the north-west of DRENTHE).
Before I had the time re release my leg-bag I was in the trees. My opinion is that we were dropped much too low and that is also the opinion of the other agents and the reception committee on the ground.. I was also dropped at the wrong place, about 1 km from the DZ in the middle of a dense wood. Because I had had no time to release my leg-bag I hurt my right leg (knee) rather seriously where I hit the ground. However, I got my things together and buried the equipment I did not want to take with me, such as parachute, helmet, etc in the woods and covered them with leaves.
It was very dark and quiet in the wood and there was no sign of anybody. I got my map and compass out and by the light of a torch I tried to locate where I was. Then I left, walking in a direction I thought, according to the map and compass, would be the good one. After about 20 minutes walk I came to a canal. About 20 yards away from me, on the other side of the canal, I saw a man shining his torch, approaching in my direction. I got down on the grass and let the man come nearer. I could observe him very well as I was lying down and he was walking, showing against the skyline. When he was in front of me, I pointed my Tommygun at him and whistled the V ... _ He stopped and gave me the ... _ back softly. I asked him in English "Can you understand Dutch?" He replied in Dutch "I don't understand you, sir". I put my toch on him and saw that he was dressed in the clothes of what I thought would be a Dutch policeman, as he turned out to be. I asked him if he could and fetch me over the canal. He told me to wait and he would come and fetch me over the bridge. The Dutch policeman and I walked then in the direction of the DZ.
About halfway I heard a whistling tune which I recognised as being one of our agents. I whistled softly back. The Dutch policeman and I went into the woods again and after about 200 yards we found GREENWOOD, who had hurt himself too. We buried GREENWOOD's unwanted equipment and three of us made it for the DZ. At the time it was very difficult for GREENWOOD and me to walk because of our injuries. At the DZ we met two more Dutch policemen. The other two agents hadn't been found yet. I left with one of the Dutch policeman again and went into the fields. There I flashed the letter "O" a couple of times, which after a minute or two I got a signal back from about 400 yards.
The Dutch policeman and I went in the direction of the torch flashes. There we found BOB and all the people from the reception committee. We had no contact with NIEK yet. I pointed out on the mao where I thought NIEK had been dropped. As GREENWOOD was dropped as No.1, myself as No.2 we came down 300 meter apart, I thought that NIEK who was dropped as No.3 would be 300 meter apart from me again.
running in direction
(dropped in the 2nd run)
The reception committee brought us home. Some men were detailed to look for NIEK. We were brought in a caserne, where I had a wash and something to eat. After about 30 minutes the other men came in. They had found NIEK at the place I had indicated. NIEK had hurt himself badly too. Then we were taken upstairs where we could sleep. We had to be very quiet in the daytime as the O.C. of the caserne did not know we were there. One of the men brought our meals in as the C.O. was out for his own meal.
On October 13th 1944 a leader of the underground movement named "KEES" VELTMAN (Catharinus Veldman) came in. He told me I had to leave that afternoon. I told him that it would be very difficult for me, for I had no clothes (civilian) and no bicycle. It was also very hard to walk with my injured leg although on a bicycle I thought it would be all right. He told me that he would give me civilian clothes and a bicycle. At about 4 p.m. he came in with a bicycle and civvie clothes. I packed all my equipment, uniform, etc in a blanket on my bicycle and we left at 4.30 p.m. I had to put a spade on the bicycle so as to camouflage myself as a TODT LABOURER. After about 1 km he handed me over to a boy and a girl (who was this girl?) . The boy was named "FREEK" and they were going to take me to the village of WESTERBORK, which was about 45 km away. The girl was to in front and if anything was wrong she would put her hand to her hair. It was rather risky for I had no papers and all my equipment on my bicycle. When we came to SMILDERVAART there was a control and the girl touched her hair. FREEK and I where just about to turn round when an incident happened. A TODT LABOURMAN fell from a ship into the canal and all the people were looking at it. It also attracted the attention of the Germans. They stood there laughing. From that second we made good use and went through without being noticed.
Further on the road we overtook four German SD men with a dog, but once more I was lucky for they didn't stop us. Halfway we had something to eat with a member of the underground. At about 9 p.m. we reached the village of WESTERBORK and got to the farm which was going to be my hiding place for a while. We got some food again and went to sleep. FREEK (Johannes Cornelis Bastiaanse?) and the girl left the following morning. They took my civvies with them, so again I was in uniform. FREEK promised to come back in about a fortnight with clothes, papers and further orders, so that I could start on the job I was sent out for and in that way my leg would have had time to heal up.
FREEK did come back in a fortnight, but without clothes, bicycle, etc. He said he was sorry but I would have to wait a little longer for there was something wrong in the underground organisation. This had to be cleared up first and then I would definitely get work. So i waited again, still in uniform and without papers. About a kilometre from my place was a party of Belgian SAS (team GOBBO), with a Dutchman called BLATT (Commando Rudy Blatt). One night a plane came over and dropped containers nearby which should have been hidden in BLATT's farm. The next morning 20 Germans came to the farm where I was hiding and searched it thoroughly for they said containers had been dropped the previous night and they would be found. However, I had a very good hide-out and the Germans did not find me. But at BLATT's farm they found a transmitter, kitbags, rucksacks, cigarettes, etc. They did not find that party, but the Germans stayed in the farm for that night.
