Pays-Bas / Histoire

A bucket as a helmet




Friday April 20, 1945. The mother of Henk (9) and Frits (6) Middendorp hung up the laundry in the garden of their farm in Uithuizen. “The weather was beautiful on Friday, April 20, 1945,” Frits recalls when he tells the story in 2020. “On time in the morning, Mother had hung up laundry on the line.

About half past eight we heard a dull rumble: the tanks were coming from Usquert. We didn't know what this meant at first. Moments later, subcontractor Douwe Pol from 't Lage van de Weg came cycling. "You've got to get out of here," he called to us. Mother quickly removed the laundry from the clothesline, but she forgot to bring one of my underpants. She accidentally put the clothes on the gas box in her haste. After that we all: our parents and seven children - including one toddler -, four evacuees and the milkman Jan Brugge crawled into the ditch behind the yard. In the middle of the yard was a grain sled (sleigh with wheels, editorial) with a large canvas full of clothes. If there was a fire, at least we had some clothes.

The Canadian tanks had arrived and had lined up at Bovenhuizen with five tanks in succession. It wasn't long before the bullets whistled over us. We were below ground level. What I remember well is that our youngest brother was crying on Mother's lap.Jan Brugge lay next to me and eventually said 'I don't trust it anymore'. He picked up a bottomless bucket and put it on his head. The Germans fired a Panzerfaust, an anti-tank weapon, which punched a large hole in the wall of the moat. The Germans fought for an hour or two and then quickly cycled away. A while later, the Canadians realized that the Germans were gone. From the ditch we saw the Canadian carriers with their high antennas driving over the Oude Dijk.

At the same time, a man from the underground came to us in the meadow with some Canadians. They saw us lying there and the resistance fighter said: 'Keep lying down, we will get them.' In the end it is safe and the family crawls out of the ditch. But the danger is not over yet. "It was a mess, all the windows were broken and the walls badly damaged. For months there was still cardboard in front of the windows. The laundry that our mother had quickly placed on the gas cabinet was burning. They got there just in time. My underpants were still hanging on the clothesline, the bullets had flown through them. Because of this, my underpants went through life for a while as 'bullet pants'. In the afternoon the Canadian infantry passed. We were liberated.”

Bovenhuizen 3-1 9981 HA Uithuizen