Occupied Groningen

It was September 1944, I was a student nurse in Apeldoorn and I had been at home on sick leave as I had TB. The cure was bedrest and good food. We lived in occupied Holland, Groningen, not far from the German border. My father worked there on the railway and he was told by the Underground that we had to leave our house and go underground. We put what belongings we could in an empty room belonging to a neighbour. The rest we just had to leave in our house. Father and Nico, my brother, dressed as workmen and cycled to Makkum, the village where my parents were born, and where we had a lot of relations. Nobody wanted me as I was ill and did not have a ration card.

In December 1944 my uncle arranged for a lorry to pick my mother, me and our dog up. On the way back we were stopped by the Germans. We all stood at the side of the road with our hands up. I had my appointment card with me for X rays at the hospital and that saved us. The minute they heard the words TB that frightened them.

We got to Makkum, which is a fishing village, about 7.30 pm. My mother and I went to stay with her brother. Father and Nico were with his family, I went there for my dinner as they had a butcher's shop, and were able to provide good food.

My father Nico and his uncles slept in a secret room in the church. They had a wireless there so they knew how the war was going.

After a couple of weeks my mother took ill with pleurisy. She went by horse and cart to a private nursing home about 20 miles away. I never saw her then until after the war.

Father was stuck for footwear. He went round one half of the village to ask if they had a left clog, then round the other half for a right clog. The kids had to be carried to school as they had no footwear. There was no gas or electricity, we had a jamjar filled with water and with one inch of oil on top with a cotton wick in it which gave us light.

After the 8 pm curfew the men went out and sawed the big sleepers which used to keep the ebb and tide out when it was a sea. My uncle killed sheep and Nico and another uncle sat and spun sheepswool the whole day and we knitted everything even long johns from sheepswool. We did not have many clothes, as they were left in Groningen.

Food was very scarce in Makkum - the population had doubled to 5,000 with all the underground people. The bread was made from tulip bulbs, there was no salt, sugar, we got nothing that Winter.

In April 1945 a week before we were liberated we had a raid. The Germans raided the village and 7 men were picked up. Another man and I found them after the Germans left. They were tortured and dead.

A week later the Canadians liberated us.

We lay on the floor in a cellar, 6 of us, my uncle, aunt, 3 kids and me, for over 20 hours. We heard the shells hitting the house. In the afternoon my father came to the door and shouted 'Are you all still alive?' Nico had a terrible time as his shelter was shelled. He had curly hair and it was straight for a while with shock. The Canadians left after a few days and the British came to occupy the village. Nico's girlfriend and her father and mother had a hotel and they were billeted there. That is how I met my husband.

My father and brothers cycled home and made the German women who had lived in our house move out. All the doors and a lot of furniture were used for fuel for the 2 stoves - we had one in the lounge and one in the dining room. I went home in May. We did not have much yet in the way of food, and no gas or electricity. My mother came home in June but was still bedridden. My husband was posted to Wihelmshafen near Hamburg in Germany and he hitch hiked to Groningen to see us.

We got married in January 1946 and I came to Scotland in October 1946 - 60 years ago.

Submitted by Syta Coleman