Operation Amherst: French SAS in Holland, April 1945

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    remise_de_la_militar Edgar Thomé.jpg
    Lieutenant Edgar Tupët - Thomé (born 19 April 1920) receives the Military Cross. Thomé fought at Dunkirk, where he was captured, but he escaped and joined the French resistance. He left France via Spain to join the Free French Army. In June 1941 he was parachuted into France to work as secret agent for the resistance. He returned to England and entered the SAS. Thomé joined the French paratroopers in August 1943 and became second-in-command of the 2e Coy, 3e RCP in January 1944. During that year he saw action in Brittany and the French-Jura. The story of Thomé is typical for the average French SAS para. Almost all of them had fled the partly occupied France during the first years of the war, sometimes in a spectacular way. Some arrived in England only in various ways and mostly after adventurous wanderings. Others who escaped via the Pyrenees had been interned temporarily in Spain in camps. For all of them it counted that they were keen to fight the Germans. (photo courtesy: http://fflsas.org/index.php?option=com_fflsas_user&view=image_browser&lang=EN).

    Sicaud Vallieres Thome.jpg
    Same ceremony (left to right) Captain Sicaud who received a DSO, Captain Vallières a MC, and Lieutenant Thomé also a MC.
    Last edited: May 26, 2020
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  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Appelscha (Sticks Sicaud, Hubler and Collery)

    As elsewhere, the sticks that landed near Appelscha were widely dispersed. Of the units that were to land on Drop Zone 16 (NW of Appelscha), the stick of Collery landed to the east of the township of Wateren, near a fen called Ganzenpoel; the stick of Captain Sicaud landed in the forests amid the trees to the south of Appelscha; only the stick Duno came down almost on target. The sticks that were to use Drop Zone 15 to the east of Appelscha were even more hopelessly scattered. The stick Thomé landed at Diever and stayed there to fight its seperate battle (see previous posts); the stick Vidoni landed far to the north near Haulerwijk (outside the map below); only the stick Hubler came down close to the planned Drop Zone.

    Appelscha 000.jpg
    A = Stokers Verlaatbrug; B = RV area of Friesch Volkssanatorium; C = Wittewijksbrug; D = Veenhoopsbrug; E = "Prins Bernard" Barracks; F = Rooks Farm. Red circles the intended Drop Zones, blue circles the actual landings.

    The sticks Collery, Hubler and Sicaud were to rendez-vous near the Friesche Volksanatorium (B on the map), but because of the dispersed landings this necessarily took some time. The stick Hubler landed nearby at the Tilgrupsweg and was the first to arrive at the RV. Lieutenant Hubler, who had gathered 12 men of his stick, initially hid near the spot where they had landed, in the forest close to the Nysingh farm, to await daylight and orient himself. But the paras were soon discovered by the farmer who called in the local resistance. They guided the French paras to the sanatorium, where Hubler established a basecamp. Lieutenant Collery and his men came down further to the southwest near a fen called the Ganzenpoel, in the vicinity of Wateren. Lieutenant Collery was injured during the landing, when he collided with a concrete wall which hit him in the back; one of his men broke an ankle. Collery also decided to await dawn before setting off in the direction of Appelscha.

    Captain Sicaud in the meantime experienced a lot of difficulties in assembling his men. Most of the stick had landed among the trees in the forest. Sicaud himself was partially blinded when he "fell through" a tree and got a branch in his eye. Despite this painfull injury, he continued with his task. He immediately understood that he had not landed in the right place and, after searching for a while for men and supply containers, also decided to wait for first daylight before taking further action. By pure coincidence the men of Captain Sicaud were discovered by an armed local resistance group of the Knokploeg Noord-Drenthe, led by Kees Veldman, who were hiding in the woods of Appelscha after a spectacular action against the prison in Assen on 11 December 1944, in which they liberated over 30 political prisoners. Ten or fifteen men of the Knokploeg, conducting a weapon exercise, to their astonishment bumped into the French paras who all were sound asleep. The Dutch resistance, to saveguard secrecy of the operation, was not informed about Op Amherst beforehand. The resistance men took the French to their nearby hideout in the woods, a large dug-out which carried the grandious name of "Prins Bernhard Kazerne" (Prince Bernard Barracks). One of the resistance men - who acted as instructor for the group - was the Dutch secret agent, Wim van de Veer, a British trained commando, who had been dropped from England in October 1944 to organize and train the local resistance. That morning the local doctor of Appelscha - mr Gerlach - who had been sent for, treated the wounded French paras at the hideout, including the injured eye of Captain Sicaud which luckily was saved, though the wound was painful and the captain was blind to one eye for a couple of days. Some stray paras crossed the path of the doctor on his way into the forest and he led them to the hiding place. Van der Veer departed that morning on his bicycle for Westerbork, where he contacted Major Puech-Samson. Later that afternoon he would feature in the attack on Westerbork, acting as guide for the French (See: Operation Amherst: French SAS in Holland, April 1945).

    A first plan was drawn up by Captain Sicaud and the resistance leaders for a combined attack on the Veenhoopsbrug across the Drentsche Hoofdvaart and the nearby Wittewijksbrug across a side channel, called the Compagnonsvaart (bridge C and D on the map). The action was planned for the evening of the 8th, but eventually failed, partly because coordination with the local resistance group at Smilde did not come about. The messenger who was dispatched towards Smilde and a companion who he had picked up en route, were caught by Landwachters and both men were shot. An attempt to reach the bridges that evening was broken off when enemy resistance was encountered. In a brief firefight a German sentry was slain. In late afternoon of the 8th, at 18:30 hrs, Sicaud sent a first message to main SAS HQ at Londen that the landings had gone "very bad" with the troops dropped widely dispersed and 6 kilometers south of their Drop Zones, which had made regrouping very difficult, but that he had found the sticks of Collery and Hubler.

    Mess Sicaud 0818300.jpg
    The message sent by Captain Sicaud in late afternoon of April 8th (document in First Cdn Army Ops Log, April 1945)

    Stick Appelscha.jpg
    French paras of the stick Hubler in the woods near Appelscha. On the 10th Hubler and his men captured two Dutch Landwachters and a member of the Dutch SS who passed along a road through the woods near the village. The two Landwachters were driving a horse cart loaded with some rifles. Though the men were taken prisoner, they were regarded by the French as a liability and all three were shot later that afternoon (photo courtesy Boersma).

    Stick Hubler at Appelscha.jpg
    Another picture of the stick Hubler in the neighborhood of Appelscha. French SAS paras, with César Davérieus and Lieutenant Edmond Hubler, pose with Dutch resistance fighters. What makes this picture interesting is that there are two Patchett submachine guns on it (the soldier standing in the middle and one on the right on the ground), an experimental precursor of the post-war British "Sterling" submachine gun. Only about 120 copies of the Patchett have been made. It is known that the SAS used them in France and Belgium (photo courtesy 2nd Company, 3RCP / 3rd SAS (French) during Operation Amherst, 1945 [600x380] : MilitaryPorn).

    Patchett SMG.jpg
    For info about this sub-machine gun see also: Patchett Machine Carbine – The Armourers Bench
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2020
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Duno

    Although Lieutenant Duno came down close to the planned DZ, he was in a precarious position on Sunday morning. The lonely and isolated group of 15 men had sought shelter in one of the dense tree walls in the area, but had been discovered by a few villagers and that considerably increased the chance of discovery by the numerous Germans still present in the village. Farmer Tjamme Rooks who first discovered the paratroopers offered to shelter them in his farm which was fairly remote and therefore suitable as bivouac. Lieutenant Duno gratefully accepted the offer and the paras at once set up the farmhouse for defense. The men patrolled in the immediate vicinity, but made no contact with the other sticks.

