Veteranen-verhalen / Veteran Stories
Veteran stories of
Frits van Schaik, member of the Dutch resistance group in Dodewaard,
World War 2
Geurt van Rinsum)
family life of Frits van Schaik , born on the 25th of November 1918 in
Ochten, today living in Dodewaard, Pluimenburgsestraat 29.
F. van Schaik, born on the 19th of January 1896; Father
A.M. Sander born on the 3rd of December 1889; Mother
C.W.v an Schaik born on the 2nd of May 1921; sister
C. Th. van Schaik , born on the 11th of December 1929; brother
My father was a cigar maker. In that time, cigars were completely
handmade. Even the inner tobacco was cut by hand. Wages were low in
those days and that is why my mother started doing some needle work in
order to make some extra money.
I went to primary school and after the six years of school had ended the
headmaster, Mr. Koldewey, came to ask my parents if I could continue my
education. In his opinion I qualified for further studying. Although my
parents were willing to allow me to do so, there was no money for it,
The legal minimum age for working in a factory was 14 and I worked on a
farm first. After that I went to the Shipbuilding Yard in Dodewaard.
My sister to the cigar factory where my father work, to do light chores.
Next to it she learned needlework from my mother. Later she took over my
mother’s clients and stopped working at the factory.
After primary school, my brother did attend secondary school. This was
possible because three of us earned money now. He attended college for 4
years, in fact he did a five years course in 4 years, and then he went
to university with an interest free loan from the government, for
Medical School. After getting his diploma as a family doctor, he went on
to study psychiatry. For this he had to work for 10 years for the
municipality of Rotterdam apart from paying back his loan. So he started
with a large debt.
At the shipyard I had to work 60 hours a week for 4 guilders. I started
as a rivet boy. Ships were still riveted in those days. I had to heat up
the rivets using a transportable small blacksmith’s fire. The fire was
fed with air by a ventilator, which had to brought in motion with one
leg. You would stand on one leg all day long. After one year there came
another rivet boy. I then went to work in the forge, also the fitting
The factories in Dodewaard switched to using to steam with accessory
engines. As we, on the shipyard were familiar with steam kettles and
steam engines (because of the steam ships) these factories came to the
ship yard for repairing.
The first steam kettle in Dodewaard came in a marmalade factory, which
was in English hands at the time. This kettle arrived by train at the
Hemmen Dodewaard railway station. It took a local transporter, Kees
Ariese, to transport the kettle to the factory, using a cart drawn by
six horses. The reason that it took a week was that the weak roads
couldn’t take the weight, so that steel sheets had to be laid and moved
after the kettle had past.
As factory – repairs belonged to my task, I had to do much overtime
besides my regular 60 work hours. Those extra hours were not paid in the
first years. Was there any holiday on a working day, e.g. Christmas,
then we got fewer salary for that one day. Transportation for the
working class was walking or cycling in those days. My grandfather had
to deliver a shipment of nuts in Rotterdam which would then be shipped
to England. In Rotterdam they were put over in a seagoing ship. Here
they were declared unfit for use. He then went to Rotterdam on foot with
a sack full of food on his back. He drank from a ditch or a river. The
distance between Dodewaard – Rotterdam is about a hundred kilometers. He
slept in haystacks. He sold the nuts to local dealers with a loss.
DURING THE OCCUPATION; 1940 – 1944.
When the Germans invaded our country, we, the people of Dodewaard had to
evacuate as we lived close to the so called “Grebbe-linie”; the Dutch
The ships in which we were to be transported had been ready for some
time on the River Waal. It turned out to be ships which had carried
coals. They had not been cleaned so we sat down or laid in the coal dust.
We didn’t know where we would be brought. Near the town of Tiel, we
couldn’t go further, as retreating Dutch soldiers had laid a floating
bridge across the River Waal. We spend the night there. Initiated by Beb
van Breda some man rowed ashore and went into Tiel to get some milk for
the children aboard. The next day we went in western direction and the
noise of war got worse. In the evening we arrived in the town of
Papendrecht and anchored. Around us we saw fires and buildings bombed by
the Germans. The circle of fires buildings got so large during the night
that it was decided to return to Sliedrecht, a distance of probably 15
kilometers. Here we were very welcomed heartily by the people and we
were housed there. Now after about 70 years we still have good contacts
with the children and grandchildren of that Vermeulen family.
