Weapons come down from the sky

(in "War against Foreign Folk – Book of Memoires of the Frisian Illegal Resistance in the Years 1940 – 45" by J. P. Wiersma; published by Fa. A. J. Osinga, Bolsward, 1946; pp 91 – 94.)

It was already late in the year 1944. The beginning of fall had arrived. The legions of the allies were marching through Belgium towards our borders. On Sunday, the third of September midday at 1 pm, they took Brussels and set out for the north. Wild stories ran like wildfire through the land. On "Crazy Tuesday", the fifth of September, the N.S.B.’ers became alarmed (NB: "Crazy Tuesday" was the day that false news was prematurely spread that liberation had come; the N.S.B.’ers were members of the Dutch Nazi Party); they ran out of country like rabbits and sought refuge with their great German Fürher. The news did not come from the sky. The railroads were on strike! …"Exceptional work situation", proclaimed the "Höhere S.S. and Police Fûrher of the Northwest": Rauter…on Sunday the seventeenth, the radio brought a new shock: "Allied parachute troops have landed in the Lek and Rhine areas". Things that made people happy. The situation was improving. The hope for liberation let a beam of light fall on the unfortunate situation of a free-born people under the German occupation.

People were now ready for battle. The Frisian underground was ready! The N.B.S (N.B. the Dutch liberation movement) (formed from the union of the K.P. and the O.D.) had its organization set up over Fryslân: a large three thousand man force of sabotage and battle groups was awaiting its time…But –there were no weapons! It was high time that a way be found to provide weapons to the illegal legion. A loud cry for weaponry passed through the depths of the underground. Give us weapons! and we will fight and chase out the Germans!…

During the difficult September period, the N.B.S. was making preparations for its military response against the oppressor. The "Trio" in Earnewâld had taken on the role of leading the military operations. One of the Trio was Captain Pander (alias de With): in his function as "Gol" (Western Operation Leader), he prepared the military plans and studied the question of how to obtain weapons for the Frisian underground in the short term. It was obvious that the weapons had to come from England. But how? And if the Royal Air Force were soon to be ready to drop weapons from above Fryslân, how would this be done in a safe and reasonable way without the Germans being aware of it?

During this time, the Trio made contact with an English Commando, that had been dropped into Drenthe and had gone underground on a farm close to Odoorn. The leader of the Commando was Captain Macbeaf; his group was formed of three English junior officers and a Dutch Jew. This Commando of five men had already accomplished quite a bit; they had started out in Africa, were later dropped into Sicily, then through Italy, then into France, then Belgium and finally into Drenthe. They had been dropped behind the front to work with the underground; then, they let "the front pass over them", as they called it, and supported their armies with information and intelligence. They had fourteen days supply of food and drink with them, supplies of weapons, a couple of radio senders and a couple of radio receivers. The Commando of Captain Macbeaf wanted to know the most recent information about the underground in Fryslân, and thus the Drenthe underground – which provided twelve armed men on the farm to protect Macbeaf – sent a courier to Fryslân to find out information. As a result, the Western Commander of the N.B.S. from Fryslân travelled to Drenthe and came to Captain Macbeaf. The G.C. (shortened form of Western Commander) had all the necessary documents with him, so Macbeaf came to know everything that he needed to know. He had much to say on the necessary work in Fryslân, as in all of the Netherlands. Can I help you?, he asked.

     --Yes, with weapons, answered the G.C.

     --It will be done, he said.

And the promise by Macbeaf bore fruit. He undertook that the R.A.F. would drop weapons into Fryslân: in the time of one morning, twelve hundred underground fighters would receive weapons!