    There is some confusion about what happened next. According to Lieutenant Duno's account, which is published in the book by Roger Flamand, his men occupied the Stokersverlaat bridge over the Compagnonsvaart at Appelscha on the second day of the landings, Monday 9 April, while other sources state that this did not happen until the 10th, at which time the French were under command of Sicaud. In the Ops Log of Main SAS HQ there are strong indications that Lieutenant Duno arrived at the bridge ahead of Sicaud. In a message to Main SAS HQ, transmitted by 19:00 hrs on the 10th, which is cited in the next post, Captain Sicaud signals that Duno already was at the bridge that day and he [Sicaud] will join him to organize the defense that evening; reason for me to follow the report of Duno. The latter states that, already on April 9th, he and his men moved to the bridge at the northern end of the village of Appelscha. They found the bridge intact. Duno decided to occupy the site to interdict enemy traffic. On that day a German staff car which approached the bridge was taken out by the paratroopers with a Bren, with two occupants being captured, one of them a major. In the course of the day, another 5 to 6 Germans were captured in small skirmishes. The prisoners were transferred to the nearby farm of the Vondeling family where they, much to the amusement of the local residents, were locked up in the pigsty, guarded by two SAS-men. In the evening, Duno and his men retreated to the Rooks farm with the prisoners who were locked up in the barn.

    staff car.jpg
    The German Army on the run … in the April days many snap shots of the retreating Germans, like this one, were taken by Dutch civilians. This was not without risk and had to be done secretly, since photographing German troops was prohibited and seen as an act of espionage, for which one could easily get shot.

    During the 9th seven men of the stick Vidoni joined the French paras at Appelscha; the demi-stick under Lieutenant Brunet, which had landed further to the north in the Weperpolder, the area between Oosterwolde and Veenhuizen, and had been piloted across the vast peat marshes of the Fochtelooër Veen by local farmers. Brunet knew nothing of the fate of the other members of the stick Vidoni, who had been dropped even much further to the north near Haulerwijk, other than that he had heard the far off sounds of a firefight from that direction the previous day.

    In the course of that same day the sticks of Sicaud and Collery joined Hubbler at the RV at the sanatorium and also made contact with Duno; this can be derived from a message sent by Sicaud at 17:00 hrs in the afternoon to main HQ SAS in Londen, in which he states that he had contacted the stick Duno and the demi-stick of Lieutenant Brunet, but had no news from Thomé nor from Vidoni. Interesting is that Sicaud states that he had spent the day with interdicting the main road Assen - Smilde - Meppel in conjunction with the local resistance, which indicates that Sicaud not yet fully focused on the operation at Appelscha and the Stokersverlaatbrug. It became apparent that the French actions along the road Assen - Meppel started to pay off, that night the enemy was no longer using the road. Somewhere in late afternoon or evening of the 9th contact was established with Lieutenant Thomé.

    Mess Sicaud 091700.jpg
    The message that was sent by Sicaud to main HQ SAS on April 9th. Time of transmitting was 17:00 hrs (First Cdn Army Ops Log, April 1945).

    Mess Sicaud 101300.jpg
    At 13:00 hrs on the 10th Captain Sicaud, Amherst no. 204 was his code-name, signalled that he had made contact with Thomé the previous day. This must have occurred after his previous message of 09.1700 hrs, in which he stated that he had not heard of Thomé. The attacks on the main road Assen - Meppel had been successful. That night the enemy no longer used the road. A bridge (unknown) at Smilde was blown (First Cdn Army Ops Log, April 1945).

    The Stokersverlaat bridge across the Compagnonsvaart. Much of the action of the French paras at Appelscha would revolve around this small drawbridge, which formed an important link in the connection between Friesland and Drenthe.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2020
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stokersverlaat bridge

    On April 10, the French paras decided to have another crack at the Stokersverlaat bridge at Appelscha. This time, they took up well prepared defensive positions around the bridge. Concrete rings and large flour bags from the nearby flour mill were used to build a Brengun post on the north side of the bridge. A few paras climbed on to the roof of the nearby Mulder flour mill. From this high vantage point they could keep an eye on the wider area. Armed Dutch resistance fighters strengthened the French position. There was telephone contact with the resistance in Oosterwolde, the next village to the west. Whenever German traffic moved eastwards through Oosterwolde to Appelscha the French paras received a warning telephone call. Soon a German car approached from the direction of Oosterwolde, it was knocked out by small arms fire, two occupants were killed and one was captured. The car was destroyed with a hand grenade.

    Meelfabriek Mulder Appelscha.jpg
    The Mulder Flour mill (high building to the left) along the Compagnonsvaart. Some of the French paras took up position on the roof of the building. The Stokersverlaat bridge is in the background.

    By the end of the day the French again abandoned the positions around the bridge and gathered at the Rooks farm for the night. That evening the notorious Landwachter Balsma - who we enountered earlier at Diever, where had managed to escape arrest - was caught as he passed on his bicycle through the Bruggelaan in Appelscha. By midnight a column of retreating German troops from Oosterwolde moved unhindered across the Stokersverlaat bridge in the direction of Smilde.

    Mess Sicaud 101900.jpg
    By the evening of April 10th, Captain Sicaud sent another message tot Main HQ SAS, in which he pointed out that Duno had taken 21 POWs. Apparently Sicaud was not present, since he states that he will join Duno that night to organize the defense. It might be that Sicaud was still occupied with his other task, the interdiction of the important road Assen - Smilde - Meppel. A less prosaic option could be that Sicaud until then was incapacitated by his injured eye and left the direction of the operation to Duno (First Cdn Army Ops Log, April 1945).

    In the morning of 11 April, for the third day on row, the bridge was occupied again by the French. This time Captain Sicaud accompanied his men and established a command post in the Café Hulst near the bridge. Meanwhile patrols of French paras and armed resistance men searched the wider area of the village. In the course of the day various skirmishes took place in which a number of vehicles, including a bus and an ammunition truck, the latter probably containing a party of enemy pioneers tasked with the demolition of the bridges between Oosterwolde and Smilde, were ambushed and knocked out by the French. Several Germans were killed and many more were captured. In the early afternoon a tense situation arose as a strong German fighting patrol launched an attack in the direction of the bridge. The attack was repulsed and the Germans suffered a number of casualties among them several prisoners. By evening the French retreated to the Rooks farm, taking their prisoners with them. By now the barn of the Rooks farm was overflowing with prisoners; the number locked up had risen to 47.

    Next day, April 12, the French returned to the Stokersverlaat bridge. Since they were low on ammunition, Captain Sicaud had requested a resupply by air. That morning two Typhoons dropped supply containers filled with ammunition and a few landmines. The mines were immediately used to block the road accesses to the bridge. Though they had been very successful, Captain Sicaud was concerned. His men, after five days of continuous action, were exhausted and were eagerly awaiting the Canadians. Sicaud contemplated to pull back and lay low if relieve would not arrive in short term. But good news arrived during the day. Through couriers of the resistance contact had been established with the Canadians who had been located at the village of Frederiksoord, to the south of Appelscha. It transpired that the Royal Canadian Dragoons, early that morning, had crossed the Drentsche Hoofdvaart at Dieverbrug. Now that he had been resupplied and the Canadian ground forces were close at hand, Sicaud opted for a bolder stance. He decided to remain at the Stokersverlaat bridge that night.

    Amherst 204 - 11 air resupply.jpg
    The message sent by Sicaud to Main SAS HQ in the afternoon of April 11th in which he requested an air resupply for the next morning (Ops Log Main SAS HQ, serial 86)

    Amherst 204 - 11 air resupply (2).jpg
    Later that afternoon, at 18:30 hours, the reply to Sicaud's request was transmitted: fighter bombers would deliver the ammunition supplies next morning between 09:00 and 10: 00 hrs (Ops Log Main SAS HQ, serial 93)

    Amherst 204 - nr 7.jpg
    A final situation report transmitted by Sicaud on the morning of April 12th gives further details of the state of his troops. Though they had been very successful, his men, after five days of continuous action, were exhausted and were eagerly awaiting the Canadians. Sicaud even contemplated to pull back and lay low when relieve would not arrive in short term (First Cdn Army Ops Log, April 1945).

    Next morning, April 13th at 10:00 hours, a Friday, Canadian armoured cars of "B" Sqn of the Royal Canadian Dragoons (or 1st Cdn Arm Car Regt) arrived in Appelscha, not from the south, as may have been expected, but from the west, from the direction of Oosterwolde. After six tumultuous days Sicaud and his men were finally relevied. The French most surprisingly had not suffered any losses during the fight for the village.