Now something was very wrong in the organisation of the underground organisation of DRENTHE, for that night 5 boys of the underground came to that farm to collect the arms which had been dropped the previous night. These boys should have been informed, but they were not and walked right into the Germans who took them prisoner. One of these boys talked later on when he was interrogated and the result was that the Germans got a lot of information about that district and after a fortnight came back to search all the farms round there and arrest the farmers and put them in prison. The farmer and I thought that the Germans would know about me too so we decided that it was better for me to go to another place, However, I had completely lost contact with the underground, who did not show themselves for a long time. I asked the farmer which man in the village was reliable enough to take me. He said he knew a policeman in the village who was very reliable, so I asked him to fetch this policeman. When the policeman came I had the surprise of my life for he was a friend of mine whom I knew before the war (Derk Jan Stoel, born 10-12-1895, died 22-05-1966. Married to Zwaantje Kremers, born 12-09-1895, died 17-02-1989).
The farmer and I had buried all our equipment in the ground. This had to be done very quickly for the Germans were searching all around the neighbourhood. I loaded all my things on a horsecart and we buried it in the fields. Then the rain came for weeks on end and when some months later I looked for it, it was all destroyed, because of the water.
The policeman fixed me up with clothes and I left the farm. From that time I lived in the house with the policeman and his wife. Germans lived next door in the same house and I could hear them talking on the phone, very often. There was a German sentry walking round the house day and night. After a couple of weeks the Germans left. Twice the policeman tried to contact the underground but he failed. They were all hiding and he got a message for me that I would be sent for what I needed. The policeman fixed me up with papers so that I could move on the road freely. However, it was very boring and I was fed up that I could not do anything at all but wait. In the meantime we got Dutch traitors next door again and a little later on those traitors had to leave the front room. The Germans were coming back to WESTERBORK again and the German general (Karl Heinrich Böttcher) lived next door to me in the same house. Still I could not do anything, for if I had done anything to the General (whom I could have shot easily) the Germans would have taken terrible reprisals on the people.
Then I got a message that I had to report in SMILDE. I went there the same afternoon. There I found FREEK and VELTMAN again, hiding in a house. They said they were very sorry that I had to wait such a long time but it had been a very dangerous period. they took me in the woods of APPELSCHA the next morning. About 30 men of the underground were hiding out there. These men I trained in fieldcraft, sten, bren, hand grenade, demolitions, etc. They were extremely keen. I took them in small parties of 5 or 6. We also made up a charge to blow up the railway line between HOOGHALEN en BRI..N. Trains were running frequently along that line and we wanted to blow up the railway line while a train was passing by. We had to wait for a wireless order from LONDON. However, the message never came through and we had to leave the line intact which was blown up by the Germans when they did not need it any more. The charge we made we tried out in the fields later on and it worked perfectly.
One night as I was giving fieldcraft we ran into a party of sleeping men whom we thought were Germans. There was no sentry. We made a plan to disarm them. I would shout in English "Give yourselves up, you are surrounded"!; while each man would sin at a soldier. I was just about to shout when one man lifted his head and I saw that he was wearing a red cap. They turned out to be French paratroopers who had been dropped the previous night. We asked the C.O. to collect his men and told him that we would hide his men in our hide-out in the woods. At first we had some difficulty in convincing the C.O. that we were underground organisation for a lot of the men were dressed in German uniforms. However, it went on all right. That morning I left again for WESTERBORK, for I wanted to take part in the liberation of WESTERBORK. I had spent four days in APPELSCHA. On my way to WESTERBORK I was stopped four times by the Germans. They told me to say, "Ik ga naar Scheveningen" (An Englishman can't say Scheveningen but will always say "Skeveningen"). I asked them why I had to say this and they said that Para troops had been dropped at some places. I pretended to be afraid and asked if it was safe to go on to WESTERBORK. "Oh yes" they said, "all the Para troops have been rounded up".
When I got a punctured tyre. I went into a garage in BEILEN and asked for tools so that I could repair it. The garage was occupied by German SD men and a Dutch traitor (Landwacht). The Dutch traitor gave me tools to mend my tyre and even helped me with it. One SD man asked why I did not have a photo on my papers. I told him that shopkeepers could not get film paper nowadays. He agreed.
At about 12 noon I reached WESTERBORK. the policeman said "You are just in time". Para troops had been dropped 5 km from WESTERBORK and that afternoon they were going to launch an attack on the German HQ. So I went to those French para troops and told the C.O. that I was at his service. I offered to take his men to WESTERBORK for I knew where all the Germans were living. he agreed to do this, so I left with a party of about 20 men across the fields and brought them unseen by the Germans up to about 80 to 100 yards from the German HQ and pointed out all the places where the Germans were staying, which could all be observed from there. Then the attack set in. There was a stiff fighting for about an hour. the Germans put up some resistance and Dutch traitors informed the camp nearby so they got reinforcement. The French withdrew leaving three killed. The German general was shot in the chest. he died in the hospital (He died in 1973 in Bad Wimpfen/Baden-Württemberg,). Three other German officers were killed and six men and a traitor girl who was very dangerous. The Germans left WESTERBORK that night. I was informed by civilians that the Germans were looking for me, so I left WESTERBORK across the fields and hid in a farm (Fam. Sliekers).
