Our home work
Writing a biography requires extensive research. We are exploring archives in the Hague, Amsterdam and London. We delve into personal diaries and published literature and we meet lots of people. For instance, we consult researchers, like Erwin van Loo, who wrote 'Eenige Wakkere Jongens', an extensive study about Dutch Airmen in the Royal Air Force during World War Two. And Sierk Plantinga, a walking encyclopedia on wartime history.
We are especially eager to meet the precious and heartwarming but thinning crowd of Experience Experts: the Engelandvaarders. They are our invaluable source of information helping us find the missing pieces in our father’s wartime story.
Since the beginning of our quest we have already managed to unearth a treasure of information. But there is a lot more, waiting to be explored.
Personal and moving details have surfaced, of our father and other people, which make this project so worth while. Of course we don’t want to give everything away yet, before our book is published. But we are happy to give you a peek behind the scene of our research efforts. Below is a list of our highlights so far.
Diaries of 322 ground engineer Louis Hartlooper
Kees van Eendenburg
The Dutch 322 fighter squadron, an RAF sub squadron, knew quite a few commanders, but none of them appears in so many photographs and documents as the legendary Kees van Eendenburg Sr. Sporting a typical RAF moustache it is hard to overlook him.
Van Eendenburg is famous for being one of the first Engelandvaarders who reached England via the North Sea. As a pilot he took part in the Battle of Britain and, on a later occasion, he miraculously survived a crash with his Spitfire above the North of France.
His eldest son, Kees van Eendenburg junior, is one of the first people we contacted in our research. Right at our first meeting he, very generously, lent us his father’s invaluable diary and logbook!
Despite his age, 96, Engelandvaarder Eddy Jonker still is an incredibly active man. Chairman of the 'Museum Engelandvaarders' is just one of his functions. Yet he happily receives us at his house and supplies us with information.
With impressive ease he switches back and forth between his own experiences and those of our father. Of course, life did not spare him from losses and health problems, but he always fought himself back into an active lifestyle. There is a beautiful word for this: resilience.
voor Militaire Historie
Getting access to the Dutch Institution for Military History (NIMH) is quite a military affair. A day pass is handed out by an employee in uniform to open the iron gates.
We enter a world of barracks, the Frederik Hendrik Kazerne in The Hague. Situated on its premises is the building of the NIMH, property of the Ministry of Defence.
Here, we listen to recorded interviews on daily life in the 322 squadron. Furthermore, personal files of our father’s flight training are waiting for us in the study hall.
The friendly reception and support by members of staff Erwin van Loo, Stephan Deiters and Fred Bruijn feels like a warm bath in these rather harsh surroundings.
In his memoirs, kindly lent to us by Engelandvaarder Marinus Zuidijk, he describes the adventures of his escape to England via occupied Europe.
Some parts of his route show an overlap with our father’s journey. His description of some details are very helpful to us in bridging the gaps of our own information.
Historisch Centrum Overijssel
The Historical Centre of the province of Overijssel in the city of Zwolle appears to possess a film on wartime events at the Stork Machine Factory in Hengelo where our dad was trained as a factory worker. Intrigued, we decide to check them out. We admire the design of the building and, having survived the interior staircase which seems to have a life of its own (the architect overplayed his hand somewhat here), we enter the reading room. Film & sound coordinator Roland de Jong tells us that they do have several films indeed, unfortunately none of them being immediately available. Nevertheless, he will look into it and assemble what is relevant to us. We look forward to it, Roland!
British Ministry of Defense
We love British courteousness. To make sure that we are not missing out on any interesting files hiding in British governmental archives we send a ‘paid request’ to the Ministry of Defense in London. We fill out various forms and send them by post to London. Within three days we receive a polite mail from civil servant Derrick Fawcett to verify our mail adress. He notifies us that the processing of our inquiry may take up to six weeks and he apologises for the fact that our payment will be processed earlier. Our patience and understanding in this are ‘greatly appreciated’. And: ‘If we can keep any hastening activity with them to a minimum then that will aid them in expediting our enquiry.’
Dear Derrick, take the time you need. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!
Diaries are an invaluable source of information. Engelandvaarder Ed Barten, who made various attempts to reach England, which are now retold by his son Paul, has kept such a diary.
We were given the fantastic opportunity by son Paul to use these documents together with other published material. All this information helps us to verify and complete the story of our father Jan ter Doest.
Just like many other institutions, the Dutch Airforce periodically publish ‘Jubileumbooks’ and they are a big help in our research. Author Filip Appeldorn’s narrative complements and adds meaning to the Summaries of the British National Archives (written by the squadron’s various commanders). Whereas the Summaries describe the important daily events, the jubileumbooks discuss the matter more from a ‘birds eye view’. Together they create a better understanding of the squadron’s ever changing tasks and stategies.
Filip, a retired KLM captain 747-400 , now gives flying instruction to Norwegians on the B787. By mail, he takes time to answer our questions on matters that need some clarification for outsiders. Luckily, there is not much to discuss, because his text is well written and very informative.
As a twelve year old boy, after primary school our father entered the Wilhelmina School, the technical training of the Stork Machine Factory in Hengelo. This company with its colourful past and strong social values does not exist anymore but the listed building still houses an engineering museum and a modest archive.
Inside we mount the original, tiled staircase. Pleasantly surprised by the modern, airy and industrial canteen that awaits us on the first floor we run into two friendly and helpful volunteers: Reinout Koldewijn (custodian) and Wim Beeverloo (archivist). They offer us tea and then usher us into the tiny archive room which holds a new and thrilling surprise. In an old factory magazine from 1942 our father’s name pops up, together with some very interesting information: new facts that explain why he carefully chose to leave home on July 26th 1942 and not on an earlier or later date.
Jan and Gerard Tilmans
We have recently got on the track of the Tilmans family from Hengelo. Much to our joy, because the Tilmans brothers and sisters played an important role in our father’s childhood. Sadly, Jan and Gerard Tilmans, our father’s best friends at the time, have died years ago. But fortunately, families were large in those days, two other Tilmans siblings are still around. Leo and Dinie are still going strong and have clear memories of those wonderful childhood days in rural Hengelo! Apparently our father was a true daredevil. As Leo Tilmans says: “He had the nerves to do anything and he did it too”.