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 in 1940 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 Spanish 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: Aug 31, 2022
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  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Appelscha (Sticks Sicaud, Hubler and Collery)

    As elsewhere, the sticks that dropped near Appelscha were widely dispersed. Of the units that were to land on Drop Zone 16 (NW of Appelscha), only the stick Duno came down almost on the designated drop zone. The others landed far off the mark: the stick Collery came down to the east of the township of Wateren, near a fen called Ganzenpoel; the stick of Captain Sicaud landed amid a plantation of young firs in the forests to the south of Appelscha; near the Groote Veen, hard north-east of the Us Blau Hiem, in normal times a holiday house for the youth situated along the Oude Willem road. The sticks destined for Drop Zone 15 to the east of Appelscha were even more hopelessly scattered. The stick Thomé landed at Diever where it would fight its own separate 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 intended 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. Intended DZ 15: sticks Thomé, Hubler an Vidoni; DZ 16: sticks Collery, Duno and Sicaud.

    The sticks Collery, Hubler and Sicaud (DZ 16) 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 first daylight and orient himself. In early morning the paras were 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 a reforestation area. Before jumping from the plane, Sicaud asked the jump-master for the azimuth of the flight and gave it to his men, so that they knew which direction to search for the other members of the stick once on the ground. Sicaud himself was unlucky when, wrestling through the young pines, a back swinging branch hit him full in the left eye, damaging his cornea and partially blinding him. Despite his painful injury he continued with his task. He immediately understood that he had not been dropped in the right place and, after having assembled his men and supply containers, also decided to wait for first daylight before taking further action. One man was missing. Sergeant Beylier who had jumped a few seconds too late and therefore landed too far off. Beylier could not find the rest of the stick. Ultimately, after wandering around for some time, he went into hiding at a farm where he stayed until relieved by the Canadians.

    At dawn, by pure coincidence Captain Sicaud and his men 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 over 30 political prisoners were liberated. Ten or fifteen men of the Knokploeg, conducting a weapon exercise in the early morning, to their astonishment bumped into the French paras who all were sound asleep (1). The Dutch resistance, with a view to secrecy, was not informed about Operation Amherst beforehand; the message was broadcasted in the evening of April 8th. The wonder-stricken resistance men took the French to their nearby hideout in the woods, a large secret dug-out which carried the grand name of "Prins Bernhard Kazerne" (Prince Bernard Barracks). The French called it "La cabane du Maquis". One of the resistance men - who acted as instructor for the group - was the Dutch agent, Wim van de Veer, a British trained commando, who had been dropped from England in October 1944 with the mission to organize and train resistance fighters. Together with the resistance men the French started a search for the other sticks that had landed in the area. They soon found the men of Collery and led them to the dug-out. Sicaud also got in touch with Hubler who had moved to the designated RV-site at the sanatorium. 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. On his way in, some stray paras crossed the path of the doctor and he led them to the hiding place. Van der Veer departed that morning on his bicycle for Westerbork, some 40 kilometers to the east, where he got in touch with Major Puech-Samson. That afternoon Van der Veer would feature in the attack on Westerbork, acting as guide for the French (See: Operation Amherst: French SAS in Holland, April 1945).

    That morning 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 Opsterlandse Compagnonsvaart (respectively bridge C and D on the map). The action was planned for the evening of the 8th, but the plan went awry, partly because coordination with the local resistance group at Smilde did not come about. The Dutch messenger who was dispatched on his bicycle towards Smilde and a companion, who he had picked up en route, at an hideout at the Veenstra farm, were caught by Landwachters and both men were shot; the latter was killed, the other, managed to escape, though seriously wounded. Despite this set-back, the combined groups of French paras and resistance fighters made an attempt to reach the bridges in the evening of the 8th. However, the effort was broken off when enemy resistance was encountered. In a brief skirmish a German sentry was slain. Disabled by his wounded eye, Sicaud did not participate in the action. He temporarily handed over command of his group to his adjutant, René Merlin, and remained in the hide-out in the forest, alone with a wounded German POW, captured before by the resistance group (2). The the interception of the courier had consequences the following day. On 9th April, the Veenstra farm, as a reprisal, was attacked by a combat patrol of Feldgendarmen, about 20 strong, sent from Oosterwolde, after a group of Landwachters, who wanted to subject the farm to further investigation, had been driven off by resistance fighters in a first skirmish near the farm in early morning. By the time the Feldgendarmen arrived the inhabitants and resistance fighters luckily had already fled the farm.

