The unsung hero of the battle for Nijmegen Bridge
by Jack Pritchard
It was at Sneek, in the
province of Friesland in Holland, that a young Dutchman escaped to
England in an open boat when his country was overrun by the Germans
in 1940. He was determined to do all in his power to rid his country
of the German invaders, not from an office, working as an
interpreter as his qualification warranted, but as an infantryman in
the elite regiment of the Grenadier Guards.
was a decision that required ratification by his embassy, and after
prolonged diplomatic discussion it was agreed that Mr Adriaan Slob
should be seconded as an intelligence officer to No 4 Company of the
First Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, though he was to remain a
member of the Netherland forces, and would not be given a permanent
transfer. Such was his status that he was able to transmit and receive
correspondence from his family in Sneek.
It was early in 1943 that I was first introduced to Lieutenant Adriaan
Slob, and his clandestine approach to a type of warfare not at all
consistent with the direct rifle and bayonet approach in which we were
so thoroughly trained. The knife or dagger and the garrotte were the
chosen weapons in the type of warfare that the lieutenant envisaged.
A Dutchman who could speak English fluently proved to be invaluable when
the leading formations of the Guards Armoured Division entered Holland
in September 1944. Much information about German positions was elicited
from his fellow countrymen, and his ability to disseminate between the
true and the false resulted in a number of successful actions against an
At about 11am on Wednesday, 20 September in Nijmegen he helped to bring
in wounded men to a butcher’s shop, owned by a Mr Meussen, situated on
Ziekerstraat, where minor operations were taking place, with the
butchers block acting as an operating table.
In the cellars below the shop were a family of four children, who
with their parents had sought shelter with the butcher, after their
own home in the old city had been torched by the Germans. The eldest
of these children was Hendrika Bos, who spoke reasonably good
English. Her father called her from the safety of the cellar to
translate the information he had, about the German positions in the
town, to the Grenadier who had entered the room. She started to
translate the information, but Lieutenant Slob stepped forward and
told Mr Bos that the translation was unnecessary. The detailed
information was then given directly to the Lieutenant.
German defensive positions and their estimated fire power proved to
be of vital importance to the Grenadiers. There can be little doubt
that the intelligence officer, who was vastly experienced in
assessing the value of such information, quickly formed a daring
plan to destroy the headquarters of the SS Hauptsturmfuhrer
Karl-Heinz Euling. On the following day, assisted by his driver,
Guardsman Trevett, he collected the bodies of his fallen Comrades,
and supervised the burial of five of his friends near to Sionshof.
The war reporter Eric Baume wrote a novel about this event, but the
name of Lieutenant Slob was not mentioned. Sometime between June
1944 and the end of February 1945 the Lieutenant was awarded the
On 23 February, 1945 he was due to take part in a great offence,
starting from Nijmegen against the Siefried Line and the Rhineriver.
He arrived in Nijmegen on 21 February. The following day Adriaan and
two other officers were driving across the Keizer Karel Square in a
jeep when a tank crashed into them from behind. The two officers
were thrown from the jeep, but Adriaan remained in the vehicle,
fatally injured. The next morning he died in the British field
hospital at Marienbosch (Jonkerbos).
He lies at rest among his British friends and colleagues in the war
cemetery at Jonkerbos, the only Englandvaarder to do so.
Photo: Rob Essers