Paesi Bassi / Monumento

Tribute to Paul Duquesne and the French paratroopers



Indicazioni stradali

Towards the end of the war, French paratroopers were dropped in Drenthe. About 30 of them ended up around Zuidlaren. An eyewitness account recounts how they fared. A commemorative stone was erected in 2017 to commemorate the dropping of the paratroopers, which became known as Operation Amherst.

Their task was to cause confusion and capture as many strategic points such as bridges and crossings as possible. Approximately 700 mainly French paratroopers were dropped over Drenthe on the night of 7-8 April with this purpose in mind. The liberation army of mostly Canadian soldiers was approaching and needed to be able to advance fluidly. Around Zuidlaren, about 30 paratroopers ended up in two groups. This included the Kniphorst forest - De Strubben, southwest of the village of Schuilingsoord. 

One group landed at the edge of a forest near Schuilingsoord. Explorations were made from here. They spent the next day in a heavily overgrown embankment opposite a farm on Lageweg in Schuilingsoord. Two paratroopers risked asking for water at that farm. They would have been better off looking for another farm. The farmer in question was pro-German and his daughter was in a relationship with a staunch NSB member. 

Although the farmer's wife looked strangely at these soldiers with their different uniforms than she was used to, she accommodated the request for water. The two men with their red berets filled their jerry cans. The misery began when the farmer's wife told her soon-to-be son-in-law of the incident. 

He rushed to inform the watch commander at the nearby barracks, who in turn alerted the armed Germans who were protecting the village garage. Soon they were heading towards the Tipbosje in their truck with four-barrel anti-aircraft guns. A few German soldiers made a circumferential movement while the artillery was set up near Tipbosje. 

The farm was right in the line of fire. A firefight ensued and before long the back of the farmhouse was in ruins. One horse and several cows were killed. The residents fled to neighbours. 

It was a lopsided battle. While shooting, some paratroopers and the commander fled towards Annermoeras. Others were captured. One paratrooper, Frenchman Paul Duquesne, was killed in an ultimate attempt to keep some fellow fighters out of enemy hands. He was first buried in Zuidlaren and later reburied in Wevelgem.  

The captured paratroopers walked to Brink with their hands in the air. Many villagers stood on either side of the road to encourage them: 'Hold on, it won't be long,' they said. The group was transported to Assen by truck. 

The fleeing paratroopers were also eventually caught, except for the commander. He found refuge in a house at Annermoeras. He later played a role in the trial of the prospective son-in-law, the 'snitch'. This was one of the last battles for the occupiers in Zuidlaren. They left a few days later. 

A commemorative stone was erected in 2017 to commemorate the dropping of the paratroopers, which became known as Operation Amherst.