- Contributed by
- CSV Solent
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 02 January 2006
This Interview took place in Holland in July 2005. J.H.Warmerdam (Hann) was interviewed by Henriette Wood-Grossenbacher. He was a school boy during the war growing up in Lisse, in the Dutch bulb growing area, where he still lives. He spent his working life in the flower bulb trade and is a dear friend to an aunt of mine. He gave permission to add his story to the BBC People’s War website.
I started school in April 1939, the mobilisation began in September was, and the army was called up. The Dutch soldiers took over our school and we did not have to go to school. My dad was too old to be called up. He was already 40. To me everybody then was old. I remember standing in the church square in Lisse with my dad, holding his hand and looking at the German planes fly over. I looked up at him and thought my god isn’t he old. He was 40 then. The soldiers were in our school and remained there till May until the war broke out and the Germans invaded us. The Dutch went away and the Germans came in. The Germans were in the school, but there were also periods when there was no garrison in Lisse and the Germans were away again. Back went the benches into the school and there was maybe a month or so when we went to school again. When a new garrison came the Germans took the school over again, and after the war came the English and the Canadians. They didn’t stay all that long, maybe a month or so. Sometimes we had a few lessons in big manor houses. They tried to give us as much schooling as possible.
In our area not much happened. I only remember, still very well, that an English bomber got chased by a German plane. The bomber wanted to get away and was still loaded and he just dropped the bombs. My uncle and aunt lived in a street where the two houses next to them and on the other side of the road got flattened and some bombs fell into the canal, but luckily not onto the dike. If that had happened the whole of Haarlemer Meer would have been flooded. The tram line from Haarlem to Leiden was also regularly targeted but that was mainly in 1944.
In Lisse we had the Catholic Church and opposite it was the boys’ school with the schoolyard besides and the girls’ school next to it. Behind was a convent. Even the nuns were evacuated for a time when the commander of a garrison fancied to turn the convent into the local commander lobby.(Ortskommandatur, where the commander lived). We just lived on the other side of the road and so we had the “Ortskommandatur” right under our nose with two regiments of Germans. It was not interesting really, we were occupied and didn’t think that it ever would end. Half of Europe was under occupation really, it was as if a Tsunami had flooded europe.
We didn’t speak to the soldiers as we couldn’t speak German. On the football field they practised shooting which we went to watch. We kept a distance, but when the Germans disappeared we went to look for the spent cartridges. We used to play “soldiers” and we had wooden guns that we had made. We mounted a bit of electrical pipe with a diameter of about 1cm on the top of the piece of wood that we had sawn off from a larger piece carefully leaving a butt and then you fixed the pipe on it. Behind it a catapult was made with an elastic band made from a bicycle luggage rope, they were made of good strong elastic bands. We fixed the elastic with two small nails and you put a piece of leather on the elastic so it would last longer. Just a catapult. We made arrows from a wooden rod and to give weight you put a cartridge on it, you put the arrow through the electricity pipe and then “phoop”. We were able to shoot over the church with those things. The Germans were sitting in the church tower too because that gave them a view over what was going on in the surroundings. But when they were not around we would climb up the church to find our arrows, which were laying on the walkway around the tower.
We played being soldiers and we had fights, but we didn’t play at being different nations or camps, I don’t think we did that. We didn’t have toy cars to play with, but we made soap box carts. When there was an old pram at the end of its life we took the wheels off and nailed them under a box to make a soap cart. My dad was the churchwarden and we used to go into the cemetery to look for nails that came out of the old coffins. We used to hammer these nails straight and used them to hammer our soapbox carts together. When they emptied the old graves they burnt the rotten wooden remains of the coffins and spread the ashes over the paths. We also found crosses that came from the lids of the coffins. They were rather nice but we had to make sure that dad didn’t see them.
We as children were not unhappy because it was war. We didn’t think about it. I believe the parents were more anxious than we children were.
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