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W . W ' NORTON fc COMPANY INC Jfew York 


First published in the United States 1956 

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 56-10084 









4. ADMIRALTY ARCH: 2,30 51 





9. J. K. SMTP & ZONEN 108 




13. CAJ?i SOCIETY 150 


15. Too PEACEFUL 168 



18. No TICKET 200 



facing page 

Smoke rises from the ruins of houses near Schipol 112 

Every one in Holland had confidence in flooded dykes 112 

The huge Batavia-Shell dumps in Amsterdam were still burning 112 
The offices of J. K. Smit & Zonen, Sarphatistraat, Amsterdam 113 
Johan K. Smit 118 

Jan Kors Smit 113 

Commander H. G. Bowerman, R.N. 144 

H.M.S. Walpole 144 

The Dutch Legation document 145 

Ymuiden harhour locks 145 

For permission to reproduce the photographs in this book, the publishers 
are indebted to: Anpfoto; Associated Press; Exclusive News Agency; 
Fotoarchief; Fox Photos; Harris Picture Agency; Imperial War Museum; 
Keystone Press; Topical Press. 


THIS IS AN account of an incident, an episode, the full 
details of which are known to only two men living. 

I am neither of these two men; but a certain amount of 
research involving conversations in Amsterdam, Ymuiden, 
New York, London and the English countryside, together 
with co-operation from the War Office and Admiralty, has 
made it possible to piece together a strange story of which 
there is no published record in England. Many of those 
who played an incidental part in the affair are dead and 
others unaccounted for. 

It happened at Whitsun 1940. 

The weather was fine and clear, and the barometer read- 
ings were high. There was no reason not to expect a sunny 
weekend and a welcome break from the monotonies of the 
"phoney war/* But before first light on the morning of 
Friday, May 10th, German aircraft began to bomb the 
neutral kingdoms of Holland and Belgium without warn- 
ing, and within a matter of hours it was clear that a full- 
scale invasion of both nations had been mounted. By the 



evening of Tuesday, May 14th, the armed forces of the 
Netherlands had been crushed. 

This story attempts to describe Whitsun 1940 in terms 
of three characters two civilians and a British Intelli- 
gence officer who, as late as Thursday evening, were 
planning nothing more eventful or dramatic than a peaceful 
weekend in the country but who were destined to find 
themselves, without preparation of any kind, the spear- 
head of an extraordinary operation. This operation enjoyed 
the support of the highest quarters in Britain, with the con- 
currence of the Netherlands Legation in London; and by 
force of circumstance was mounted at such speed that 
there is no written record of it in the War Cabinet files. 

The purpose of the mission was to deny to Germany the 
very large stocks of diamonds, particularly of industrial 
diamonds, which that nation confidently expected to find 
in Amsterdam. 

As a precious stone, the cut diamond commands high 
prices anywhere and at any time, but in the preparation 
for and prosecution of a war the industrial diamond be- 
comes very much more precious than the gem although 
the gem, too, can be adapted to production purposes. The 
industrial diamond has no physical beauty to commend it, 
but 50,000 worth can be slipped into a couple of waist- 
coat pockets and the world's output for a year might be 
loaded without difficulty onto a single truck. The secret of 
its value in wartime is that it is essential to the tooling-up 
of any factory engaged on war production, and no red 
substitute has ever been found. It becomes the first es- 
sential link in the long chain out of which conventional 
armaments, from the bullet to the battleship, eventually 

( 12 ) 


emerge. In the pre-H-bomb era of the last war no bel- 
ligerent could sustain itself for long without a stock of 
industrial diamonds. 

London was at that time, as she remains today, the 
headquarters of the world's diamond trade. Well over 
90 per cent of diamond production was being sold through 
the monthly sales of the Diamond Trading Company, 
known as "The Syndicate," but the manufacturing centres 
were Amsterdam and Antwerp. Both cities were known to 
hold very considerable stocks of diamonds; and while their 
market value probably did not exceed four or five million 
pounds, their effective value to the enemy war potential 
was obviously incalculable. 

There was much to think about in England that week- 
end. Mounting dissatisfaction over the conduct of affairs 
in Norway had forced Neville Chamberlain's resignation 
and by Saturday Winston Churchill, hitherto First Lord, 
had become Prime Minister. The Whitsun holiday was 
cancelled by an Order in Council signed by the King, 
and all R.A.F. leave was stopped. The "phoney war" was 
over; and although the full scope of this new adventure 
might not yet be clear, one thing was certain: a major 
offensive had been launched on the Continent. 

In these circumstances it remains fantastic almost be- 
yond belief that time could he found to give three men 
from a military point of view, one professional and two 
amateurs the use of a destroyer: not perhaps a very mod- 
ern one, but nevertheless a destroyer, at a time when every 
vessel and unit of the Royal Navy was desperately re- 
quired for urgent and belligerent duties. 

There was still fighting around Narvik; there were still 

( 13) 


far too few escort vessels for the cumbrous convoys in the 
Atlantic; British troops were being landed in Iceland; there 
had as yet been no loan of destroyers from the United 
States; and war had to be carried on everywhere against 
the German U-boats. Now, with this new drive, the whole 
of Europe's western seaboard north of Portugal was men- 
aced. The Royal Navy at that time did not possess a de- 
stroyer force commensurate with the tasks on hand, yet 
somehow one was found for these three men. 

The ship in question, H.M.S. Walpole (Lieutenant- 
Commander H. G. Bowerman, R.N.) must have been very 
nearly the only one in the entire Navy that weekend which 
had orders to keep out of trouble. To Bowerman's own as- 
tonishment he was simply told to take three passengers to 
the Dutch port of Ymuiden without delay, and bring them 
back alive. He was given none of the usual meticulous 
written instructions there had been no time to prepare 
any and now, in 1955, he admits with candour that, at the 
time the order was given, he did not know how far Ymui- 
den lay from Harwich. 

Although rarely and reluctantly invoked, the Official 
Secrets Act is still operative and therefore some of the 
names in the book have had to be changed. "Major Dillon," 
who after his return was decorated for his part in the affair, 
assures me that he still feels himself bound by the terms of 
his original agreement and for this reason has abstained 
from offering any information. To respect his wishes and 
preserve his anonymity, I have given neither his real name 
nor the one under which he travelled to Holland; and for 
his further protection I have had to invent for one com- 
panion the name of "Walter Keyser" and reduce that of 

( 14 ) 


the artist in Amsterdam, whom the party visited, to the 
single letter "A." 

The number of sources to whom acknowledgement is 
due is too large to give in full. The War Office has taken 
the greatest pains to search the War Cabinet files of the 
period for relevant material and has read and passed the 
book in its entirety before publication. "Walter Keyser," 
still very much alive, has given invaluable assistance. Dia- 
logue has been taken from his private records, full use 
made of his recollections, and the original laissez-passer 
from the Netherlands Legation now reproduced in the text 
is his property. 

Without "Walter Keyser" and Johan Smit, Jan's father, 
it is doubtful whether the book could have been written. 
Mr. Smit, whom I visited in New York and have frequently 
pestered since by correspondence, can still recall each in- 
cident of his night ride to Ymuiden and vividly remembers 
the anxious talks he held with the Amsterdam diamond 
merchants. He placed at my disposal the only account of 
the episode yet published, given in interview form by Jan, 
before his death, to an American magazine. This had par- 
ticular value in its own right as having come freshly to 
mind so soon after the event. Thanks are also due to 
Mr. Smit for permission to use the photographs of himself 
and of Jan; and for having read and checked the book in 

Commander H. G. Bowennan, R.N., now retired, has 
kindly read and passed the chapters in which Walpole is 
involved, adding a number of details, even of dialogue. It 
is a curious trait of human character that memory holds so 
sharply to detail and dialogue long after such matters as 



sequence have often become hazy. Just as "Walter Keyser" 
can recall whole sentences of his meeting with the road- 
sweeper, so Commander Bowerman has been able to sup- 
ply the textual account of the words that passed between 
Walpole and the Dutch tug. 

At Ymuiden I met and talked to many people who will 
never forget the invasion as it affected their little port, 
notably the tugmaster himself who is still anxious to apolo- 
gise for any damage he may have caused to Walpole. At 
nearby Velsen the same Burgemeester pointed out the 
trees under which Princess (as she then was) Juliana's 
armoured car lay hidden from the air. He estimates that 
ten thousand Jews fled that weekend before the advancing 
Nazis and the inevitable pogrom. 

At Amsterdam there are many others again who have 
generously helped. Johan Smit's brother received a total 
stranger in that large office with the tall safes and gave me 
all the assistance at his disposal. Others came forward with 
their own recollections of Holland's agony, while the 
Amsterdamsche Bank and the big diamond firms have each 
in turn answered a variety of queries. 

For general background, use has been made of Sir Win- 
ston Churchill's The Second World War (Volume II), 
Chester Wihnot's The Struggle for Europe, Dr. van Kief- 
fens* The Rape of the Netherlands and General Spears' 
Prelude to Dunkirk. Thanks are due again to the War Of- 
fice for undertaking research beyond the normal person's 
compass, and to the Netherlands State Institute for War 
Documentation which has co-operated over photographs. 

Last but not least there remains a debt of gratitude to 
Mrs. David Crick, a personal friend of several of those in- 

( 16) 


volved and once known to the diamond world as **Jan*s 
right hand." Over and over again she has come to the 
rescue on points of fact. 

Even with all this help the account cannot pretend to 
be complete, but it is an attempt to put together a picture, 
to clothe in flesh and blood the bones of memory. This was 
the weekend when Churchill announced that he had noth- 
ing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. In miniature 
this was also the prospect that faced the three men leaving 
Harwich on Whit Sunday evening; and on the Monday, 
when Churchill had made the speech, Walpole was wal- 
lowing in the North Sea, no more than the smallest foot- 
note to the page of history then being written. 

Yet, even so, her odd, peculiar mission still seems worth 

( 17) 



THE BOY looked through the keyhole into the study. This 
was not spying; this was a matter of appraisal. He was de- 
veloping a conviction that he could tell his father's mood 
simply from the curve of that long back bent over the desk. 
The boy's heart sank when he heard the sound that his 
mother so detested the regular and unflurried scratching 
of a quill pen but on the other hand the shaft of May 
sunshine blazing in through the French windows showed a 
fairly promising, a fairly relaxed, curve to the velvet jacket 
affected by his father at his work. On other occasions, when 
his father was in one of those moods that terrified the whole 
household, the shoulders would harden into a lump of 
granite and, at such times, even a cursory glance through 
die keyhole gave sufficient warning. 

After a moment's reflection the boy tiptoed away from 
the door towards the entrance hall of the house, marched 
noisily up to the study door and knocked twice. There was 
a pause before he heard the words "Corne in!" They 
sounded more like a sigh of resignation than invitation or 



"Good morning, daddy/' 

"Well, Nicky, what is it?" 

His father had not even turned round, and this was a 
bad sign. Perhaps the moment had been ill-chosen after all. 
The desk was littered with sheets of foolscap. He took a 
deep breath. 

"Daddy, I thought you might like to come birdnesting. 
I've been round the garden twice on my own and I can't 
find a single one/* 

Fighter aircraft roared low over the house and his 
father's shoulders seemed to cringe a little: not so much 
from fear as from distaste, as if repelled by the vulgarity of 
so much noise so suddenly. When the house was quiet 
again the figure in the big swivel chair at the desk swung 

"Birdnesting?" The word was said quietly, almost in- 
credulously, from far away. But with a gulp of relief 
Nicholas saw that his father was not scowling, and the scar 
was dormant. The scar ran across his father's forehead, 
diagonally downwards towards the right eye, and when he 
was in one of his moods it would begin to come to life. First 
it would take on a blueish tinge, then it would start to 
stand out a little and finally turn to a throbbing, dangerous 
purple. Nicholas and his mother knew all the signs by heart 
and often it was difficult to take their eyes off it. There was 
a dreadful fascination about watching it change colour; 
and there was also its incongruity, for the forehead was 
that of a scholar and thinker. The dark hair was brushed 
back, away from the pale forehead, and the eyes when they 
were friendly were those of a dreamer, not of a brawler. 
Nicholas had never dared to ask the origin of the scar and, 

(20 ) 


if his mother knew it, she had never told him. He felt sure 
that when he was old enough the whole matter would be 
explained to him, and in the meantime he cherished his 
own private and thoroughly satisfactory theories on the 

'There must be birds' nests in some of those hedges/' he 
said breathlessly, "and yesterday evening I saw two pigeons 
fly into the fir tree." 

"Do you like our new garden, Nick?" 

"Oh, yes, it's lovely. Do come out, it's such a gorgeous 
day; it's silly to stay indoors and you're taller than I am 
so you could see into the hedges easier." 

His father smiled. At the age of ten Nicholas showed 
every sign of developing his mother's short, almost stocky 
figure and he had inherited her curiously pale blue eyes. It 
was surprising how English he had become. If they were 
ever able to return to Amsterdam, Nicholas' Dutch grand- 
mother would never be able to understand it and might 
well disapprove: but he had lived all his ten years in Eng- 
land and was at an English school. His parents had long 
since become British subjects, and though the blood in his 
veins must still be Dutch, Holland was somewhere away 
over the water, a flat country where his grandmother stub- 
bornly continued to live and from which lovely parcels used 
to arrive at Easter time and Christmas. 

"I'm sorry, Nicky," his father said. "I'm absolutely tied 
up. Any amount of work to do and I don't know . . . no- 
body knows . . . how much time we have left to do it." 

"Time, daddy? What about this afternoon, or tomorrow?*" 

His father shrugged his shoulders. "There may not even 
be a tomorrow," he said quietly. "However, don't worry. Go 



and find a bird's nest on your own so that you can bag all 
the credit for it, and then I'll show you how to blow an egg. 
Don't forget to leave some in the nest some eggs, that is. 
Birds can't count very well and sometimes they don't notice 
if only one is missing, but if you take the lot, well, that's 
cruelty, isn't it? And if I ever catch you, Nick, in an act of 
deliberate cruelty. . . . Now run along and don t be late 
for lunch." 

Nicholas stood his ground. 1 think it's pretty unfair," he 
said. '"What is all that silly work on your desk, and why 
can't you do it tomorrow?" 

"I'm translating something." His father's tone had be- 
come suddenly curt. "Perhaps some day you'll read it if 
you ever let me finish it. Now then, out you go. And please 
don't slam the door." 

In the entrance hall the boy lashed out symbolically at 
the hat stand. They had only recently moved to this house 
near Oxted and it possessed undoubted advantages. There 
was an astonishing attic with so much junk that it might 
take a whole winter to go through. For the summer there 
was the garden stretching away from the back of the house 
down to a small stream with infinite possibilities. Just now, 
in May, the stream was obscured by vegetation, the shrubs 
and trees heavy with new leaves, but it could hardly fail to 
hold fish of a kind; or, failing that, it could easily be 
dammed. Near the stream, and just off the central path 
of the garden, was an old toolshed almost as rich in possi- 
bilities as the attic. All these and many other advantages 
were to the credit of his father's taste in moving here, but 
now the morning had been spoiled by this surly refusal to 

(22 ) 


come birdnesting. He found an empty tin can and fished 
rather hopelessly for minnows until his mother's voice 
called him to the house for lunch. As he wandered back 
along the path he looked up at three aircraft, twin-engined 
Blenheims, moving westward. It must be fun to be a pilot. 