    In late afternoon of the 8th, at 18:30 hrs, Sicaud managed to send off a first wireless message to main SAS HQ at Londen. He stated 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 got in touch with the sticks of Collery and Hubler. The fact that the first message wasn't sent until this late in the afternoon, reflects the confusion that reigned on the first day of the operation.

    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, accompanied by a female, 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, the female was left in the care of civilians (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

    (1) Captain Sicaud, on the other hand, has a different version. In a postwar interview Sicaud stated that the French were fully aware of the approaching resistance group and had their weapons at the ready. Sicaud, interview with Jan vd Walle, 1984.

    (2) Sicaud later told that he kept rubbing his eye, which was irritated and was constantly leaking fluid, but this also caused his other eye to become inflamed. For two days his sight became so blurred that he could not walk around alone and had to be led around resting with a hand on the shoulder of one of his men. Ibidem.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2022
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Duno (8 and 9 April)

    Although Lieutenant Duno came down close to the planned DZ, he was in a precarious position when dawn came 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 nevertheless had been discovered by a couple of villagers and that considerably increased the chance of discovery by the numerous Germans still present in the village (1). Fortunately farmer Tjamme Rooks, who was among the first to discover the French paratroopers, was aware of their predicament and offered them shelter in his farm which was fairly remote and therefore better suited as a shelter. 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 found no contact with the other sticks.

    There is 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 the northern end of Appelscha on the first day of the landings, Sunday 8 April. Other sources state that this did not happen until the 10th, at which time the French were under command of Sicaud. From the Ops Log of Main SAS HQ it is obvious 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 signaled that Duno already was at the bridge that day and he [Sicaud] would join him to organize the defense that evening. I decided not to follow the report of Duno. It is highly unlikely that he occupied the bridge on the 8th, given his isolated position at the time and the strong enemy presence in the village. Even the 9th, as the date the bridge was occupied, does not seem plausible, since enemy contingents used the bridge unmolested several times that day (as is explained in the footnote). It is more likely that the discovery of the intact bridge by one of his patrols on the 9th prompted Duno's decision, with the consent of Sicaud, to occupy it the next day: April 10th. The action at the Stokersverlaatbrug will be described in the next post.

    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.

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

    During the 9th Sicaud finally got in touch with Duno; this can be derived from a message Sicaud sent at 17:00 hrs in the afternoon of the 9th to main HQ SAS in Londen. In this message 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 in his message 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. This corroborates with a later statement of Sicaud that he organized operations, both at night and during the day, on the roads and along the canal with the aim of disrupting German troop movements (2). Not known is how effective these actions were, since in the course of April 9th another German convoy of horse-carts passed through Appelscha. One farmer witnessed that the two German officers in charge had a fierce argument whether or not to stay because they were aware that enemy soldiers were close. The column eventually left Appelscha in a northerly direction. However, it seemed that the French actions along the road Assen - Meppel started to pay off. That night the enemy was no longer using the road. At some point in the late afternoon or evening of the 9th Sicaud, who spent at least 48 hours in the hide out in the forest to recover from the eye wound, finally established (wireless) contact with Lieutenant Thomé.

