Part 1: My father’s Dutch war service

The 10th of May 2010 marked 70 years since the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940. This was particularly meaningful for me, because my father was in the Dutch army at that time.

I know very little about my father’s service before and during the invasion. I recall being told that he was in the medical corps, and that he was in Rotterdam at the time it was bombed. But that’s about it – he seldom spoke of those times. All I have as a record are the couple of photographs shown below (click to enlarge).

My father's unit (2)
This is a postcard of my father and his room-mates, sent to his family from Amsterdam in 1939. In the inscription on the back, Dad says they are wearing “werkpakjes” (working clothes).
Detail picture (my father on the right)
This detail of the above postcard shows my father (far right). The name board held by the man on the left reads: “Kamer 19, Sectie I, 5-10-39” (Room 19, Section I, 5 Oct 1939)
The reverse of the postcard. The sender address is hard to make out (are there any Dutch readers who can help?), but appears to say: “afz. dpl (?) S Hermans, Depot Geneesh (?) Troepen, I Companie, Amsterdam”.
My father's unit
This is another photo of my father’s unit. There is no inscription at all on this one. Note the shako worn by the officer in the centre.
Detail from above photo
This is a close-up of my father from the group photo. He is wearing a greatcoat and sidecap, and is carrying a haversack over his shoulder and a pack on his back. He also wears gloves, unlike his comrades.

The Dutch army laid down arms on 14 May after the city of Rotterdam was bombed, and formally capitulated the next day. Resistance continued in  Zeeland, until the bombardment of Middelburg on May 17. Dad apparently remained in the Netherlands after the army was demobilised. Later in the war he was sent as a forced worked to Germany, where he worked in a sausage factory, possibly in Wuppertal.

When the war ended, Dad’s military service was not yet over. He sailed to the Dutch East Indies and was involved in the hostilities there. I have a few photos from that period, too, but they can remain for another posting.

I would love to know more about Dad’s war service, so I have written to the Dutch Ministry of Defence to see if there is any way to obtain a copy of his war records. If anyone else has any other leads I can follow up, please do let me know. In the meantime, I’ll think some quiet thoughts about what life must’ve been like for my Dad in those awful days four or five days from 10 May 1940.

For those who want to read an excellent English-language website on the invasion of the Netherlands, visit the War Over Holland website.

Go to Part 2 of my Dad’s war story