    Sicaud+Amherst XL.jpg
    13 April 1945, Appelscha, Captain Sicaud 'hoists' a Dutch and Free French Forces flag at the Stokersverlaat bridge which they captured from the Germans in the morning of the 10th and held for several days until relieved by the Canadian ground forces. During that time the French paras parried several enemy attacks and took 47 POW's. When the French ran out of ammunition they were resupplied by air (Photo courtesy: PAGEHOLLANDE - AMHERST - 1945)

    Stokersverlaatbrug Appelscha.jpg
    Same spot now-a-days (courtesy Google)

    A small war monument near the bridge remembers of the fight that took place at this site:
    Oorlogsmonument Stokersverlaatbrug Appelscha - Appelscha - TracesOfWar.nl

    Monument Appelscha.jpg

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945" - I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen - and Jan van der Walle, "De Bevrijding van Appelscha in april 1945", De Zoolstede 2003/2004.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2020
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Stokersverlaat brug with the small lock in the Compagnonsvaart at Appelscha

    Monument Appelscha 3.jpg
    Jeep at the entrance of the Bruggelaan. Further down this street was the farm of Rooks where the paras had their bivouac and the POWs were locked up in the pig's stable. The Rooks farm no longer exists, it has been torn down after the war (photo courtesy Pen and Dagger).
    Cafe Hulst.jpg
    Café Hulst - on the corner with the Bruggelaan - opposite the Stokersverlaat bridge was the site of Captain Sicaud's HQ.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019
  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Haulerwijk (Stick Vidoni)

    The plane carrying the stick Vidoni overshot the intended DZ and dropped its load far to the north. The stick was scattered in two groups. One group of seven men (the demi-stick under Lieutenant Brunet) came down in the Weperpolder, an area to the northeast of Oosterwolde. In the morning of April 8, not knowing where they were, the men knocked at the door of the Jellema Farm, situated along the road Oosterwolde-Veenhuizen to ask for help. In order not to jeopardize the family, the seven men hid themselves in a small fen opposite the farm, while the family sought help. The paras were picked up the next day by a local farmer and guided through the marshy Fochtelooër Veen to Appelscha, where they joined the stick Duno.

    Stick Vidoni aa.jpg

    The rest of the stick Vidoni, including its commander Lieutenant Vidoni, landed even further away from the intended Drop Zone. They came down with their parachutes in the meadows between the Rendijk and the Slinke road, to the southeast of the village of Haulerwijk. A largely open area dotted with small patches of forest and cut by an occasional tree wall.

    In the middle of the night the paratroopers woke up farmer Van der Leij and asked him to open his barn so that they could hide their equipment and supplies. When they asked for shelter, Van der Leij pointed to the farm of his neighbor the Tamminga Farm. The dazed farmer did not recognize the uniforms of the French and since they addressed him in German he thought they were German soldiers. He told the paras that some of their colleagues were already at the Tamminga Farm, which stood next to the drawbridge over the Kromme Elleboogsvaart; a site locally known as the 'Witte Huis' (White House), after a white-painted farmhouse next to the bridge. Probably expecting to find the other members of the stick and hoping to find some shelter for the remainder of the night, Vidoni and his men set off in the dark towards the Tamminga farm and knocked at the door. The roused farmer did recognize the German speaking French neither and also thought they were a bunch of German soldiers on their way back to Germany that demanded accommodation for the night. Not at all happy with the late awakening, Tamminga grumbled that he already had guests. That evening, four German soldiers had arrived, who had demanded quarter and were sleeping in the hayloft. As the French replied that they would like to have a word with their "comrades", Tamminga let them in. The French went inside and captured four sleepy and surprised German soldiers. The German prisoners were led outside to an adjoining meadow and shot without mercy on the edge of a ditch. "Killed in cold blood", according to a still horrified Tamminga after the war. The bodies of the killed soldiers remained where they had been slain, half on the ditch side and half in the water. Next day Tamminga took care of them. He loaded the bodies on a cart and took them to the graveyard in Haulerwijk. The news of the killing spread rapidly among the population of Haulerwijk and obviously led to great fear for reprisals.

    Witte Huis Haulerwijk.jpg
    The drawbridge across the Kromme Elleboogsvaart at Haulerwijk, locally known as the White House. The pond in front is situated next to the Tamminga Farm (to the right not visible on the photograph).

    Slinke Tamminga Farm.jpg
    Jeep at the same site. The small drawbridge across the canal has been replaced by a road dam and the white house has gone. The pond also no longer exists, it was situated to the right of the small shed across the road. To the right the Tamminga Farm where four German soldiers were surprised while asleep and taken prisoner by the stick Vidoni. They were shot along a rural lane to the backside of the farm (photo courtesy Pen and Dagger).

    Meanwhile the French paras took up defensive positions near the Slinke, but they soon were discovered. Actually they were betrayed by one of the (unfortunately) omnipresent members of the NSB and Landwachters, Pieter van der Heide who lived at the Meidoornlaan and was mockingly called Piet Bacil (bacillicus) by the local residents. Van der Heide alerted the nearby German military commander. The latter however at first was not much inclined to do anything about the situation. Only after Van der Heide threatened to warn the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) at Norg, did he change his mind. Unfortunately for the French, a German unit of about 200 men, retreating towards the east, was harbored in the area. During the afternoon a strong German fighting patrol came down from Haulerwijk along the Meidoornlaan and Scheidingsreed and attacked the French. A fire fight broke out in which one of the paras, Pte Henri Pintaud, was killed (near the Boer Farm) and four others were captured, three of them wounded. The prisoners were taken to Haulerwijk. Only three paras evaded capture, including the slightly wounded Lieutenant Vidoni, who had injured his hand. Vidoni hid in the forest known as 'Blauwe Bos', another para found shelter in the forest behind the Tonckenshoeve to the south of Haulerwijk, where he met another French para already hiding. At the Bijker Farm, one soldier, Henri Fouquer, closely chased by the Germans was hidden by the farmer in the hayloft, where the Germans couldn't find him although they searched the farmyard and even threatened the farmer's son to shoot him if he didn't tell where the para was. Luckily for Fouquer the son kept his mouth shut and the Germans didn't shoot. Later Fouquer, clad in civilian clothes and his typical small French moustache shaved off, was smuggled away on a bicycle to another hideout near Zuidvelde, where he joined another group of hidden paras - men of the sticks Boulon or Ferchaud (?). From here he reached the Canadian ground forces. Vidoni at the Blauwe Bos and both paras (one of them Cpl Raymond Hauser ) near the Tonckenshoeve were brought over by the resistance to the Van Weperen Farm near Haule, where they remained in hiding until the Canadian ground troops arrived in Oosterwolde. Vidoni had his hand treated by doctor Beumer, the local doctor of Haulerwijk. On 13 April the three paras rode on bicycles towards Oosterwolde where they met with the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

    Fortunately for the French and the residents of Haulerwijk the Germans did not take any reprisals for the death of the four soldiers. The French POWs were treated correctly by their captors. Doctor Beumer was allowed to attend the wounded who eventually were evacuated to a hospital at Heerenveen. Here they were liberated by Canadian ground forces. Pte Jules Garcia, who was captured uninjured, was transferred to the prison in Leeuwarden where he was liberated on the 15th of April by the Canadians.

    Haulerwijk Map.jpg
    Area to the south of Haulerwijk: 1 = Van der Leij Farm; 2 = Tamminga Farm; 3 = Boer Farm; 4 = Bijker Farm (hideout of Fouquet); 5 = Tonckenshoeve; 6 = Blauwe Bos
    A = Meidoornlaan; B = Scheidingsreed; C = Slinke; D = Rendijk
    Red Arrows = German attack; Blue circle = Drop Zone

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945" - I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen and an excellent study by Cees Visser e.a., "Landing Franse paras Haulerwijk in WO 2", Haulerwijk 2014.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2020
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Amherst-2Paras+velos.jpg Amherst-Henri Pintaud.jpg
    Picture left: April 13th, the three French paras were photographed at Oosterwolde as they arrived on bicycle from Haule. Lieutenant Vidoni is to the right, with his hand in a sling, bandaged by doctor Beumer, and Cpl Hauser to the left. In the middle with bicycle Roel Voortman a resistance fighter from Haule, who carried the carabine of Vidoni. The name of the other French para unfortunately is not known. Both have wrapped their yellow para recognition scarfs around their left arm (photo courtesy: PAGEHOLLANDE - AMHERST - 1945). Right: Picture of Henri Pintaud who was killed during the firefight at the Slinke