    Mess Sicaud 091700.jpg
    The message 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, signaled that he had made contact with Thomé the day before. This must have occurred after his previous message of 09.1700 hrs, in which he stated that he had no news of Thomé. The attacks on the main road Assen - Meppel had been successful. That night the enemy no longer used the road. It is unclear who carried out these attacks, Sicaud uses a codename for the attacking force. A bridge (unknown) at Smilde was blown (First Cdn Army Ops Log, April 1945).

    The Stokersverlaat bridge across the Opsterlandse 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.

    (1) About the German presence at Appelscha: A permanent listening post of the Luftwaffe, manned by four German soldiers, was present at the Drentseweg in the south-eastern part of the village. At the Compagnonshotel in the village a group of nineteen officers had installed some kind of temporary bivouac. There were four field kitchens parked in the hotel courtyard. Over the last few days retreating German units on horse-carts regularly passed through the village during daytime. On 8 April a group of soldiers with horse-carts, loaded with wounded and the bodies of killed soldiers, arrived in Appelscha; they had been ambushed by the stick of Thomé further to the south. This group settled down near a farm in the Bruggelaan and immediately set up sentries in the area. That evening, upon reports of sightings of flashlight signals in the darkness, which were used by prowling French paratroopers, the German commander of the group decided to pack up and leave Appelscha in a northerly direction. On the 9th a strong enemy patrol of about 20 men, dispatched from Oosterwolde, passed through Appelscha and the Stokersverlaatbridge on their way to attack the Veenstra farm, where Landwachters had clashed with a Dutch resistance group. After having burned down the farm, which was found abandoned, they retired to Oosterwolde by way of Appelscha and the bridge.

    (2) Sicaud in an interview with Jan van der Walle, 1984
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2022
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stokersverlaat bridge (10 - 13 April)

    On April 10, the stick Duno decided to have a crack at the Stokersverlaat bridge at Appelscha. Arriving at 06:00 hrs Duno found the bridge still intact and he immediately occupied it to interdict enemy traffic. He set up defensive position around the bridge. Concrete rings and large flour bags from the nearby Mulder flour factory were used to build a Bren gun post on the north side of the bridge. A few paras climbed on to the roof of the nearby Mulder flour factory. From the rooftop they could keep an eye on the wider area and especially the road, running east -west along the canal from the direction of Oosterwolde which was used by the enemy. A group of about a dozen armed Dutch resistance fighters strengthened the French position. They even established a telephone link with the resistance in Oosterwolde, the next village to the west. Whenever an enemy vehicle moved eastwards from Oosterwolde to Appelscha the French paras received a warning call.

    Soon a German car approached from the direction of Appelscha, it was knocked out by small arms fire. Two of the occupants were killed and one was captured, one of them the German officer who was to take charge of the defense of Assen. The car was destroyed with a hand grenade. During the afternoon a small group of about six German soldiers were captured approaching the bridge through the Bruggelaan. 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.

    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 Duno abandoned the position at the bridge and moved back to the Rooks farm for the night. He took the POWs with them and locked them up in the barn. That evening the notorious Landwachter Balsma - who we encountered previously at Diever, where had managed to evade 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 more 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, the bridge at Appelscha again was occupied by the French, while patrols of French paras assisted by armed resistance men searched the wider area of Appelscha. This time Captain Sicaud accompanied his men and established a command post in the Café Hulst next to the bridge. Sicaud, still not fully recovered from his eye wound, had arrived at the Rook' s farm the previous evening (10th), having been given a lift on a bicycle to the Friesche Sanatorium - the bivouac of Hubler - thence proceeding on foot to the Rook's farm (1).

    The day of the 11th was a day of lots of activity. A German car approached the bridge from the direction of the Boerestreek at high speed; it had about five occupants. The car was fired upon by a machine gun, manned by Sergeant Ourinowski, hidden in a grove on the left side of the road and a machine gun in position at the Café Hulst, enfilading the bridge site. The driver was killed, the other occupants were wounded. One of the latter was a high-ranking member of the Gestapo, dressed in civilian clothes, who, before serving at Rotterdam had been posted at Paris. A bullet had passed through both his cheeks, cutting his tongue in the process, making it all but impossible to interrogate him. The papers he carried with him were secured by the French (1).

