life stories

Welcome to Coconut Connections

Real life stories

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A dreadful day in my life.

It was 2003, February 12, 2003. I was on my way to the airport in Manchester to catch my flight to Jamaica.I had traveled to England to be with my daughter and grandchildren.Wayne, my son in law and Monique had moved from Jamaica to England, where they had been working with us for 10 years.I had traveled from Jamaica, where at the time my husband and I were working and owned four Dive shops on the island and a sand pump business.
Wayne and Monique had bought a house in Askum-in-Furness and were moving on February 1, 2003. Because Wayne was working in Saudi, and was not home at the time of their move, I decided to give my daughter a hand with the move and stepped on a plane.
On February 12 I traveled back to Jamaica. Monique dropped me of at the airport in Manchester and I checked in. When it was my turn to get my boarding pass the lady at the counter looked at me a little strange and told me that she was not able to check me in. I asked her why? Is there a problem? She told me I had to phone my girlfriend Sheena Hartley,who lived in Camebridge at the time.
I said to the lady, well can't you book me in first and then I call her. She told me she could not do that. I started to argue with her and she called a supervisor. He pulled me aside and told me to please do not argue and call your girlfriend first. Your girlfriend insisted we do not book you on this flight back to Jamaica until you have spoken to her. I could not understand why? He guided me to a telephone and he stood there watching me.I thought it was all a bit strange. Had no idea what it was all about. The phone was ringing in my girlfriends house and she picked it up immediately.I said to her; "Sheena what is this all about, they won't let me on the plane". I could not believe what she was telling me. She had tried to catch me at my daughters house, but we had left already to the airport". She told me that my mother had a terrible fall and was dying, so everything was arranged and they would guide me to a plane to Amsterdam, The Netherlands instead of Montego Bay Jamaica'. I was stunned and the tears were rolling down my cheeks.I could not believe what I was hearing.The supervisor was waiting for me while I was on the phone. He took me to a special desk where my tickets were changed. I was in shock. People at the airport were looking at me, as if I was caught smuggling or something.Apparently my brother had been able to get a hold of my girlfriend and had asked to try to catch me at the airport so I did not fly to Jamaica while I was in Manchester.Never in my life did I feel so lonely on that airport in Manchester. That feeling of being so utterly helpless.I arrived at 8 0'clock at night in Amsterdam and my brother was waiting for me at the Amsterdam airport. I am forever grateful that the people at the airport in Manchester had gone out of their way so I could be on time to say goodbye to my mother.My mother passed away on February 14, 2003 on Valentines day, two days after I heard this horrible news at the airport in Manchester, England.
We buried our dear mother on February 19, 2003. She was cremated in Velsen, Duin en Kruidenbergerweg, te Driehuis (Velsen)
My mothers wish was granted she liked to have her ashes to be spread out in the Dunes. She is resting in peace at her most favorite spot between blackberry bushes.Whenever it was that time of year that the black berries were in season, you could find my mother in the dunes. She made the best blackberry sauce and jam.
Rest in Peace....We will always remember you!

Morning glory in the Dunes, Zandvoort, The Netherlands.

Early morning, see the fox on the right.

Evening falls over the dunes in Zandvoort.Ruud and I love biking through the dunes. There are numerous bike paths and you can bike from one town to the next. The paths are for bicycles only.
It is so very peaceful and I can understand why my mother liked it so much.
I always go to the spot where we spread her ashes nine years ago. The blackberries are growing in abundance. I think she is taking good care of them.It is a beautiful spot and so quiet.
Every where in the Dunes in Zandvoort you will always see a deer.There also are living lots of rabits. You always will see them.

I know my mother is very happy and in a place she loves. When we are riding our bikes through the dunes, I always feel that she is with me, and I smile.

For My Mom,"who gave so much and asked so little"

                                                          FOR MY MOM    .                                                                                                                      

March 1946, just recovered from three and half years in captivity.


You experienced so much horror
By those 'Japs' so foreign.

You were a grown-up
And I was a child.

You suffered so much loss and pain
But protected your child not in vain.

You were a young woman thrown in this war,
The child didn't know the horrors you saw.

You were in these prison camps
And your child didn't understand.

You suffered so much sickness
And your child suffered too.

You had the worst nightmares and dreams
And your child woke up scared from your screams.

You never forgot
The child didn't know what.

You took your secrets to the grave
And to the child no memories gave

You were a Hero
And the child didn't know.

You were my Mother
And I was your daughter

You were a World War Two 'Jap' Prisoner of War
And now both the child and daughter understand more.

You paid the price too high the cost
For both mother and child too much was lost.

I am a child no more
But unknowing carried the scars you wore.

