Memories of mine-clearing in East BrabantRichard2021-11-20T12:15:30+01:00
Jan Goevaerts | Liessel, June 2018
When I went to primary school in Liessel in 1945, an army truck came at high-speed and a with a roaring siren thru Liessel.
There were SS men with striped suits on the army truck who were guarded by Dutch soldiers. They then drove to Neerkant and Meijel. These SS men had to search fields and roads for mines with the help of prods.
If a field or road had been completed, they would have to walk in armor. The SS men, however, sabotaged it often, so that did not work well.
After that, German prisoner of war took over this who were stationed at Schiks flour trade in Deurne.
They came every morning on an open army wagon with a German driver (Ludwig) thru Liessel with Dutch guards. I then went to Neerkant a few times. That was exciting for me. The prisoners of war had metal detectors and when the road or country was searched, it was plowed or worked with a disk.
The tractors (Fordson type F) and plows were leased from contractor Jan Emonds from Boekel. Jan Emonds was there every day for repair and maintenance. All this was arranged by Landbouwherstel from Tilburg. My father Wiel Goevaerts was there to arrange e.e.a. Later, Landbouwherstel bought tractors (Fordson-Major Blue Heron), plows and a disc harrow. Wheel Goevaerts then had to maintain the tractors and plows. The work of Wiel was taken over by Cor Cornelissen who came every day from Oploo with his Harley to Liessel-Neerkant and Meijel. The tractors stood on iron wheels with large pins on the rear wheels. Actually, it was not possible to drive along the hard road.
The bearings in the front wheels were regularly broken. My father and Cor Cornelissen were there for the Ford factories in Amsterdam before but there was no sign of it. Eventually they were found at Hermans (sloper) at the Langstraat in Deurne. He took them out of the front wheels of the Willy-Jeeps.
The prisoners of war (± 8 people) were marines. They became a very close group who blindly trusted each other. There was also a very young prisoner who did not want to wash himself but the others had quickly resolved. They washed it once with a hard brush and then it was solved. They had fought at sea and told them that they were trying to catch the hand grenades that had been thrown from other ships and throw them back again.N.b. They have also been from Deurne to Nuland and Loon op Zand. A tractor with a plow was then loaded onto the car with keepers and prisoners there to plow a piece of land that had been searched by another group of prisoners of war. In Nuland they plowed at a mine where the ignition broke and the mine in four parts. It was good that that group was not there !! In South East Brabant, accidents have never happened to my knowledge.
The prisoners are at our house (then Liessel L176 without guards) spent several days putting caterpillars of a tank around the rear wheels to mount the tractor so that they could drive over the paved roads without any problems. In the Astense Peel, a device had to be taken to tension the caterpillars. My father did that with a German prisoner. They then had to go through the Staatsbos. My father then said to the prisoner: “If you want to flee now I can not stop you.” He replied: “Where do I have to go? I no longer have any family and when I am free I apply for Dutch nationality and then I go to the Indies voluntarily. “On the corner Heitrak-Heitraksedijk a man from the neighborhood came to tell my father that in the roadside a zinc was where a German soldier was supposedly buried. My father told that to a prisoner who immediately went to dig and indeed found a soldier and also an identity tag.
On the Vlosbergweg in the Astense Peel they had problems with a detector. When it was repaired, a prisoner tried out the detector on the cycle path and found a mine that was in focus (coincidence). After a while all minefields were checked and suddenly the prisoners of war were gone. They have returned once more to check a road at L179 in Liessel. There were still many pieces of land that had not yet been worked. My father Wiel Goevaerts then plowed all that. He was so confident that it was well controlled that he had done so with peace of mind.