After the Dutch surrender we, together with some other inhabitants of
Dodewaard, went back home by lorry. Most people were brought back with
the same coal boats. After coming home we found our house being broken
open and we missed several things, mainly food and bicycles. So we had
lost all our means of transportation.
The First German soldiers which I came across tried to make me
understood that they had taken The Netherlands to prevent an English
occupation, which would have been awful, as they said.
Slowly normal life returned except from the food which became scarcer
and scarcer. It was stolen by the Germans. Food was distributed and only
available on coupons which were issued by the government in special
distributions offices. You needed to have a so called: “persoonsbewijs”
(identity-card) which would later on give a lot of trouble for people
who were hiding for the Germans, so called “divers”.
There was plenty of work at the ship yard and also in the house-
building business, as there was a lot of damage done. At the cigar
factory there was less work because there wasn’t enough tobacco. The big
bulk of this and the best parts of it disappeared into Germany.
At the ship yard we had to work for the German Army. We dealt mainly
with river vessels, designed to transport soldiers and warfare equipment.
These ships were reconstructed by us. The bows were taken off and were
replaced by moveable gates, which also could be used for driving on and
off the vessels. The bow was replaced again, but fastened in a way that
it was easy to remove it. In the bottom of the ships, the wooden floor
was taken away and replaced by concrete. Via the moveable front
construction, tanks and other war material could roll into the vessels.
The Germans who controlled our work told us that these kind of ships
were constructed to use them for the invasion of England.
Gradually we got less food, bud we could buy some additional food at a
reasonable price from the farmers in our village. Only the
transportation of it had to be done in a way that the Germans didn’t
catch us. Iron and copper became scarce. You almost could not get that
anymore. But we had to use it on the yard for building the ships for the
Germans. So we repaired tools and engines with it for the local farmers,
who paid for it with meat and butter.
As I did those forbidden tasks more often than not, I got a share of
that food too.
Then another problem became apparent. As more and more German men had to
join the German Army and go to the front, a shortage of laborers started
Many Dutch men had to go to Germany to do “slave-labor”.
By the labor office in Tiel four men of our ship yard were appointed to
go to Germany.
First they asked who were the best workers. They promised that these
would be allowed to stay here. I was among those four.
But in the contrary it became evident that exactly those four were
ordered to go!
For the appropriate documents I had to call at the local town hall.
There I was helped by Mr. D Willemsen. He asked me if I wanted to go. Of
course I said; “No, I don’t”.
He said; “Come and get a letter tomorrow, which you have to take to the
labor office in Tiel and there you ask for the director. It won’t be
easy to get to speak to him, but keep trying until you see him in person.”
I sat down in that office in the reception room and told the man there
that I wouldn’t leave until I had seen the director personally. At last
he came. What was in the letter I don’t know, but immediately I got a
letter which said that I was exempted from work in Germany.
A bookkeeper named Menzo van Wely worked at the shipyard’s office. He
asked if I was inclined to repair weapons for the Dodewaard resistance
group, of which he was the leader. Later it turned out to be mostly
German weapons, which were left behind in the combat areas of German
invasion into Holland in May 1940 or were stolen from the Germans by men
of the resistance.
In fact this work was less dangerous than taking part in raids. But when
you got caught you got the dead penalty, after being tortured until you
would betray the names of other members of the resistance group. In our
group I knew only the name of the leader and one other resistance man.
In this case it was Teun Meurs from Hien (a suburb of Dodewaard) with
whom I carried out reconnaissance patrols and put the findings on maps.
I think (but of course I did not know him either ) that our leader’s
brother in law, Mr Koedood from Tiel, took care of the repaired weapons.