And have found the more I learn, the more I heal
Now not pain but understanding I do feel.

So rest in peace, with Love from me
Because now finally we both are free!

My Mom passed away Valentine's day 2003.

Thanks Mom for everything you have done for me.

Not until later in life, I became aware of the atrocities my Mom endured while a Prisoner of War from the Japanese in World War II.She saved me from starvation. She would feed me before herself.I remember this horrible 'wall paper paste' I had to eat.We ate rats, snakes, lizards, until there was not any of these creatures to be seen anymore.The rest of my Mothers life she was never able to throw any food away.She would always say to my half-brother and sister when they did not clean their plates:"Empty your plate, if you only knew how many children in the world starve to death, and would give anything for what is on your plate". Whenever I see a mother bird feeding her young ones, I can't help but think by myself that is my Mom.Feeding and protecting her babies. Flying back and fort, back and fort, for her hungry little ones.

Later in life, food became an obsession for her, always trying to over feed us. Always telling us that we did not eat enough.I know that all that happened to my mother in these Japanese camps had serious consequences on the rest of her life. After the war her struggle was not over, the war for her continued as horrible memories.The unimaginable brutality at the hands of the Japanese in these prison camps, trying to take care of me has haunted her for the rest of her life.

Starvation in these Prison camps visited us every day.The Japanese were cruel. As many as fifteen a day would die in our camp. Many women and children suffered from various diseases.Every where around us was filth.Women were punished every day and would suddenly disappear.It was a miracle my mother survived. Freedom should not have come one month later, she would not have made it.
I do not know what would have become of me. My mother once told me that I was so skinny and that she had feared for my life.
The cruelty, torture,rape and slave labor that these women and children endured in these Japanese prison camps should never be forgotten.These women did every thing to keep their children alive and they should be honored and remembered.

Always be remembered!.

Love you Mom.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ruud in the Army draft 1960-3

Backrow on the right Kees van Brandwijk and I (Ruud) third from the right.

In 1960 Military service was mandatory in the Netherlands. Ruud was drafted in June 1960-draft three.
Upon leaving high school he worked for a garage in Zandvoort as a car mechanic.In the Netherlands the Military service at that time was mandatory, so he had no choice in the matter.On May 28, 1959 he had his medical examination plus his finger prints taken and was declared fit for military service.
Exactly one year later he was drafted in the army.

In June 1960,just 19 years old,he stepped on the train to go to Amersfoort.He would never deny that he was scared shit.It was the first time going away from home, and knowing that the first 6 weeks he would not be able to go home at all was quite overwhelming.On arrival in Amersfoort at the train station he waited an hour,wondering what was going on, he was told that some army trucks would arrive and he was to get on one of the trucks. He noticed that a couple more guys were waiting. After an hours wait army trucks arrived and all the guys hopped in these trucks.Ruud was taken to a Military Base named Willem III.They were bombarded with paper work and waited for hours in the hallways.Suddenly they had to line up and were measured, and everybody received a coverall, Ruuds was way too big. He could have fitted two people in it.They also received a beret and a pair of running shoes.Their hair was not allowed to stick out of these berets.So off with the hair.The drills of becoming a soldier had begun.The next day they were fitted with boots and measured again for their uniforms.After one day walking on these boots he had blisters every where, so did his fellow soldiers. Ya.. they now were called soldiers.In one room they slept with another 30 men, he was assigned the lower bunk bed and a guy from Amsterdam slept on the top. They received their riffles with bayonets on the end, and were told that the next day they would learn how to shoot these things, and how to use these bayonets.The next morning they had to stand in a circle and were taught how to fight with their riffles and how to run into each other pretending to kill with the bayonet.After that training session they had to go to the the shooting course and each of them had to shoot with live ammo five times.Never before he had a riffle in his hands and now he was shooting with live ammo. He was not doing bad at all, he told me.The first two weeks, he lost 5 kilo. In one of Ruuds' letters he wrote me, that they had to see a Reverend.The religious teacher was talking and talking for an hour,and Ruud told me that he fell asleep during the service.He could not understand what the Reverend was talking about,he was drafted in the Army being taught how to kill other human beings, and now they were listening to a Reverend preaching them about life. It was too much to take it all in, so he napped instead.Somethings are so contradicted, specially when you are in the Military service. You are being trained daily how to kill other human beings, which they call the enemy. The training is hard, because they have to make boys into men.Tough men...They teach you to defend your country, kill as many enemy as you can and do not get killed yourself...Which enemy????Well any enemy! Like what happened in World War II,which was not that long ago,and we were attacked by Germany,and Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor.At all times we have to be prepared,only 19 years old and only just a few weeks in the army and they were suppose to become tough brave soldiers. World War II was not that long ago and the Netherlands was rebuilding their military arm forces, their was tension in the air with Communist Soviet Union. These young boys had entered this total different world, a world with guns, tanks, grenades, mines, etc...etc... They had seen this in the movies,which was exciting.This did not happen in real life???..or did it???... All of a sudden this world they were living in was not as secure as they had believed.Their mothers had pampered them and meals had been prepared ,clothes were always washed and cleaned, they slept in nice warm beds.Their protected world had come to an end.This was reality.Was this the real world??
After being in the Army for one and a halve month Ruud was plagued with terrible head aches.At one time it got so bad that they rushed him to the Military hospital in Amersfoort.