    In the course of that day various other skirmishes took place at the bridge site and 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 early afternoon a German combat patrol probed in the direction of the bridge. They were discovered and the French fire quickly brought about their dispersal. Those of the enemy who could, scurried off in the direction of Fochteloo. Those who remained behind and were still alive, were rounded up by the French. At dusk the French again retired to the Rooks farm, taking their prisoners with them. By now the barn of Rook's farm was overflowing; the number of locked up POWs had risen to 47. The wounded POW's were treated by mr. Gerlach, the local Doctor. Though succesful the SAS para's were now four days into the action and this gave cause of concern. "While the number of POWs was rising", Sicaud said, "our ammunition stock was quickly diminishing" (2). Therefore Sicaud, in the afternoon of the 11th, requested a resupply by air.

    In the early morning of April 12, two Typhoons duly dropped supply containers filled with ammunition and also a few landmines. With these fresh supplies the French once more occupied The Stokersverlaatbridge at Appelscha. The mines were used to block the access roads to the bridge. The day passed quietly, the enemy no longer showed himself. Nevertheless, Captain Sicaud was concerned. His men, after five days of continuous action, were considerably worn out and were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Canadians. Sicaud contemplated to pull back and lay low if relieve would not arrive soon and told SAS Main HQ of his intents. Calvert agreed to this plan, even suggesting that Sicaud might move south to meet the Canadians, who were well aware of his circumstances. Fortunately welcome messages arrived in the course of 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, in the early morning of the 12th, had crossed the Drentsche Hoofdvaart farther to the south, at Dieverbrug. Reassured by the resupply and the knowledge that contact with the Canadian ground forces was imminent, Sicaud now opted for a bolder stance: he decided to remain at the Stokersverlaatbrug 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)

    12.04 Sicaud situation rep exhausted lay low.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 relief by the Canadian ground forces. Sicaud seriously contemplated to pull back and lay low when relieve would not arrive in short term. (First Cdn Army Ops Log, April 1945).

    12.04 Sicaud mining of roads.jpg
    In early afternoon of the 12th Sicaud reported that he was holding all roads within 200 meters of the bridge (First Cdn Army OP Log, 12 April, serial 101)

    Next morning, April 13th, a Friday, at 10:00 hours, Canadian armoured cars of "B" Squadron 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 operation.

    Sicaud+Amherst XL.jpg
    13 April 1945, Appelscha, six days after the operation Amherst commenced, Captain Sicaud 'hoists' a Dutch and Free French Forces flag at the Stokersverlaat bridge which they occupied from the morning of the 9th 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; Jan van der Walle, "De Bevrijding van Appelscha in april 1945", De Zoolstede 2003/2004; and S. Schoon, "De Knokploeg Noord-Drenthe".

    (1) Sicaud, interview with Jan vd Walle, 1984
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2022
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Stokersverlaat brug with the small lock in the Compagnonsvaart at Appelscha. The Mulder Flour mill is visible to the right.

    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: Aug 4, 2021
  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 for assistance. 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. The presence of the half-stick was confirmed by the wireless message sent by Sicaud to SAS HQ in the afternoon (17:00 hrs) of the 9th (see above post #43).

    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 to the southeast of the village of Haulerwijk, between the Rendijk and the Slinke road. 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 half-sleepy 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 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 initially showed not much inclination to do anything about the situation. Only after Van der Heide threatened him to warn the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) at Norg, did the commander 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 (he fell near the Boer farm) and four others were captured, three of them wounded; there names were Francis Recollon, Rene Berthier, Christian Ferrandi and Pierre Pauli. 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' (Blue Forest), another para found shelter in the forest behind the Tonckenshoeve to the south of Haulerwijk, where he met another (unknown) French para already in 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 - most likely men of the sticks Boulon or Ferchaud. From here he finally reached the Canadian ground forces.In the meantime 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. The arrival of the French in the town was photographed (see below).