In the middle of 1942 I was to accompany Menzo to Mr. T. van Eck in
Dodewaard. This van Eck had a rifle that he wanted to sell to the
Resistance. When we came there he did not have the rifle in his house,
but it was hidden somewhere. With Menzo he agreed that 20 guilders would
be paid for the rifle. A few days later it would be delivered during the
night. A resistance group from Arnhem would collect it and take it to
Tiel. There turned out to be a traitor among them. In Tiel the
recipients were arrested immediately and on the way back T. van Eck was
taken away too. On my way to the ship yard I passed van Eck's house.
After this night his wife stood me up and told what had happened and
asked if I could send Menzo to her. He wasn't at the office> I asked his
mother and she told me he went into hiding. Then a difficult time began.
I was afraid if van Eck mention my name under pressure. This did not
Food became more and more scarce. Warfare became more and more
truculence. At first, Allied bombers only flew during the night. But
later they started flying during day and night. They also began to
attack railway and ship transportation. The consequence was that
supplies of food were also hindered. Fortunueately we could get some
liters of milk from farmer Reen, who lived in our neighborhood every day.
Now and then we got some pounds of bacon from Jans van Breda when her
husband had killed a pig clandestinely.
When, shortly before the liberation, I traveled by train from Sliedrecht
to Dodewaard we were shot by fighter planes in Geldermalsen. Two people
were killed and the steam engine was destroyed. It took more than two
hours before another train arrived and this one was also shot and
destroyed by fighter planes. At that moment I could get home with Jan
Remmerde, a wagoner from Dodewaard who was in Kesteren with a wagon load
But in that time on each train was a unit of Germans on a open box car
with anti aircraft guns. Mostly on the last box car, but sometimes on
In Geldermalsen those Germans could not do anything. They could not see
the planes there, because the train was under a roof or awning. But in
Kesteren they could see them and fired at them. But the planes came in
very, very low. Probably that was a flying tactic that gave them more
safety. Anyhow, the planes were not hit.
More and more air battles took place over the Betuwe area and more were
shot down. Also bombers that got hit, dropped their bomb loads in the
Betuwe to have a better chance to get to back to England without the
heavy load of bombs aboard. In a fight over Wely an English plane was
shot down and came on the ground near a group of trees. The crew could
get out but with heavy burns. My brother in law, Gos Vink, who lived
nearby went to see what the situation was, and was able to hide the
airmen in the neighboring wooded area. Usually the Germans would aeeive
on the spot immediately to arrest the crew. They did come this time but
drove by, probably because the plane was far from the road and the wood
gave some protection. Vink later on took the crew to his house, partly
through the fields and orchards to stay out of vieuw as much as possible.
( The Germans usually gave you the dead penalty for hiding Allied pilots.
Note by the translator. G.v.R)
His sister applied some emergency bandages and then cycled to the local
doctor to ask if he could come to cure the crew. Doctor Cornet thought
it better not to come in person, because this might alert the Germans or
Quislings to lead them to the airmen. He explained how to cure the men
and gave medicines and bandages.
Next night the crew was led away by the resistance, among whom was a
nurse in order to try and get them back to England though the liberated
part of France, in which they succeeded.
Evidently they must have reported the details of their helpers because
after the liberation the Royal Air Force Escaping Society took and
maintained contact with my brother in law until he died. One of the crew
members has some back once to pay a visit.
In September 1944 Allied fighter planes came to strafe the German Anti
Aircraft Batteries in the Betuwe. This turned out to be the fore runner
of the Battle of Arnhem. On Sunday morning, September 17th, the first
passed over our heads and landed on the Renkum heath fields as did the
paratroopers. They formed a bridgehead near Oosterbeek. It was an
impressive sight. German forces withdrew from most of the villages along
the river Rhine.
Soon after it the first English and American tanks entered our village.
The Germans withdrew to the edge of Dodewaard in the direction of Ochten
( to the west). We came in the frontline with all of its consequences.
By a combination of resistance groups, with the Rev. Teerink as a
leader, I was called up to serve as a rifle repairer .
The resistance-movement started arresting Quislings and girls who had
been too close with Germans during the occupation. They were taken away
to a camp. The reason was that if the Germans would unexpectedly return,
they couldn't betray the resistance people. They were not treated ill or
shaven bald as in some other places happened. They were even told that
they needn't to be afraid that they would be tortured as thousands of
people had been in German camps.