At the luncheon table there was something wrong with 
the atmosphere; anybody could tell that. His father's 
shoulders had begun to hunch. Why did they always talk 
about the war? It got them nowhere and made them bad- 
tempered. When his mother was exasperated her normally 
gentle voice took on a chilly thinness and this always 
made his father worse. He was still wearing his velvet 
jacket and his fingers were ink-stained; yet he, Nicholas, 
had been made to wash twice. Was there no end to injus- 

**Why get so frightened before it's happened?" his 
mother was asking. "There are times, Walter, when I won- 
der if you aren't a coward. How can an army advance 
through flooded country? If you've heard of tanks, even 
German ones, that work in deep water, then you certainly 
know more than I do. Can't you just stop worrying for a 

The date was May 9th, 1940. Just a month earlier Ger- 
many had invaded Norway and Denmark, and now there 
was some anxiety about the Low Countries, an attitude 
which 'qualified observers' were doing their utmost to dis- 
pel. Tuesday's papers had reported that all foreigners in 
Holland were henceforth forbidden to carry cameras, and 
there had been a fair number of arrests of suspected Ger- 
man agents. Wednesday's papers had devoted a little space 



to a debate on the war held at The Hague and carried an 
official announcement cancelling all leave for the armed 
forces in Holland. There were to be no exceptions and the 
decree was applicable to the entire country. All those on 
leave had been ordered to report immediately. (But ex- 
perts had been quick to point out that cancellation of leave 
had occurred sixty times between 1914 and 1918. ) 

Now it was Thursday, with the situation still unclarified. 
The Times, reporting "the extraordinary military precau- 
tions" taken in Holland yesterday, implied that they were 
unnecessary. There had, of course, been a state of siege in 
Holland since the invasion of Norway and Denmark but 
there seemed no reason for special alarm. Temporary 
restrictions on travel by the Dutch railways had been an- 
nounced for the Whitsun weekend and the big Amsterdam 
airport, Schipol, had been closed to all aircraft except the 
K.L.M. services, although the German Lufthansa was to be 
allowed normal landing facilities for freight planes bringing 
in printed matter in exchange for the daily ton of tulips 
leaving Holland for the Reich. In this way, die newspapers 
reported, "Schipol was made safe from inquisitive alien 
eyes/* Minor restrictions were also placed on the water- 
ways, and the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs 
had forbidden any further export or import of homing pi- 

1 just don't like it, Julia, all the same," Walter Keyser 
insisted. *1 don't like the sudden imposition of censorship, 
the sudden declaration of martial law, the increasing arrests 
of spies. Why have they suddenly forbidden all public 
gatherings? Why were all communications out of Holland 
cut again last night? It's all very well for us sitting here 

(24 ) 


> r ' 

safely in England but I don't like what I read between the 
lines about Holland; and you know as well as I do that 
the Dutch aren't easily frightened/* 

It had taken some time for them to learn to use such ex- 
pressions as 'the Dutch/ even though for years now they 
had been British subjects. Walter's own memories of Eng- 
land stretched far back to the days when the ten-year-old 
choirboy of St. Mary's, Rotterdam, first went to England 
for a Scout Jamboree at Birkenhead, a mandolin slung 
across his back; and there were times when he felt that he 
had never left England since. All bis Dutch relatives other 
than his mother in Amsterdam were now dead, and his son 
Nicholas was a normal first-generation Briton, with British 
views and tastes. 

Walter Keyser had, in fact, never found the slightest 
difficulty in adapting himself to English life. As a diamond 
merchant there had been no time when he was not in con- 
tact with London and the Diamond Trading Company. 
The transition had been less difficult, less disturbing, than 
to Julia: even his outside interests had been such as to 
cushion the change of nationality. His reputation as a trans- 
lator of certain French novelists awaited hrm in London 
before his arrival there: indeed, he could have settled 
almost as effortlessly in Paris or Rome. He spoke most of 
the European languages, including German, without dif- 
ficulty. Books and diamonds bounded his horizon and, 
wherever he went, there were men and women interested 
in on$ or the other. The lean, slightly-stooped and normally 
studious figure, combining business acumen with literary 
taste, was able to choose his own friends wherever he went. 
His one horror, and this had by now become almost patho- 



logical, was noise. Noise of any kind, be it the scratching 
of a mouse on the wainscoting, a barnyard fowl at dawn, 
the wailing of a child or a siren, anybody, even, who 
shouted at him these things jarred an exclusive, personal 
nerve. The diagonal scar on the high forehead would be- 
gin to stir and change colour; and when the scar changed 
from blue to purple those who knew him moved away. 

"What's wrong with your meat? Don't you like it? 
Heaven knows, it's hard enough to get." Julia's voice 
seemed near tears with frustration. 

"My dear, it was excellent, excellent/* Walter answered 
in his low voice. "It's just that I'm not hungry. I didn't like 
the B.B.C. news this morning. It's difficult to eat when 
you're worried." 

"Oh, fiddle-de-ree! Have some biscuits and cheese and 
then take us for a drive in the country." 

"No, I'm sorry, Julia, I can't. I've got too much to do," 
The first tinge of blue appeared on the scar. Julia's voice 
changed as she turned and spoke to her son. 

"Nicholas, darling, you can get down now. What are you 
going to do this afternoon?" She always sat very straight in 
her chair. She was wearing a dark blue cotton dress that 
made her eyes seem a paler blue than ever. Her corn- 
coloured hair was tied in the usual knot, first swept back 
from the forehead then captured in an invisible net, the 
whole effect tidily attractive with the features firm and 

Nicholas gazed stolidly out into the garden. He couldn't 
again say that he was going birdnesting without the danger 
of annoying his father, and it had been only yesterday that 
he had made his hundredth request for a bicycle. He felt 



deeply and miserably aware that they might be getting rid 
of him. 

"Fishing probably the Lord make us truly thankful amen 
see you later/' he said. He was about to slam the dining- 
room door but stopped it with his foot at the last moment. 

"It's time he went to boarding school/' said Walter when 
they heard the front door slam. 

"It's nothing of the sort! How could I possibly look after 
his clothes properly if he were at some beastly boarding 
school? He's much too young." 

"Julia, he's not too young, and in the end it will be the 
best thing for him. I want to find a good school deep down 
in the country, much farther from London than we are now. 
WeVe had all this out before but now my mind's made up: 
Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, somewhere that's unlikely to be 

It had become a long argument between them: Julia, 
with her Dutch background much closer to her, was against 
a boarding school on principle while Walter, very English, 
saw it as essential. He was far more worried than she about 
the probable imminence of heavy and perhaps indiscrim- 
inate German bombing of England. 

"If he goes to boarding school, 111 go with Trim/* said 

"You could go and live near the school, as I've said be- 
fore/' he explained. "Til have to stay up here because I've 
got to be near London/* 

Julia appeared about to say something but held it back. 
He grasped at the chance to change the subject. 

"There's one thing I forgot to tell you, I'm afraid. Jan is 
coming down for the weekend/* 



"Not Jan!" 

"Yes, Jan" 

*1 won't have him in the house/* 

Tm afraid he's invited. This is Whitsun, a holiday. I'm 
sorry I didn't warn you sooner/* 

"But Walter, I hate him, I hate, I hate him! He's your 
worst enemy. Oh, no, Walter! Why is he coming here?" 
she asked with sudden suspicion. 

"To talk things over." 

"To talk what over?" 


There seemed little point in expatiating. It was widely 
believed that Jan never discussed anything other than 
women: to try to explain now that what required urgent 
discussion was diamonds, and the trade to which both men 
devoted their working hours, would only invite derision. 
It would also involve bringing up again his gnawing anxiety 
about the fate of Holland where huge stocks of diamonds 
would fall into German hands if the country were success- 
fully invaded. In Amsterdam was the headquarters of the 
firm run by Jan's father, but to explain all this would be 
certainly involved and possibly not believed. 

When the silence had worked itself out she said: "Well, 
in that case I don't suppose 111 be seeing much of either of 
you this weekend. So I'd better remind you now that we 
have an important engagement on Tuesday the fourteenth/' 

"Really? Tuesday? What happens on Tuesday?" He tried 
vainly to keep a thin lash of sarcasm out of his voice. 

"Don't laugh, Walter, but we are invited to take tea with 
the vicar and, as we are new arrivals here, it's quite impor- 
tant. Now that weVe bought this house I'm presuming that 



we plan to stay here, whatever exile you may choose for 
Nicholas, and the customs and morals of the country put 
vicars high on the list of social obligations. It's only a matter 
of good manners/* she added. 

She was genuinely upset and began to pile up the plates. 
Walter had once said to her: *I believe you hate Jan like 
the devil hates holy water/' and of course it was true. She 
was a good woman and how could she have a man like Jan 
in her house? Besides, she had looked forward to Whitsun. 
The weather was almost stridently lovely and she, Walter 
and Nicholas might have made expeditions together in the 
Lagonda, if only to get away from the war and the end- 
less stream of news and bulletins on the wireless and the 
crisis that was blowing up at Westminster. It almost looked 
as if Chamberlain was on his way out, and then what 
would happen? She had enough worries of her own, what 
with rationing and bringing up Nicholas, without thunder- 
bolts like Jan striking at Oxted. 

"Tuesday/* Walter was saying, "vicar, Tuesday. Tues- 
day, vicar, I shall not fail/* He wanted to smile at her, to 
prove that he was not made up entirely of bitter suspicions 
about German intentions, but she had already left the 
room. Although this was May 1940, alarm and despondency 
were already mortal sins. The great thing was to talk suc- 
cess, and for a long time now there had been learned arti- 
cles and lectures to prove that Germany had insufficient 
fuel ever to launch a major offensive in Europe. Even the 
acquisition of the Rumanian oil wells at Ploesti would 
really bring them no benefit, as was generally recognised. 
Special military correspondents, who had gone 'and seen 
for themselves/ had proved conclusively that no army, 

C 29 ) 


however modern, could overrun the Maginot Line. And at 
The Hague, he had read in the paper that morning, tension 
had decreased. Tension had decreased. 

He could hear Julia washing up in the kitchen. This was 
part of the new life. Only last week the maid had disap- 
peared into a factory and the young gardener into the 
Army. Already it was quite the thing for the husband to go 
into the kitchen too, and dry the plates. He got up and 
slouched out of the dining-room. 

"I suppose," said Julia, "that you and Jan will go to Lon- 
don and enjoy yourselves?" 

"Quite possibly/' said Walter. Why was he forced into 
remarks he had not intended to make? "Alternatively," he 
added, "if the weather remains fine we might spend the 
weekend in Amsterdam. But we'd be back by Tuesday, of 
course, for the vicar/' 

Julia laughingly handed him a dishcloth and he began 
drying the plates. 



BY 1939 Holland had enjoyed a full hundred years of peace 
and since 1830 she had not engaged in war on European 
soil. Earlier days had found her fighting the British, en- 
during an eighty-year struggle with Spain and suffering 
under French occupation. In ships of 400 tons her seamen 
had circumnavigated the largely uncharted globe, and 
there were trade routes and an Empire to show for it. But 
now she was respectable, immensely respectable. 

For a hundred years the Netherlands had followed a 
firmly neutral policy: not neutrality under the law, as was 
the case in Belgium and Switzerland, but a voluntary neu- 
trality based on solid Dutch reasoning, In the view of suc- 
cessive governments the country's physical position at the 
mouth of the Rhine, the Maas and the Scheldt made it 
imperative for her not to become entangled in alliances or 
in power politics. As a matter of expediency it was generally 
accepted that neither Germany, France nor Britain would 
on any account have tolerated Holland coming under the 
permanent influence of any single, powerful state. This 



neutralist reasoning was not carried to the point of disarm- 
ament, but the Dutch nation remained outside and aloof 
from such squabbles as arose. She was no more a belliger- 
ent in 1870 than during the conflict of 1914-1918. When 
Non-Aggression Pacts became the fashion, Holland stuck 
to her neutral guns, and it was in accordance with this 
principle that she refused Hitler's ofiEer in 1936. 

This policy did not make for popularity neutrals are 
never heroes but it brought about stability and induced 
a cosy feeling of security. 

By 1939, therefore, Holland had the right to consider 
herself a neutral of some standing. The men who framed 
her Budget saw no danger in economising on the nation's 
defences. She had no quarrel to pick with anyone, and so 
rigidly neutral had she remained during the 'Great War* 
that many thousands of Germans had happily settled and 
made their homes on Dutch soil during the hard years that 
followed Germany's defeat. The British were also welcome 
at any time and, to a slightly lesser degree, the French. 

But by August of 1939 it had become abundantly plain 
that the war clouds were gathering. On August 23rd the 
Foreign Ministers of Holland, Denmark, Finland, Luxem- 
bourg, Norway and Sweden met the Belgian Foreign Min- 
ister at Brussels; and as a result of this meeting King Leo- 
pold issued his 'small nations appeal' in an attempt to find 
a peaceful solution to Germany's restless moves towards 
expansion by force. There was not a nation in Europe by 
now that had not heard the word Lebensraum with its 
implications of foreboding. 

Three days later, on August 26th, the German Minister 

(32 ) 


at The Hague sent for Dr. van Kleffens, at that time the 
Dutch Foreign Minister, and handed him the following 

"We are resolved to observe towards the Netherlands an 
attitude according to which, in conformity with the tra- 
ditionally friendly relations between the two countries and 
with due regard to the well-known Netherlands policy of 
independence, the inviolability and integrity of the Nether- 
lands will in no circumstances be infringed upon, and 
Dutch territory will at all times be respected.** 

To anyone who trusted the Germans this was pleasantly 
reassuring. To anyone who did not, it sent a cold shiver 
down the spine. In order to have it doubly on the record, 
van Kleffens persuaded the German Minister to repeat the 
message in person, that evening, to the Queen. 

While the message was being read to Queen WUhelniina, 
German troops began to edge up towards the Dutch fron- 

Holland immediately mobilised and large areas behind 
her eastern land frontier were flooded. This was a precau- 
tion that had never been found necessary during the whole 
of the 1914-1918 war. 

On the heels of the German promise came another from 
the United Kingdom. "If in the event of a European war," 
ran the statement, "the Netherlands adopt an attitude of 
neutrality, His Majesty's Government will, in accordance 
with their traditional policy, be resolutely determined to 
respect this neutrality fully, provided that it is respected 
by other Powers," 

To those who trusted the British this was a solid guar- 



antee. To those who did not it was meaningless. From 
France there was silence. 

On August 28th, the Queen of the Netherlands and King 
Leopold of Belgium made their 'final' offer of intervention 
in the cause of peace. 

Three days later, on August 31st, the Queen's birthday 
was celebrated throughout Holland with deep fervour and 
rising apprehension. At dawn next morning Hitler invaded 
Poland without warning, and on September 3rd Chamber- 
lain made his broadcast from London. Whether the neu- 
trals liked it or not, Europe was in flames again, with the 
Germans on the march. Throughout Holland the Declara- 
tion of Neutrality, prepared in advance, was made public. 

By the early spring of 1940, with Poland long since oc- 
cupied, the 'phoney war' had become an established fact, 
and both German and British aircraft were flying over 
Holland as if she did not exist. The British blockade, and 
the 'Venlo Incident' in which two British agents were cap- 
tured by the Gestapo on the Dutch-German frontier, con- 
tributed to a certain amount of anti-British feeling in some 
Dutch circles. This was mild, however, compared with the 
anger that swept the Netherlands when German subma- 
rines began to sink Dutch shipping. 

There had already been one invasion scare on Novem- 
ber 12th, 1939. Dutch army uniforms had been disappear- 
ing for months, and there were well-substantiated rumours 
and reports to the effect that Germany was mounting an 
assault. Nothing happened; but as a precautionary measure 
a number of Nazi agents were rounded up. Thanks to the 
large numbers of Germans who had settled in Holland after 
the first war, there was not the slightest doubt about the 

( 34 ) 


existence of a powerful National-Socialist element among 
the Dutch population. 

There was a second scare early in 1940, and again more 
agents were arrested. Now that Poland had been digested, 
and with the Balkans likely to fall to Hitler without a shot 
fired, the danger of Germany striking out in the west had 
obviously increased. But when nothing happened the sec- 
ond time there were plenty of Dutchmen and others ready 
to assert that this was merely bluff, part of the Nervenkrieg 
at which Germany was proving herself so expert. To fall 
for this bluff was to play into Hitler's hands. 

