Weapons in the hay

The Netherlands




In autumn 1944, the arms drops began. There were about 25 of them in the province of Friesland in the period before liberation. The weapons had to stay out of the hands of the occupiers and were therefore well hidden, often with farmers. Johannes van Dijk’s farm in Hitzum is the main arms depot of district VII of the Friesland division of the NBS, the Dutch Domestic Armed Forces. At Willem Postma's farm, under Achlum, the illegal workers receive arms training from a special instructor, who was dropped off with them. Everything is, of course, carried out with the utmost caution, yet the NBS operatives have a narrow escape twice.

Farmer Van Dijk was a fierce opponent of the German occupiers. Not surprisingly, his farm became a haven for those in hiding and resistance fighters. Two of his sons were members of the NBS, the paramilitary resistance organisation formed in autumn 1944 from the various ranks of the resistance. The dropped weapons were made ready for use at his place and then tucked away deep underneath the hay in the barn.  

Van Dijk also refused to cooperate in the compulsory deliveries of cattle, milk and hay to the Wehrmacht. In response, German soldiers proceeded to confiscate his hay. Under the watchful eye of Sonderführer August Geese of the Abteilung Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, part of the Wehrmacht, assisted by his fanatical Dutch interpreter Grietje Sinnema, the hay was taken out of the barn. The weapons could have been exposed at any moment, but in the nick of time Geese decided to call it a day. Members of the resistance, who had been keeping an eye on things with a gun in their pockets, did not have to take action. A tragedy had been averted. Yet the war would end dramatically for the Van Dijk family: their son Jitze Pieter was killed in a firefight between NBS operatives and retreating German soldiers on the day Hitzum was liberated. 

To handle the weapons, the resistance fighters were instructed by commandos, who had also been dropped. This happened at, among others, Willem Postma's farm, located on a cul-de-sac in the middle of the meadows between Hitzum and Achlum. One afternoon at the end of October 1944, 30 men secretly met in the barn there to learn from instructor Groenewoud how to handle sten guns, bazookas, hand grenades. The instruction was in full swing when a motorbike patrol of the German Order Police approached. Panic broke out among the men, but Groenewoud kept his cool, thrusting a gun into their hands and making them take up a position. However, the policemen drove on, but returned a short while later when they discovered the road was a dead end. Again they drove past the farm, apparently lost. It all ended well.