Times Obituary - Jos Mulder-Gemmeke SOE

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by Jedburgh22, Jan 13, 2011.

  1. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Jos Mulder-Gemmeke

    Jos Mulder-Gemmeke

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      Jos Mulder-Gemmeke

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    Member of the Dutch Resistance whose wartime heroism in crossing the River Waal under fire was recognised by the highest honour
    Jos Gemmeke was still in her teens when catastrophe overwhelmed the Netherlands in May 1940, but she knew what she ought to do. Her father, well off, was a paper merchant and introduced her to a friend and customer of his, who early started up Je Maintiendrai — a motto of the Dutch royal house — which became the largest and most successful of the underground newspapers with which the Netherlands teemed.
    She undertook to distribute the paper. This was a task of constant peril, for to be caught with even a single copy of it carried a death sentence under Nazi regulations. From the summer of 1940 to the autumn of 1944 she risked her life every day. She recruited on the old boy — or old girl — net, for there was nothing else safe to do; her friends all trusted her, as well as each other, and took care only to recruit those whom they themselves knew and trusted. So stubborn were Dutch resistants that, by the summer of 1944, Je Maintiendrai was able to circulate up to 15,000 copies of each issue.
    After the failure of Montgomery’s Operation Market Garden, that did not manage to seize both ends of the bridge at Arnhem, Gemmeke decided to make her way southwards by bicycle. She carried, hidden in her shoulder pads, some microfilm messages for the main Dutch external resistance organisation, the Bureau voor Bijzondere Opdrachten (office for special orders), intended for their chief Prince Bernhard, the exiled Queen’s son-in-law.
    When she got to the River Waal, a German sergeant told her the bridge was closed to civilian traffic. As she tried to charm him into letting her cross all the same, Allied aircraft attacked the bridge. The guards all dived for cover; she cycled quietly across it, picked her way through the fighting lines, and delivered the microfilms to the Prince’s headquarters near newly liberated Brussels.
    She was sent across to England, where as a matter of routine she was sent first to the Royal Victorian Patriotic School at Wandsworth. Her first interrogators there found her “a very level and cool-headed young woman, completely unemotional, very reserved and determined”. SOE (the Special Operations Executive) snapped her up at once, and its training schools all thought highly of her. At the most secret of them at Beaulieu, Hampshire — now the National Motor Museum — she was judged outstanding. She was given the inappropriate codename of Cackle and went back to the still-occupied northern half of her home country by parachute on the night of March 10-11, 1945. Her mission was to press forward into Germany to see what she would do about alleviating the lot of Dutch forced labourers there.
    She was received by friends; but made an unlucky parachute landing, and took some weeks to recover her health. By the time she was again fully mobile, the war was in full local confusion in its closing stages, and she never did get into Germany, although she collected some fearsome atrocity stories about what was happening to her compatriots there. (Sauckel, the Nazi Labour Minister, was tried and hanged at Nuremberg for the way he ran their camps). Gemmeke’s part of the netherlands was overrun by the Canadian Army, and she could go home.
    She and Queen Wilhelmina were the only female members of the Willensorde, the principal Dutch military order; the Queen appointed her to it in recognition of her crossing of the Waal. She readjusted rather gingerly to peacetime life. In 1947 she was married to Jaap Mulder, another member of the Willensorde who had been flying fighter-bombers in the Free Dutch Air Force — they were the only married couple who belonged to the order. They had a son and a daughter.
    Gemmeke spent a lot of time making sure that none of her wartime companions in the resistance struggle were left in any sort of difficulty, social or financial. She grew into a formidable grande dame, suffering no fool gladly, calling spades spades, and refusing to admit that the resistance struggle was marginal and not central to the conduct of the war. She belonged to the Special Forces Club in London, and made sure that it too did not forget the work of Dutch as well as other resistance forces. A large military guard of honour was present at her cremation on December 27.
    Brunita Josepha (Jos) Mulder-Gemmeke, member of the Dutch Resistance, was born on January 3, 1922. She died on December 20, 2010, aged 88

  2. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    :poppy: Jos Mulder-Gemmeke R.I.P. :poppy:

  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Lest we forget !

    RIP Jos


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