    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. The injured Frenchmen were driven to Haulerwijk by horse-cart by one of the local farmers. They were taken to Dr. Beumer's house on in the center of Haulerwijk, where they were cared for by Dr. Beumer. Eventually the wounded were evacuated to a hospital at Heerenveen. Here they were liberated by Canadian ground forces. Pte Jules Garcia, the only unharmed prisoner, 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

    Haulerwijk bridge.jpg
    Bridge across the Haulerwijkse Vaart at Waskemeer (near Haulerwijk). This picture was taken on April 13th, at the moment the first Canadian Armoured Car appraoched the bridge. The young child in the foreground looks curiously in the direction of the first vehicle that carefully approaches the bridge on the other side of the canal; the vehicle is vaguely visible behind the bridge (photo courtesy Rondom 13 April ’45 – Historische Vereniging Haulerwijk & o.).

    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: Aug 21, 2022
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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. The Squadron took up position just to the northeast of Arnhem, where the Germans still held a small bridgehead on the east side of the IJssel 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 its holding mission at Doesburg - moved forward across the start line at 08:00 on April 9th. The new operation was looked forward to with great eagerness or as the Royal Canadian Dragoon's War Diary stated: "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 and keep in touch with the 3rd Cdn Infantry Division moving at a slower rate, due to natural barriers and some towns (Zutphen and Deventer), on a parallel axis northwards closer to the IJssel River. On the 9th the Dragoons moved forward towards Raalte with 'B' and 'C' Sqns up and 'D' in reserve. Next day they probed farther 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 now leading, closely followed by 'C' Sqn. 'B' Sqn had made such a deep inroad 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. Unknown to them at the time, the Royal Canadian Dragoons were about to embark on what became known in history as the 'Armoured Car Sweep' which would lead them all the way to the North sea in a few days.

    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 bridge deck had fallen into the river but was not too seriously damaged, so it was lifted 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, which 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 at Ommen. The small town is situated on the north bank of the Vecht (photos courtesy Vechtbrug -> Stad(huis) - OudOmmen.nl and 1940-1945 K0162.)

    See also for the Royal Canadian Dragoons: Dragoons and the Liberation of North West Europe.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2022
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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 at Ruinen, most likely the stick Gayard. 'D' Sqn also concentrated at Dwingeloo. At 17:00 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, in a Scout Car, supported by the Assault Troop, went forward without incident as far as Hijken. The Sqn then 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.

    Satghound with light bridge equipment.jpg
    Some of the Canadian armoured cars, like this one on the picture, carried light bridging equipment which allowed them to cross small waterways. This material was probably used to cross the Beilervaart at the Strank (photo courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10217926282263792&set=pcb.2202681513238071).

    The Royal Canadian Dragoons probably intended to move NE towards Smilde along the east bank of the Drentsche Hoofdvaart, where they were to pass over 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 disassembled 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 an unexpected opportunity for a crossing offered itself at a different location, at Dieverbrug, hard west of Dwingeloo.

    The small Dieverbrug 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 bank of the bridge site at the lock, reported to the Royal Canadian Dragoon commander. He had discovered the bridge materials of the disassembled Wittelterbrug, stored on a box barge and moored nearby at a silent spot in the Drentsche Hoofdvaart. Koers convinced the Canadian commander that with this material he would be able to build an emergency bridge overnight on the remainders of the demolished Dieverbrug. The Canadian commander acceded, provided that the bridge would be ready by 06.30 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, may also have played a role in the mind of the Canadian commander. The execution of eleven villagers the previous evening 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 messenger to the Canadian commander in Dwingeloo urging him to send some of his units to the rescue of 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 and bridging material so scarce, 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 Canadians.