This view was not shared by the Netherlands Cabinet or 
the High Command. There were too many unpleasant 
omens. Holland had ordered arms from Germany, which 
as a neutral she had every right to do, but deliveries had 
suddenly ceased and Dutch agents in Berlin had traced the 
directive to von Ribbentrop. A disproportionate number 
of German tourists decided to visit the Netherlands that 
spring to see the flowers, and they wore the same macin- 
toshes and carried the same suitcases as the streams that 
had flowed to Danzig and to Poland the year before. 
Dutch army uniforms continued to disappear on an in- 
creasing and disturbing scale. 

On Saturday, May 4th, Dutch Intelligence reported that 
"invasion can be reckoned on within a matter of days/* In 
strict interpretation of her standing as a neutral, Holland 
did not pass on this information to the British. It was fur- 
ther learned that Germany counted upon subduing Holland 
within twenty-four hours of the initial attack. All leave 
was cancelled and certain routine precautions were taken 
on the main roads leading- to the frontier. 

(35 ) 


On May 8th, a Wednesday, reports were circulated in 
Berlin stating that the British were about to land in Hol- 

Next day, at half past nine in the evening, Dutch Intelli- 
gence sent a short message from the frontier to the Foreign 
Office at The Hague which read: "Tomorrow at dawn. Hold 

Thousands more Germans and other suspects inside Hol- 
land were instantly rounded up, and General Winkelman, 
Commander-in-Chief, set off to inspect his defences. In 
order to make her neutrality impeccable in the eyes of all, 
Holland was now standing-to both to the east and to the 
west: troops were deployed along her land frontier with 
Germany and along her North Sea coastline. Several im- 
portant bridges in eastern Holland were blown up. , 

It was a clear, calm night, starry and almost windless; the 
eve of the Whitsun weekend. Despite the scares, despite 
certain restrictions on traffic, despite general mobilisation, 
despite the examples of Denmark and Norway, tens of 
thousands of Dutch families were looking forward to the 
holiday. Everybody knew that Germany was a nation of 
bluffers. Everyone had confidence in the Grebbe Line, in 
flooded dykes, in the knowledge that if the worst came to 
the worst, half a million Dutchmen stood to arms. But in 
the meantime the weather forecast was highly optimistic 
and only a fool would panic. Rumours, of course, were two- 
a-penny; but since they were probably manufactured and 
spread by Nazi agents, the best thing was to ignore them. 

Holland had been neutral for a hundred years. She had 
done nobody any harm. She had threatened no one. She 
feared no one and she hated no one. So why worry? There 

( 36 ) 


had been plenty of scares like this before, and nothing had 

The people of Holland, after listening to the evening 
news on the radio which seemed to add little to what they 
had already been told a hundred times, went to bed: a 
beautifully clear night, they noted, indicating settled 
weather for days to come. 

On this night, and with a bottle of whisky beside him, 
the enormous Dutchman, Jan Smit, hogged the narrow Eng- 
lish roads down to Oxted from London, singing as he went. 
He found himself in particularly good voice. He had never 
driven a Rolls before but the silence and power of the 
engine enthralled him. It was a pity that it was only bor- 
rowed: he would have to remember to return it after the 

Through blacked-out villages and two hours late for 
dinner he roistered through the cool stillness of the country- 
side, a buccaneer born some centuries too late, a twentieth- 
century Rabelaisian who could be as strong as a bull and 
as gentle as a child. Children stirred in their sleep, old men 
frowned over their books, and elderly ladies knitting for 
victory behind their blackout curtains looked up sharply as 
the echoes of profane Dutch drinking songs reached them 
from the passing car on the road. Nobody heard more than 
a snatch of song, for Jan was travelling fast. 

He felt wonderfully irresponsible, in a world just a little 
too small for him. His good friend Walter would forgive 
him for being late, and Julia would have to be soothed. 
This was Whitsun weekend, a time for total relaxation. If 
the Germans did attack his country, he would go over there 
and push them back personally: and he thought for a 



moment of his parents in Amsterdam, now possibly in dan- 
ger. But the Germans would not attack; at any rate not yet. 
They were still having some trouble in Norway and they 
preferred to deal with one country after another, singly. 

In the meantime it was good, it was wonderful, to be 

Oxted seemed quiet and deserted. The English always 
retired to their beds so early. As soon as he could find 
a pedestrian, which took some time, he shouted and de- 
manded the way to Walter's house. He had been there by 
daylight but in this vile darkness there were no landmarks. 
Except for the distant hum of aircraft the stillness was 
almost shocking. When at last he saw the familiar white 
gate he swung the car through it. There appeared to be a 
car in the garage, presumably the Lagonda, so he posed 
the Rolls, gently, on the lawn. Fumbling with his left hand 
he f ound the Vat 69 and raised the bottle to his lips, putting 
it down again with a smack of satisfaction. Then he heaved 
his enormous frame out of the car and looked around him 
until things began to take shape. A minute later he gave a 
grunt of satisfaction: he had located the roses. 

He groped around for a while and then, with a curious 
tenderness, his enormous hand felt its way down a stem, 
flicked off a thorn, and picked a not-quite-opened rose. 

Glancing at the sky, peppered with its comforting in- 
finity of stars, he ambled over to the front door and pressed 
the bell. 

( 38 ) 



JAN KORS SMIT lowered himself gingerly onto the sofa in 
the Keysers* sitting room. The rose lay on a small occasional 
table by Julia's chair. She had accepted it without emotion 
and, by leaving it on the table, showed that she had no 
intention of bothering to put it in a vase or to associate 
herself with it in any way. Jan had attempted to embrace 
her, boisterously, when he came in but she had shrunk 
away from him, from his ungainly bulk and from all that 
he seemed to represent. There had never been much secret 
about Jan's weaknesses. Both in Amsterdam and in London 
his conquests had been so open that concealment had been 
out of the question: in addition to which his own reminis- 
cences capped anything invented by his enemies. 

He wiped his broad red forehead with a silk handker- 
chief, brushing the perspiration back towards his hair, 
which was sparse, blond and unkempt. "I am so sorry, 
dear Julia/' he said, "but in the blackout it is so hot. Also I 
have been singing, which is the only exercise I take." 

Julia bit back an obvious retort. 

Walter came in with the decanter while they were talk- 

(39 ) 


ing. He had found the Rolls on the lawn, made a mental 
note to have Jan move it before Julia could discover it there 
in the morning, had carried Jan's suitcase up to the spare 
room on the first floor and placed Jan's own whisky bottle 
by the bed. 

"To our health and a peaceful, restful Whitsun," Walter 
said. "The nine o'clock news wasn't very encouraging/* 

"AchI Pfuil You are always thinking the worst before it 
happens. You mark my words, the Huns wont attack 
Holland. In any case they must digest Norway first. And 
how could they attack through several feet of water 
don't you agree, Julia, eh?" 

She shrugged her shoulders. How typical of him to steal 
almost the exact phrase she had used herself at luncheon. 

Tve no idea," she said. "I hope you're right." 

She compared the two men and marvelled that they 
should have anything in common. With Jan's presence dom- 
inating the room, Walter looked more bent and lean than 
ever, hunched as he was in the chair opposite her: but he at 
least carried an air of distinction. Jan seemed to be taking 
up the entire sofa, spreading himself over the length of it: 
acres and acres of white silk shirt, coming out untidily over 
the trousers, an old sports coat in brown check and the 
huge brogues with a lace hanging loose. Her gaze wan- 
dered to die enormous hands, the kind of hands you don't 
see twice in a lifetime, admittedly clean but somehow too 
big to be human. 

"I think 111 go to bed," she said. Tve no doubt the two 
of you would rather be alone. Don't drink yourselves to 
death. Breakfast's at half past eight." 

Both men rose to their feet and Walter kissed his wife 



goodnight. She was not quite quick enough to prevent Jan 
from bowing and kissing her hand. 

"It's lovely being down here in the country/' he said. "So 
peaceful/* He sounded as if he meant it. He held the door 
open for her and she went out. 

As soon as she had gone Jan said: "Where's tie de- 

Til put it beside you." 

"Thanks. This is a very thirsty time of year. In Holland 
now it is the spring, and the tulips must be looking fine." 

"It's spring here, too." 

"Don't be ridiculous. Spring was not invented for the 

Walter changed the subject. "What news of your father, 

"I haven't heard for ten days. I hope he's all right. And 
your mother?" 

"No news either, for about ten days." 

They sat in silence for a while. 

"My father," said Jan, "has sent over some of his key 
men. They are in England now. It seems a silly precaution. 
The Germans won't attack." 

"Has he indeed? That's intensely interesting. Have any 
of the other firms done the same?" 

"I don't think so. My father must have been listening 
to rumours, or else he has been asked to by you, you 
British. The German dealers and their agents in Amsterdam 
are offering fantastic prices and the temptation seems to 
have been too much for one or two people. Diamonds have 
been pouring out of London to Amsterdam and Antwerp." 

"But what about the Protection Committee?" 

(41 ) 


"Father is on the Amsterdam Protection Committee and 
this has made him disliked in certain quarters: it is not 
exactly neutral just now to be working hand in glove with 
the British Board of Trade. It is natural for some people to 
hate being restricted to the free market and they probably 
suspect that Black Lists are being prepared, just in 
case . . ." 

"And in the meantime business is ... brisk?" 

Jan's hand stretched out for the decanter. "More than 
brisk," he said. "For the borderline goods, the cuttable dia- 
monds, the Germans are prepared to do anything. How Yd 
love to nurse a little German merchant on my knee! Have 
you talked recently with the Diamond Advisory Com- 


"Go and have a word with them. Perhaps they will tell 
you more than they have been telling me. I believe it's they 
who have persuaded my father to send over his top men in 
sawing and cleaving, not to mention our best appraiser. It's 
they or your Board of Trade, or both." 

"While I remember," said Walter, "do you think you 
could take your Rolls off our lawn?" 

"It is not my Rolls and that's why it is on the lawn. I 
have to be very careful of it and I wish it to be comfortable. 
I have a great feeling for cars." 

"And Julia has certain feelings about her lawn. If she 
wakes in the morning and finds her lawn underneath your 
Rolls, I cannot answer for the consequences." 

"Dear Walter, are you serious?" 

"Never more so." 

"You British are unfathomable. If it were some filthy, 



flea-infested homeless mongrel on the lawn you would 
bring it into the house, bathe it, feed it and put it to bed. 
But because this beautiful thing of mine is a machine. . . . 
However, what are our plans for the weekend?" 


"It was kind of you to give my visit so much thought/* 
said Jan. "I suppose we just sit here in the house or can I 
stay in bed?" 

"The essence of the British weekend," Walter explained, 
"is that the guest should be left free to do exactly what he 
chooses. But we shall hope to see you at meals." 

"We might have a race tomorrow the Lagonda against 
the Rolls." 

"Jan, are you never going to grow up?" 

"I hope not. Passionately I hope not." 

At thirty-five, with his gleaming, cheerful face and vast 
proportions, his gales of laughter and boisterous love of 
living, Jan Kors Smit might well have been an adult 
counterpart of the Fat Boy essential to all school stories; 
and yet in business even the Jews of Amsterdam respected 
him. His grandfather had founded the firm in 1888, a busi- 
ness which, trading as J. K. Smit & Zonen, was to become 
internationally known and respected with its branches at 
Ely Place in London and Chambers Street, New York. At 
headquarters in Amsterdam's Sarphatistraat his father, 
Johan, now ruled the business with a benevolence that ran 
to monster parties, benefactions and, on the side, endless 
efforts in the cause of peace. 

Jan was one of three sons, and he had grown up in an 
atmosphere of diamonds, in that strange world that keeps 
itself to itself, talking its own language and learning to 

( 43 ) 


carry a fortune in a waistcoat pocket. His hands and his 
eyes both underwent a change when he was handling dia- 
monds, either in the rough or the cut and gleaming stone: 
all the veneer of crudeness left him and he suddenly be- 
came fanatical and precise, gentle and exact, an expert 
among experts. 

It was in the diamond world, some years previously, that 
Walter had first met him, when Jan had been sent over to 
England by his father to open and conduct the business of 
the London office. So different in every other way, they 
shared this ritual approach to diamonds. They had become 
attracted to one another despite themselves. Nothing about 
their friendship made the slightest sense beyond the hard 
fact of its existence. 

They talked business for a while, quietly, with long 
pauses. Neither tried to hide from the other the serious- 
ness of the position in the diamond world. In peacetime 
diamonds might be lovely things to make a woman lovelier, 
but in wartime they became something vastly different. 
Without a stock of industrial diamonds no nation could 
build or expand its armaments. It was one of the minutiae 
of war about which the general public remained in igno- 
rance. But governments knew, and in every country con- 
cerned with war or the danger of war there were depart- 
ments whose business it was to ensure that sufficient indus- 
trial diamonds were at hand for arms production. 

At the lowest estimate a country's strength, its power of 
survival, could ultimately depend upon the small, grey or 
nearly colourless stones which had nothing whatever, in 
their appearance, to attract anybody and that had no re- 
semblance at all to the twinkle of a tiara. 

( 44 ) 


Walter, gazing at the ceiling, his long, thin legs stretched 
out in front of him, put a question. 

"You obviously can't give me an exact figure," he said, 
"but at a very rough estimate what value would you put on 
the diamonds now held in Holland?'* 

"How should I know? And what do you mean by value? 
Market price or what countries at war will pay?" 

"Market price." 

"At the pre-war market price," said Jan, "well, about 
four or five million pounds* worth. Yes, certainly that. But 
if you ask what they are worth to Germany today, well, 
that's just a silly question. A few thousand lives, certainly, 
yes. In terms of money there is no figure, no number of 
millions of pounds, to describe their value. If Germany 
were to conquer Holland they would gain our merchant 
fleet, our airports, our food stocks : but above all they would 
gain those industrials from the Amsterdam vaults. Do you 
really believe that Germany is going to attack soon?** 

"I don't know, I don't know. Today's papers said that 
tension had eased. But ... I don't know." 

On their way up to bed they looked in on Nicholas, fast 

"We must arrange a picnic for him," whispered Walter. 
"He's been looking forward to this weekend. We must 
show him a bit of the country." 

There was every prospect the following morning, the 
Friday, of a bright and sunny Whitsun. From the bath- 
room window as he shaved, Walter Keyser glanced side- 
ways at the peaceful garden below, at the path running 
down to the stream and the fir tree into which Nicholas had 



seen the pigeons fly. The hedges were spring-green in early 
sunshine and the grass still held a sparkle of dew. From the 
bottom of the garden he could just hear the chuckle of the 
stream, drowned intermittently by the cawing of outward- 
bound rooks. Away to the north there was some cumulus 
but the sky as a whole was blue and serene. The weather 
seemed really settled and clear. 

He was in the middle of shaving when he heard the 
eight o'clock news. He always used to pause, these days, 
just to make sure that he had missed none of the main 
items. For some weeks he had had this uneasy feeling of im- 
pending disaster and this had become accentuated in the 
past ten days by his mother's silence. 

As the voice of the announcer came through to him 
from his bedroom his body stiffened. He closed his eyes. 
The razor, held in his left hand, was halfway up to his 
face. The words were categorical, admitting of no doubt. 

"Holland and Belgium were invaded this morning by 
Germany . . ? 

Already there were reports of bombing, of parachutists, 
of the frontier having been crossed at Roermond. Accord- 
ing to a Reuter report the official German news agency 
had issued a statement alleging the discovery of Allied 
plans to invade Belgium and Holland. German troops had 
been ordered to "safeguard the neutrality*' of both coun- 
tries. """""" '<*'" ' " ' 

British troops had landed in Iceland. There was more 
talk of Chamberlain resigning. 

He did not listen to the rest. Still holding the razor, half- 
shaven, he walked slowly down the stairs to the kitchen. 

(46 ) 


Julia was at the kitchen range, her back to him. He stood 
in the doorway. 


Without turning round she said: "What's the matter? 
Lost something?" 

"Julia! It's happened!'* 

It was absurd to be at a loss for words. She turned and 
looked at him in bewilderment, a gaunt figure in his dark 
blue dressing gown, the black hair unbrushed, half the face 
still lathered. 

"Oh! Nor 

"Yes, at dawn, or rather before dawn. Without warn- 
ing, of course. We that is to say, Holland are at war." 

