An estimated 1,800 Dutch citizens attempted to escape to England during World War Two. The majority chose to travel via neighbouring countries, while a minority went straight across the North Sea. Many different vessels were used and at least 204 people made the crossing successfully. Most of the attempts were made in 1941, when the Dutch coast was still somewhat accessible. One crossing from Scheveningen was undertaken on 16 March 1941: seven young fishermen from Scheveningen journeyed to England on the shrimp barge Anna KW 96. All of them subsequently enlisted in the Royal Netherlands Navy and survived the war.
Four Engelandvaarders (Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, Chris Krediet, Peter Tazalaar and Bob van der Stok) started Contact Holland as a way of improving contact between London and the Dutch resistance. Reliable radio communications were crucial. Dutchmen who had previously ventured across the North Sea as Engelandvaarders were trained as secret agents, ready to return to the Netherlands armed with instructions and Morse code equipment. These secret agents then had to be dropped off on the coast of Scheveningen along with radio gear.
Hazelhoff Roelfzema, Krediet and Tazelaar carried out two landings off the coast of Scheveningen during the winter of 1941-42. A number of agents were arrested in spring 1942; Anton van der Waals, the most significant Dutch traitor in World War Two, played an important role in this. The Allied secret agents were captured and forced to continue to communicate with England but through messages written by the Germans. This was the start of the Englandspiel.
Not realising that the agents were sending their messages while in the enemy’s clutches, the British continued sending secret agents to the continent. Upon arrival in the Netherlands, they were immediately captured by the Germans. At the end of the war, most of the secret agents were deported from the Netherlands; 54 did not survive the Englandspiel.
The Hague has two memorial plaques dedicated to the Englandspiel. One of these is at the Binnenhof, the other is on the edge of Scheveningse Bosjes
In the early morning of 10 May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. The Hague became the centre of German rule in the Netherlands. This is the story of a city’s devastation, the deportation of Jews, ‘justice’ in the Oranjehotel and many more atrocities until the delayed liberation on 8 May 1945.