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WWII intelligence officer gives name to Frisian trail

Shot to death by Germans

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

OOSTERZEE, the Netherlands - A bike trail at the south end of the Tjeukemeer linking this community with nearby Echtenerbrug recently was named after a World War II Dutch intelligence agent. Lodo van Hamel was caught in October 15, 1940 and executed by the Germans on June 16, 1941.

Van Hamel, a 25-year-old naval lieutenant, had escaped to England shortly after the German invasion in May 1940. The Dutch government-in-exile recruited him to set up an intelligence network in his native country. Upon completing the task, Van Hamel wanted to return to England right away, setting up a pick-up rendez-vous on the Tjeukermeer, one of the lakes in the southern region of Friesland, and often used for weapons and agents drops and retrievals.

Van Hamel along with resistanceman Hans Hers, and passengers Prof. L. Baas Becking, Jean Meinitz and Marion Smit, tried twice to leave the area by plane. The first night the Dutch plane could not take off from England. At the second attempt, around midnight 24 hours later, the plane could not land because of fog over the area. The noise of the circling plane aroused suspicions with a local resident who called police.

When the five men stepped ashore they were arrested and taken to the infamous Scheveningen prison, dubbed “Oranje Hotel.” The following night another attempt was made to land on the lake. This time the Germans were out in full force to meet the incoming plane, bringing Hers along. The Marineluchtvaartdienst plane, piloted by Frisian Heie Schaper upon landing was alerted by a variance in the signals. He managed to take off from the lake as soon as a brief gunbattle erupted. The Germans nearly ambushed the plane. With its fusilage riddled with bullets and some of the crew wounded, the plane arrived safely at its English base. Several Germans were killed in the action.

Six months later, Van Hamel - the first Dutch intelligence agent to be dropped in the occupied country - was executed near Scheveningen. About one hundred other agents - nearly 80 percent of the total dropped behind the lines - also were caught and killed before the German surrender in 1945. Hers survived the war and was on hand to dedicate the trail to his wartime companion.