Julia's hands dropped to her sides. For a few moments 
they stood there, staring at each other* 

"You heard it on the B.B.C.?" 

"Yes, just now. There are no real details yet. It's only 
been going on a few hours/' 

"But Holland is ... is resisting?" 

"Of course! I wish to God mother had got out when she 
had the chance." 

"But the Germans will never get through. . . . They'll 
never break the Grebbe Line. They can't. They caritr 
Julia's voice was rising. 

Walter listened to his wife's words as if they had been 
spoken from a script. They could hear some jackdaws chat- 
tering among the chimneypots and there was the sizzle of 
the bacon frying in the pan, but the morning had been 
stripped of all reality. He had been expecting this for weeks, 
yet now that it had happened he was stunned. 



"Oh, Walter, what are we going to do?" 

"I don't know. This means that the war has entered a 
new phase. It has come closer to England/' 

"Oh, God!" 

Td better tell Jan." 

He went over to her and put an arm round her shoulder. 
He could feel the little veins around his scar beginning to 

With his right hand he stroked her hair. Then he turned 
abruptly and went up to Jan's room. Jan was fully dressed 
and flinging his clothes into a suitcase. 

"I am having my morning tea," he said drily, taking 
whisky from a toothmug. "Excuse my foreign habits/* 

"Why are you packing?" 

"Your wireless carries also into the spare room. So the 
little Boche must have his fun. A happy Whitsun for us all!" 

"Why are you packing?" 

"It is the privilege of the guest to do exactly as he pleases, 
and I may even be out for meals. I am going up to Lon- 

"I see." 

At the breakfast table Nicholas felt that his mother had 
been crying and dared not ask the reason. Both his father 
and Jan were silent. 

"It's a spiffing day," he suggested hopefully. "Perhaps 
someone would care to come birdnesting? Or are we going 
for a picnic?" 

"Nicholas," said his father. "There has been bad news 
on the wireless. Holland has been invaded by Germany/' 

"The beastly rotters! They'll get beaten back and serve 
them right." 



"Lots of people will be killed/' said Jan. 

"Lots of Germans, you mean. I can't see why you're all so 
upset about it. Daddy, let's eat lunch, up in the woods by 
Woldingham. I could easily help make the sandwiches." 

There was a further inexplicable silence. Why had his 
mother been crying? He checked with the weather, look- 
ing out of the window: it seemed perfect. 

After breakfast the two men went into the sitting room 
and discussed the situation, while Nicholas fretted in the 
hall and Julia washed up. The papers had arrived but there 
was no mention of the invasion. Walter tore a sheet off a 
calendar on Julia's desk. It was Friday, May 10th. Jan sat 
sprawled on the sofa, Walter pacing up and down the 
room. There was no need for them to recapitulate their 
conversation of last night and they made their decision 

"I'd better move the Rolls off the lawn," said Jan. "Are 
you ready to start now?" 

"Straight away." 

He found it difficult to explain to Julia why he and Jan 
had decided to go to London: it was so obvious that she 
suspected that they were going up there to enjoy them- 
selves in an adolescent reaction to bad news. She pointed 
out that there would be nothing serious that they could do 
in London over the weekend, with all businesses and firms 
closed down, and as far as news was concerned they could 
hear it over the wireless. But she also knew, as she spoke, 
that she could not dissuade Walter. He was not, he ex- 
plained, going for the weekend: he would take a macin- 
tosh, no luggage, and hoped to be back by evening. But 
if they were late, she was not to sit up. 

(48 ) 


'Well/' she smiled, "I hope you'll be good enough to be 
back by Tuesday, for tea with the vicar ." 
- He laughed, and promised. Nicholas watched him as he 
got the old Lagonda out of the garage. 

* 'Bye, Nicky, look after your mother, won't you?" 

"Will you come birdnesting when you get back?" 

"Yes, Nick. Promise." 

They had decided to take both cars. As he backed the 
Lagonda out of the garage he waved: Julia and Nicholas 
were standing together, her hands on the boy's shoulders. 
He let in the clutch and turned through the white gate 
out onto the main London road. 

(SO ) 



IN LONDON, Jan Sroit returned the Rolls to its garage 
and rejoined Walter at the J. K. Smit offices in Ely Place, 
Holborn, a small cul-de-sac which also harboured a Catho- 
lic church and a Bank. There was some degree of anxiety 
over the lack of direct news from Holland, but no panic. 
No mail had been received for more than a week. Jan and 
Walter had a talk with the executives, promised to keep in 
touch with the office, and went direct from Ely Place to 
the Board of Trade. Their plans had by now begun to ma- 

At the Board of Trade they were shown into a large and 
well-furnished room. Jan wasted no time. 

"Good morning, Frank. The news is not very gay, is it? 
Have you any inside information? Because whether you 
have or you haven't," Jan added, "we want to volunteer in 
a general way for any plans that may be being hatched by 
your murky friends in Whitehall." 

The man they called Frank uncurled himself from the 
desk and offered cigarettes before he answered. 

"I don't suppose I know much more than you do," he 

( 51 ) 


said. "As far as I've been able to make out, the War House 
and relevant departments had no precise warning of the 
attack. However, everyone has been pretty busy since 
about six this morning and the Cabinet met at eight. Now 
then ... I can guess, but I may as well ask: why have 
you come to see me?" 

"The Amsterdam stocks/' said Walter bluntly. 'We just 
thought London might be planning something and we 
should hate to be out of it. There's a lot of diamonds over 

The official nodded. "No plot has been hatched," he said, 
"but something is incubating. If it matures, Major Dillon 
will be in charge of the operation. Do you know him?" 

Jan and Walter shook their heads. 

"He's a very good man, speaks Dutch like a native. Small, 
neat, very military, usual moustache. Off duty he goes 
about thinly disguised as a civilian wearing slacks and a 
sports jacket. Where can I get in touch with you if neces- 

"The bar of the Waldorf in Aldwych," said Jan promptly. 
"It's nice and handy for my own office." 

"All right then. But don't expect a call in five minutes." 

After a little further talk they separated. 

At the bar of the Waldorf Jan ordered Johnny Walker, 
Black Label, two doubles. By now the evening papers 
were out. There was no attempt to minimise what was hap- 
pening: in fact it was something bigger than an invasion 
of the Low Countries, it was the outbreak of full-scale war 
on the continent, with all it implied. 

An Order of the Day had been issued to the German 



armies in the west. "The hour has come/' it ran, "for the 

decisive battle for the future of the German nation. For 

i **< 

three hundred years the rulers of England and France have 
made it their aim to prevent any real consolidation of 
Europe and above all to keep Germany weak and helpless. 
With this your hour has come. The fight which begins to- 
day will decide the destiny of the German people for a 
thousand years. Now do your duty. The German people 
follow you with my blessing." It was signed by Hitler. 

Lord Halifax had received the Belgian Ambassador and 
the Netherlands Minister before 6.30 that morning. The 
Cabinet was due to meet a second time at half past eleven 
and would probably meet again that afternoon. It was 
understood, wrote the diplomatic correspondents, that 
Britain had promised Holland and Belgium all the help at 
their command. 

The phoney war was over: this was the main, the ulti- 
mate, defiance. Although nothing was yet explicit, it al- 
most seemed as if Germany were also launching the long- 
awaited attack on France herself. 

Glancing out at Aldwych it seemed hard to believe in the 
news. The buses, the 9's and 15's and 6's and ll's, rolled by 
with unperturbed decorum. Many pedestrians had long 
since given up carrying gas-masks. Walter ordered two 
more doubles. Both men felt a sense of frustration. 

After a number of drinks Walter said: "It's a curious 
thing, but Td like a haircut, with everything thrown in, 
shampoo and friction and massage. Tve a curious feeling 
that I'm not going to be really clean again for a long time/* 

They left messages with the switchboard and went down 



to the hairdressing saloon in the basement. Gratified bar- 
bers did as they were told. There was still no message from 
authority. They lunched prodigiously. 

In the afternoon they went back to Ely Place, where an 
outward semblance of business-as-usual was being pre- 
served, and Jan joked with the young secretaries. From 
there they rang the Diamond Trading Company's head- 
quarters near St. Paul's but nobody seemed able to offer 
precise advice or to have definite news. In the evening 
they started drinking again, the inevitable Johnny Walker, 
Black Label. 

When darkness began to fall on the serene May night 
Walter suggested that they should return to Oxted, and 
they clambered into the Lagonda. They got no farther than 
a roadside inn some miles short of his home and there they 
spent the night. Before first light they were on their way 
back to London. 

It was now Saturday, May llth, and over their breakfast 
in London they studied the news. 

The main headlines were reassuring: HEAVY GERMAN 
AIR LOSSES. These had, however, to be read in conjunc- 
tion with a number of official statements. Britain's Whitsun 
holiday had been cancelled. "The invasion of Holland and 
Belgium has created a situation in which it is imperative 
that the people of this country should forgo their Whitsun- 
tide holiday and should remain at work so far as is practi- 
cable and should avoid unnecessary travel." In other words 
the Bank Holiday was "off/ 

The Ministry of Home Security announced: "It is very 
necessary that all Civil Defence and A.R.P. services should 
be on the alert. The carrying of gas masks by the public is 



once more necessary. . . . Householders are recom- 
mended to overhaul their domestic preparations against an 
attack. . . . The London Tube railways are required for 
traffic purposes and the Tube stations are not available as 
air raid shelters." 

Additional and holiday trains had been cancelled. The 
London County Council appealed for adult volunteers to 
help in evacuating children to the country. 

All newspapers carried instructions headed: 

Advice to the Public. 
What To Do in an Air Raid. 

There was no lack of news, of a kind. On the political 
front the crisis had finally boiled up. Chamberlain had 
broadcast the previous night: *1 sought an audience of the 
King this evening and tendered to him my resignation. The 
hour has now come when we are to be put to the test, as 
the innocent people of Holland, Belgium and France are 
being tested already." Churchill would take over the reins 
of government. 

There was to be racing that afternoon at Newbury, but 
all future meetings were cancelled until further notice. 

These widespread precautions contrasted a little with 
the confident news from the battle fronts. The Dutch 
claimed one hundred German aircraft destroyed. "Belgians 
Confident of Victory" sang the headlines. The Belgian Am- 
bassador had pointed out that the armed forces of his 
country were "ten times as strong as in 1914." The Nether- 
lands Minister in London, Jonkheer van Verduynen, had 
broadcast: "The Germans will be deceived if they think 
Holland can be conquered with ease." According to the 
Air Ministry, ''German troop-carrying aircraft over Bot- 

( 55) 


terdam and beaches near The Hague have been attacked 
and destroyed. Waalhaven airport has been attacked since 
three p.m. yesterday and the hangars are reported ablaze/' 
French towns had been bombed by the Luf twaffe, causing 
a number of civilian casualties. The Belgian people had 
given a delirious welcome to the British Expeditionary 
Force as it crossed the frontier. 

All R.A.F. leave had been cancelled. 

From Berlin Dr. Goebbels had broadcast to the German 
people to explain why invasion was necessary Britain, he 
proclaimed, had been planning to attack the Ruhr through 
Holland and Belgium. This had had to be forestalled. 

It was in the course of Saturday morning that Jan and 
Walter received their first phone call from the man they 
called Frank. The message, though terse, was welcome. 
They were told to walk under the Admiralty Arch at half- 
past two. 

The Major was waiting for them, easily identifiable from 
Frank's description. Despite the grey flannel trousers and 
sports coat there was no mistaking the soldier in him: he 
could never be taken for anything but a British regular 
officer. Although his hair was greying, the figure was etched 
in clear lines, small, trim, hard. He spoke quietly but with 
authority. Everything about him proclaimed the soldier, 
and the grey eyes beneath bushy eyebrows were keen, 
practical and confident. He was physically the perfect con- 
trast to the ungainly and enormous Jan, and the tall, 
scholarly Walter: a man careful about his clothes to a 
point just short of dandyism, an obviously tidy man and 
equally obviously no fool. 



His military career had started conventionally enough at 
the R.M.A., Woolwich, but for some time it had taken a 
slightly divergent course of which Jan and Walter were 
now aware. The Major was still in His Majesty's Service 
but worked for one of the many departments that caine 
under the general title of Intelligence. For operational pur- 
poses he was known as Major Charles Dillon, R.A. 

"It's a nice day," he said. "Let's go for a walk in the 
park/* He looked absurdly small as they wandered along 
the paths behind the old India Office. 

"You'll be glad to hear," said the Major, "that things are 
moving. Not too much red tape, not too much messing 
about. I think we shall almost certainly be given a chance 
to have a party. It's equally plain that Fritz would like to 
capture Amsterdam in a hurry. Our impression is that they 
want to cut off the city, if they can't capture it, in the next 
couple of days or so. I shall have a little work of my own to 
do over there but this won't interfere with whatever you 
may have to do yourselves. 

"I don't know whether either of you will be seeing the 
war maps before we start, but the situation isn't good. This 
hasn't been a straightforward attack by one country on an- 
other: the Germans had built up a strong force inside the 
country and you can't even trust anyone in a Dutch uni- 
form, because he's just as likely to be a German. Also 
there has been unprecedented use of parachutists wearing 
every garment under the sun." 

They wandered through the park for half an hour, dis- 
cussing the situation that had now developed in western 
Europe. The Major made a remark that was to stick in 



Walter's mind. "There is nothing we have," said the Major, 
"that can stop Fritz for the moment." It was a sobering 

Jan and Walter were told to stand by until further in- 
structions. From now onwards neither was to communicate 
with friends or family. The Major smiled and left them. 

They visited the Dorchester that evening and discovered 
to their consternation that its supplies of Johnny Walker, 
Black Label, had run out. 

"You see?" said Jan. "The situation deteriorates. Too 
many foreigners in London. This is damnable/ 7 He ordered 
two large Vat 69's. 

It was now impossible for them, under orders, to return 
to Oxted. They spent the night again in the country, near 
Reading, returning to London on the Sunday morning. 

At eleven o'clock Jan was called to the phone. When he 
came back he said to Walter: *Tve got to meet a man at the 
R.A.C. at twelve-thirty " 

"Who is it?" asked Walter. 

Jan told him the nickname by which his caller was known 
to Winston Churchill. 



AT THE time of the invasion of Holland, Churchill was 
First Lord. The authority for the signals relating to the 
mission about to be mounted rested with the First Sea 
Lord; and the Commander-in-chief, the Nore, became 
responsible for the operation. But it is at least probable 
that the First Lord first approved the daring and fantastic 
idea that reached his office through Intelligence channels. 
The decision once made, the Admiralty, the War Office 
and certain civilian elements acted speedily and without 
protocol. Neither at the War Office nor in the secret files of 
the War Cabinet was there at any time a single document 
to confirm in writing the decisions taken. From now on the 
tempo increased. For Jan, Walter and the Major what had 
seemed a long period of waiting in fact, only forty-eight 
hours was over. 

At the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, Jan Smit was 
invited out into the garden at the back. The lovely May 
weather was still holding, and over drinks in the strong 
sunshine he was given a rough outline of the plan. It had 



been accorded the highest priority and there was to be no 
further delay. 

From the R.A.C. he was taken to the offices of an in- 
conspicuous dairy concern in Victoria Street, where he was 
shown upstairs by a young corporal and introduced to a 
tall, fair-haired man of middle age who might or might not 
have been a soldier. There was a surprisingly good carpet 
on the floor, a large desk in the corner by the window, a 
horse-hair sofa, a low table drawn up in front of the sofa 
and a single, locked safe. Where previously there had no 
doubt hung framed photographs of famous herds there 
were now large glossy maps disfigured with a rash of red 
and blue overmarking. The N.C.O. brought in two mugs of 

With the aid of the maps Jan was given a rough outline 
of the situation in the Netherlands. The attack had begun 
shortly before four o'clock on the morning of the tenth 
when airports at Waalhaven, Bergen, Schipol and de Kooy 
were bombed. By half past four the Netherlands Legation 
in London received instructions to open a sealed envelope 
left in their charge some weeks previously. This document 
requested British assistance and had been immediately 
passed to "the appropriate quarter/' There was, however, 
little hope of being able to give appreciable help although 
the Admiralty had already diverted destroyers and tibe 
Royal Air Force had begun to bomb Waalhaven and other 
airports already in enemy hands. 

