Engelandvaarders Museum

I had heard about Engelandvaarders, a number of years ago.  Mainly men but some women who escaped from the German occupied Netherlands to Britain.  Many took the dangerous overland routes but a smaller number risked their lives crossing the North Sea in a variety of small craft.  Earlier this year I heard that an Engelandvaarders Museum had been opened in 2015, so whilst on a visit to my daughter in Amsterdam it was planned that we should go to Noordwijk, to visit the museum.
The section that most interested me, the most, was the story of those men who attempted to paddle across the North Sea in canoes. As far as is known 38 men attempted the journey to the English coast in folding canoes (kayaks).  Unfortunately only 8 people made it to the English coast, and of these only 3 survived the Second World War.
The stories of some of the escapees are remarkable, Rudi van Daalen Wetters and Jaap vanHamel, were at sea for 5 days and nights before they were picked up by an Australian ship.  When rescued they were unable to stand.  On the 20th June 1941, Robbie Cohen and Koen de Longh left the beach in Katwijk and 50 hours later landed on the beach in England.  Both amazing feats of survival.  Sadly many of the others were not successful.
In 2011 Dutch marines Chiel van Bakel and Ben Stoel and English paddlers Alec Greenwell, Ed Cooper, Harry Franks and Olly Hicks recreated the crossing completed by the brothers, Han and Willem Peteri on the 19th September 1941, although I would assume that their navigation equipment was slightly more sophisticated than a school atlas and a watch.  The Peteri brothers took two days to cross from Katwijk to Sizewell in Suffolk.
As paddlers we are possibly in a reasonable position to understand the fears and concerns of those young men as they slipped quietly away from the Dutch coast, under the cover of darkness. Their future far from certain but prepared to chance their lives on the hostile waters of the North Sea, rather than remain in their occupied homeland.
If you are in the area then I would recommend a visit to this small but fascinating museum.

Engelandvaarders
The entrance to the museum, an old German bunker just behind the beach in Noordwijk.
Engelandvaarders
Inside the bunker a couple of the walls have been converted into a screen.
Engelandsvaarder
There are a number of highly informative display boards telling the stories of many of the people who attempted to escape by canoe.
Engelandvaarders
The photographs of the individuals concerned are a poignant reminder of those dark days in Europe. Brothers Han and Wim Peteri landed in Sizewell, Suffolk, after two days navigating with a school atlas and a watch.
Engelandvaarders
One of the canoes which was used by some Engelandvaarders who escaped to England.
Engelandvaarders
In this frail craft, such as this one, people headed out to sea without many of the things which we take for granted, such as a weather forecast!

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