It was a scary time.They kept him in hospital for two weeks and did all kinds of tests, but could not find what had caused these sudden headaches.We think that it had been a reaction to all the needles they stick in you when you get in the army. A needle for this and a needle for that, a booster for this and a booster for that. It felt to him like they were sticking a needle in him all the time. His arm felt like a prune. On July 27,1960 they released him, but was kept under strict control and for a while he did not have to wear a helmet.That meant he did not have to do guard-duty.In August of 1960, he was only in the army for 2 months and he got driving lessons to drive an army truck.One day while they were practicing driving this army truck up a sandy hill, an supreme sergeant was watching how Ruud maneuvered this heavy truck up this hill.As he reached the top the supreme sergeant ordered him to see him. Ruud thought what the hell have I done?To his surprise the sergeant told him that he had been impressed with his driving skills and wrote in Ruuds' book that he now had his licence to drive these big army trucks.

The emblem on their beret.

Once a week they had to listen to a speech from the Reverend, which Ruud thought was very boring. He had heard it all when he at one point in his life was forced to go to church every Sunday. He was brought up as a catholic but when he reached the age of 18 his parents told him he now could choose if he still liked to go to church. Needless to say he never went again.There were too many things he did not agree with, and now being in the Army he was forced to listen every time for an hour to this Reverend.But here you had no say in anything at all.Just do as you been told!

He very quickly learned basic military training and he became mentally and physically much stronger.Although he found it sometimes very stress full, most of his two years in the Military Army he remembers as good times.He refers to those years as one of his best times of his life.He became more aware about what was going on in the world.When you are 18 years old you are so naive.You learn very quickly in the Army.

One of the first pictures in uniform, Ruud on the left.
Taking a break while on one of their training sessions in Amersfoort.Tough looking bunch.Ruud fourth from the right.
After two months my mother-in-law and I (Thea) were invited for a visit, to see how her son was doing.From left to right, Ruud's mom, Thea and Ruud.
Amersfoort Willem III.Cavalry, June 1960.

When he arrived at the military base they were told to fill up a big bag with straw and that would be their mattress.Once a month they dropped of a load of bails of straw and we had to refresh our 'mattresses'.To sleep on these bags filled with straw was tough. The straw would pinch you, it felt nothing like a real mattress they had at home.In the winter they had a little wood stove which stood in the middle of this barrack, and at night around ten o'clock two guys had to carry the wood stove outside because it was too dangerous to leave it.During the night it was freezing cold.
See the black stove on the left.In the morning they brought it in again and had to lit it.Ruud is standing in front of the blackboard.

The sleeping quarters were very bare. Just a big long room with bunk beds. He remembers the birds were nesting inside the barracks and some times there was bird shit every where.As of today he still has contact with many of his buddies from his Army time.Five years ago when we were in Holland we organized a Reunion with all of his buddies from the Military service on the beach of Zandvoort, at Nautique restaurant.They all came with their wives and we had a great time. A couple of these fellows had been at our wedding. We were married during Ruuds time in the military service in October 1961.We had decided to get married, because instead of 0.90 cents a day he would receive 1.25 a day.Yeeeh! we felt rich.Also there was trouble in the air because of the East and the Berlin "Wall".We also had in mind that we probably would not stay in the Netherlands after his military service. We had decided to emigrate to New Zealand.However we ended up in Canada.Last year we were married 50 years, and they have been wonderful. Together we have accomplished a lot in our life and over the years we grew closer and closer.Everything we have done we did together, and never had any doubts.
We had a very simple wedding. Ruud only had permission from the military service for a couple of days.That night after our wedding ceremony we had a party at my parents house.
You can imagine what a big surprise it was when suddenly an army jeep stopped in front of the house and four of his mates from the army stepped out and joined the party. It was quite a site when they came to the door to join to celebrate our wedding. What a gossip in the town of Zandvoort.' Did you see the MP was at the house of Thea's parents'. Do you think Ruud was being picked up? Because in those days when you saw an army jeep with uniformed men, it meant that a boy was picked up for no show for his military service.Not showing up for your Military duties meant prison time.
Being in the Military made Ruud more aware about the world around him. It made him less ignorant about the past and about the soldiers who had died fighting for freedom in World War II. He gained a wealth of knowledge about other cultures in the world.Three months he trained in Amersfoort at the Willem III barracks,after a few weeks he was transferred to the Prins Bernard military base which was also located in the same town Amersfoort. From there he went to Utrecht to the Kromhout military base, from Utrecht he went back to Amersfoort to the Boskamp(during World War II, the Boskamp had been used as a concentration- camp for Jews) a place where the Jews had suffered and where murdered by the Nazies; it's a place where you can feel resistance and pain, from here he and his division was send to Germany, Bergen Hohne (formerly Bergen-Belsen)for intense training.Bergen-Belsen also a former concentration camp for the Jews during the war.
Translation of the above;

