Today is Remembrance Day, the day we remember with gratitude the sacrifices made by countless men and women so we can live in a relatively free nation. Today, I want to honour not only those who fought in the Allied military forces, but also those who fought in the underground in Europe. I have a personal interest in doing so, since my Opa Bredenhof (1922-2010) was one of those underground soldiers. I’d like to share one of his many war stories. He served in a fighting battalion of the Dutch underground army, committing acts of sabotage against the Germans, and preparing to attack them from the rear when the Allies approached from the front. Here’s my Opa Bredenhof:
Attacking the enemy from the rear is always risky and extremely dangerous. This is what we were called on to do. But we had all lived through dangerous times before. We knew the land and that was an advantage. But the enemy fought fanatically.
We had mostly good soldiers. We used to say, ‘Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition’ and ‘Pray and fight.’ It was dragging on week after week. In the meantime, there were still small jobs to do.
One day I was summoned to Zwolle. I was told that they had an important man to look after. A complete radio installation had been discovered in his house and we had to find a hiding place for him. He was a man of about 45, a real gentleman, a man of class and breeding. This I could see right away. But he was scared like a rabbit. He had lost his cool. I was told by the officers that if he fell into the hands of the enemy it would cost many lives. We had to avoid that scenario at all costs. So there we went. I told him to do exactly as I told him.
He was a very learned man who didn’t fight with weapons in his hands, but with his intellect. We were halfway between Zwolle and Hasselt, along a bare road with empty fields on either side of the road. All of a sudden I spotted two or three trucks and cars ahead with German soldiers in them. Was it a roadblock? It was hard to say. To turn back would look suspicious. My companion wanted to know what we should do. I told him to keep cool and if they were to stop us we would just show our falsified papers. But in my heart I thought that the game was over. The officers were not stupid either; they would see something wrong in the combination of us two.
We were maybe 200-300 feet away and then our deliverance arrived. Out of the clouds above us came three Allied fighter planes, Spitfires, all firing their cannons. Thirty or forty feet away the rounds slammed into the roadblock. Cars and trucks caught fire. Dead and wounded Germans lay moaning on the road. The rest of the soldiers dove into the ditch on both sides of the road. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the planes turn about a mile away. “Bike! Bike!” I screamed at my companion. Like madmen we pedaled between the dead and wounded and burning vehicles. We must have set records. The Germans let us pass, but I knew that if the planes hadn’t have showed up it would have been a different story. They would have surely seized our bikes with the good air tires. Hardly anybody had them anymore. I always had a good supply of air tires during the whole war.
We just made it past the roadblock and the Spitfire cannons started rattling and booming again. Once again the rounds landed just behind us. I hope that the Lord blessed those pilots who both times neatly missed us. But I also knew that those pilots were sent at just the right time by God to give us safe passage.”
Opa went on to write about how he had to find a good hiding place for this man. He succeeded when he came to the home of Mrs. H. Linde, a widow with a large family and a poor farm. Mrs. H. Linde is the mother and grandmother of the Lindes in the Langley and Aldergrove Canadian Reformed churches.
I think the story gives you a sense of both the courage and faith of those who fought against the Nazis. Opa was just one of thousands. Through their efforts, God brought down the enemy. Ultimately, we remember HIS faithfulness, that God has been “our help in ages past.”