The Dutch army, Jan was told, had been able to blow a 
number of bridges near the eastern frontier but others had 
been captured intact by German parachutists wearing 
Dutch uniforms. This point was emphasised several times: 

( 60 ) 


it could no longer be assumed that a Dutch uniform meant 
that a Dutchman was inside it 

The Dutch Commander-in-Chief had issued an Order of 
the Day in which he announced that the enemy's surprise 
attack had been a failure. That was not the assessment in 
London, where it was presumed that the Order had been 
issued for purposes of morale. The German surrender de- 
mands of Friday had been rightly and courageously re- 
jected but Holland could not be expected to hold out for 
long against a carefully planned and massive invasion. 
Maastricht had fallen and the Germans held the initiative 
on all sectors of the main line, though in several towns 
behind the lines the German parachutists had been wiped 
out. In many ways the invasion had been unorthodox: 
German troops had emerged from ships, barges and air- 
craft in widely scattered areas of Holland. 

One curious point: the Germans appeared to be making 
determined efforts to kill or capture the Dutch Royal 
Family. There had been intense activity round The Hague. 
Early on the morning of the 10th the Queen had been at 
Huis ten Bosch, outside The Hague, not at Noordeinde, and 
before 4.30 a.m. Huis ten Bosch had been bombed and 
machine-gunned. During the afternoon, and after the sur- 
rounding woods had been cleared of snipers, Dutch troops 
had been able to escort the Queen to Noordeinde. Prince 
Bernhard's reaction had been fearless and immediate. He 
had himself manned a machine-gun on the roof with every 
sign of invincible equanimity. Queen Wilhehnina, with 
Princess Juliana and the children, had been forced to re- 
main in the shelter at Noordeinde but were kept in constant 
contact with the Netherlands Cabinet. They had now been 

( 61 ) 


in this shelter some forty-eight hours. Since it was highly 
important that the Royal Family be brought to Britain, an 
operation had been mounted parallel to their own but in- 
dependent of it. It was hoped to have the Queen, with 
Juliana, Bernhard and the children, at an English port by 
the following evening or by Tuesday at the latest. Since 
present plans envisaged the use of the same Dutch port 
for the Royal escape as was being planned for their own 
mission, it was as well that Jan should know of it. 

Jan's host, an ebony ruler in his hand, rose and moved 
over to the maps. The description of events now became 
slightly more detailed. 

The Dutch First Army Corps, as a gesture of neutrality, 
had been deployed along the coast, and this had left 
Netherlands forces thin on the ground elsewhere. German 
parachutists held lepenburg, Valkenburg and Ockenburg 
by Friday evening. Magnetic mines had been sown by 
Dornier aircraft at all harbour entrances and at the mouths 
of the main rivers. Parachutists were established round 
three sides of The Hague and both inside and outside 
Rotterdam. A number had been killed in Amsterdam. The 
Royal Navy, so far, seemed to be in complete control of 
coastal waters despite steady attention from the air. Ger- 
man seaplanes had been used to land troops. 

The main enemy intention was plain enough: speedy 
occupation of the Netherlands. But it was possible that he 
would spare Amsterdam, a city which probably contained 
more riches for its size than any other in Europe. These 
riches included gold operations for getting this gold away 
had already begun and, of course, the industrial dia- 
monds. There were also considerable oil supplies in the 

( 62 ) 


Batavia-Shell dumps. The impression in London was that 
the German troops had been ordered to cut off the city by 
that night or by next morning. 

Major Charles Dillon would be in charge of the party 
and Jan and Walter must consider themselves under mili- 
tary discipline. They would use their own names as they 
would be meeting people known to them and would re- 
main technically civilians: the Major, using his false name 
of Dillon, would be there as a soldier. If captured, neither 
Jan nor Walter could expect to demand the rights or 
privileges of a prisoner of war. On the other hand, it was 
considered highly desirable that they return safely and 
foolish risks should be avoided as far as possible. Dillon 
spoke faultless Dutch and would be well able to fend for 
himself on his own affairs, which had no direct connection 
with the diamonds. 

In case they had not been told already, they must on no 
account get into touch with anyone in London, not even 
with their families. 

"When do we go?* 7 asked Jan. 

"In an hour or two. If you go to the United Services 
you'll find Dillon and Keyser waiting for you there now. 
Everything has been laid on. We now hand you over to 
the capable and hospitable hands of the Royal Navy. If all 
goes well we shall hope to see you back on Tuesday. Bon 
voyage and lots of luck!'* 

From the United Services Club Dillon, Jan and Walter 
took a cab to the Netherlands Legation (as it then was) 
where they were immediately taken to the room of the 
Legation Counsellor, Jonkheer Teixera de Mattos, and each 
was handed a document on Legation notepaper. 



This document bore that morning's date, May 12th, 1940, 
and carried the statement, in Dutch: Her Majesty's Lega- 
tion in London hereby declares that Mr is pro- 
ceeding to the Netherlands at the request of the British 

In each case the document was signed by the Minister. 

"Short and sweet," said Walter, '"but not very helpful if 
we show it to the wrong people/* 

They all shook hands with the Legation Counsellor. They 
had not been in the Legation more than a few minutes. 

The Major ordered the cab back to Whitehall. 

"They've got a car lined up to take us to Harwich," he 
explained. "The sea should be nice and smooth/* Near the 
Cenotaph he dismissed the cab and told Jan and Walter 
to wait for him. He disappeared on foot down one of the 

"Well," said Jan, "it looks as if we're off. Are you really 
taking that macintosh?" 

"You never know," said Walter. He was carrying it over 
his arm. 

He was surprised that he did not feel particularly afraid. 
The main sensation was one of unreality, the same unreality 
that had struck him as he stood in the kitchen trying to tell 
Julia that Holland had been invaded. Even the wait, the 
treks from bar to bar, had offered an unreal interlude. The 
time then had seemed long but now it had all telescoped 
behind him. He could hardly remember any of the details 
except the shock of finding that the Dorchester could no 
longer supply Black Label: that and the little Major say- 
ing, "There is nothing that we have that can stop Fritz for 
the moment." Whatever his merits or defects the Major 

( 64) 


was not an alarmist. Walter found that Ids anxiety about 
his mother was increasing but this was not, he presumed, a 
legitimate subject of conversation. 

What had helped to make the situation so unreal was the 
substance now emerging out of gossamer shadow. He and 
Jan had had a word with Frank at the Board of Trade, a 
walk with Dillon through the park, and Jan had gone round 
to the R.A.C. Somewhere far away behind these brief en- 
counters men of immense responsibilities, men concerned 
with the broader contours of the war, had come to a de- 
cision and this decision was now about to be implemented. 
The three of them a Major, a fat young Dutchman and 
himself had been given a destroyer. 

The destroyer itself was difficult to swallow: a destroyer 
at the entire disposal of a soldier and two civilians, and at 
what must be easily the most critical moment of the war so 
far! An aircraft would have been easier to understand, but 
this was a warship, presumably with a crew of a hundred 
men or more. What had been going on, and where, in the 
past forty-eight hours? This was a decision that could only 
have been taken at the highest levels. Who had assessed 
their characters? Who had decided they could accomplish 
this crazy task? Who, with the Royal Navy stretched to 
the utmost, had ordered that a destroyer be put to their 
personal use? Who had convinced whom of the importance 
to Germany of the industrial diamonds in Amsterdam? It 
was not even as if he and Jan were tried or trained as spies 
and saboteurs : they were merchants, and they spoke Dutch. 
That was all. And now the two of them were being sent 
out, by a person or persons unknown, to deprive the Ger- 
man army of its expected prize in Amsterdam. He felt 



again in his pocket for the Dutch Minister's laissez-passer, 
the only proof he had that unreality was not absolute. 

Time passed as they stood on the pavement in Whitehall, 
with people scurrying by, most of them carrying gas masks 
now, and with a stream of cars arriving at the War Office, 
others turning into Downing Street. Even so there was a 
Sabbath peacefulness about it all: no crowds, and fewer 
buses than usual. 

Walter had the Sunday papers in his macintosh pocket 
and wondered whether he should leave them behind. He 
glanced at the Dutch and German communiques again. 
The composite picture was scarcely reassuring, the Ger- 
mans announcing flatly that enemy frontier forces had been 
defeated everywhere and were on the retreat. Seventy-two 
aerodromes in Holland, Belgium and France had been at- 
tacked, with French bases at Metz, Nancy, Rheiins and 
Dijon especially hard hit. The Dutch communiqu6 opened 
with ominous care: "French and British troops have ar- 
rived and together with Dutch troops are defending the 
Fatherland's soil. Our frontier troops are fulfilling their 
task." But it went on to admit that the Germans had crossed 
the Yssel near Arnhem and while most of the parachutists 
had been destroyed, German forces were still in Rotter- 
dam. There were reports of two air raids on Amsterdam 
and of damage to the Amstel railway station. Bombs had 
also fallen in the Heerengracht and Blanburgwal. The 
French High Command announced with satisfaction that 
the support being given to Holland was "massive and ex- 
tremely rapid." In Switzerland there had been general 
mobilisation from yesterday. The City had reacted severely. 
Gilt-edged stocks, which had been steadily rising through- 



out the week, suffered seriously, said the reports, and all 
other sections had shared in the reaction. 

There had been messages to the Queen of the Nether- 
lands from the King and the Pope expressing horror and 
disgust at the outrage committed against her country. In 
Italy attempts had been made to prevent the distribution 
of Osservatore Romano, the only paper to carry the Pope's 
message. Similar messages had been sent to King Leopold. 
The tone of the messages was realistic in the extreme and 
contrasted with the frivolity of the military experts, one of 
the best known of whom opened his article with the phrase: 
"The general situation last night was favourable to the 
Allies/' adding: *It would not be accurate to say that the 
Germans have been held up but they have been checked on 
a frontage of 200 miles and penetrations into the Low 
Countries are not of any depth/* You could almost hear 
him laughing it off. The article continued: "The Blitzkrieg, 
if such was intended, has failed . . . There has been no 
lightning drive." He was heartily supported by a colleague 
in the know who told readers, from Paris, that "with the 
enormous Allied forces in Belgian territory, the Germans 
have little chance of getting beyond the Albert Canal." A 
kind of professional optimism was rampant and yet, de- 
spite the unanimity of the experts* opinions, somehow not 
altogether convincing. A Racing Correspondent, writing 
with a touch of annoyance, recorded that "the flat-racing 
season has been interrupted at a most interesting stage/' 

But the main news, for Britain, remained political. All 
late editions of the Sunday papers announced the compact 
War Cabinet of five that had assumed office late the night 
before. Churchill, as the new Prime Minister, had also 

( 67) 


taken over the Ministry of Defence, with Neville Cham- 
berlain as Lord President of the Council. C. R. Attlee was 
appointed Lord Privy Seal, with Viscount Halifax as Secre- 
tary of State for Foreign Affairs. These four were joined by 
Arthur Greenwood as Minister Without Portfolio, thus giv- 
ing the Socialists two seats in the inner circle. The war had 
entered a new phase: for better or for worse, Britain had 
girded her loins. In language which the man in the street 
could not aspire to, J. L. Garvin's Observer article started 
with a paragraph in flames: "The trumpets of the Apoca- 
lypse are sounded and its seals are broken. Illusions are 
shrivelled as by the breath of fire. Our awakening is final. 
Our resolve is steel." 

Walter put the papers back in his pocket. The Major 
seemed to be taking a very long time. Quite a number of 
men, Walter noticed, still raised their hats as they passed 
the Cenotaph, but the habit had begun to die out. He 
started chatting with Jan. 

Jan talked about the girls he had known. He seemed to 
be in a good mood, ebullient, and there was no stopping 
him. There was this blonde of his in Amsterdam, who 
played the clarinet in a night club orchestra: perhaps 
they would have time to visit her. Walter tried to fit his 
mood to Jan's and reminisced about an Irish-American girl 
in Chicago. Their conversation broke no security embar- 
goes. Three times Big Ben struck the quarter. Four little 
Wrens swung by, very trim in their dark blue, and Jan was 
still gazing at them when a green military car glided to a 
halt beside them. At the back was the Major. 

Before he got into the car Walter took one last look 
round, unwilling to tear himself from the solidity of a 

( 68 ) 


London street. Once in the car he would be finally com- 
mitted to what seemed now an unreal and appalling folly. 
Away to his right he heard Big Ben. 

"In you hop," said the Major. "We're bang on time. But 
it's a dull ride, I'm afraid/* 

The car moved up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, where 
people in uniform and out of it were happily feeding the 




THE GREEN Humber threaded its way quietly through 
the Sunday traffic. 

"We're due at Harwich Dockyard at twenty-one hun- 
dred/' said the Major. Jan glanced at Trim with distaste. 
The Major stared at Jan's feet. 

"I must confess," said Walter, thinking aloud, "that I 
should have liked to ring Julia. It seems such appalling bad 
manners to leave the country without telling her. She half 
expects me back to dinner, I suppose/* 

Jan laughed. "The things one does for Holland! And the 
cream of the joke is that at least for years and years and 
years you never will be able to tell Julia what you were 

Walter turned to the Major. 

"I suppose/* he said, "that you're quite an old tand at 
this kind of thing?" 

"Well, it's not exactly my first party. I was seconded to 
the firm some time back." 

"Firm?" asked Jan. "What firm?" 

The Major relapsed into silence. 

( 70 ) 


Jan kept staring at the Major as if the latter had come 
from Mars. "I suppose," he said, "that now that we are 
under your orders we should call you 'Sir'. I find it so 
difficult, not being a very military man myself/' 

The Major laughed. "Goodness, no! Just call me Dillon, 
or Charles. It's a name I chose at random." 

"When you're 'on a party '," asked Walter, "do you find 
yourself hating yourself?" 

"There's seldom much time for introspection, luckily." 

By now they had reached the countryside, flat and dull 
but with the evening sheen of spring on it. The Humber 
increased speed. Nicholas will be going to bed now, Walter 
thought, and Julia. . . . 

"What's the routine?" asked the Major. "I suppose you 
two have got your plans worked out?" 

"Plans?" roared Jan, as if the Major had used an obscene 
word. "We have virtually no plans at all, though there's a 
girl I'd like to see near Rembrandt Square. To tell you the 
truth I'm rather looking forward to the trip, except for the 
business calls we shall have to make. And I do want to kill 
one German, one plump little Whitsun German. I suppose 
we have a very fair prospect of meeting one or two Ger- 
mans, don't you think?" 

"Very fair," said the Major. 

This can't be happening, Walter thought, this can't be 
true. Nothing is making sense. Has some invisible hand 
turned us into murderers? We are motoring through the 
evening, to Harwich, in an army car. Only Anatole France, 
with his dry crystal prose, could put this into words. Julia 
will probably go to bed early, leaving a few unconvinced 
and unconvincing sandwiches in the kitchen. Upstairs in 

(71 ) 


the bedroom she will let her hair down and brush it, the 
seventy-five strokes or whatever it is she believes in. Nicho- 
las, poor little Nicky, should be asleep by now. Does this 
Major think of his wife? I suppose he does. How was it that 
Dillon spoke Dutch so fluently? He had heard him talking 
at the Legation and his Dutch was perfect. 

Darkness began to fold up the countryside, quietly, and 
they were soon driving through blacked-out villages. 

"Before we get to Harwich/' said the Major, "perhaps I'd 
better share the spoils." 

From some inner pockets of a small attach^ case he 
pulled out two Colt revolvers and handed one each to Jan 
and Walter, with ammunition. ''They're quite easy to 
work/* he said, explaining the mechanism. "And we may 
all need money." He produced enormous folders, full of 
50 guilder notes. There was something like 1,000 worth 
of Dutch currency. 