    Pintaud monument.jpg
    War memorial at the local graveyard of Haulerwijk with the names of the civilian war dead and two Allied soldiers. The French para Henri Pintaud, killed on 8 april 1945, and Lt.James B. Dickson of the USAF, who was killed when his plane was shot down over Haulerwijk, by a weird coincidence exactly one year earlier on 8 April 1944.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019
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  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Armoured Car dash to the North Sea (Royal Canadian Dragoons), April 9 - 15, 1945

    1st Cdn Arm Car Regt.jpg

    On April 9th the 1st Canadian Armoured Car Regiment (Royal Canadian Dragoons) became operational for the first time in the NW European theater, after its transfer from Italy together with the other units of 1st Cdn Corps. On April 4th the Regiment had switched corps, being placed under command of General Simonds' 2nd Corps which settled the matter of which direction they would be taking - north, east of the IJssel River, into NE Holland. On that day the Royal Canadian Dragoons crossed the pontoon Bailey bridge over the Rhine at Emmerich and assembled near the town of Doetinchem. One Sqn ("A") was detached and sent to the 3rd Cdn Inf Division in order to screen the elongated left flank of this division along the IJssel River, just to the northeast of Arnhem, where the Germans still held a small bridgehead on the east side of the river which encompassed the small moated town of Doesburg. The other squadrons of the Regiment meanwhile prepared vehicles for operations in support of the 2nd Cdn Inf Division. After several days of planning and waiting the Royal Canadian Dragoons - leaving 'A' Sqn behind in a holding role at Doesburg - moved forward across the start line at 08:00 on April 9th. The new operation was looked forward to with great eagerness. The Royal Canadian Dragoon's War Diary entry for that day states: "Our role held every promise of turning out to be just such as we had always trained for and never undertaken".

    17072708657_fd2b9a1f9e_z.jpg RCD batch.jpg
    Freshly arrived from Italy, a Staghound of the Royal Canadian Dragoons at Noordwolde (courtesy Friesland en Stellingwerven bevrijd - Bevrijding - Drenthe in de oorlog)

    The Royal Canadian Dragoons were assigned the task of exploiting along the axis Raalte - Zwolle and screen the area on the left flank of the 2nd Cdn Infantry Division to keep contact with the 3rd Cdn Infantry Division moving on a parallel axis northwards closer to the IJssel River. On the 9th the Dragoon Sqns moved forward towards Raalte with 'B' and 'C' Sqns up and 'D' in reserve. Next day they probed further in the direction of Zwolle. Then on the 11th a message was plucked from the air from Divisional Headquarters that engineers were about to finish a bridge over the River Vecht at Ommen on the 2nd Cdn Infantry Division's main axis the Nijverdal - Ommen - Hoogeveen road. By 11:00 hours the bridge was ready and the Royal Canadian Dragoons were pulled in from the far left and sent up the Divisional axis, with 'D' Sqn and Regt HQ leading, closely followed by 'C' Sqn. 'B' Sqn had made such deep penetrations in the direction of Zwolle that it was another twenty-four hours before the Sqn could disengage and move back. The electric word was on every lip - "Break Through".

    Jeeping furiously forward in an attempt to keep the pattern of the pursuit clearly fixed, Lieutenant Colonel Landell, the Royal Canadian Dragoon's CO, met Lieutenant Alway, commanding the 8th Cdn Recce Regiment, similarly engaged, in the bustling town of Hoogeveen, some 15 miles north of the Ommen breakthrough. Shouting above the tumult of a typical small-town liberation, a plan involving both regiments was agreed upon by the two commanding Officers. The 8 Recce Regiment was to thrust up the 2nd Divisional axis with the twofold object of contacting 1st Polish Armoured Division - which had been inserted on the right between 2nd Cdn Infantry Div and 4th Canadian Armoured Div - and reporting on the enemy strength on the axis Hoogeveen - Assen - Groningen. The Royal Canadian Dragoons were to cut straight across country through the Province of Friesland in a northwesterly direction toward the North Sea and the provincial capital of Leeuwarden. The task of the regiment was to cut all communication routes fanning out from Leeuwarden to the east and if possible capture the town.

    The bridge at Ommen, across the River Vecht, was blown up by the retreating German Army, but not completely destroyed. Canadian engineers of the 7th Cdn Field Coy RCE finished an improvised bridge across the river within hours after the town had been taken. The old deck was not too seriously damaged, so it was pulled out of the water and set back on the seats making a very good bridge. While all this was going on, an intact Class 40 bridge was discovered two miles west of Ommen. This one allowed the tanks to wheel across without waiting for the other one to be finished. Both bridges at Ommen would serve as sally port for the advance of the Royal Canadian Dragoons and the 8th Canadian Recce Regiment, followed in their wake by the rest of the 2nd Cdn Inf Division. Below: picture of the repaired bridge. The small town of Ommen is situated on the north bank of the Vecht (photos courtesy Vechtbrug -> Stad(huis) - OudOmmen.nl and 1940-1945 K0162.)
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2019
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  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    I have added new pictures (some of them very rare) to different posts after Wybo Boersma, who is a leading expert on Op Amherst, most kindly gave permission to use them for this thread.

    See posts # 11, #16, # 27, # 30, # 32 and # 42
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Across the Drentsche Hoofdvaart - Dieverbrug

    At last light on April 11th Regimental HQ of the Royal Canadian Dragoons with 'C' Sqn arrived without incident at Dwingeloo. En route they had linked up with 15 French paras of the stick Gayard at Ruinen. 'D' Sqn also concentrated at Dwingeloo. At 1700 hrs elements of the latter Sqn were sent out north to search for a crossing of the Beilervaart and to do a general recce of the area. A crossing of the Beilervaart was effected with the assistance of light bridging at a place called De Strank. The Sqn commander went forward with Scout Cars supported by the Assault Troop as far as Hijken without incident. The Sqn firmed up for the night at De Strank.

    Dutch villagers marvel at the Staghounds of a Cdn Recce Regiment, April 1945. This picture was taken at Olst, hard north of Deventer on the River IJssel.

    The Royal Canadian Dragoons probably had the intention to move NE towards Smilde along the east side of the Drentsche Hoofdvaart, where the recce unit was to cross to the opposite bank of the canal and continue in the direction of Oosterwolde, thus passing through the area held by the French paras at Smilde and Appelscha. All the bridges across the Drentsche Hoofdvaart however were out, many had been broken off by the Germans and those that had remained intact were blown up in the last minute. It is not known if the Dragoons were aware of the fact that the French paras had secured the Veenhoopsbridge at Smilde (stick Lagèze; Operation Amherst: French SAS April 1945). If so, there still remained the difficult job of finding a crossing over the Oranjekanaal before the Dragoons could reach that spot. The French paras had been unable to secure the bridge near the Potato Flour Plant at Oranje (stick Boiteux; see Operation Amherst: French SAS April 1945). However that night, at Dieverbrug, hard west of Dwingeloo, an opportunity for a crossing offered itself unexpectedly.

    The small Dieverbridge had been blown by the Germans on April 7th, but a supervisor of Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch Department of Infrastructure), Mr. Koers, living on the western side of Dieverbrug at the lock, reported to the Royal Canadian Dragoon commander. He proposed to build an emergency bridge, using the bridge materials of the broken off Wittelterbrug, that were stored on a box barge, moored nearby at a silent spot in the Drentsche Hoofdvaart. Koers managed to convince the Canadian commander that with this material he would be able to build a proper emergency bridge overnight on the remainders of the demolished Dieverbrug. The Canadian commander acceded, provided that the bridge would be ready by 6.30 am. Otherwise he would search for another crossing further north. The pleas of the Dutch resistance to liberate Diever, because a repetition of the atrocities was feared for, also may have put in some weight. The killing of ten villagers the previous day and the threat of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) to return and finish the job stil reverberated in the frightened village. The local resistance group therefore had send a written request to the Canadian commander in Dwingeloo urging him to send some of his units to Diever. The only connection with Dwingeloo was via the walkway at the lock at Dieverbrug. The Canadian commander replied that he was not in a position to offer help without having a proper bridge. He pointed out that the Canadian engineers were so overflowed with work on bridge repairs, that it would take at least three days before a bridge could be built. If danger threatened, the civilians from Diever had to come to Dwingeloo, where they would be protected by the Canadian army.

