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Parachute drop on the Appelsche Heide



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On April 3, 1945, the BBC broadcasts a mysterious message: "Listen to the sound of the waves." This cryptic command serves as the signal for the resistance group "Grote Beer" to prepare for a daring parachute drop above the Appelsche heide. This drop is a crucial part of Operation Keystone, in preparation for the major liberation operation Cannonshot.

On April 3, 1945, British commandos parachute behind German lines, tasked with a crucial mission: establishing contact with the local resistance and selecting suitable dropping zones for further airborne operations. These operations are essential for supplying more parachutists and small jeeps, which can be deployed to protect strategic bridges. The selected dropping zones are located near Epe, an area near Uddel, and on the Appelsche Heide.

During the night of April 11 to 12, 1945, the Appelsche heide, specifically the Hevelschutterweg, becomes the scene of a daring operation codenamed Napier. This heathland is situated between Voorthuizen, Nijkerk, and Putten. Dutch men also participate in this secret operation after receiving training in Great Britain with the then-secret British unit Special Air Service (SAS). Under the command of Captain R.J. Holland, seventeen parachutists and ten containers of weapons are dropped at night. Among them are the Dutch sergeants W.F. van Beek and A. Kuypers. The ground reception committee consists of resistance members from the groups of Jan van den Broek and Berend Veenendaal ("Groep Beer").

Unfortunately, the operation does not proceed without setbacks. Due to unforeseen circumstances, no jeeps can be dropped, forcing the SAS troops to continue their stay in the Gerven area. During the night of April 14 to 15, 1945, a tragic incident escalates near Gagelwijk, where resistance members accidentally fire upon a group of SAS men, mistaking them for Germans. Resistance member Jan van den Broek is hit and dies at the age of 26. British SAS soldier John Watson (Jack) Keeble loses consciousness and is taken by the Germans, dying on the way to the hospital. He was only 21 years old. On April 16, another tragic incident occurs in a sheepfold southeast of Putten, between the farms 'Renselaar' and 'Veldhuizen'. One of the SAS soldiers, the British Martine Edward Tyson, dies after being accidentally shot while cleaning a rifle.

Meanwhile, in Putten, the German headquarters of General Johannes Blaskowitz is established, and the village is heavily defended against the approaching Canadians. During the heavy shelling preceding the liberation of Putten, the sheepfold behind farm 'Renselaar' becomes accidentally targeted by Canadian mortar fire on April 17. British soldier Alfred Ronald Edwards, who is on guard duty at the time, is hit. He dies on April 18, 1945, at the age of 27. The fallen, Tyson and Edwards, are given field burials and are reburied after the war at the Jonkerbos War Cemetery, a military cemetery in Nijmegen for Allied soldiers who fell on Dutch territory. Resistance fighter and group commander of the Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten, Van den Broek, is buried at the Diepenbosch cemetery in Voorthuizen. British SAS soldier Keeble is buried at the Oude Algemene Begraafplaats in Putten.

The tragic events during Operation Keystone reflect the complexity and risks of operations behind enemy lines during this critical phase of the liberation. 

Hevelschutterweg, 3882 LT Putten