The Boskamp was a concentration-camp during World War II (1940-1945)

Now it is used for the 41 st tank-battalion and the 101 st tank-battalion.

During World War II the wooden barracks were used as mortuary rooms.
These rooms are now used for the military, and are very bare and simple.

above picture from national archives;
Concentration-camp Amersfoort, during the liberation by Canadian soldiers. See the Canadian Tank in the middle!

It's hard to believe that so much suffering took place in these same barracks Ruud was now serving his military duty.
The Boskamp in Amersfoort; a horrible place during WWII, a place where Jews suffered and were murdered by the Nazies. A place where you feel the resistance and the pain.

The idea what had happened in these same barracks,which were now used as sleeping quarters for Ruud and his fellow soldiers, often gave them the creeps.
Not much had changed, the barracks were still the same and were all still standing.The rooms were very bare and simple.
Sometimes it felt like the place was haunted, Ruud was glad when he left that place.

It was the beginning of April 1961 when they left for Bergen-Hohne( formerly called Bergen-Belsen)in Germany.

Bergen-Hohne (Used to be called Bergen-Belsen) is a NATO military training area in the Southern part of Luneburg Heath.In the state of Lower Saxony in Northern Germany.It covers an area of 284 square kilometers (70,000 acres) which makes it the largest military training area in Germany.
NATO means North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The NATO flag.

NATO countries seen in Green.
Bergen Hohne ( Bergen-Belsen) was a concentration camp in World War II.There is very little left to see of the atrocities what had taken place here.Here and there some remnants and tracks are still visible from that bizarre time.
British Army Bulldozer pushes bodies into a mass grave in 1945.

It's a place which you "Feel".Knowing what took place there, gives you that imposing feeling which you can't describe.It made a big impression on Ruud.Millions of words have been written about these horror camps. But words cannot describe it from the view point of those who have seen it with their own eyes, it is impossible. Bergen-Belsen was the ultimate blasphemy.
The camp was liberated on April 15,1945, by the Bristish 11th Armoured Division and the Canadians. 60,000 prisoners were found inside, most of them seriously ill and 13,000 corpses lay around the camp unburied. The scenes that greeted Bristish Troops were described by the BBC's Richard Dimbleby as unbelievable. It was a day he would never forget, the most horrible day of my life.
The Bergen-Belsen former concentration camp was burned down to the ground by British soldiers to prevent the spread of typhus on May 21,1945.

On arrival at camp Bergen Hohne (Bergen-Belsen) they had to set up tents, and the next day they started their training with live ammunition.
The entrance where the exercises were held.
Ruud on the left and Kees Bax on the right.Camping with the military. It rained a lot and everything was wet and mud all around you. We all were home sick. The training was tough and you were shouted at a lot.
In Utrecht at the Kromhout military base he had become a tank specialist mechanic. It meant he had to stay in military service for another two months.

In 1961 during the threat of the Soviet Union his division had to go back to Bergen -Hohne (Bergen-Belsen)for extra training.All the guys from his draft had been told that they had to stay in the army for jet another 2 months.Two months ended up to be four months. Training intensified. War became more surreal.Every day live Firing Exercises.Rumors are that they have to stay for at least another 6 weeks in Germany and everybody is in a panic.News about what is happening is all over the newspapers.It is the talk of the day.Is there going to be another war?
Ruud has been incorporated with the division "BRAVO" squadron, it means all he has to do is drive his jeep back and fort to the training field.
Not only the threat from the Soviets but the Netherlands is dealing with Dutch New Guinea as well.There was an ongoing dispute over Dutch New Guinea-between Holland and Indonesia. Indonesia attempted to invade the Region on December 18,1961.The possibility existed that he could be send to the Dutch Papua Guinea.In October 1962 the Territory was placed under the United Nations administration.
Ruud was driving a jeep and had to drive the officers from A to B all over the so called battle field.
The training intensified and at night they had live ammunition exercises.This is one of the pictures Ruud made during that time.