    A postwar aerial of the Dieverbrug. The bus which is about to pass the bridge, in the low left hand side of the picture, is coming from the direction of Dwingeloo. The road along the Drentsche Hoofdvaart, from Meppel to Assen, was one of the main traffic arteries in the area, until the construction of the modern motorawy A28 which follows a more easterly course (photo courtesy: abracadabra-493 | Deevers Archief – Dievers Archief)

    A group of civilian volunteer craftsmen from Diever and Dwingeloo worked through the entire night to construct an emergency bridge, described by the Royal Canadian Dragoon's regimental history as "an improvised crossing, a ramshackle affair of timbers and planking, the whole precariously carried on the back of an old scow". In the early morning of April 12th, at about 6:15 am, the first of the giant Staghounds of 'C' Sqn edged onto and over the flimsy bridge. Creaking and groaning menacingly the bridge held. After some adjustments a second Staghound went across. After still some further adjustments with steel beams that were discovered at the last minute a third passed over. This time the bridge finally had sufficient stability and soon the complete Squadron was across. In the early morning of Thursday 12 April, Diever to the great relief of the residents was liberated.

    After the successful formation of the "Dieverbrug Bridgehead" the Royal Dragoons fanned out to the SW and NW. 'C' and 'D' Sqns continued along the main axis to the northwest, towards Leeuwarden. 'C' Sqn moved diagonally north west to cut the enemy's escape route at Steenwijk. That same morning around 11:00 hrs 'C' Sqn reached the outskirts of the town, where it found a military hospital containing 800 patients, among them 21 Allied POW's who were immediately transferred to Allied hospitals. 'D' Sqn quickly followed and paralleled 'C' Sqn's advance with the object of cutting the same escape route fifteen miles north. 'C' cleared Steenwijk and moved towards the German airfield at Havelte (the latter fell on the 13th). 'D' Sqn, overrunning and bypassing isolated groups of startled Germans en route, by the afternoon of the 12th reached the Tjonger Kanaal, another barge canal that ran at right angles to the axis of advance, halfway the distance to Leeuwarden. Regimental HQ moved towards Frederiksoord. 'B' Sqn soon joined RHQ at Frederiksoord and in the evening was sent to reinforce 'D' Sqn who had found a crossing on the Tjonger Kanaal at Mildam, but was counter-attacked by the enemy. After the situation was cleared up 'B' Sqn retired for the night to Noordwolde.

    Map of the Canadian advance in the SW edge of the Province of Drenthe. A=Drentsche Hoofdvaart; B = Hoogeveensche Vaart; C= Beilervaart; D=Oranjekanaal

    The emergency bridge at Dieverbrug in fact accelerated the advance of the Canadian 3rd Division. The Germans had converted the town of Meppel into a defensive stronghold, but now that the Canadians had broken through at Diever, they were outflanked and forced to retreat, otherwise they would be entirely cut off.

    Story - my paraphrase - with courtesy to Opraekelen, orgaan van de Historische Vereniging Diever, april 1995
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    'B' Sqn Royal Canadian Dragoons - Appelscha April 13th

    On April 13th 'B' Sqn of the Royal Canadian Dragoons advanced at first light towards Oosterwolde via Oldeberkoop and Makkinga where Sqn HQ was established. No. 1 and 4 Troops recced southeast towards Appelscha and contacted the French paras of Captain Sicaud at the Stokersverlaatbrug who reported all well. The Dragoons were impressed by the encounters with the hardy commandos of the French SAS, or as the Regimental History says: "Their task of ambush, demolition and sabotage had been fulfilled and as the armoured cars and scout cars of the Canadian patrols appeared, these bearded, sleepless sky raiders came out of their secret hiding places".

    16659867843_afcc057c71_z.jpg French paras Brengun dugout.jpg
    Left: A Staghound of 'B' Sqn near the Stokersverlaatbrug at Appelscha on April 13th. The high building of the Mulder Flour Mill is visible in the background (photo courtesy: Friesland en Stellingwerven bevrijd - Bevrijding - Drenthe in de oorlog). Right: French paras of the stick Duno at their improvised Brengun post near the bridge, that was build from concrete blocks and flourbags found at a nearby factory. The soldier in front holding a stop sign in his hand is identified as Lieutenant Duno. The barrel of the Brengun is sticking out from the opening in between the bags (photo courtesy Boersma).

    Appelscha: an overjoyed population crowd around the Recce Cars of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. Among the crowd some French paras. That evening 'B' Sqn firmed up in Oosterwolde (photo courtesy: Friesland en Stellingwerven bevrijd - Bevrijding - Drenthe in de oorlog).

    Map Royal Canadian Dragoons April 1945.jpg
    Map of operations of the Royal Canadian Dragoon, April 1945. On the 15th the armoured Recce Sqns reached the North Sea thereby effectively cutting of Western Holland from the rest of Germany. The Canadians were ably assisted by a small army of about 3.000 wel organized resistance fighters who secured important road junctions, bridges and even entire villages, and fought side by side with the Canadians against the German Army. Leeuwarden the province capital of Friesland fell on the 15th to the Dragoons. Since then the Royal Canadian Dragoon regimental flag is hoisted annually on April 15th at Leeuwarden to commerorate the date the town was liberated.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    ZONE F Assen - Norg

    Map Amherst Zone F Assen - Norg.jpg

    - The Stirlings with Chalk nos. 33 (Stick Rouan), 34 (Stick Ferchaud), 38 (Stick Valayer) and 39 (Stick Poli-Marchetti) took off from Dunmow airfield and dropped their sticks between 22:30 and 23:00 hours;
    - The Stirlings with Chalk nos. 43 (Stick Picard) and 45 (Stick Boulon) also took off from Dunmow and dropped their loads between 22:30 and 23:00 hours; both planes also dropped 12 containers each.

    Calvert Zone F.jpg

    NB. the narrative of events of Calvert is a bit garbled as will be shown in the following posts. He is right about the difficulties encountered, the sticks landing near Assen had the most difficult time of all. The terrain offered little cover and the town of Assen held a large enemy garisson. Besides that the area was teeming with Landwachters. By the end of the war large groups of these ardent Pro-Nazi Dutch auxilliary policemen had fled to the relative safety of northern Holland. One group had settled in and around Norg. Having nothing to loose, this armed band had build up a reputation of being particularly ruthless and terrorized the whole area, they were known as the 'Bloedploeg van Norg' (Blood Squad of Norg).
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2020
  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    'La tragédie du Zeijerveld'

    Zeijerveld Map.jpg

    Stick De Sablet/Picard

    The stick of De Sablet dropped near the township of Norgerbrug/Kloosterveen. Lieutenant De Sablet jumped as first man of the stick. Lieuteant Charles Picard, who was in command of the other half of the stick, jumped as the ninth man. Picard has given a comprehensive narrative of his landing. After jumping out of the plane he soon found himself descending through a thick cloud cover that deprived him of all sight. When the clouds opened up he saw long straight glistening black lines on the fast approaching ground which he held for roads. Preparing himself for a hard landing on one these roads, he unexpectedly fell into water; the black lines in fact were canals. Picard managed to get out of the water, only to find that his leg bag, with all of his equipment, had landed on the opposite bank of the canal. Already drenched by his landing he waded across the canal to gather his equipment and then started to look for his men. The seven men of his demi-stick quickly assembled, but of the other demi-stick only four men turned up. Lieutenant De Sablet was missing. It was obvious that the stick had dropped at the wrong spot.

    Following the canals Picard led his men southwards through the darkness hoping to find a clue that would tell him where he was. After a while they came to the farmhouse of the Christerus family. The farm however was situated on the opposite bank of the canal. Using a small flat boat Picard and two other paras crossed the canal. Unfortunately the boat sank halfway and Picard for a third time that night landed in the water. At the farm, Picard found out from the friendly residents where he was and he could also dry his clothes. The stick had landed along the Norgervaart about 6 kilometers south of the intended Drop Zone, not far from the town of Assen where there was a strong German garrisson. The road along the Norgervaart, which led north through the Norgervaartsebos to the village of Norg, was frequently used by the Germans.

    About four o'clock that morning Picard left with dry clothes, accompanied by the men he had thusfar gathered. The French moved north towards the forest of the Norgervaartsebos and the intended dropping zone beyond it, in the fields to the east of Zuidvelde. Near the forest the French paras approached a house where light was burning and voices sounded. When Picard tried to peek inside, the voices stopped and he found himself suddenly faced in the darkness by a uniformed person who came out of the house to find out what was going on outside and menacingly stepped forward towards him. Picard shot and the person opposite him collapsed. Later it turned out that he had killed a notorious Landwachter by the name of Tiette Blauw. Unknown at the moment to Picard the death of Blauw would have dire consequences for another stick that had landed in the neighborhood.