"It ought to be enough/' he explained, "but you never 
know, We might meet situations requiring considerable 
expenditure. Don't hesitate to use the money if and when 
you need it" 

Walter, like Jan, had never used a revolver in his life. 
The weapon felt heavy and clumsy. He distributed the 
guilder notes in various pockets. There was now almost a 
transference of character: he had ceased to be a diamond 
merchant interested in French prose and had become 
physically and finally an indefinable offshoot of the British 
armed forces, a belligerent. He sincerely hoped that he 
would not be involved in any fracas demanding swift and 
accurate use of the revolver. The Major, obviously, was 



trained to this sort of life: he and Jan were not. He would 
have liked to refuse the Colt altogether but that would 
have seemed silly. Jan was playing with his revolver like 
a child, pointing it through the window of the car. 

"Sir," said Jan suddenly, "do you think it would be a 
good idea if we stopped off at a pub for a drink?" 


They reached Harwich just before nine and the Humber 
purred quietly towards the docks. It was plain that they 
were expected. The spectral, anonymous forces behind the 
expedition had left no detail untidy. The main gates swung 
open after a torch had shone on the car's number plate. 

"Twenty-one hundred exactly," said the Major. "Thank 
you, driver." 

In the darkness the destroyer was only a shape, one of 

"Excuse me a moment," said the Major, Tve got some 
stuff in the boot." 

He helped the driver unload a couple of suitcases. 

"What on earth's this?" asked Jan. "Don't tell me you're 
taking dinner jacket and tails, clean socks and a change of 

"Dear me, no. Just something to help the party go with a 
swing." The Major took the suitcases from the driver and 
carried them himself. 

They were conducted to the destroyer by rowing boat, 
then up a gangway, along the deck, down some vertical 
steps and along a narrow passageway. A heavy curtain was 
drawn aside and they found themselves blinking in the 
bright light of the wardroom. The rating who had con- 



ducted them said: "The Captain will be down immedi- 
ately/* Of the three, only the Major had remembered to 
salute the quarter-deck. 

"This is a very small room," said Jan. "It must be a very 
small ship/* 

The Major put his two suitcases on a settee running along 
the bulkhead. Then he rubbed his hands and smiled. "We're 
due to sail/* he said, "at twenty-two hundred/* He seemed 
genuinely anxious to make friends. "Next stop Amster- 
dam! You two feeling all right?" 

"Oh, wonderful," said Walter. 

"Parched," said Jan. 

The curtain was drawn aside and a diminutive figure 
came into the wardroom and shook hands. 

"I'm Bowerman. Sorry not to have been on the quarter- 
deck to meet you." He did not add that his guests were a 
little later than he had anticipated. 'Welcome to Walpole, 
a venerable sardine-tin of uncertain behaviour but the best 
Their Lordships could offer you, I gather." After a quick 
glance round at the three he turned to the Major and said: 
"You*re Dillon, I suppose?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Just one little formality have you the Admiralty chit?" 

The Major handed over a document which neither Jan 
nor Walter had seen. Bowerman handed the document 
back and pressed a button. 

"Now then, gentlemen, a nightcap before you turn in. 
I*m afraid that we haven't a galaxy of bunks aboard, in 
fact you'll have to share my day cabin and sleep as best you 
can. What's it to be?" 



Jan beamed. "A gallon of brandy and a keg of rum," lie 
said. "I don't really mind. I have a terrible thirst/* lie 
added, "during the months of spring." 

"I'd love a whisky and soda," said Walter. 


"A small whisky and water, thanks. Won't you join us? 
I'm afraid we're a nuisance." 

"Not in the least. Always nice to have guests and Tin 
only sorry I can't offer you better accommodation." He or- 
dered the three drinks. "I hope to push off in about an hour 
or rather less," he explained. "We're just finishing re-fuell- 
ing and we're taking on extra ammunition. I'm afraid she 
may vibrate a bit because I'll have to hurry. My instruc- 
tions are to reach Ymuiden by dawn and it's a longish run. 
However it's a fine night and I can promise you the sea 
itself won't give us any trouble: a bit of popple on the 
water but nothing to worry about. What an exciting life you 
fellows lead!" 

When the drinks arrived Lieutenant-Commander Bow- 
erman glanced at his watch and settled himself on the 

"Well now," he said, "before I go back to the bridge Td 
better give you the form from my angle. Are you gentle- 
men easily depressed?" 

"Very," said Walter. 

Bowerman smiled. "That's a pity," he said. *Tor your 
information you are now aboard H.M.S. Walpole, a V and 
W Class destroyer built so long ago that she just had time 
to put in an appearance towards the end of the last war. 
Our armament consists of four four-inch guns, four torpedo 
tubes and two Lewis guns. Our four-inch guns have a 

( 75 ) 


maximum elevation of fifteen degrees, which, of course, 
gives superb defence against dive-bombing. On the credit 
side we have the finest crew in the Navy and I have reason 
to believe that the engine-room won't let us down." 

He turned to Jan. "Please don't keep smoking those. 
Have a duty-free Player." 

"What's your time schedule?" asked the Major. 

"Well, I hope to leave Harwich at ten, as I said. I've 
never been to Ymuiden in my life but the distance is about 
a hundred and eighty miles. To tell you the truth, this is 
not my bailiwick. I've just been transferred from Liverpool, 
Western Approaches, and only arrived here today when 
I was sent for by Flag Officer i/c Harwich. He asked me 
how long it would take me to get to Ymuiden and I hadn't 
the foggiest idea." 

"This is the best rum I've ever tasted," said Jan, draining 
his glass. Bowerman pushed a button. 

"My instructions are very simple," he said. "I've been 
told to take you there and bring you back. The Admiral 
was quite clear on that point. I am presuming that you 
are up to no good and I'm not asking you any questions. 
I'll try to run you into Ymuiden harbour by about four 
o'clock tomorrow morning and then return at eight in the 
evening. Does that give you enough time, do you think?" 

"Of course," said the Major. 

He ought to have been a jockey, Walter thought. He's 
the smallest naval officer I've ever seen. How does he re- 
main so fantastically calm? He's no taller than Julia. How 
can that quiet voice control a ship? Why does he make me 
feel sure that he will get us there and bring us back? All 
that he has told us so far is that this is a very old destroyer, 

(76 ) 


that he doesn't know the way to Ymuiden, and that we are 
inadequately armed. On that astonishing basis he has 
given me complete confidence. 

"Could I beg of you a favour?" asked Jan. 


"I wonder if you have a bag of some kind. It was silly 
of us to forget it but we may go shopping in Amsterdam 
tomorrow. I am sorry to be a nuisance/' 

"Not in the least. Ill have a canvas bag made up for you 
and sent to my cabin. Any particular size?" 

"Moderately big/* said Jan. "You never know." 

"Right! And now, gentlemen, if you'll excuse me I'd 
better get back to the bridge. As this seems to be a purely 
informal trip, keep the wardroom open if you wish. Any- 
one will take you to my cabin when you want to turn in. 
I'll see that you're called in the morning. Dillon, do you 
want those suitcases taken to the cabin now?" 

"I think," said the Major, "perhaps somewhere else might 
be better." 

After a very brief pause Bowerman smiled and said: 
"Oh, I see. There's a spot on deck, well aft, where 111 have 
them battened down for the night. They'll be brought to 
you when you disembark. There's nothing that you want to 
take out of them now?" 

"Good gracious, no," said the Major. 

"Well, I think that's all for the moment," said Bower- 
man. "We'll make final arrangements in the morning when 
we see what the situation's like over there. Incidentally, I 
ought perhaps to warn you that I intend to steam at thirty 
knots, at which speed Walpole is unlikely to resemble the 
Savoy. A very good night to you all." 



He picked up his cap and sauntered from the wardroom. 

"Like his ship," said Jan, "the Captain is disturbingly 
small. But I trust them both.'* 

A rating came in and picked up the suitcases. With a 
quick glance at the passengers he muttered to nobody in 
particular: "Harwich to the bleedin' Hook, I suppose. En- 
joy your Whitsun on golden foreign strands wiv all ex- 
penses paid! Stone the crows!" 

"What did that young man say?" asked Jan. 

"He was wishing us luck/' said Walter. "Personally I'm 
going to turn in." Jan drained his glass. 

In the Captain's cabin the three of them pulled matches 
to see who should have the bunk. With a grimace Jan 
curled up on the floor and Walter resigned himself to a 
small chair. 

Lieutenant-Commander H. G. Bowerman, R.N., known 
to a large number of brother officers as 'Shorty/ returned to 
the bridge and gave his orders. Walpole was at a buoy in 
Harwich harbour, whence it was easier to get away in the 
total blackout, and he, like his passengers, had had to be 
rowed to the destroyer from the office of the Flag Officer 
in Charge. The signals for this trip had come, he presumed, 
from the First Sea Lord to C.-in-C., The Nore, who would 
have ordered F.O. i/c Harwich to implement them. 

Approximately on time, Walpole slid quietly out of the 
harbour, setting course for Holland. 

There were several details that Bowerman had not 
bothered to tell his passengers. 

There was the signal from H.M.S. Codrington (Captain 
Creasy, R.N.) to keep fourteen miles southward of a cer- 

(78 ) 


tain course. What was Codrington up to on this fine May 
night? Why was site being so exclusive? It wasn't normal 
for destroyers to be quite so snooty among friends unless 
something of peculiar importance was being carried out. 

Nor had he informed his passengers that from a naviga- 
tional point of view this was likely to be an interesting 
journey. He had never covered this part of the North Sea 
but he knew of the cross currents and the tides, and their 

Nor, again, had he bothered to burden them with the in- 
formation he had picked up at his briefing about the mine 
fields. OflF the Dutch coast just south of Ymuiden there 
were two of them: one a British mine field and the other 
German. Between the two stretched exactly one mile of 
open water. It was through that mile that Walpole would 
have to steam, in darkness and at top speed, based entirely 
on navigational skill, more than a hundred and fifty miles 
out of Harwich. Admiral Harris had merely said: "Get 
them there before dawn and land them before first light. 
Don't play about. You Ve got to bring them back." 

He was only faintly curious about what the three were 
up to. The trip obviously had a purpose and therefore he 
was glad to be involved in it. It made a change from the 
routine jobs on Western Approaches. 

Hot cocoa was brought to him as he stood on the bridge. 
The destroyer was already beginning to shake: it would 
have to be thirty knots all the way and Walpole wasn't 
liking it. The sky was clear, star-peppered, and the sea not 
more than popply, as he had predicted. He had a word 
with the engine room and a Scots voice was reassuring. 

They were an odd bunch, he thought. Dillon was fairly 



obvious, a soldier in grey flannels, and the suitcases were 
a giveaway. But what about the other two? A mountainous 
Dutchman, looking like an untrained all-in wrestler with a 
kind heart, and an intellectual who seemed English but 
might not be. Everybody had heard about M.L5, but this 
seemed to be a little off their beat, a little different. 

Walpole thrust herself, quivering, through the North 
Sea. She was equipped with Asdic but had no mechanical 
devices that would warn her of approaching aircraft, none 
of the new gadgets already being fitted into more modern 
destroyers. Later in the war she would have felt almost 
naked without such ornaments but since she even lacked 
effective anti-aircraft weapons it seemed to matter little. 
The sky was clear and Bowerman glanced now and then 
at the stars. It was all very pleasant and peaceful. 

There was no incident of any kind until two in the morn- 
ing, four hours out of Harwich. The engine room had ful- 
filled its promise and Walpole was steaming at thirty knots, 
a speed that shook every rivet in her gaunt little frame. 
Bowerman was not even bothering about smoke, and she 
trailed a plume of black which lay low over the water 
behind her, obliterating the wake. 

Suddenly there came a hail from the starboard lookout. 

"Object on the starboard bowl" 

Bowerman sounded the alarm. Hardly had he done so 
before there was another hail, this time from the port look- 
out. "Object on the port bowl" It was the shrill, scarcely- 
broken voice of one of the youngest of the ordinary sea- 

Bowerman ordered: "Make the challenge!" 

The Yeoman of Signals who had been standing ready 

( 80 ) 


since the sounding of the alarm made a series of signals 
with a small flashing lamp. At once there came a reply by 
the same means. The Yeoman reported: "Reply correct!" 
Bowerman gave a sigh of relief and ordered 'Night action 
stations' to relax but not to leave their posts. At this speed 
things happened far too quickly on a dark night. He had 
become aware of something black sweeping past him to 
port, shadowy yet substantial. He could have thrown a 
cricket ball at it, without missing. Almost simultaneously, 
but a little farther out, a black shape had swept past to star- 
board. They were both destroyers, with British silhouettes, 
going like bats out of hell. Their wakes were creamy in the 
darkness of the sea. This was as near to a fatal collision as 
he had ever been and he increased the lookouts without 
decreasing speed. For all he knew he might be running into 
a flotilla. 

Not until months later did he learn that the black shape 
to starboard had been H.M.S. Codrington, carrying Prin- 
cess Juliana of the Netherlands and the little princesses to 
a British port. Fourteen miles, with the tides and cross 
currents, had narrowed down to less than a hundred yards. 

But he was unaware of this and as his eyes strained into 
the darkness his mind went back only a few hours: was it 
only this morning, he thought, that I was off Deal follow- 
ing Commander McCoy in H.M.S. Vansittart, known to 
the destroyer world as the Tancy Tart,' when orders were 
suddenly received from C.-in-C. Nore, for both of us to go 
to Harwich? Soon after that, when both ships had turned 
north-east, his own sub had suddenly shouted: "He's going 
the wrong side of the buoyl It was shifted two days ago." 
Before he had had time to warn McCoy, Vansittart had 



taken the mud and had begun 'coming back* to him. Only 
by ordering 'Hard a-starboard!' and 'Full Astern' had he 
missed Vansittart by fifteen feet. From the bridge it had 
looked like fifteen inches. 

He remembered the paddle-steamers, all dark grey and 
manned by R.N.V.R., towing the Tancy Tart' off the mud- 
bank: paddle-steamers which only the previous summer 
had been taking holiday-makers up and down the Thames. 
Commander McCoy had then been ordered to Chatham, 
and he to Harwich. He had reached Harwich about five 
that afternoon, a nasty, twisting entrance between innu- 
merable sandbanks and odd casualties from mines and 
bombs, and he had reported at once to Admiral Harris. 
The Admiral's first words had been: "How long will it take 
you to get to Ymuiden? YouVe got to go there tonight." The 
Admiral had promised a harbour light, just one, for twenty 
minutes, to get clear on the way out. Harris had told him 
about the 'three civilians' and had emphasised that they 
must be important, to be allotted a destroyer at this stage of 
the war. It was also important, the Admiral had said, to 
bring them back. The day could be spent pottering about 
the Dutch coast, giving help where needed, but there must 
be no risk of damage to the ship. If he, Bowennan, failed 
to pick them up the first night, he was to spend another day 
off Holland and try again the following evening. By any 
standards these were astonishing orders for wartime, when 
normally everything was issued in writing giving precise 
information and exact instructions. But on this occasion 
all initiative in detail had been left to him within the stark 
context: take them there and bring them back. It was a 
curious affair and an odd trio that he had aboard, 

( 82 ) 


There was little time for further musing. The North Sea 
was as likely as ever to contain the roving enemy. Seconds 
counted in night encounters and he didn't want to swim 
for a second time in its cold waters. His mind went back 
again to the couple of hours he had spent in the oily waters 
off Stavanger after a submarine 'mishap' only ten days 
after war had been declared. Another cup of hot cocoa 
brought him abruptly back to the present. 

He now had to find the clear mile between the two mine- 
fields. At no point did he decrease speed. 

Two hours later his lookouts signalled a small pinpoint 
of light and he sent down a rating to stir up the passengers. 

At Ymuiden breakwater Walpole swung a few degrees 
to starboard and slid gently into the fishing harbour. A 
pale greyness in the light showed that dawn was not far 
distant. The Major, with Jan and Walter, stood beside the 
diminutive Bowerman: the Major with his suitcases, Walter 
still carrying his macintosh, Jan with the naval kitbag that 
had been provided during the night. 