During World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union fought together as Allies against the AXIS powers. However the relationship between the two nations was a tense one. Americans had long been wary of Soviet communism and concerned about Russian leader Joseph Stalin's tyrannical, blood thirsty rule of his own country.
Europe fueled many American's fear of a Russian plan to control the world.In such a hostile atmosphere, no single party was entirely to blame for the Cold War.In fact some historians believe it was inevitable.
By 1991, the Soviet Union itself had fallen apart. The cold war was over.

The Berlin 'Wall' was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR,East Germany) starting on August 13,1961. It completely cut of West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin.
The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls.(Later known as the "Death strip"). This wall was constructed to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked Germany and the Communist Eastern Bloc during the Post-World War II period. The Wall came to symbolize the "Iron Curtain" that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.
The "Wall" was built and when the fences and minefields were placed along the "Iron Curtain" to complete the imprisonment of German's Eastern States.

All troops of the Regiment deployed to forward positions as NATO defied the Soviet threat to close the Helmstedt-Berlin Autobahn.
US Army checkpoint at the border of East and West Berlin. The sign says; you are leaving the American sector.

Training exercises intensified, physically and mentally.How to kill and not to be killed.
How terrible this may sound it's the truth, fight for our Freedom from tyrannical Powers. The Military often get criticized, but do we really realize what this is all about?
If we do not have these soldiers, who train so hard, where would we be? Would we be living in Freedom? What happened in World War II could easily repeated. Never forget!! Or how it is been said "Lest we Forget!
George Santayana reminds us that the lessons of history are invaluable" Those who forget the past, are condemned to repeat it".

Bergen-Hohne (Bergen-Belsen) August 1961.
Ruud on the right, with live ammunition. I don't think they realized the seriousness of it all.

Ruud and his fellow comrades taking a break. That night the Live Firing Exercises would begin, in full earnestly.In the period 1961-1963, his 41 Tank battalion stayed in Bergen -Hohne, because of the threat from the East and the crisis of the building of the "WALL" in Berlin.It sucked!
Helicopters flew in and out on the training field.Ruud on the right.Officers were flown in.
Darkness came and the spectacle began.Looking back at it now, Ruud says;"We really did not take it serious.Now I realize how close we came to World War III. And I realize how young we excually were.My heart goes out every time when another soldier dies in battle. My eyes tear up, and I can't stand it.We have to pay dearly for FREEDOM."

During the period of "Iron Curtain" around 5000 people attempted to escape over the 'Wall', with a death toll between 100 and 200.
No man's Land.

Memorial for all the people who lost their lives, who believed in Freedom.
An equally critical situation arose a year later during the Missile Crisis in November 1962, when World War III was but an "eye blink" away.
Ruud and I were terrified that he would be drafted again.The chance for calling him back was there.

During the Cold War more than 55,000 American soldiers served on Freedom's frontier.
When the Americans where there it was one of the reasons why an attack from the East never came..... a reason why almost all Europeans live in "Freedom" today.

Throughout the years that the American troops stood ready to meet an attack from the East and give an aggressor his first sharp taste of NATO steel.
Night and day, year in and year out, the soldiers in observation posts kept watch over the main avenues of approach and our scout squads patrolled the sectors between the OP's. They watched for signs of an attack and listened for a distant ominous sound that could signal the approach of enemy armor. At the same time they were on guard and ready to react with precise force to any border incident that could be raised by the communist border soldiers.
America had not forgotten their past, with the sneaky attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese not that long ago.

The "Wall" became a monument to Communist failure.In 1989 Reagan had challenged the Soviet Premier in a speech at Brandenburg Gate Berline: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this "Wall". In that same year 1989 the "Wall" came down.

The Wall was finally breached by Jubilant Berliners on November 9,1989 unifying a city that had been divided for over 30 years.

The feeling in the air was electric as if some great force had been let loose.Finally "FREEDOM".


Ruud's most memorable time in the military service was his time in La Courtine in France. He served time in La Courtine from June 1961 until August 22,1961,with the threat of the Soviet and the Cold War he was send back to Bergen-Hohne on August 27,1961
La Courtine was usually a training time of six weeks, including the three day trip over the roads.Ruud spend three months in La Courtine.
In 1960 during Ruuds' military service all TKBAT within the 101 were fixed with rubber "pads", that way the tanks were able to drive the public roads, without doing damage to the roads. When this trial became a great success they were attached to other tank battalions as well. Also all tanks within the 101 TKBAT were ahead of their time to camouflage the tanks. The Centurian Tank, which he drove, were fitted with the camouflage patron.He was with the 41 Tank battalion and these stayed permanently in Bergen-Hohne.
The rubber "Pads", on the centurion tank.