The Germans had dug a number of foxholes when the Allies were coming
closer. Now that the Germans had withdrawn these woles were every other
night occupied during by either English soldiers or resistance men in
order to stop German reconnaissance units if any appeared.
As the battle of Arnhem didn't go smoothly, more troops were needed and
the Germans tried to gain back the lost terrain from the direction of
Ochten, Kesteren, Opheusden, and the fighting got fiercer. We dug a
shelter near our house covered with boards and covered it with the soil
we had dug up.
During the battle of Opheusden I had to show civilians the safest way to
escape from their village. I also was detailed to check if there were
any disguised Germans in a signals house near the Opheusden railroad
crossing. I did this together with a group of Englishmen who were
In the meantime my family had to evacuate. I took my parents, brother
and sister to Slijk-Ewijk on foot with a wheel barrow on which was a
suitcase with many clothes and as much food as possible. There they were
taken across the river Waal together with other people from Dodewaard.
At that time this area was liberated already.
Later I had heard that they had been transported further by lorries. My
parents got on another truck as the others but they were told that they
would be taken to the same location. This turned out not to be true. My
brother and sister ended up in Eindhoven and my parents went to a
monastery in Mierlohout. It took six weeks before they knew from each
other where they were. Only in January I got a Red Cross Message from
When I was convinced that they had reached the other side of the Waal
river and were safe, I walked back to Dodewaard's town hall where the
resistance group was situated. In the meantime we were reinforced by
resistance men from Opheusden. Their leader was Stoffel van Binsbergen.
Then I got more work as a rifle repairer, but my "Red Cross task" was
taken over by two first aid girls who had arrived with the Opheusden
people. They were Mary Peters and Sientje van der Sluis. When something
occurred close to the frontline, I had to go there but more often than
not the work had already been done by Army medics. On such occasions
these soldiers saw in my first aid bag with which poor materials we had
to do our job. They supplied us with better items.
Then the liberators moved to Dodewaard with large number of artillery
guns and for days on end they shelled Opheusden and Ochten.
They stayed on a location for about two hours, then they altered their
location and began anew. The result was that we received incoming German
shells which came down on the spots were the guns had just left. When
the town hall and surroundings were battered the still present municipal
staff departed to a house in the Groenestraat in Wely (East of
The Germans did everything they could to destroy the road bridge at
Nijmegen. This was the only connection between the small isolated area,
called the Betuwe were we lived and the big bulk of Allied troops in the
already liberated part of Holland South of the Waal river. So it was
even more important for them to cut this connection because the Betuwe
could be a starting point for a large attack at the German troops on the
northen banks of the Rhine river. They sent floating mines to the
bridge, accompanied by frogmen with oxygen bottles on their backs. When
they came to the surface of the water, downstream from Nijmegen, a
reconnaissance group of the Resistance saw something floating in the
Waal, near the shipyard. Coming nearer it turned out to be three frogmen.
When they were ordered to come to the river bank they dived under water
but as their bottles were empty, they soon came to the surface again.
Rifle shots were fired in front of them, after which they came out of
the water and were arrested and handed over to the military. If they had
been to swim an additional 2 kilometers, they would have been in the
area of their own comrades.
In the meantime the resistance group was located in Vink's Jam cannery
in the town of Wely and in some surrounding dwellings. When the Germans
had advanced from Opheusden north of the little Linge river in the
direction of Hemmen, the American Airborne troops (101st Airborne
Division) in Dodewaard had beaten them in a smashing battle and had
taken 256 prisoners too. Magnificent for us to see! Our liberators
became stronger and stronger and only needed us to reach objectives
which they pointed out on maps.
From the jam cannery we were transferred to the "De Geer" farm along the
dyke in Wely. The military took over the spot we left.
The Germans blew up the dyke near Driel on the 2nd of December 1944.
Water flooded the Betuwe which was reason why the last people present in
Dodewaard had to leave. This happened in Army trucks. Some people left
on their own.