"Thank you for the shopping bag," Jan said to the cap- 
tain. "It's just what I wanted." 

"I hope you buy some nice things." 

"About the rendezvous," the Major began. 

"Yes," said Bowerman. "Now that I've had a look at the 
harbour I can tell you frankly that I don't intend to spend 
the day sitting here. I think it might be unwise. Further- 
more, I don't feel that it would be worth risking Walpole 
again tonight to the point of bringing her right in, so I 
propose to lie offshore and as near as I can get at exactly 
eight o'clock. If I haven't heard from you by then IT] 



stooge around for another day and try again tomorrow 
night. We can get in touch either by lamp or loudhailer. 
Is that aH right?" 

"If we aren't here tonight/* said Jan, "I shouldn't bother 
to come back tomorrow night/' 

The air was chilly and Walter found himself shivering. 

"Well, it might be better to come back," said Bower- 
man, "quite apart from the fact that those are my orders. 
You might get held up or delayed in the shopping crush. I 
might even be delayed myself. Jerry will be dropping mines 
all round the harbour entrance during the day, that's cer- 
tain. And I think the weather's going to blow up a little. 
Hullo!'* he said suddenly. "The day has begun." 

To the north they saw flashes of explosions and some 
seconds later heard the thump-thump of bombing. There 
were still some searchlights, querulously nosing out the 
sky. They heard the barking of anti-aircraft guns. 

The Major had shouted to the shore for a boat and now 
a small dark shape was sidling up to Walpoles flanks. 

"Well," said Bowerman, "lots of luckl I think we'd better 
all start moving. See you tonight at eight o'clock." 

"Thanks for the lift," said Walter. Everything he said 
now had become unreal. 

Bowerman left them and made his way to the bridge. 
The three of them slithered cautiously into the rowing 
boat, the Major nursing his suitcases. Before they had 
drawn away from Walpole they could hear Bowerman 
giving orders. 

Audible to each of them, far away at first and then un- 
mistakably closer, came the gentle drone of approaching 

(84 ) 



THE AIRCRAFT closed in on Ymuiden quicker than 
seemed decent or possible, six of them in two groups of 

"They might have given us time to land," said Jan. The 
Major had thrust an oar into his hand and he had begun 
helping to row. In the half-light they could see the towering 
mass of a liner about a hundred yards away at the mouth of 
the North Sea Canal that runs from Ymuiden to Amster- 
dam: ahead of them fishing trawlers were now clearly 
visible, moored to Ymuiden quay. From farther up the 
Canal light anti-aircraft batteries blazed into action like 
chattering monkeys and this sound was superseded by a 
high, increasing whistle followed by the tremendous roar 
of an explosion. For a few moments bedlam was complete 
as the bombing continued. The rowing boat nearly cap- 
sized. It was completely out of the question to row: it was 
a matter of trying to retain balance, to remain aboard, in 
the turbulence set up by the bombing. 

At the first sound of the anti-aircraft fire Walter closed 
his eyes. With Jan holding the spare oar, the Major busy 



trying to secure his precious suitcases and the boatman 
doing his best to draw clear of the destroyer, there was 
nothing left for him to do. He grasped the gunwales with 
clenched hands. At the best of times he could never explain 
to other people the physical pain that noise of any kind 
seemed to drive through his body, least of all could he ex- 
plain it now. Perhaps the others thought he was about to 
be sick: they were welcome to think what they liked. It 
was simply no good being in agony like this but there was 
nothing to be done about it. 

Behind them they could see Walpole slowly and deli- 
cately threading her way in a large circle round towards 
the Canal mouth. She too was in action now, spitting in- 
effectively but savagely with her Lewis guns, unable to 
move at more than three knots in that small congested area. 

As quickly as it had begun it was all over. The shooting 
and the bombing stopped but there was no silence. Hun- 
dreds of seagulls circled in shrill rage, and from down the 
coast they could hear a foghorn. The big liner had received 
at least one direct hit and they could hear shouts and an 
occasional scream from those aboard. From beginning to 
end the man who was rowing them had never said a word: 
they had hardly noticed his presence. It was scarcely light 
enough to distinguish features, just the great curve of 
enormous shoulders beneath the cap, and dark, gnarled 
hands pulling at the oars. They watched as the liner began 
to heel over. Small figures, scurrying along the decks like 
marionettes, were just visible; a few of them could be seen 
slithering down the ship's sides into the water. As the row- 
ing boat drew near to the fishing quay the liner quietly 
lurched right over, and from where they sat it was im- 

(86 ) 


possible to say whether she had sunk. The screaming in- 
creased and with it a medley of shouts and orders. The 
bulk of the ship was now hidden from them by the em- 
bankment between Canal and harbour. 

"That's the van Rensselaer* 9 said the gruff voice of the 
boatman. "She was due to sail at dawn with refugees for 

They disembarked hurriedly up some slippery steps, the 
Major first with the suitcases, Walter last. When the boat- 
man had tied up they tried to thank him and Jan fumbled 
for his rolls of guilder notes. 

The man looked at the notes with disgust. In a voice 
thick with rage and other emotions he said: "You are Brit- 
ish, hein?" 


"Well, gentlemen, Holland has not come into the war 
for money. We are allies now, you understand. Keep the 
money for those that will take it. Do you stay with us or 
do you return to England?" 

"We return tonight." 

"Good. If you want any help I shall be here to row you 
back to your destroyer.*' They had now reached a big shed 
marked Zeevishandel, one of many that made up the fish- 
market. "I shall be by this same shed tonight at any time 
that you tell me. What time will you be here?" 

"Seven-thirty. And thank you." They shook the boatman 
by the hand. "Where is the Port Authority building?" the 
Major asked. 

"You see that round building over there, like a windmill 
without blades? You go up those wooden steps. At seven- 
thirty tonight you find me here. Understood?^ 



"Understood," said Jan. "Take care of yourself." 

The quays of the fishing harbour were far from deserted. 
Here and there were large gleaming cars, incongruous and 
for the moment inexplicable, and now that the raid was 
over men and women were emerging fearfully from such 
shelter as they had been able to find away from the glass 
panes of the sheds. As the three men began to make their 
way to the circular building of the Port Authority they 
nearly bumped into a neat pile of German dead, young 
parachutists not all of whom were in German uniform. They 
had been stacked methodically against the back of one of 
the fish sheds. 

A policeman appeared from nowhere and thrust a re- 
volver into Jan's chest. "Who are you?" the man asked in a 
curiously high voice. "You are under arrest!" 

"Take us to the Port Police," said Jan. "We have come 
from England and have work to do." 

"You are under arrest!" 

"Yes, yes, yes," said Jan. "Just as you say. But take us first 
to Bussemaker's office." 

"Walk in front of me, the three of you! You are under 
arrest I tell you." The policeman's voice was rising even 
higher. To their right they saw another, smaller, stack of 
dead. "Spies and parachutists," said the policeman. 'We 
shoot the lot, you understand." 

They climbed rickety wooden steps to the building and 
found themselves in a bare office, with a single table, two or 
three chairs, and windows that gave out on all sides onto 
the Canal, the harbour, the town and the open sea. At the 
table sat an officer in the uniform of the Royal Netherlands 
Navy. Without a word the Major produced his Dutch 

( 88 ) 


Legation document, dated May 12th, and placed it on the 
table. The others followed suit. It was now becoming fully 
light and smoke from the bombardment was showing up 
black against the clearing sky. 

The officer read the documents, looked up and smiled. 
"My name is Bussemaker," he said. "You came over in that 
British destroyer? We have been watching you. We had 
hoped she might be landing some marines, or even troops." 

"I am afraid we were the only passengers," Jan explained. 
"My name is Jan Smit, as you ve seen. They told me in 
London that you would be here. I know many of your 

"It isn't very difficult," said Bussemaker, "to guess what 
you may be doing. May I add my little authority to this 
document? Pieces of paper sometimes are of little help on 
these occasions but you never know/' He began to stamp 
and sign the three Legation sheets. 

"These men are spies, they are parachutists!" the police- 
man broke in. 'Two of them, I am sure, are not Dutch. I 
insist they be kept under arrest." He was immensely tall, 
with a red, flustered face; and his eyes, like those of Cap- 
tain Bussemaker, were red-rimmed. Neither had slept for 
more than an hour or two since the early hours of May 10th 
and it was now the morning of Monday, May 13th, Uncon- 
cerned, Bussemaker continued to stamp the documents and 
sign a few scribbled words on each. Walter kept one eye on 
the policeman whose fingers were itching at his revolver, 
but Bussemafcer affected to ignore him. Once again, from 
outside, they heard the distant hum of aircraft. 

"Second wave," said the Major laconically. *1 do wish 
they'd give us some peace.** 



"Tell me," asked Jan, "what are those big cars doing in 
the fish market? They are the cars of wealthy people." 

"Jews," said Bussemaker quietly. "If you want to reach 
Amsterdam by road, avoid the main routes. The Jews of 
Amsterdam are heading for Ymuiden. Do you blame them? 
There are no escape routes by land without serious hazards 
and the sea is their only hope. They know the Naiis. They 
all want to get to England." He handed back the docu- 

The bombing had already begun and the barking of gun- 
fire was being drowned in deeper explosions; one series of 
these mounted in sudden crescendo and Walter flung him- 
self instinctively beneath the table. The windows of the 
office were blown in and there was a gust of hot, bitter air. 
Jan and Bussemaker had been flung on the floor together 
and the room was thick with fumes, fragments and un- 
settled dust. From outside there was shouting and some 

When the raid was over the men picked themselves up, 
to find that the policeman was missing. Bussemaker, grey- 
haired, his eyes half-closed, brushed the dust off his uni- 
form and the broken glass from his desk. 

**We got out of that very luckily/' he smiled. "I see that 
our energetic young friend has left us, so my advice to you 
is to get away as fast as you can. Don't blame him: he is 
only trying to do his duty and he is tired and excited. There 
are plenty of cars, as you've seen, but it may be hard to find 
one with an ignition key. I would gladly lend you mine 
but it has been destroyed." 

"Many thanks for your help," said the Major. '"Which do 
you suggest is our best route?" 

(90 ) 


"When you get to Velsen, call on the Burgemeester. He 
will tell you. And now, if you'll forgive me, I must return 
to work. Already there are three thousand refugees in our 
harbour here and the richer ones are offering up to eighty 
thousand guilders each for a trawler, to get to England. I 
must get out as many ships as I can. Every raid we lose 
more. You will excuse me?" 

He picked up the phone. "So! The line is dead. These are 
difficult days. Goodbye and good luck. You return to Eng- 

"Yes, tonight" 

"If you need any help I shall be at your disposal/' He 
smiled again and waved them out of the office. 

Outside, the air was full of smoke and the sharp tang of 
bombardment. It was now almost full daylight and the sea- 
gulls, which earlier had been grey and insubstantial shapes, 
were white in the early sun as they circled over the fish- 
market in high-pitched remonstrance against this violent 
disturbance to their way of life. Up the hfI1 3 among the 
squat brick cottages, there was a lot of shouting which was 
echoed down in the harbour as people emerged again from 
shelter and headed for the trawlers. 

Jan and Walter tried the doors of a number of deserted 
cars, without success. The Major was still carrying his 
suitcases like a weekend tripper, pointing out another car 
whenever he saw one. Down by the water they turned 
for a moment to watch three trawlers negotiating the small 
harbour mouth, chugging out past the mole towards the 
open sea. Their decks were black with people. 

"Good luck to them!" said Jan aloud. "They're the lucky 
ones, all right.** 

(91 ) 


He had hardly said the words before one of them gave a 
curious jerk and a heave. Before their eyes it disintegrated 
and they could see pieces of mast, of rigging, of deck and of 
people thrown high into the air above the dark uprush of 
smoke. The sound reached them a few seconds later. 

"Bowerman was right about the mines," said Jan. Walter 
watched the debris settle. His scar was throbbing. They 
stood for a second watching the other two trawlers steam 
slowly by: there would be nobody and nothing to save. 
Already there was a spreading oily mess on the water where 
the first trawler had gone down. 

Once again the fishing harbour had come to life and 
some of the quaysides were almost blocked with half- 
hysterical families trying to fight their way to the ships. 
There were women in fur coats, children led by the hand, 
men chewing furiously at unlit cigars. This is not so much 
unreal, Walter thought, as obscene. There had been a direct 
hit at the far end of the harbour, with the usual conse- 
quences. Dogs, apparently stray, howled as they ran from 
shed to shed. The smoke was beginning to clear again, 
except from some cottages that had been hit up on the hill, 
and for a moment they could even appreciate that it was 
another lovely spring morning with the sun taking the 
chill out of the air. 

They passed an old man with a bicycle over his shoulder, 
heading for the town. "Do you know where we can find a 
car that works?" Jan shouted. 

"Help yourself," said the old man. 

"Why don't you ride the bike?" Jan asked. 

"Because I may need it. I don't mind broken glass on 
my ankles but it wouldn't do to have a puncture. Not these 

( 92) 


days." He shook his head and started climbing the incline 
towards the houses. The old man did not tell them what he 
had seen; three cars already that morning being driven 
over the harbour edge. Suicide was a bad thing: he didn't 
hold with it, and it was an infection that easily spread. Nor 
did he know himself, at that moment, how the memory of 
those cars was going to stick in his mind so that he would 
be able to recall it all, vividly, fifteen years later, when 
many of the other details of the bombardment had been 
forgotten. He plodded up the hill towards the Kanaalstraat, 
where he lived, for a Bols and an hour or two of sleep. He 
was Master of one of the little river tugs and he had spent 
the night bringing down the Canal, from Amsterdam, a 
Dutch destroyer just nearing completion. He kept looking 
up the hill., to make sure that there had been no direct hits 
in the Kanaalstraat. 

"I suppose it's time we found a car/' said Walter. "We 
must be nearly due for the next wave.* 

"Overdue," said the Major. But he showed no sign of 
worry or anxiety. Like the diminutive Commander of the 
destroyer he exuded a curious sense of confidence. He 
glanced at Walter's vivid scar and turned away. From the 
beginning he had been afraid that Walter might crack up 
but there was no trace of it in his manner. 

From up the hill, in the town, they heard a sharp burst 
of rifle fire. 

"Excellent," said Jan, "they are rounding up fifth colum- 

. 99 


"And a few suspected parachutists," added Walter. "Our 
friend the policeman is back at work/' He tried to make 
his voice sound casual. 

(93 ) 


Another ship, rather larger than the average trawler, 
had begun to edge Its way to the harbour mouth. With the 
crowds on its decks all facing the quayside, taking a last 
look at Ymuiden and the shore of Holland, she already 
leaned heavily to port like an old duck with a broken wing. 
In fact, small as she was, she was at the start of a journey 
that was to land seven hundred and fifty Jews safely in 
England: one of the dozens of small ships carrying civilians, 
fishermen and, later, troops that were able to escape the 
maw of the big machine now clamping down on Holland. 

Rifle fire began to increase in Ymuiden itself. Officers 
and ratings of the Netherlands Navy appeared in increas- 
ing numbers in the harbour, ready to act as skeleton crews 
to get all possible shipping safely en route to British ports. 
Some of the men were ofE Dutch naval vessels already sunk 
in earlier bombardments and were to play their part in the 
long war at sea that lay ahead. Each of them, as he moved 
about, was trailed by entire families, dragging bits of lug- 
gage and personal possessions, imploring, cajoling, threat- 
ening, demanding the chance to be taken away: Jews 
from Amsterdam who had never believed that Germany 
would break her word and attack their country but who 
knew exactly what kind of fate awaited any Jew under 
German occupation. 

The sun was now up. Walter, glancing at his watch, saw 
that it was well after six. It seemed ridiculous, with so many 
cars about. 

Jan gave a sudden roar and left the other two. They saw 
him half run, half shamble, towards a Chevrolet that had 
begun to move from behind one of the sheds: not back to- 
wards the road leading to Ymuiden but forward, directly 

( 94) 


toward the edge of the quay. They saw him open the door 
and without ceremony bring the car to a stop. 