The three day trip to La Coutine.

A trial run over the roads with the tanks fitted with the rubber "Pads". Ruud is the second from the right.Left to right Karel Biljouw,Cees Bax and Kees van Brandwijk on the right.
Loading the tanks up on to the train was a full days work.
A last minute repair.

The day has come to drive to La Courtine.The first place they drive through is Lommel, it's lying near Valkenswaard. Lommel is one of the biggest towns of the province of North-West Limburg. Ruud is driving a army jeep in large convoy.
The first day they cross the border from Holland into Belgium, late afternoon they cross the border from Belgium into France, where they set up their tents in MOURMELON.

Taking a break from the long drive.
Ruud on the right.On the left Kees van Brandwijk and ...... Hoogland?

At night they had to set up their small tents, and exhausted they would fall asleep immediately. The next day at 5 Am they would be on the road ready for the next stretch. The next stop would be Bourges. The trip is about 1,000 kilometers to La Courtina from Amersfoort, the Netherlands.It is a hot day,the last kilometers to Bourges are marked with great care:" in about five minutes you can get out" and a little further down the road it says:"are you ready? in about 500 meters bivouac" and a jeep with a sign appears"follow me" and guide them to a place where they can park the vehicles. A bit rigid and tired and puffy from the heat, the soldiers are getting out the trucks and put up their little tents on the grounds of the rifle-range of La Polygone, just outside Bourges.
Within an hour a Dutch Village of 1500 tents arise.
In the meantime the trucks and jeeps have tanked at the gasoline supply station and are ready to leave the next day for the last stage of the route.

The Third day
At about six o'clock in the morning the first trucks and jeeps are leaving towards the last stop La Courtine. After six hours driving with some pit stops they drive through the small streets of Aubuisson, where children and a dozen french ladies standing at the side of the road waving and welcome them.On time the convoy has arrived in La Courtine, without accidents and only with a few small problems on some trucks, which were repaired right on the spot.
Taking a lunch break. Ruud in the middle.Kees van Brandwijk on the left and .......Hoogland on the right.
The convoy has stopped on the side of the road for a little chat and a pit stop. Ruud second from the right.They marked their spots on lots of trees.

Arrived alive in La Courtine.Ruud top row second from the left.
The little town of La Courtine. It had about 1,000 residence.
The sleeping quarters are looking a bit shabby. There is a funny smell and the hygiene service has sprayed with flee powder to make sure no flees are in the mattresses. Before the Dutch this base was used by the Moroccan military, who left this base in a very messy state.There were flees, mice, cockroaches and lice. The showers have cold water only, but they are promised that warm water will be available soon.The latrines are in the 'Coliseum', behind are some halve doors where little barrels are.Beside these little barrels are the latrines, where sand catches the water and a tarp gives you a little privacy.
The millitary housing.

A greetings card from La Courtine.
In 1959 the first Dutch military had arrived in La Courtine. The News papers had written that a spy (a Russian)had been spotted.A spy from the Soviet Union. This part of France was full of communists.The ammunition depot was extra guarded in La Courtine. A lot of Algerian people live in France and some of them are subversive elements.

Oh,la, time for that!

The fifth day in La Courtine started at five thirty in the morning with military exercises and the start of being on bivouac.The training is going to be very realistic and one exercise consist of a make believe A-bomb. The whole training is suggested on reality of war circumstances.The exercises got phonetically names like "zwar the parie", and in a Amsterdam accent" "Komsie,Komsa" and the night exercise is called "rendez vous".
The third week the whole combat troops are in action, whereby the A-bomb is a imitation of burning exhausted oil and a mixture of gasoline.

Ruud on a training mission.Driving an Officer.

Ruuds' job is to fix mechanical problems on tanks.In the jeep he drives from one spot to another.

Ruud taking the tank for a "road test". The Tank is fixed, problem solved. The "road test" done.

La Courtine is a very small little village. It lies about 100 kilometers west of Clermont Ferrand and the same distance from Limoges. The population in those days were very poor, which was noticeable the way they were dressed.

No this is not what you think it is. They did not go and see the "TOUR THE FRANCE". this was a hand book with rules they had to follow.

