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The girl on the train

We have asked several Engelandvaarders to share a special memory of their escape from Holland to England during the war. After the first contribution the second story is by Ellis Brandon.

During the war Ellis Brandon (April 8 1923) and Herman Friedhoff, her boyfriend at the time, were both active in the resistance. In April 1943 the ‘Sicherheitsdienst’ (the German Security Service) attempted to arrest Herman. They even put a price on his head and the couple decided to escape from Holland. Together they travelled through western France and Spain to Portugal. In the following story, Ellis describes her first experiences after her arrival in England.

"The last leg of my otherwise strenuous journey got an unexpected luxurious twist. While Herman was taken to Gibraltar to be shipped to England, I was transported to the airport of Lisbon. To put a woman on a troopship was not considered a good idea. On January 9th 1944 I landed somewhere in the middle of England on board a KLM aircraft. It was my first flying experience and having reached my destination was an overwhelming sensation.

However, upon arrival at the airport I was pinned to a seat for hours without food or drinks, with a guard to keep an eye on me. We were waiting for a female police officer who was sent all the way from London to escort me on my way to the capital by train. Even my visits to the toilet would be supervised, hence the importance of a female agent.

Finally, my female escort showed up and we went to the railway station. Once rolling through the countryside, the scenery was so magnificent it took my breath away. During our stops, I stayed glued to the glass to watch the milling crowds of military officials: girls and boys (or were they women and men?) in many different uniforms. Luckily my female escort seemed to have concluded, that I was not a dangerous spy and she explained to me obligingly the nationality and ranks of all the military uniforms we observed. I felt warmed by the respectful and uncritical attitude with which she regarded every single individual that we discussed. It struck me how British this was.

The view from the train compartment was comparable to watching a television programme about a remote and fascinating country. It engulfed me completely and I felt a rare happiness. Clearly, something was happening on this island with all that confidence in an allied victory!

Even now, while I am writing, I am filled with gratitude for the role which England played. I am sure every Engelandvaarder feels the same.

I sincerely hope that it won’t go to waste and that ‘the spirit’ will live on".

Soon after their separate arrival in England, the relationship between Ellis and Herman came to an end. In London, Ellis worked for the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs.


Author - Ellis Brandon

Watercolour illustraton: Ellis Brandon and police escort on the train to London - by Peter Utton

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