    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 motorway 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 crossing was finished and the first of the large Staghounds of 'C' Sqn edged onto and over the rickety structure. 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, to the great relief of its residents, Diever was liberated. Though the liberation came with mixed feelings. The recent executions of its inhabitants left the village immersed in mourning. Or as one of the latter later declared: "War is a dirty thing".

    After the successful formation of the "Dieverbrug Bridgehead" the Royal Dragoons fanned out: 'C' Sqn moved to the SW in the direction of Steenwijk; 'D' Sqns continued along the main axis to the northwest, towards Leeuwarden. That same morning around 11:00 hrs 'C' Sqn moved over Diever to Vledder and Steenwijk, where it found a military hospital containing 800 patients, among them 21 Allied POW's who were immediately transferred to Allied hospitals. 'C' cleared the town and one recce group moved towards the German airfield at Havelte. 'D' Sqn quickly followed and paralleled 'C' Sqn's advance, overrunning and bypassing isolated groups of startled Germans en route. By the afternoon of the 12th 'D' Sqn reached the Tjonger Kanaal, another barge canal that ran at right angles to the axis of advance, halfway the distance to Leeuwarden. Meanwhile, Regimental HQ moved towards Frederiksoord. 'B' Sqn soon joined RHQ at this place 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. The situation at Mildam was quickly cleared up and 'B' Sqn retired for the night to Noordwolde (see map in the next post).

    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 retire, otherwise they would be entirely cut off.

    Story - my paraphrase - with courtesy to Opraekelen, orgaan van de Historische Vereniging Diever, april 1995
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2022
  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. From there 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".

    Canadezen-Vaart-NZ Appelscha.jpg
    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: Rondom 13 April ’45 – Historische Vereniging Haulerwijk & o.).

    French paras Brengun dugout.jpg
    Left: French paras of the stick Duno at their improvised Brengun post near the bridge; it was constructed 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). Right: Appelscha: an overjoyed population crowd around the Recce Cars of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. Among the crowd some equally happy 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 Dragoons, 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: Aug 29, 2022
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  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    ZONE F Assen - Norg

    The last operational zone to be discussed, Zone F, contained the northernmost Drop Zones of Operation Amherst, numbered DZ 11, 12 and 13. They were assigned to the 1st Coy, 3rd RCP/3rd SAS. The sticks were to secure the bridges across the Noord-Willems Vaart to the north of Assen and the Kolonievaart to the west of the town and secure a small enemy airfield near 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. Calvert's narrative of events is a bit garbled as will be shown in the following posts. Though he is right about the difficulties encountered. The sticks landing near Assen had the hardest time of all. Most of the 96 missing in action in Op Amherst came from the sticks that were parachuted around Assen. The terrain offered little cover, the town of Assen held a large and alert enemy garrison. The French paras at Assen were the northernmost troops and had to wait longer for the ground forces to arrive. Also the area was teeming with Landwachters. By the end of the war large groups of these ardent Pro-Nazi Dutch auxiliary 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: Sep 27, 2022
  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    'La tragédie du Zeijerveld'
    the demise of the 1st Coy/3rd RCP (3rd SAS)

    Zeijerveld Map.jpg

    Stick Picard

    The stick Picard dropped near the township of Norgerbrug/Kloosterveen. Lieutenant De Sablet jumped as first man of the stick. Lieutenant 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 which harboured a strong German garrison. 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 in the morning Picard left with dry clothes, accompanied by the men he had gathered thusfar. The French moved north towards the forest of the Norgervaartsebos and the intended dropping zone beyond it, 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 first message at 08:00 hrs to Main SAS HQ. He reported that from intelligence gathered from residents approximately 2000 German paratroops were stationed at Assen and that troop trains were still moving along the railway line between Assen and Groningen. He added that during the night of 7/8 April he himself had witnessed motorized and horsedrawn convoys passing by on the road from Hijkersmilde to Norg for several hours on row.