The first drop of weapons happened at the end of October by the Nannewiid between Oudehaske and St. Johannesga; twenty-seven parachutes hung in the sky and dropped on a field, which had been prepared for it. On each parachute, there hung a container and each container held a weight of two hundred and fifty kilos of weapons, sten-guns, bazookas, revolvers, ammunition, etc. A few days later, the R.A.F. was back! That night there were another twenty-seven containers…and unbelievably, there was also live men who came down!…well, well, how the eyes of the old K.P.’ers of Ychten and Joure lit up, when they saw two strange live men, comrades!, underground fighters, sent from England to Fryslân to help provide weapons to the N.B.S. One was a Frisian, the other was a Netherlander, but both were in the uniforms of English lieutenants. The first, who was called ‘Kees’, had been married the previous day in London: on his identity card, it said "farmer in Drachten". He was still a young man, hardly twenty five years old.

During the nights, the dropped weapons were hidden in farms in the area around the Nannewiid; the material was put up in the hay loft behind bales of straw, a very nice hiding place. The two officers had radio sending apparatus with them and made daily contact with England. Information was received by radio from England and in the same way news was sent from Fryslân regarding German plans and undertakings to their superiors in England. Both radio signalers had to have a good hiding place; they were brought from one farmer to another, but soon they had a set place, that is, on a small boat at the end of the Nannewiid, well camouflaged by the reeds. "Kees", the signaler, stayed there the whole winter, most of the time alone, and then again not alone.

Because night and day he was protected by the activities of his support group, composed of K.P.’ers from Ychten and Joure and N.B.S.’ers from Haskerland, with another twenty-five men, that maintained the guard. Twice daily, "Kees" put up the antenna on the boat, and sent signals. Days and nights he wore his rubber boots, and never removed his clothes because this was not very safe. And if there was a threat of raid by the enemy, then "Kees" had the best weapons at this disposal, with which he could turn the lights out for the enemy at a distance of one kilometre. To help keep himself lively, he had a supply of tobacco and whiskey with him…During the last week before the liberation, "Kees" went underground in Oudehaske,

For four nights, soon after each other, there were drops of weapons on the Nannewiid. Several farmers in Haskerland did not hesitate to take on the responsibility to hide the dropped weapons in barns and haylofts. But some of them were unfortunately discovered with the unfortunate end that two of the brave farmers, Brouwer by the Nannewiid and De Ruiter from Oudehaske, were later shot dead at Dunega. Thus the card had been shown and the weapon drops had to be organised at other places.

At the office of the Trio in Earenwâld, the weapon drops were discussed. Captain Pander, alias de With, alias Uncle Otto travelled to "Kees’s" hiding place. He brought the proposed new locations on his maps, very precise work. Then he raised the antenna on his boat, and signaled his information in code to England. They searched for places far from the villages and open roads. Then "Kees" signaled: there and there is a good piece of land, at a distance of 1200 metres from the village tower of…and a mill at a distance of 200 metres. He had to be precise as to where strong German occupying forces were in relation to the piece of land.

A couple of days later, "Kees" received an answer from England. The signal came back: the piece of land proposed was accepted. (It was also sometimes rejected.) Then the piece of land received a name, Only "Kees" knew which name was chosen. He sent a slogan back with a specific signal. Now "Kees" sent a courier to "Dik", the district commander, with a coded message which stated: your piece of land is chosen; your message is "The milk is boiling over": you can listen to the message on the B.B.C. news, midday at quarter to two and in the evening at eight o’clock. And then the message was: listen, boys! When on a good day, the message came through, the district office was ready to go; all the men from the sabotage group were given the message, tonight there will be weapons coming from the sky, at such and such a time be at your places. All other work was dropped; this had priority. Everyone grabbed their weapons, the evening meal was quickly eaten…and then the men left the village in the dark, taking great care because time was precious, coming to the intended place.

The men were divided into two groups, a carrying group and a watch group. If the Germans took them by surprise, the men’s deliberations would have to be short because the lives of everyone depended on it. Good luck was probably most important: that a night weapon drop success was a question of surprise. They were ready for any eventuality, also to give up their lives if it was for a worthy cause.

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