Someren had already been liberated and there was heavy fighting 1500 metres away at lock gate no. 11. The English liberators attacked with heavy artillery, the Germans defended themselves stubbornly. Without warning a stray German grenade landed close to family Kruijf on the Slievenstraat. It exploded in the yard.
Friday afternoon 22 September 1944. Marietje Kruijf (13) was sweeping up the broken glass in front of the house. The windows of the Kruijf farmhouse had been blown out in the fighting during the night while the English were constructing a Bailey bridge across the canal. Now the damage could be assessed. Father Albert and grandfather and grandmother were also in the yard. Then just over by the canal, the English were advancing towards Asten.
Father suddenly called out: LIE DOWN!
Marietje: “I knew at once that something was wrong. ‘Daddy, I’ve been hit’, I shouted. That’s where my story begins; on a day when events between Asten and Someren were as intense as in Normandy.
Despite her serious injuries Marietje can still remember in detail what happened 75 years ago. She thanks her father for saving her life when he quickly went to get help. But also Father Vrijland, a priest who had been summoned and who jumped on his bike to find a doctor in Heeze. And the English ambulance crew who were stopped by the priest half way between Someren and Heeze and who, with Tonny Leenen as interpreter made their way to Slievenstraat 2. Also the English medic who bandaged up Marietje and gave her injections. And the army doctor who allowed Marietje and the wounded front-line soldier Corporal H. W. Price to go to the field hospital in Geldrop. To Cor Oosteweeghel who happened to be passing through Geldrop and donated blood for her. To the surgeon Buckley Hamer who operated on her for an hour and a half. ‘It will be a complete miracle if ‘Mary’ survives’, he told his anaesthetist.
And the miracle happened! Corporal Price, aged 23, died two days later but Marietje stayed alive amongst the seriously wounded soldiers. She was the only civilian in the field hospital and was pampered there. “The soldiers even bought toys for me.”
The field hospital was relocated on 7 October and Marieke had to move to the nearby St Anna Hospital. She cried and cried and the soldiers cried with her.
In St Anna her crepe bandage was left on for too long and her knee did not heal properly. When she was finally discharged from hospital at the end of June 1945, she was still unable to walk. In January 1946 she was measured up for orthopaedic footwear. Only then could she pick up her life again.
Marietje became a secretary, married Henk Kooistra in 1960 and gave birth to healthy twins in 1965. Another miracle as it was assumed her war injuries would make that impossible.
In 1984 Marietje worked as a secretary for the publication of the wartime book Geschiedenis van Someren in de Tweede Wereldoorlog (History of Someren in the Second World War). The war then boomeranged back into her life.
Marietje and Henk became involved in Remembrance Day, liberation festivals and reunions of veterans, both in the Netherlands and in England. She became a member of the Royal British Legion and did everything in her power to make the British liberators achieve their ‘Liberation Route’. She provided hospitality, arranged host families, transport and guidance, everything. Just as the soldiers had pampered young Marietje, now Marietje could pamper the veterans. Just like a real godmother!
Left: Letter from the surgeon that Marietje Kruijf operated in September 1944
(Image: Piet Snijders)
Right: A Sherman tank and the infantry of the 11th Armored Division crosses the Zuid-Willemsvaart at lock 11
(Image: Imperial War Museum)