1 November was one of my very favorite days of the trip. That morning I drove to Achtmaal, Netherlands to meet some of the Friends of the Timberwolves at the Achtmaal Museum. I met Esther, Adrie, Sjaan and Kevin, Peet, and Herman.
The day was perfect. Warm sun, a slight breeze, colorful fall leaves falling from the trees, and new friends. We met at the museum and after coffee and cookies with a history lesson thrown in, I had a tour. Time was short because we had a lot to see that day, so on my trip in May I will have to try to meet with the group again and see more of the museum. The museum houses not only Timberwolf artifacts but also artifacts from other groups who fought in the area.
Upon completion of the tour we hopped in two jeeps and took off through the countryside. Peet was my driver and also the man who gave me a history lesson over coffee. As we drove, he told me about the routes we took, where the fighting occurred and details about the men and war. We stopped at many sites to see where battles happened, including were my friend John Tyrrell was wounded.
It was very interesting to look at my photos and the little bit of video I shot while Peet was driving. There are a lot of red orbs in my photos. Soldiers watching and waiting. Protecting. Usually they don’t show up quite like that in my photos. But there they were!
Seeing the places battles were fought, or concentration camps where so many died, is high on my list of things to do when I visit Europe. What is difficult is trying to picture these now serene, often beautiful places through the eyes of someone who was there 70+ years ago. Trying to wrap my head around what happened there and then put that into words that explain it, is difficult. It is often unimaginable the horrors that took place in such a calm place where crops grow or sheep graze today. And everywhere we went, I could feel the presence of all the soldiers, regardless of side on which they fought, in those fields. In some areas, like the Battle Between the Dikes, the energy was so intense it rode in waves through me.
After visiting many places the Timberwolves fought, we stopped for lunch in an old building where I met Toine Vermunt, a local historian and author. Toine gave me a short history lesson after lunch before we departed the area. He showed me maps of Holland and explained where the Timberwolves were, what happened at the building we were having lunch in, and what we would see in the afternoon. The Battle Between the Dikes. Toine gave me a booklet in English, he wrote a few years ago explaining this battle. I am grateful to have this history.
Toine rode with us to see the area where the Battle Between the Dikes took place, after first stopping to lay flowers at a Timberwolf Memorial. It was as if the Timberwolves were waiting for us because the energy at the memorial about dropped me to my knees.
Our next stop was at a woman’s home where we were allowed to walk behind and stand by the canal and look at the area where the men were fighting and attempting to cross. Another beautiful place where such horror occurred.
Driving through the areas where the Battle Between the Dikes was fought was intense. The energy from both sides argued with each other. The Allied soldiers were calmer and just wanted to go home. The German side was angry to the point I was feeling a bit nauseous for a while. I cannot count the number of times that day I said clearing statements to send people off into the light and transmute the energy.
As the afternoon began drawing to a close, our last stop was at the Basilica in Oudenbosch. We had about 15 minutes there because they were about to close. It is another place to which I must return. The Basilica is a small replica of St. Peter’s in Rome. Small does not do it justice as it feels gigantic and I felt very tiny in that beautiful place. I was able to light some candles for my soldiers and say some prayers before we left.
The Basilica held a lot of energy also. It felt heavy as if every prayer, question, wish, hope, dream, despair, frustration, and death that ever was left in the building, remained. In a way I was happy to only have 15 minutes in that place. After such an intense day, any longer might have done me in.
After returning the jeeps to the Timberwolf HQ and saying goodbye to my new friend Adrie, the rest of us went out for dinner before I drove back to Ammerzoden, where I was staying for two weeks.
The day I spent with the Friends of the Timberwolves was one of my favorite days from this trip. It was incredible and moving to be surrounded by people with such passion for World War II and our soldiers. People who understood the soldiers still walk in the mists and live among the items in their museum. People who honor the memories of those who gave them their freedom. And, my absolute favorite part of the day – meeting Kevin who is a teenager and has the desire to preserve the stories of these men. It warms my heart to see young people wanting to be involved in this work. It provides the promise that when the older generation is gone and my generation is aging, there will still be someone sharing the stories and memories.
© 2015 Jennifer Holik
Clark Howell says
I’m going to cruise down the Rhine this summer, starting in Amsterdam. I’d like to contact you about your writings. My dad was in the 104th, Timberwolves.