Holandia / Historia

French occupy Spier




Spier was one of those seemingly insignificant villages in Drenthe during the war, where life seemed to go on as usual, but then suddenly it was occupied by French paratroopers. The German occupiers were thereby prevented from retreating along the main road through Drenthe.

On 7 April 1945, French SAS men were poised to be dropped over Drenthe. Operation 'Amherst' was intended to create confusion behind the German lines. Jean Salomon Simon boarded the 19th plane that took off from Sheperds Grove airbase in England. His combat group was expected to lead all paratroopers dropped in Drenthe, which totalled over 700. They jumped over Drenthe territory around 02:30 am on 8 April. Many people did not end up where they were supposed to. Major Jean Salomon Simon landed well, as did the rest of his group. They initially stayed in the background, but occupied the road in Spier on 11 April. They dug in at the junction near Ten Buur café, which was still operational.

Pauli, one of the French paratroopers, said: "This defensive work consisted of a circular hole about four metres in diameter. Around it was a wall of one and a half metres high, made of wood and soil, which was supposed to provide cover against a piece of anti-tank artillery. But to be able to fire, he had to expose his upper parts, which made a nice target. There were manholes all along the road. The Germans came from the north, walking upright, and did not take any special precautions. Campan was lying in position with the 'bren'. Bollo said: “You shoot at my command. Chemin and I will cover the gunman.”...

... When the first Germans were 50 metres away Bollo said: “Fire!” The weapon jammed, Campan reloaded, but the Germans who had seen him struck back. It was evident that they were paratroopers as they carried Schmeisser-type pistol machine guns with an extraordinarily high rate of fire. A bullet hit the gunman straight in the head. Major Simon took over his weapon, but suffered the same fate. Then the Canadians arrived, at the same time as German reinforcements came out of the forest from the west, but they quickly left when they saw the Canadians."

Campan was dead. Simon was still alive, but he died that evening in Hoogeveen, in an emergency hospital. Paumier later gave a written account of the events in Spier, which included: "I was lying next to Major Simon when he was hit by a bullet in his forehead. We were behind an elevation at the time. As he stood up to observe the road, he was hit by a gunman, who was in a manhole about 50 metres away. I believe the German gunman himself was mortally wounded by Beaude."

According to eyewitnesses, the situation unfolded somewhat differently. Mr Cort van der Linden, a former mayor of Groningen, and another eyewitness saw that the Canadian reconnaissance unit was approaching the village from the south and opened fire. When Simon came up to greet them, he was mortally wounded.