In this booklet "TOUR the FRANCE", specially for the military who were training in La Courtine. In this booklet were written rules about hygiene, like:

1.Start off your day before you go on exercise, that your canteen is clean. Fill it with trustworthy water.( only from taps which are appointed by us).
2. Only drink water which has been pointed out by our staff. In case of an emergency, drink only water which has been boiled first. Never drink water from a water pump or well.

3.Do not eat ice cream or popsicles, no raw vegetables or salad, not cut up fruits or sausages. All in all no food which is lying exposed.
4.Use only the marked latrines and urinals.Get in touch with your unit doctor as soon as possible if you have diarrhea.In case you have to do your business while in the field, bury it after you are done. Bury papers and rubbish as well.
5. When bitten by a snake, put immediately a tight bandage on the place of the bite and rapport it as soon as possible to your unit doctor.The tight bandage has to be loosened every 20 minutes.
6. Keep the grounds clean. Deposit all sorts of rubbish at the places which are marked.
7. Moderate alcohol intake.(also beer and wine)! Return home in good health.
8. Keep your body clean. Take a shower were possible as many times you can.

This is so funny because in those days (1960/1960!) " taking a shower" was still a problem in most houses in the Netherlands. In military service you were allowed a shower once a week. To be honest most guys in military service when at home, had to go to a facility down in their home towns, where they could take a shower for 25 cents.You had to pay more if you liked to take a bath. The shower would be turned off after a certain time.For them it was luxury to have a shower in the military service all the time.
Of course nowadays this has changed, every house in the Netherlands has a shower cubicle. I remember we were living in a new build house, these houses were build in 1949, just after the War and these houses had a shower cubicle. Across from us were still older houses. These houses were row houses which were owned by a housing corporation.Around 1965 these houses got their shower cubicles build.It was quiet a luxury.

This was your "TOUR the FRANCE", booklet how to stay healthy.

La Courtine is lying in the middle of France with 70 square kilometers of training-grounds.On these grounds all sorts of training drills like in real combat were held. These training grounds became available for the Dutch troops because the French troops were compelled by necessity shipped to Algiers.
The surroundings of La Courtine are beautiful.The grounds are lying 800 meters above sea level and are dense overgrown with forest. In between the hills you will find little swamps. This gives the military a possibility for group training fights, in which the tanks working together with the infantry battalions can train in all kinds of fight situations with support of artillery.
This gives you an idea how dense the terrain is.

Ruud driving his jeep through difficult terrain.They got word that a tank was stuck in one of the swamps.
Stuck in the swamp.

Finally after hours the tank was pulled out the swamp.

La Courtiene only had one cafe,where you could go for a pint of beer.
Going down town La Courtiene. Ruud on the left.
Ruud in the middle.
At the Patisserie. Ruud top right.

Getting a drink from the locals.
The next day it was back to training.

There is discipline in a soldier
you can see it when he walks,
There is honor in a soldier
you can see it when he talks
There is courage in a soldier
You can see it in his eyes,
There is loyalty in a soldier
that he will not compromise.

Driving the jeep, through difficult terrain.
Getting the tanks ready and upload them with life ammo.
Ruud driving up and down with superiors.
The tank mechanics taking a break. Ruud on the left.

Tanks in position. The first shots.
Taking a lunch break, before the "fireworks"' begins.Ruud on the right.
The tanks are ready and camouflaged.

The "Fireworks" has started.

Accidents happen. This tank took the whole guard house down. Luckily nobody was hurt.
I have no idea what the sign says......VIRAGE???? what do you think it means??

The training for now in La Courtine was over,and the next day was their day off, before returning back to the Netherlands for their three day drive.
News was that instead of coming back here to La Courtine in September they were told to have training in Germany in Bergen again.It was July 31 and they would enjoy this day off, and explore a little more of the country side. Ruud was allowed to take the jeep and off they went.France is a beautiful country. They stopped at a lake and went fishing. They caught some fish and cooked them on a open fire. They had a blast of a day after all those hard exercises.

Good catch Ruud. That will be a good lunch.
Ruud on the right.
Just sitting around and cooking their fish over an open fire. A well deserved day off.
Ruud is the third from the left.
What a day, away from playing soldier.. It was nice to be a civilian again for a day.

The next day was a busy day. Instructions and packing for their return to their base in The Netherlands. Back to Amersfoort, to the Boskamp barracks.
On the second of August 1961 their return trip of three days began again early in the morning.
They would be in The Netherlands only for three weeks, leaving for Germany.Extensive training was expected, because of the threat of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall, which I described above.
Map of the base in La Courtine.

Goodbye La Courtine, we are on our way home.

Back in Amersfoort. Ruud on the right.

They called themselves the RatpacksRuud on the right.

They were counting the days for their term of service to be over.They were looking forward to be released from the Army.