We were reinforced with farmers in order to take as much cattle as
possible to Lent. Wearing boots, it was possible using the regularroads.
From Valburg we went across the railway embankment to Lent. When we
arrived there we got food in a monastery. We slept there too. The next
day we were taken to Dodewaard by truck. In the meantime the Germans
began to launch their V1 's and V2's. One came down in a meadow in Wely,
which fortunately didn't explode. It was an iron-sheet object, filled
The Allies withdrew and only remained in position on the Waal dyke. The
positioned Anti Aircraft Artillery. As many German factories had been
bombed and a lot of their aircraft had been downed, only very few German
planes were seen.
When all the inhabitants of Dodewaard had been evacuated, our group left
for Oosterhout, together with substitute Burgomaster Schouten.
Burgomaster Den Hartog had been dismissed because of his collaboration
with the Germans .
The Allies took more and more positions in De Betuwe in order to
establish a large circular front around the Nijmegen bridge. We
accompanied them but we were only used as guards near military
checkpoints in order to control civilians who had managed to pass
through the German lines. The only women in the Betuwe were nuns in a
monastery, nurses and doctor Huygens’ wife in Lent.
The circle around the Nijmegen bridge was enlarged so much that German
curved trajectory artillery couldn't reach the bridge. They made a try
with other types of artillery but this wasn't threatening the bridge.
This artillery did hit Nijmegen however. A few German planes were shot
down near the bridge.
The Dodewaard resistance group was located in a large house in Lent. Jan
van Eck was our cook. When we were on duty we had our meals with the
soldiers. I still remember that the English added sugar to almost
The Germans still tried to blow up the bridge using frogmen. Only once
the red outer surface of a pillar was damaged slightly. After that the
Allies placed steel netting in the water across the Waal river. The
frogmen couldn't advance anymore then. As they weren't able to swim
upstream back to their own lines, they were taken prisoner.
Liberation and the following period. 1944 & 1945
When the Germans capitulated in the Betuwe the mines which had been laid
in the roads were swept. As the first ones we were to go to Dodewaard to
assist the police. There we found housed that were totally destroyed,
damaged and littered.
From our house the roof was damaged, all windows-panes were broken and
the funiture damaged. As a result of the Germans blowing up the Rhine
dyke near Driel, water had entered the houses. Before my family returned
I began to close the roof. Things I needed I took from the shed. I
stopped the windows with wood and for glass I took the glass of picture
frames which had "survived". After that I cleaned everything as far I
had the materials to do so. My parents’ bed had remained fairly well. My
sister's,my brother's and my own had gotten wet from the rain leaking
through the damaged roof. The blankets were dried on the washing-line. I
couldn't get the cotton from the mattresses dry and compelled by
necessity I replaced it with straw.
People from the village started to return and so did our neighbours.
They found a mine in the path behind their house. As I had a weapon I
shot at it from the hay stack with the intention to explode it. Only at
the third shot it exploded. The rest of our family was taken back to
their home by military trucks from Brabant; the southern part of
Some people from Dodewaard got wounded by unexploded shells. Soon we
learned that Mr. T. van Eck, the one who got that rifle, was murdered by
the Germans on May 12th, 1944 as well as the arrested Mr. W. Hoogakker
on May 20, 1944. In our family a cousin, M.Thijssen from the town of
Wamel, was killed during a bombing raid on Nijmegen. Another cousin,
from the totally damaged village of Ochten, got wounded when he hit a
mine with his horse and cart.
Food only remained available through rationing but it got better and
better. After everything started to become a bit normal again, I started
a construction firm of my own, being helped by the Hendriks family where
I worked. I ran this business for 30 years together with my wife.
Because of our experiences during the war, we kept admiring the English
and Americans and we still appriciate them. Through the German
occupation I got another view on our overseas territories of which we
used to be so proud. I was glad when the people of these colonies had
fought themselves free to become independent from The Netherlands.
I hope that this story has any value to you.
The Dutch name of the area between the rivers Rhine and Waal is known as
I have not translated that name. But the Allies called our area "The
Island" and that name is used in most of the books about the war in this
Written by Frits van Schaik.
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