    After this incident Picard decided not to remain inside the Norgervaartsebos which was not as large and densely forested as he had expected. Besides that, in the growing daylight he could make out parachutes dangling from the trees, probably from one of the other sticks that had landed in the area. These would certainly attract enemy attention and turn the forest into a deadly trap.

    Instead Picard led his men before dawn to a smaller but more remote wooded area some 2 to 3 kilometers to the west called De Fledders, which he had spotted on his map. Here his men went into hiding. From his hide-out he managed to get off a message to Tac SAS HQ at 08:00 hrs in which he reported that from information of the population approximately 2000 German paratroops were stationed at Assen and that troop trains were still moving along the railway line between Assen and Groningen. He also noted that during the night of 7/8 April he himself had witnessed motorized and horsedrawn convoys pass on the road from Hijkersmilde to Norg for four hours.

    During daytime there was a lot of activity of German patrols and from the Norgervaartsebos came the sounds of firefights. It was obvious that the enemy was chasing the other sticks in the vicinity and Picard decided to keep a low profile for that day. Meanwhile, one member of the stick Sablet/Picard, Pvt Marcel Fabert, accompanied by an unknown French para, who both had landed to the north of the Norgervaartsebos, moved through the fields towards the original dropzone, in the hope of meeting the rest of the stick there. As the two men crossed the Asserstraat somewhat south of Zuidvelde they were discovered by the enemy and in the ensuing firefight Marcel Fabert was killed, while his unknown companion was taken prisoner. Fortunately for Picard and his men, the woodlot of De Fledders was left alone by the enemy, probably because it was too small and remote and therefore a less obvious place to hide. Picard remained there until he and his men were relieved by ground forces on the 13th. Over the next days the paras ventured out only at night to lay ambushes on the roads in the vicinity. A nearby farmer who had been contacted on the third day provided the French with useful information and some food, the latter was very welcome since the men had run out of provisions.

    Picture of the modern road along the Norgervaart, view to the north. In the distance the wooded area called Norgervaartsebos. Note the flat featureless landscape crisscrossed by drainage ditches, which is characteristic for the immediate vicinity to the NW of Assen.

    Picard Fledders 1.jpg
    Men of the stick Picard hiding in De Fledders. This woodlot turned out to be a perfect hiding place, being small and somewhat remote it was not an obvious place for the Germans to look at (photo courtesy Boersma).

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945" - I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen and ‘Bijna vrij: de Operatie Amherst’ | De Krant Nieuws - Het laatste nieuws uit de gemeente Noordenveld, Westerkwartier en Haulerwijk, Hoogkerk en omliggende plaatsen.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2020
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  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member


    At dawn on Sunday April 8th, one of the residents at the Norgerbrug - the young Hans Naber - discovered a parachute on the bank of a broad drainage ditch near his house. Whatever had hung on the parachute had ended up in the water. Assuming it was a container filled with weapons and ammunition, one of many that had been dropped for the resistance lately, he decided to quickly recover and hide it before the Germans came. But when he pulled in the parachutechords a helmet appeared on the surface, beneath it was the lifeless body of a French para. The weight of his legbag, which still was strapped to his belt, had pulled him down and he had drowned. With the help of his friend and neighbor, Willem Oosterwijk, who had come outside, Naber pulled the body out of the water and laid it in the grass along the bank of the ditch. Completely preoccupied with this activity both young men had not noticed that a group of soldiers had approached. When they looked up they immediately saw that these men wore the same uniform as the dead soldier. The soldiers recognized the dead man. "It is De Sablet", one of them called out, "the poor fellow has not been able to free himself". One of the soldiers - Henri Corroy - was wounded and was given shelter in the house of the Oosterwijk family at Norgerbrug, while the other men went on in search for their unit. Corroy remained in hiding until relieved by Canadian ground forces almost a week later, in the afternoon of April 13th.

    De Sablet.jpg Graf De Sablet Bovensmilde.jpg
    Left: The 26 year old Lieutenant Gabriel Louis Saltet de Sablet d'Estières, who was in command of stick No.5 of the 3rd RCP, landed in a broad drainage ditch and drowned on the opening night of the Operation Amherst at Norgerbrug. Right: De Sablet rests at the nearby local cemetery of Bovensmilde. Picture of his grave taken by André Jans during one of the "Amherst" commemorations (courtesy André Jans).

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945" - I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
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  15. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Boulon - Norgervaartsebos

    The stick Boulon came down in and around the Norgervaartsebos about one kilometer to the south of the intended Drop Zone. Some of the paras landed in the trees and had to be cut loose by their companions. The paras were noticed by a German convoy on the road when they landed. But profitting from the darkness the men managed to evade and assembled inside the Norgervaartsebos. Ammunition and provisions were collected and hidden inside the forest. Only one man, Bévalot, was missing; he would join Valayer. But the Germans had sounded the alarm. Next morning, April 8th, the stick Boulon was attacked by strong German elements and in a heavy firefight was driven back to the northeastern corner of the Norgervaartsebos. Several paras were wounded and some taken prisoner. Heavily outnumbered Lieutenant Boulon decided to disengage. He ordered his men to break up in small groups of 2 to 3 men and try to escape eastwards across the open fields towards Zeijen.

    The small canal - more a broad ditch - of the Asserwijk to the east of the Norgervaartsebos. Driven out of the forest the men of the Stick Boulon fled across these open fields. The Norgervaartsebos is visible in the background to the right.

    It was during this escape that André Boude was mortally wounded and had to be left behind. His lifeless body was later discovered in a dry ditch by the Dutch. Boulon accompanied by Mélinard, Dedieu and Laurent who had suffered a gunshot wound to his leg, succeeded in getting out of the forest by crawling undetected across a heathland, almost under the eyes of the enemy. With the wounded Laurent they however did not move forward quickly. In the evening they found a hiding place in a potato pit, beneath a small farming cart, the only cover in this otherwise open and featureless area. Here they were discovered by late afternoon of the following day by yet another German patrol and after a short firefight, in which Mélinard was wounded, all four men were captured. Laurent and Mélinard were evacuated to a hospital in Assen, while Boulon and Dedieu were taken to the town prison of Assen. Miraculously, five men of the stick Boulon got away. Some of them ended up in a small triangular patch of heathland, where they build themselves a small hiding place from branches, while others found shelter in farm houses in the vicinity. All men laid low until relieved by the Canadians.

    On April 10th, of the five French paras that were in custody in the prison of Assen, three paras were randomly picked out by the Sicherheitsdienst and together with a group of 11 Dutch civilian inmates executed in the Asser Bos, at the outskirts of Assen. While the bodies of the killed Dutch were left, those of the French were hastily buried. The uniforms and identity papers of the French however were burned by the executioners. The bodies were later identified by the battalion padre, R.G. Gagey, as those of Francois Boulon and Pte Robert Jean Louis Dedieu. Gagey did not recognize the third victim. The executions were instigated by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and were not the only ones. In an attempt to erase all evidence of their misdeeds the last groups of political prisoners detained in the prisons of Assen and Groningen were shot. Between 8 and 10 April three other small groups of prisoners were executed by the SD in the woods at Norg (18), Anloo (10) and Bakkeveen (10) and hastily buried in mass graves. Why they decided also to shoot the French paras has remained unclear. Were the men executed in revenge for the fact that during the skirmishes around Assen 21 German soldiers had been killed? The three French SAS men were not the only ones, on 9 April, another French para, the wounded Pte Jean Loeillet who had been taken POW at Elp (see Operation Amherst: French SAS in Holland, April 1945), also was shot by his captors in the Asser Bos.

    Nowadays a monument at the execution site remembers of the men who were killed at this spot; see for the location Monument Executies 10 April 1945 - Assen - TracesOfWar.nl

    Map Zeijerveld.jpg

    Stick Rouan: The 'Annie Hoeve' farm

    The stick Rouan came down in the open fields somewhere to the south of Zeijen. Due to the high altitude from which the jump was made (600 m instead of the usual 200 meters) and a strong wind the paras landed dispersed over a wide area and it took several hours before the men had gathered. Two men, Leveque and Spina, were missing and not seen again; they later joined the stick Lavayer. One man, Moutier, had broken his leg during the landing. Not knowing where he was, Lieutenant Rouan decided to await dawn to orient himself. Since the featureless terrain offered no cover for a group of thirteen men, Rouan did not see any small woods in the vicinity, he decided to seek shelter at a nearby farm.