Not that many days anymore.
These can go into the moth balls. Hope I do not need them anymore.

Ruud was to demob in May 1962. He was saving every dime he got, and was drunk for the first time in his life.
This is what it says:

Long Leave.

The Royal Land forces.

The Commandant of the above battalion, declares that the dpl. (reserve Cavalry) Bisenberger R.
Registration no: N/A
advisor of labor: N/A

Lastly was in the service on:
June 14, 1960
and hereby grant him short leave in wait off long leave.

Starting short leave from: March 30,1962
and starting long leave from: March 30, 1962

and hereby gives him notice that he might expect correspondence regards military matters during his short leave, from C-A-41, Tank Battalion.
The Boskamp, Amersfoort,The Netherlands.
Long leave until: Mobilization., office Camp Bokkeduinen. Amersfoort.

Amersfoort, March 22, 1962
Officer in command: Lieutenant-Colonel,

J.P. van Diepenbrugge.

This one is funny!
Ruud had asked for this note, because they had to take all their military clothes with them, in case they were called back, during the build up of tension of the Cold War.The boots he took home, were totally worn out, and he did not like to get charged for them in case he had to return in the service.

This is the translation:

41 Tank Battalion

The undersigned, Fourier 41 st Tank Battalion A-Eskadron, declares that R. Bisenberger, dpl.(Liable to military serve) registration no:, took home a second pair of boots, during his short leave on March 29,1962

Amersfoort, March 28,1962
The Fourier
The Sergeant


There is something in a soldier
that makes him stand apart,
There is strength in a soldier
that beats from his heart.
A soldier isn't a title any man
can be hired to do,
A soldier is the soul of that man
buried deep inside of you.

A soldier's job isn't finished after
an 8 hour day or a 40 hour week,
A soldier is always a soldier
even while he sleeps.
A soldier serves his country first
and his life is left behind,
A soldier has to sacrifice what
comes first in a civilian's mind.

If you are a civilian-
I am saying this to you....
next time you see a soldier
remember what to do.
A soldier is the reason our land
is 'Home of the free'
A soldier is the one that is brave
protecting you and me.

If you are a soldier-
I am saying this to you....
Thank god for every soldier
Thank god for what you do.

Poem by: Ty bohls.

So next time on Memorial Day I remind you to please take notice and show respect for your flag, your country and honor the veterans who have given their lives so that you could live in Peace.

One Memorial day a flag performing was dedicated for new veterans. As the flag was raised, the national anthem was echoing in the background.A roar of chatter and conversation from the crowd, which took no notice of the Anthem being played.A little girl no older then 5 was facing the flag, standing at attention and saluting. This little girl, who understood, why we were there.

An old man, bent over from some ailment, was speaking to the little girl. He was thanking her for her show of respect and patriotism during the ceremony. He said"You know, that flag, means a lot to me and I was looking around as the flag was going up the pole and saw everyone chatting and laughing and not paying any attention. But then, I saw you...standing there....saluting....and that made me feel good....and very proud..... Thank you little girl".She listened intently and when he finished, she asked him"Did you fight for me?" You could see the tears well up in his eyes as he told her "Yes honey, I did". She gazed into the watery eyes....thought for a moment...and saluted him....and said..."Thank You".

Ruud in the back row, third from the left.

Ruud in the back row in the middle.

A simple soldier is the title of a book from Steve Fehrenbach. He was a young boy, when send to Vietnam. He was very lucky to make it Home, but many of his comrades did not make it.
His book is very well written, he takes you into the jungle of Vietnam. We met Steve and his wife Debbie in Jamaica, while they were on vacation. They came diving with us at least twice a year from Michigan.His words will bring compassion and understanding with their war experiences.
The book made me cry and laugh, at the same time I felt his agonize during his jungle duty. This book is a must to read.

Ruud was given the book from Steve in 2004. and Steve wrote in the book:
Thank you for your interest in my book. I value your opinion, but your friendship is more valued.

signed, Steve, March, 2004.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way:
And the world won't note his passing,
"Tho a Soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young
But the passing of a Soldier
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

He was just a simple Soldier,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

As long as I live, I will remember my friends during my Army time.It was nice to see them in 2005, while on vacation in Zandvoort, The Netherlands. Kees van Brandwijk organized a reunion.

Thanks again Kees, you were my best mate during our military time.

The following are the names from my best friends during our time in Bergen-Hohne,Germany, La Courtine,France, and Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

Kees van Brandwijk
Kees Dullemans
Cees Bax
Ab Grooten
Karel Biljouw.... sadly Karel passed away. Always remembered.
..?.. Hoogland.

I think my age is creeping up, forgot the first name from Hoogland, anybody can help me?