    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. Meanwhile, one member of the stick, Pvt Marcel Julien 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 Fabert was killed, while his companion managed to escape. Another member of the stick Picard, Jean Pierre Munch was killed on 9th April; the circumstances of his death are unknown. 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, delivered the French with useful information and above all some sustenance, had it not been for this they would have had nothing to eat. One member of the stick Picard, Cpl Fernand Vivès, became seperated from the rest and operated on his own. He successfully evaded the enemy search parties and, although isolated, managed to take a prisoner and eventually join the Canadian ground forces.

    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. This kind of terrain, offering little shelter, was not well suited to guerilla operations.

    Picard Fledders 1.jpg
    Men of the stick Picard hiding in De Fledders. With the flat open countryside offering little or no cover, they eventually hid up in an area of low underbrush known as De Fledders and for the next six days attempted to mount ambushes and radio back intelligence on enemy columns passing their hide-out. The woodlot of De Fledders 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. A local farmer provided the French with food during this period. This snapshot was taken on the first day.

    (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: Oct 16, 2022
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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. 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 wounded Magat was left behind in the care of Chavand, both were captured.

    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, among them Moutier and Roques, where they build themselves a small hiding place from branches, while others found shelter in farm houses in the vicinity. The group hidden in the patch of heathland received food from benevolent Dutch civilians, who at great risk for themselves, for two days in a row brought the French water, milk and a piece of rye bread. 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. Two of the bodies were later identified by the battalion padre, R.G. Gagey, as those of Lieutenant Francois Boulon and Pte Robert Jean Louis Dedieu. The third victim was later identified as Pte Jean Loeillet, who had been taken POW at Elp (see Operation Amherst: French SAS in Holland, April 1945). 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 remains unclear. Were the men executed in revenge for the fact that during the skirmishes around Assen 21 German soldiers had been killed? The act also might have derived from Hitler's 'Commando Order', issued in 1942, by which the German Army were told to offer no quarter to captured 'enemy sabotage groups' whether they wore uniforms or not. This order for example had led to the assassination of many captured SAS-troops in France during the summer of 1944.

    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. The French destroyed their wireless set and radio codes. 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 NCO 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. Georges Caïtucoli recalled: "Seven of our men were lying down, the other six lined up with their backs to the barbed wire, when a lieutenant decorated with the Iron Cross arrived without hurrying, who, passing close to the menacing excited soldier, did not seem to give him a very pleasant look. " Who's ordering?", he asked. "Me, now that Lieutenant Rouan is dying", I answered. The dialogue was short: "Why didn't you surrender? "We didn't come here for that." (1).

    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.

    (1) Opération Amherst. Un stick SAS en mission le 7 avril 1945 en Hollande, par Georges Caïtucoli - Fondation de la France Libre - Page 2
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2022
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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 (1). 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 ankle during the landing. 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 in front of the Army Barracks of Assen, used by the enemy, which were located on the other side of the main canal. This probably prompted Lieutenant Valayer's decision 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 who spoke a little French, offered himself as a guide.

    In single file - with the young Slofstra and Valayer in the lead, some men carrying the packs in the middle and the wounded Corroy, supported 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 group fell apart. The tail of the column lost contact and got lost.

    Stick Valayer Map.jpg

    At dawn Valayer, at the head of his stick, 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 then did Valayer realize that he had lost touch with the rest of his men. Just two paras were still with him, Sgt. Doal and Pte Azem and a couple of prisoners. Slofstra warned Valayer that it was too dangerous to continue in daylight since there were a couple of notorious Dutchmen, members of the Landwacht, living in the vicinity and he suggested to Valayerto hide in the barn during daylight. 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 promised to return that evening to guide them further to their objective. Unfortunately that wouldn't be the case. While sheltering with a nearby befriended family, he was arrested by a German police patrol, that was checking the farms in the neighbourhood for French paras. Slofstra was unable to show his identity card, which in haste he had forgotten 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 (8th). Meanwhile, at the Mulder Barn, Valayer waited in vain for the tailof his column 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 from 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. An alerted enemy obviously was chasing other paratroopers. 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 farther 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 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 the stick Picard. 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 on their horse cart 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 make themselves understood to the paras. Though they wildly gesticulated to the French that these men were traitors and should be stopped, the paras did not get the message and the horse cart 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 ammunition. That evening Buist went over to the barn to express to Lieutenant Valayer his worries over the safety of his paratroopers, which in his view had been more than compromised by the incident with the two Landwachters earlier that day. Valayer, however, did not heed the advice to leave the place, instead the French barricaded both stable doors as a precaution for the night.