    This farm turned out to be the Annie Hoeve along the Binnenweg which was inhabited by the Erkelens family. The paras contacted the farmer and were hidden in the barn at the back of the farm. By that time it was about 04:00 hrs and Rouan decided that the stick would lay down until the evening, since the risk of discovery was too great during daylight. In the nearby town of Assen, which had an old Dutch Army Barracks and was used by the Germans as a Fallschirmjäger training ground, there was a strong garisson. The parachute landings during the night had not gone unnoticed, the enemy had sounded the alarm and the troops were in high state of readiness. That morning the Germans started to comb the area to the northwest of Assen.

    Around six o'clock, just before dawn, the French paras in the barn at the Annie Hoeve were aroused by a group of four Germans with a vehicle who entered the farm yard. The farmer warned the French to keep quiet since this was daily custom. The Germans came to load and unload milk canisters and left without noticing the French.

    A pre-war picture of the 'Annie Hoeve' farm

    Then at about eight o'clock, the French suddenly found themselves surrounded. A strong German detachment had appraoched unnoticed and had surrounded the barn. Somehow the Germans knew that French soldiers were inside; it remains unknown if the milk collecting party had noticed something or if the French had been betrayed. A firefight broke out which lasted for about one hour. The Germans held their fire twice for several minutes and called out for the French to surrender. Rouan realized that it was a lost cause. He and his men were trapped and could not go anywhere. Consulting each of his men, Rouan decided that they would not yield. They would buy time and hold out until the evening and then attempt a sortie under cover of darkness. But shortly before nine o'clock the Germans set the barn on fire which forced the French to make a break out. Divided in two subsequent waves the French rushed out of the stable door, throwing hand grenades at the enemy and trying to shoot a way out. The attempt failed. Some made it halfway across the farmyard and found cover in an empty slurry pit from where they engaged the enemy. But the Germans had the place well surrounded and after a short fight all thirteen paras had to surrender. As if by miracle none of the French was killed, though most were wounded, some seriously, including Rouan. He had been hit in the chest and the bullet had left his backside, ripping a big hole in his back. Mouton who had fought on with a broken leg had been hit by a bullet in his upper leg. Coulon, the German interpreter of the stick, was hit in the throat. The others were hit in arms, legs and shoulder. Only three men out of thirteen were unharmed.

    For a while it looked as if the Germans were going to shoot their prisoners. The French were gathered and lined up and a highly agitated soldier menacingly waved his submachine gun in front of the row of prisoners. It seemed that the Germans had lost two men killed and three wounded. The arrival of a German officer saved the day. It took a long time before the prisoners were evacuated; a wait probably made necessary by the ongoing fight in the nearby Norgervaartsebos. All that time the wounded got no medical care. By the end of the afternoon the French finally were taken to a school at Norg (a village north of Assen), the seriously wounded loaded on a horse cart, with those who still could, marching behind it. Only the next day the wounded got medical treatment. Later the wounded were brought to the hospital at Assen by horse cart and the non-wounded went to the prison of Assen from where they later were taken to Groningen.

    The farmer Erkelens and his family were lucky and escaped execution. They were saved by a relative who was serving as an officer in the German army as a veterinarian and happened to be on the spot. The family went into hiding for the remaining days of the war.

    For a more detailed (French) account of the stick Rouan see: » Opération Amherst. Un stick SAS en mission le 7 avril 1945 en Hollande, par Georges Caïtucoli

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945" - I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen and ‘Bijna vrij: de Operatie Amherst’ | De Krant Nieuws - Het laatste nieuws uit de gemeente Noordenveld, Westerkwartier en Haulerwijk, Hoogkerk en omliggende plaatsen.
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
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  16. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Annie Hoeve

    Jeep Annie Hoeve.jpg

    The Annie Hoeve as it appears today.

    Annie Hoeve barn.jpg
    The big barn at the back of the farmhouse was the hiding place of the French paras. While they hid their equipment in the straw on the ground floor, the paras installed themselves on the 1st floor of the barn. Guards were posted at the windows on the first floor, but there were many dead angles which enabled the Germans to approach the farm almost unseen.

    Annie Hoeve barn 2.jpg
    One of the side buildings of the Annie Hoeve carries a small commemoration plaque for the French SAS (photos courtesy Pen & Dagger).

    Annie Hoeve barn 3.jpg Rouan.jpg

    Photo right: the 30 year old Lt. Albert Rouan was seriously wounded during the action at the Annie Hoeve (photo courtesy Boersma)
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019
  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Valayer - Mulder barn at the Koelenweg

    The stick Valayer landed ten kilometers south-east of their Drop Zone almost on the western edge of the town of Assen in and near an estate known as De Lariks. Some of the men landed on rooftops, others in gardens or in one of the small streets in this part of the town. The men of the stick gathered near a large farm which stood on the edge of the town and was owned by the Slofstra family. After a while fourteen men had reported in, only Sgt Marc Loï was missing. One man, Henri Corroy had broken his leg during the landing. Ten sleepy Germans who were accomodated in the barn of the Slofstra farm were taken prisoner. Inside the Slofstra farm, Lieutenant Valayer learned from the residents that he not only was far off from his intended landing zone near Donderen, but also that he was in a dangerous position, since his men landed almost opposite the Army Barracks, used by the enemy, which were located on the other side of the main canal. Lieutenant Valayer decided therefore not to wait for daylight, but to leave immediately and head in the direction of the intended Drop Zone. The son of the house, Lammert Slofstra, offered himself as a guide. In single file - with the young Slofstra and Valayer in the lead, the German prisoners, who carried the French packs, in the middle and the wounded Corroy, assisted by Cpl Borderon in the rear - the stick moved across the Zeijerveen. They followed the course of the Asser Wijk canal, but it was a difficult move in the darkness, since they had to move across country, in order to avoid the roads and enemy patrols. The flat fields were crisscrossed by many ditches. Visibility worsened by an emerging ground fog and soon the long file of men fell apart. The tail of the column, where progress was slower because of the wounded Corroy, lost contact and got lost.

    Stick Valayer Map.jpg

    At dawn the men arrived at a large detached barn along the Koelenweg on the edge of the Norgervaartsebos. The barn belonged to a farmer called Mulder. It had two big folding stable doors on both ends and was used as storage of agricultural machinery. Only here Valayer noticed that he had lost the rest of his men. Just two paras were still with him, Sgt. Doal and Pte Azem and a couple of prisoners. Slofstra told Valayer that it was too dangerous to continue in daylight since there were a couple of untrustworthy Dutchmen (Landwachters) living in the vicinity and he suggested that the paras hide during daylight in the barn. Suddenly the sound of a firefight came from further north out of the wood. Valayer did not hesitate and he and his companions and the prisoners entered the barn. Slofstra did not stay with the paras, but he promised to return that evening to lead them to their objective. Unfortunately Slofstra would not return. On his way to nearby family, he ran into a police patrol and when he was unable to show his identity card, which he had forgotten in haste as he left home at Assen, he was taken to the town hall of Norg where he remained in custody for the rest of the day. Meanwhile at the Mulder Barn Valayer waited in vain for his men to turn up. His small force of three however was augmented by the arrival of four stray paras from other sticks: Bévalot from the stick Boulon, Munch from the stick De Sablet/Picard and Spina and Lévêque of the stick Rouan. All four decided to join Valayer and stay at the barn. At some point early that morning the German prisoners escaped; the guard had fallen asleep.

    That Sunday morning the sound of skirmishes could be heard in the vicinity. The enemy obviously was chasing the other para units. In the afternoon when things quieted down a bit, the paras got in touch with the Buist family, who lived on the nearby farm some 200 meters further down the Koelenweg. The Dutch family supplied the French with food and drinks. When Slofstra did not turn up that evening Valayer, for reasons unknown, decided to stay at the barn. Did he count on the guide to return, or was he still hoping that he would gain contact with the rest of his men? Anyhow, dawn of April 9th, a Monday, found the French still at the Mulder barn at the Koelenweg.

