HUNTER S BOOTS
Intersection by Ulicoten
The village of Ulicoten near Baarle-Nassau was on the front line for almost a month. On 13 October 1944 there was fighting and an air raid. The next morning the twelve year old son Neel ventured outside. For the first time he was confronted by what war really meant.
Jan Oonincx’s family had thirteen children. Neel was the second son. He was born on 11 January 1932 and so was almost 13. The family usually took refuge in the ‘horse stall’ which despite its name was a stable which also housed cows. The stall was built from concrete and was relatively safe. There was a big pile of sand against the outer door to keep out shrapnel and bullets. Close by was Piet Peeters’ farmhouse. German soldiers had set up a combat post there. The consequences soon became apparent.
At ten in the morning of Friday 13 October 1944, Neel’s father saw soldiers approaching. He could see from their uniform that they were not Germans. He urged his family to take immediate shelter. A patrol from the 1st/4th battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Regiment approached the farmhouse with caution. The Germans opened fire. The civilians in the farmhouse heard the crack of gunfire but also screaming and shouting. The British soldiers were taken completely by surprise; three managed to escape but two were captured and three were killed. As often happened, the three were buried provisionally, or at least placed in shallow pits. The same afternoon, British Typhoon fighter bombers attacked the German military combat post. Peeters’ farmhouse was completely destroyed. It’s a wonder that there were no casualties.
Peace returned the following day. Neel decided to investigate. He saw the first dead man in a ditch next to the farmhouse. From the identity tag he could read that the man’s name was Hunter. He still had a hand grenade with him and a magazine from a Bren gun. He had been hit in the eye. Hunter’s boots were damaged but footwear was scarce, so Neel took them. He would wear them for a long time, even though they were a bit too big. There were foxholes next to the sandy track and a body was sticking out of one of them. It was black from the dust. It looked as though the Germans wanted to get the dead in the ground as quickly as possible. Corporal Ford, as the soldier was called, had bullet wounds all over his body. He was wearing gloves with long sleeves, just like a motorbike rider’s. Then Neel saw the third victim, a soldier called Kirk. He had a cut in his neck. A bit earlier Neels had seen a German soldier near Kirk, he suspected that the British soldier had still been alive and that the German had killed him with a knife. Neel was there a few days later when two civilians gave the dead liberators a temporary grave.
Ulicoten was liberated two weeks later, on Friday 28 October. Not long afterwards the three British soldiers were exhumed. It was reported that Neels was present again. He remembered the terrible stench and the bizarre details until late into his life. A bullet and some clotted blood fell out of Kirk’s neck…
Brengun shooters of the 1/4 King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in western Brabant. The number 61 on the board on the right is the number of the battalion. The polar bear is the emblem of the 49th West Riding division that the battalion belonged to.
Source: Jack Didden