The underground organisation of WESYERBORK that night went to a farm. the same night I went up to that farm and instructed those men in arms, etc. The following morning I could hear tanks rambling in the distance. I dressed myself up as a farmers help and got on to the main road to meet the tanks. They were Poles. I told the C.O. who I was and gave him the location of the German camp. After that I went to the town hall and asked if I could speak to the burgemeester (mayor). He let me in and as I was feeling my pockets as if looking for papers, saying: "I've got something for you burgemeester, producing my pistol and told him that he was my prisoner with his staff of three men. One of those men handed in his revolver which he was carrying in his pocket. I told the porter to put the Dutch flag on the town hall and sent someone out to the farm to fetch the underground organisation. Then the phone rang. I picked it up and a voice asked me in German "Are you the burgemeester?" I said "Yes, who are you?" He said "Gemmeke, the camp commander of WESTERBORK". He said "Is everything all right in Westerbork?" I said "Everything is in perfect order". He seemed to get suspicious somehow and asked me "Are you really the burgemeester?" No I said to him in English, "Can't you speak English?" He shouted "NEIN" and broke off. This I heard later had caused quite a bit of excitement among the Germans there. They manned all the posts and loaded up as much as they could and left. Then the underground organisation of WESTERBORK came to the townhall. The Polish tanks went back so WESTERBORK was in the hands of the underground organisation.
I placed armed guards of 5 men each on each road leading to WESTERBORK while sending out patrols all the time. I also sent out some civilians (volunteers) to spy the German positions. They brought back valuable information as to where the positions were and the strength of them. This was very helpful to the Canadians who came the next day. Then the District Leader named V (Nicolaus Gerhardus Viëtor ?) came to WESTERBORK. He asked me a lot of questions. That night he said he was going to take all all the posts in again, also the patrols, and they would hide themselves in a farm because he would not take the responsibility if the Germans came back that night. I told him that in war-time one has to take responsibility and also risk sometimes and if ever it was time for the underground organisation to set it was now and not later. If the roads to WESTERBORK were free again the Germans could come back and take as many reprisals as they wanted. He said: "You are all right, you are in uniform now - we are civilians, when we are captured we shall be shot." I offered him my uniform and said that I would put on his civvies. He refused. then I got quite annoyed and told him that I doubted very much whether it was the responsibility he dare not take or whether it was cowardice. He said he did not care what I thought of it, but that he was going to hide his men and some prisoners we had taken, so he did. This happened against my wish and against the wishes of all the members of the underground organisation, but he was the leader and they obeyed.
I slept in a farm that night and early in the morning I went back. There was no sign of the underground organisation. There were no Germans. I knew where there were some arms and issued them to 10 civilians whom I stationed in and around the town hall, telling them to defend the building if ever an attack came. I collected another 10 men, detailed them in 5 parties of 2 men and sent them out in 5 different directions to try to find the underground organisation. They did not succeed.
With some armed civilians I was patrolling the roads in around WESTERBORK. I arrested a woman (probably a spy). Her husband's name was VAN MAASDIJK and he was a loco burgomaster of THE HAGUE, where SEYS INQUART often visited their home. In the afternoon an officer came and told me to get accommodation for 200 men. I collected 30 civilians again and made them work to clean barracks and schools. Then somebody came up to me and said "I know where the underground organisation is hiding out." So I sent him back with a message that if they please would come there was an occupation of 200 men and that it was absolutely safe, but if V wanted 1000 men then I would ask the C.O. for 1000 men. V came back with the underground organisation and left in 15 minutes and I never saw him again. All the members of the underground organisation came up to me and apologised and told me that it was all done against their wish.
The next day I assisted a Canadian intelligence officer in interrogating. Further I spent a couple of days arresting traitors and collecting arms and demolitions from farms and fields. I spent four days in ZUID LAREN instructing the first recruits of the new Dutch Army. Then I went home.
I was the first Allied soldier in ROTTERDAM and DORDRECHT. I met Burgomaster OUD in ROTTERDAM and he congratulated me. At first the Germans would not let me through at DORDRECHT. I told them I was a British soldier and that I had to be allowed through. They said "All right" and let me go through.
When I came home there was a lot of people sheering and shouting. Then about 10 Germans came and started shooting in the air. All the people fled. The Germans were flabbergasted when they saw me in uniform. I asked them if they were crazy and asked if they knew that the war was over. If they were to shoot civilians again I would report them to the British C.O. and that they would be shot. Ten minutes later the German NCO came into our house and apologised for shooting. it was all a mistake. He said civilians were cutting girl's hair and he thought that was what they were doing then.
After spending a couple of days at home I left for ENGLAND again.