The Netherlands / Audiospot

Helping the Allies




After the allied defeat at the Battle of Arnhem in 1944, hundreds of Airborne soldiers went into hiding in the surrounding occupied territory. In order to help them escape, the Allies conspired with the local resistance on two operations. One was part of the Pegasus operations, which was successful. The other, was Operation Windmill at De Wildt Farm near Zoelen, which failed.

At the end of the 1930s, Fekko Ebbens moved from East-Groningen to Zoelen, where he married Johanna Smit. Ebbens became a fruit grower and the owner of De Wildt Farm just outside of the village, across the Amsterdam-Rijn Canal . During the war, Fekko provided a hiding place for Jews, stolen ration coupons and weapons, at the farm.

Around the 12th October 1944, Peter Baker and Ted Bachenheimer, a British intelligence officer and an American paratrooper, were sent from the already liberated region of North Brabant, to set up Operation Windmill, an escape route for the allied Airborne soldiers that were stranded in and around Zoelen after the failure of Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem.

The majority of the soldiers were hidden in the Veluwe region and the operation planned to take them through Amerongen, across the Lower Rhine River, and along numerous back roads to De Wildt Farm. From there, they would be taken across the River Waal at Echteld and on, into liberated territory in the south.

On 16th October, the German Sicherheitsdienst (intelligence agency of the SS and Nazi party) appeared at De Wildt Farm. Ebbens and his wife, three Dutch refugees, a resistance fighter and the two allied officers were dragged out of bed just as a group of resistance fighters arrived with a shipment of weapons. Shots were fired, but the resistance fighters managed to get away. The Germans set fire to the farm out of revenge and the resistance's weapons store caught fire and blew up.

Ted Bachenheimer managed to escape a few days later, but was soon recaptured. He was executed on 22nd October in ’t Harde. To spare his wife and the resistance fighter, Fekko Ebbens took full blame and was shot by a firing squad on 14th November, in Renswoude. Each of these deaths is commemorated by a small memorial at the scenes of the executions.