Kayakers re-enact wartime crossing from Holland to Suffolk

A group of six men is kayaking across the North Sea in a recreation of a successful World War II escape.

In September 1941, two Dutch brothers fled Nazi occupation and reached the Suffolk coast to enlist with the Allied forces.

In 2011, four men from Suffolk will be joined by two Dutchmen as they paddle from Katwijk in Holland to Sizewell.

Harry Franks, one of the kayakers, said: "We looked into the history and thought it would be a great thing to recreate."

A memorial, commemorating the 56-hour voyage of brothers Henri and Willem Peteri, is on Sizewell beach.

Both brothers ended up serving with the Allies and survived the war, although Willem did become prisoner of war of the Germans after his gunboat was torpedoed in the English Channel.


Dutch nationals who attempted to join the Allies are known as Engelandvaarders.

It is estimated 1,700 tried to get to Britain by various routes with 32 attempting the direct sea crossing by kayak.

Only eight of those 32 made it across.

The 2011 team is made up of Alec Greenwell and Ed Cooper from Orford, Harry Franks from Sutton, Olly Hicks from Thorpeness and Ben Stoel and Chiel van Brakel from Holland.

Mr Hicks has already already rowed solo across the Atlantic and he plans to attempt a round-the-world solo voyage later this year.

The Engelandvaarders re-enactment covers 118 miles and is expected to take 40-50 hours depending on the winds.

Tough time ahead

Mr Franks said: "We're setting off to make the most of the good weather for about 30 hours, then it seems that as we're coming into Suffolk it's going to turn against us a little bit, so we're going to have a pretty tough time getting in.

"I can't say the single-seat kayaks are comfortable, but they'll get us across and we've got a great support team with us, including doctors.

"The biggest problem we will have is fatigue, but you can get across that by eating and drinking enough.

"We've been training for six months so I think we're all physically ready for it, but we just don't know what it's going to be like staying awake for that amount of time."

The kayakers will get a call every 20 minutes on their radios telling them to have a 30 second drink.

Every hour they get 90 seconds eating time and every four hours they will have an extended 15 minute stop.

The trip is due to begin on the evening of Monday, 22 August and should finish in Sizewell on Wednesday.

The voyage is raising money for two charities - the Suffolk Foundation and Combat Stress.

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