    At noon that day a horse cart with two members of the Landwacht, clad in civvies, moved along the Koelenweg. They were on their way to Assen to collect a coffin for their fallen comrade, Tiette Blauw, who had been killed by Picard the previous day. When they passed by the Mulder barn they noticed a group of French paras who were carelessly standing outside the barn. Seemingly unperturbed the two men continued their way. The two small sisters of the Buist family, who were on their way to the barn to bring some food, immediately saw the danger. Due to the language barrier they however were unable to warn the paras. Though they gesticulated to the French that these men were traitors and should be stopped, the paras did not understand what the grils meant and the horsecart with the two harbingers of doom disappeared unmolested in the bend of the road that led to Assen. That afternoon the son of the Buist family found an ammunition container in the Norgervaartsebos and he and his grandfather took it to the French, who were very glad to receive the additional ammo. That evening Buist went over to the barn to express to Lieutenant Valayer his worries over the safety of the French, which in his view had been more than compromised by the incident with the two Landwachters. Valayer, however, did not heed the advice to leave the place, instead the French, as a precaution, barricaded both stable doors for the night.

    Early next morning, April 10th, in a dense fog, a detachment of about forty enemy, a mishmash of soldiers, military police and Landwachters, surrounded the Mulder barn. In the ensuing firefight, which lasted for well over an hour, the French succeeded in eliminating a number of their assailants, but eventually the Mulder barn was set on fire by tracer bullets which were fired into the thatched roof. This forced the paratroopers out. Hopelessly trapped the men decided to break-out at each side of the burning barn. Three of them, Valayer, Munch and Spina, died in the fire when the stable door at their side of the barn blocked. The four paratroopers, Bévalot, Azem, Lévêque and Doal, at the other end of the barn, which was nearest the forest, dashed outside and engaged the enemy. Azem and Bévalot were almost immediately killed by enemy fire. After a short fire exchange Doal and Lévêque tried to make a run for it, but as soon as he stood up Lévêque too was killed. Only the 23 year old Sgt. Jean Doal managed to escape by running across country as fast as he could, with bullets zipping around him, one even went through the pocket of his battledress. Doal ran for several kilometers, losing his shoes as he jumped across ditches. Barefooted, wounded, out of ammunition and out of breath, he finally was hidden by Dutch farmers near Westerveld.

    Verbrande schuur Zeijerveld.jpg valayer beter.jpg
    Left: the sad remains of the Mulder Barn, with in the foreground an improvised grave for the three men who perished inside the barn. The Germans moved the other French casualties by horse cart to Assen. Right: 25 years old Lieutenant Jean Auguste Valayer, who was killed with his men at the Mulder barn. It remains a mystery why he decided to stay in this place for so long. Buist and his son were forced by the Germans to dig the grave for the French casualties. The Buist family was saved from further disaster by a benevolent Landwachter who convinced his companions that these were 'good people who did no wrong'.

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945" - I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen and postwar interviews with members of the Buist family (courtesy Boersma)
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
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  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Koelenweg 3.jpg
    A rebuild barn and a modern farmhouse now occupy the spot of the old Mulder barn.

    Koelenweg.JPG Koelenweg 2.jpg
    A plaque on the gable of the new barn remembers of the French paratroopers who were killed in the firefight on April 10, 1945 (photos courtesy Pen & Dagger & smdarby). Below left: Pte Ibrahim Azem was a young 21 years old Syrian who had joined the French. Below right: Azim (left seated) in a SAS jeep that previous summer at Chateaurenard, France (photos courtesy http://fflsas.org/index.php?option=com_fflsas_user&view=person_show&personid=57&lang=FR).

    ibrahim_azem_210.jpg peloton_valayer_720.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019
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  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The tail of the stick Valayer

    The actions of the other members of the stick Valayer, who did not reach the barn, remain uncertain, other than that they did survive. In his book, Roger Flamand quotes the story of Lieutenant Raillaird, leader of the second team of the stick, but it is not very clear about the location of the group. They probably moved to the Wittelter Veld, the area between Kloosterveen and Bovensmilde and eventually ended up in Bovensmilde on 13 April, where they made contact with the Canadians.

    Raillard reports how he and seven others, including the injured Corroy with his broken leg, could not keep up with the pace of the rest of the group and lost contact in the darkness and fog. After they no longer knew which way to go, Raillard decided to wait in the hope that Valayer would send someone back to pick them up. When no one appeared after about an hour and it started to become light, he decided to look for a shelter. Corroy was left behind, hidden along the bank of a canal, with the promise to fetch him as soon as a safe hiding place had been found and the rest of the group continued in a northerly direction. They lay low during daytime under an old abandoned farm cart in the middle of the open fields. Although several German patrols were active in the vicinity, the men were not discovered. Perhaps because the chosen shelter was not a very obvious one. That night the French moved westward and hid in a grove. That same night two men went back to pick up the lonely Corroy and took him to the new shelter. The following night, that of April 9th to 10th, he was taken to the sluice-gatehouse of the Oosterwijk family near Norgerbrug, where he was lodged until the arrival of the Canadians. (Note that this version does not match with the information previously provided by the Oosterwijk family, in their opinion Corroy arrived on Sunday morning, April 8th, just after the body of Lt. De Sablet had been discovered).

    Next morning, Lieutenant Ferchaud, leader of the 2nd stick, 1st Sqn, joined Raillard's group in the grove. Ferchaud had lost contact with his stick - that came down near Vries, a village hard north of Assen - and had wandered around all alone for several days. During the following nights, the French operated from the grove and laid various ambushes, though they met with little success. The Germans no longer showed themselves on the roads. On April 13, Lt. Raillard and his men linked up at Bovensmilde with the Canadian ground troops.

    (The story - my paraphrase - with courtesy to: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945"; I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen.)
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
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  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Norg - Vries - sticks Ferchaud and Poli-Marchetti

    Norg - Vries.jpg

    A.= Airfield Norg; B. = Dummy Airfield Donderen; C. = Drop Zone 12 intended for sticks Valayer & Poli-Marchetti; D. = Drop Zone 11 intended for Rouan & Ferchaud

    Little is known about the actions of the stick Ferchaud. The paras of Ferchaud, by the combination of a jump carried out from a high altitude and a strong wind, that also bedeviled the stick Rouan, were probably scattered over a wide area, though they fell close to the planned DZ. Moreover, the stick landed along the main road Vries - Assen while an enemy convoy passed by that night. As a result the stick immediately fell apart. The containers landed on the edge of the village of Vries and were captured by the enemy. 2nd Lieutenant Barrès brought together some men including Jean Mayer, Pierre Rossini and Marcel Mauchaussé and together they conducted patrols in the area. On April 9, they reached Zuidvelde (to the south of Norg), where they cut the telephone wires and mounted a series of ambushes. On April 14, they joined the battalion at Assen. For his part, Cpl Angeli gathered some men and carried out harassment missions. An isolated Joseph Tafani put himself in civilian clothes and carried out intelligence missions. Similarly, Lieutenant Ferchaud wandered around alone for several days until he bumped into the stick Raillard on April 10.

    Members of the German Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Ordnungspolizei with a captured supply container. These pictures were taken on 9 March 1945 in central Holland where an Allied weapon dropping to the Dutch resistance went awry and was intercepted by the SD. The failed dropping led to the death of 17 resistance workers, who were apprehended and, after brutal interrogations, executed by the Germans on March 20th. Though the end of the war was near, German repression in Holland did not decrease, on the contrary. On March 8th, after the SS-officer Hanns Rauter, the German head of police in the Netherlands had been ambushed by resistance fighters near Apeldoorn, the biggest mass execution in Holland took place in which as a reprisal 117 political prisoners were executed at the Woeste Hoeve, halfway between Arnhem and Apeldoorn, while spread over the rest of occupied Holland 147 other hostages (called 'Todeskandidaten' by the Germans) also were shot. Rauter had been severely wounded, and both his driver and adjudant had been killed.

    Below: the equipment is loaded onto a horse drawn cart. Note the hand grenades sticking out of the boots of the soldier with his back to the camera. During many of the encounters in Amherst the French paras were able to throw back the stick handgrenades the inexperienced Germans threw at them too quickly (courtesy
    Droppings in Noord-Drenthe - Jaar van Verzet ).

    Story courtesy Bienvenue
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2020
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