    Early next morning, April 10th, the almost inevitable happened. In a dense fog, a detachment of about forty enemy, a mishmash of soldiers, military police and Landwachters, surrounded the Mulder barn. The Germans could have easily approached the barn unseen and surprise the French, because of the poor visibility, but instead they chose to fire their weapons at the barn from a safe distance. 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 inside the burning barn, the SAS men decided to make a break-out at each side of the barn. Three of them, Valayer, Munch and Spina, died in the fire when the stable door at their end of the barn blocked. The remaining men, Bévalot, Azem, Lévêque and Doal, at the other side of the barn, which was nearest to the forest, dashed outside and engaged the enemy. After a short fire exchange Azem and Bévalot were killed by enemy fire. Doal and Lévêque then tried to make a run for it, but after running only a couple of metres Lévêque too was hit and killed. Only the 23 year old Sgt. Jean Doal managed to escape by running as fast as he could across country, with bullets zipping around him. One bullet even went through the pocket of his battledress. Doal ran for several kilometers, losing his shoes in the sucking mud 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 charred bodies of Valayer, Munch and Spina, wrapped in blankets, were buried on the spot by Buist and his son. 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.

    Six French were killed, the number of enemy casualties however remains unknown. Sgt.Doal claimed that at least twenty enemy soldiers must have been killed. The Germans moved their casualties to Assen where they were buried. After the war two mass graves were opened at Assen which together contained 35 bodies, but it is hard to tell if all of them were casualties from the fight at the Mulder barn.

    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)

    (1) The landing of the stick Valayer triggered an immediate enemy response. Shortly after midnight, on the 8th, the German town commander of Assen received the disturbing report, brought to him by a NCO, that paras "had landed on the eastern [sic] outskirt of the town". He immediately alerted his troops and dispatched a strong 'Alarm-Einheit' to the edge of the town, where no paras were found; they had already moved on. In the course of the morning 'Alarm-Einheiten' moved out in all directions to investigate all locations where parachutists had been reported or were suspected to have landed.(Report of General Böttger in Bontekoe, "Verslag Duitse zijde van de gevechten in Midden-Drenthe op 7, 8 en 9 april 1945")
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2022
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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 demi-stick Raillard

    The actions of the other members of the stick Valayer, who did not made it to 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 he 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, where they made contact with the Canadians on 13 April.

    Raillard reports how he and seven others, including the injured Corroy with his broken leg, could not keep up with the pace of the group and lost contact in the darkness and fog. After they no longer knew which way to go, Raillard decided to stay on spot 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 get 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 Coy/2nd RCP (4th SAS), joined Raillard's group in the grove. Ferchaud had lost contact with his stick - which had been dropped 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, Lieutenant Raillard and his handful of men linked up at Bovensmilde with the Canadian ground troops, after the French had liberated the village themselves.

    (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: Sep 12, 2022
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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

    Stick Ferchaud:
    Little is known about the actions of the stick Ferchaud. The paras of Ferchaud, by the same combination of a high altitude jump and a strong wind that bedeviled the stick Rouan, were probably scattered over a wide area, though they fell closer 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 gathered 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 telephone wires and mounted a series of ambushes. On April 14, after the Canadians had arrived, they joined the battalion at Assen. For his part, Cpl Angeli gathered a couple of 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 a helpful Dutchman put him in touch with 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. See also: On this day during WW2

    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: Oct 16, 2022
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