They followed him and heard him saying: "Oh, no, now 
don't be silly. You are much too good-looking. I want to 
talk to you very seriously." The kitbag dangled from his 
left hand: his enormous right hand was still firmly on the 

The girl at the wheel looked to be about twenty-two. Her 
face was white and colourless and she kept staring straight 
ahead. She was hatless and her black hair hung low on her 
shoulders. Her hands, black-gloved, lay listlessly on the 
steering wheel. 

"Please leave me alone," she said. 

"I'm sorry/' said Jan, in a curiously gentle voice. "It's 
possible we are being selfish but we must ask you to do a 
favour for us." He explained how they had come over on a 
destroyer and must urgently reach Amsterdam. They were 
over, he explained, on behalf of the Dutch as well as the 
British Government. It was imperative that they should 
have a car. 

"Who are you?" the girl asked. 

"Jan Smit, of J. K. Smit & Zonen." 

The girl took off her left glove. "What is that worth?" 
she asked. 

Jan looked closely at the diamond ring. 

"That is a pretty stone," he said, "but frankly it is not 
worth an awful lot. The setting has not been very well 
done. Also there are certain flaws." 

She drew on her glove again. "And who are your 

"One is a British officer, the other a naturalised English- 

(95 ) 


man from Holland. If you will give us your car, or take us 
yourself to Amsterdam, you will have helped to strike a 
real blow at the Germans." 

"Why won't you let me die in peace?" 

The question silenced Jan for a second. Then he said: 
"In the first place you are too good-looking, as I have 
pointed out. Secondly, chance has given us the oppor- 
tunity to work together, against the Huns/* 

"My fiance is in the army/* said the girl. Her voice was so 
low that it could hardly be heard. 

"And I have a brother in the army," said Jan. "This is yet 
another link between us." 

"Why exactly are you here?" 

"Because the Netherlands Legation in London has sent 
us here the Legation and the British War Office. Do you 
want us to show our documents to prove it?" 

For the first time since they had started talking the girl 
turned to Jan and looked him full in the face. After a pause 
she said: "No, I don't think that's necessary. You only want 
me for the day?" 

"We hope to return to England tonight." 

The girl shrugged her shoulders. "It will be something 
to do, I suppose. When do you want to start?'* 


The Major and Walter got in at the back of the car, 
Dillon putting his suitcases carefully on the floor. Jan got in 
beside the girl. 

"Now this time," said Jan, "please don't start driving 
towards all that wet, cold water. Reverse the car and take 
us up through Ymuiden to Velsen. I hope," he added, set- 
tling himself down, "that if s going to be a nice day." 

(96 ) 



NONE OF them spoke as the car worked its way slowly 
through the town of Ymuiden, where broken glass strewed 
the roads and a number of houses were on fire. The three 
men had forgotten that this was Whit Monday and it came 
as a surprise to find the streets full of children enjoying 
a holiday that promised excitement in abundance. Many 
of them were careering around in cars that they had found 
deserted during the past couple of days: quite undeterred 
by the air attacks, they appeared to be taking maximum 
advantage of this unprecedented spree and there were 
no signs anywhere of anxiety or fear. Dutch troops and 
police moved in pairs and there was still sporadic shooting 
in the side-streets, each crackle of fire attracting the 
children like a magnet. Just as the car was nearing the town 
boundary Jan, peering upward from the front seat, could 
see the third wave of bombers coming in low, flying over 
the North Sea Canal. 

"Which route?" the girl asked. 

"Stop at Velsen, at the Town Hall, and well ask the 



Burgeineester for advice. They say the main roads are all 
blocked with . . ." Jan suddenly stopped. 

"Yes, I know what you're going to say. Jews." The girl 
was looking straight ahead still, at the road. After a silence 
she added: "Do you blame us? Are you one of those that 
hate and despise us?" 

"I am neither," said Jan. "It is well known that the 
Germans are maniacs on this subject. I should think that if 
I were a Jew living in Holland today I'd do just the same 
I'd try to get to England rather than stay here to become 
slave labour for the Germans. It isn't a pretty prospect." 
Already their car seemed to be the only one heading to- 
wards Amsterdam: to their left they were passing a steady 
stream of civilian cars racing towards Ymuiden. 

Velsen was little more than an extension of Ymuiden and 
here the girl drove into a small courtyard with a couple of 
trees and a solid square Dutch house. 

"You will find the Burgemeester on the first floor, if he is 
already in his office," she said. "Give him my regards!" 

"But we don't know who you are." 

"Never mind," said the girl. "It doesn't matter." 

"We are trusting you," Jan reminded her. "Do you give 
me your solemn promise not to run away?" 

"I promise." For the first time since they had met she 
gave a trace of a smile. Despite the promise the three men 
carried their belongings with them as they entered the 
Town Hall and asked for the Mayor. 

There was a bustle of activity on the first floor and they 
found themselves in the civic chamber, a long and dignified 
room with a magnificent portrait of Queen Wilhelmina at 
the far end of it and, by the door, an exquisite charcoal 

(98 ) 


drawing of the Queen's mother. From here they were 
directed to the Mayor's office, two doors away. The Mayor, 
tall and brusque, with red-rimmed sleepless eyes like Busse- 
maker, gave a quick glance at their documents and handed 
them back. 

"You came over by destroyer?" 

"Yes, last night." 

"How very interesting. You must have passed did you 
see two British destroyers going the other way?" 

"We were asleep," said Jan. 

"Of course! Well, I may as well tell you that you prob- 
ably passed a British destroyer called . . . called Codring- 
ton, I think. She left Ymuiden for some British port about 
midnight with Princess Juliana aboard. The Princess was 
here yesterday afternoon. You see those two trees over 
there? Well, she was in an armoured car, with a strong 
escort, of course, and we hid the car for a while beneath the 
trees, pending instructions for the last part of her trip to 
the coast. Her movements were naturally top secret and 
every possible precaution had to be taken to keep them 
so. Now what can I do for you?" 

After a glance at Jan he added: "How about a brandy 

"Four glasses, please," said Jan. "No, five. One for the 
driver, if that is not an inconvenience." 

The Major glanced irritably at Jan. Precious time had 
already been wasted and this was scarcely the moment to 
embark on a drinking bout. However, for the moment, he 
held his peace. 

"My first advice," said the Mayor as he brought over a 
bottle of brandy and a bottle of Bols, "is that you should 

( 99 ) 


avoid all roads near Schipol. The airport is still being 
heavily bombed. But you shouldn't have any serious diffi- 
culty in getting into Amsterdam if you approach it through 
Sloterdijk and always provided that you don't run into 
minor skirmishes on the road." 

While he was explaining the route Jan slipped out of the 
room with the spare glass of brandy. 

"Two things to beware of," the Mayor was saying when 
Jan returned. "First, that every conceivable kind of ru- 
mour is already current. Believe nothing you're told, even if 
it's good news. You will find people who'll tell you that the 
Germans are being beaten back well, they aren't. And 
you'll find others who'll assure you that they already occupy 
Amsterdam. Well, they don't. The second thing is a corol- 
lary of the first: trust nobody. I'm sorry to say this but the 
past three days have confirmed that we have a very large 
fifth column inside the country larger even than we had 
feared. And their numbers have been very considerably 
swollen by the parachutists now at large. Many of the 
parachutists and fifth columnists are wearing Dutch army 
uniforms. This is something new in warfare. I am just 
warning you. Now if you'll excuse me. If there's anything I 
can do on your return, let me know. . . ." 

Bombing had begun again. In the distance they could 
see the straight columns of black smoke climbing lazily 
into the sky. The bombing seemed to be ahead of them, 
presumably around Schipol, behind them at Ymuiden, and 
to their left along the Canal. In the courtyard the girl had 
turned the car round and was waiting for them. The Major 
gave instructions on the route to be followed. 

"I think now is the time to introduce ourselves," said Jan. 

( 100 ) 


"These are my friends, Mr. Charles Dillon and Mr. Walter 
Keyser. Don't tell us your own name if you don't wish to/' 
"My name is Anna," she said. "Let's forget my surname 
for the moment." The brandy had brought a little colour 
into her cheeks. She was dressed in a white blouse and a 
grey flannel skirt. The grey jacket lay on the seat beside 
her. "Miss Anna Chauffeuse," she added, with another trace 
of a smile. 

"This may not be an awfully easy day," Jan explained 
as they moved out into Velsen's main road from the court- 
yard. "Don't have any illusions. I don't know what it's 
like in Amsterdam but we have things to do there that 
may take a little time. We shall probably all need patience 
before the day is out." 

"I have grown accustomed to uneasy days.** 
"What a lovely perfume you use," said Jan. "What is it?" 
"Don't you know? You belie your reputation, Mr. Smit. 
It's muguety of course, from France." 
"You make me feel quite dizzy," said Jan. 
He felt that it was important to them all that the girl 
should be jockeyed somehow out of her black depression. 
There had been a wild and frightening look in her eyes 
when he had stopped the car down at the harbour. If she 
was to work for them during a long day she must be 
restored to a sense of balance. Hysteria would not help. 

Acres of tulips were in blossom on the right of the road 
and, on the left, in respectable contrast, were fields of 
potatoes and broad beans. Windmills, stiff and silent, were 
dotted about as if planted there by tourist agencies. Twice, 
across the fields, they saw the masts of ships working their 
way down the Canal towards Ymuiden and the ships looked 

(101 ) 


as though they were gliding silently across the fields. 
Enemy air activity seemed to have lessened for the mo- 
ment, but the black smoke still rose and drifted in the sky, 

"I wish you'd say more about yourself/* Jan persisted, 
"After all, we have been introduced," 

The girl smiled again. "You ought to be concentrating on 
your mission/' she said, "whatever that may be. And you 
don't have to tell me." 

"We have come to do some shopping. Let's leave it at 
that. Tell me, do you live in Amsterdam?" 


"Do you work there?" 

"Yes, I do. In one of the branches of the War Ministry 
but nothing very exciting, I assure you." 

"I don't wish to be inquisitive . . . but in that case 
what were you doing down at Ymuiden?" 

"Taking French leave, for the night. Getting Joseph's 
parents oflF to England. Joseph is my fiance. He too is a 
Jew. His parents have never liked me. But I took them 
down, with all their luggage, during the night. And both 
Joseph's sisters. That's what he asked me to do, if the Ger- 
mans attacked, so that's what I did. I only did what he 
asked me to do before he went off with his regiment to the 

There was an increasing strain in the girl's voice. The 
curt sentences were being flicked out, reluctantly, and Jan 
did not know whether to pursue the questioning. But 
silence, now, might make matters even worse. After a long 
pause he said: "And then what?" 

"I got them aboard. I had my Ministry pass and they had 
the money, so it wasn't too difficult. Joseph's mother and 

( 102 ) 


father, and the two sisters, and the two children of the 
married sister, and four trunks of luggage. Four trunks of 
luggage, think of it! All safely aboard/' 

"Didn't you want to go with them?" 

"With Joseph still fighting in Holland? And anyway they 
didn't invite me. They blamed me because a suitcase was 
missing. But I stayed there to see them off." 

"Then I think you've done very well. I don't see what 
you have to worry about. They will be safe and cared for 
in England till the end of the war." 

"I saw them off," the girl repeated. "They were in a 
trawler. Three trawlers went off together. I watched them. 
I watched the trawler they were on. I saw . . *" 

"Jesus Christ!" The truth dawned on Jan. "Oh, dear God!" 

"You saw it happen, too?" 

"Well, yes ... At least we saw three trawlers going 
out, only an hour or two ago, and then one of them . . ." 

"That was the one with Joseph's mother and father . . ." 

The car lurched and Jan seized the wheel. With a spare 
hand he dug into his pocket and produced an enormous silk 

"Take that for a minute. Ill steer. Anna, I'm sorry." He 
let her cry without looking at her, keeping his eyes on the 
road. In a few moments she handed it back. 

"Thank you very much. I apologise I thought that I 
was long past tears. I may as well finish now. I sat in the 
car and thought how I'd ever look Joseph in the eyes again, 
even if he isn't killed or captured by the Germans. If we 
did marry, and live together, wouldn't that nightmare be 
with both of us for the rest of our lives? Every night and 
every morning wouldn't I look at Joseph and think 1 put 

( 103) 


your family on a boat and they were all killed'? And he, 
looking at me, what would he remember? Did you see the 
bodies going up in the air? So I thought it over, very 
quickly, sitting there in the car, and the solution stood out 
clearly. I have always heard that there isn't much pain in 
drowning, that it doesn't really hurt. I began to drive the 
car forward . . ." 

"Anna, this is dreadful. I'm sorry I was so inquisitive. But 
you must stop thinking these things." 

"Well, I'm glad in a way you did force it all out of me. I 
feel better now that I've said it all. Don't let's refer to it 
again. Anyway, what of it? That kind of thing must be 
happening all over Holland now. It's only a thread in the 
new pattern of things. Here we are at Sloterdijk. Where do 
you want to go?" 

Jan turned round and spoke to the others: "This is it," he 
said. "Where do we start? I suppose we go first to your 
man, Dillon. Is that right?" 

"Yes. He should be waiting for me." 

Leaning forward, the Major gave an address in Am- 
sterdam East. The girl nodded. 

Troops were out in the streets. Nearly all the shops were 
shut it was now a little after seven but groups of people 
were gathered near the cafs listening to the wireless. 
From the direction of Schipol came the thud of further 

They stopped outside a solid unpretentious house. The 
front door was opened immediately. 

"Morning, A," said the Major. "I hope we haven't kept 
you waiting." 

"Not a bit. Come right in." 

( 104) 


The Major led the way, carrying his suitcases. Coffee was 
prepared for Jan and Walter in a large front room while the 
Major and the man he called *A* went into a parlour at the 
back. The front room in which Jan and Walter were left 
could only have been owned by an artist. There was a large 
easel by the double windows and unfinished cartoons lit- 
tered the floor. There were copies of Het Volk, the Socialist 
newspaper, on the table. Both men knew at once in whose 
house they were. 

"The morning is full of surprises," said Jan. 

"What a dreadful story that poor girl was telling you,** 
said Walter. "War boiled down to the individual, in a few 
sentences. She's a pretty little creature.** 

"She's charming,** said Jan. "I do wish there wasn't a 
war on.'* 

They were kept waiting about twenty minutes. The 
Major and 'A* came into the room together. 

"Rightr said the Major brusquely. "I suppose we'd 
better get on the move again. Everything quite clear, A?** 

"Yes, and many thanks. I hope you spend a profitable 
day. Are you sure you won*t have some more coffee?** 

The artist saw the men to his front door and raised his 
eyebrows at the sight of their car and driver. "I see you like 
your little luxuries,** he remarked quietly. 

The Major led the way to the car. Jan and Walter noticed 
at once that he was now without his precious suitcases. 

"We have time, I think," said Jan, "to look in on iny flat 
for a minute. Then we'll catch father in his office at eight 

"Right," said the Major. 

Jan asked the girl to drive them to the Prinsenlaan, a 



curving line of exquisite old houses bordering one of the 
innumerable canals. None of the houses seemed to stand 
altogether straight: they bent towards one another, like old 
friends or was it for protection? 

Jan let himself in with a key and at once offered a choice 
of Bols or whisky. The Major and Walter refused. Jan's 
name was on a large brass plate at the door and from time 
to time he glanced out of the window at the balcony of a 
house about fifty yards up the road on the other side of the 
canal: another house which also carried his name on its 
brass plate. 

"I suggest we stock up with cigarettes/* he said. "I for- 
got to before we left England/' He pulled cartons of 
Chesterfields from a huge oak cupboard. He had been 
chain-smoking since the moment they landed at Ymuiden. 

"Good gracious!" said Walter suddenly. "What' s that?" 

Jan laughed. "Only a lion," he explained. The house stood 
near Artis, the Amsterdam Zoo. "I don't suppose the ani- 
mals can be very enthusiastic about all this bombardment; 
they must think it's thunder on a fine spring morning/* 

The Major glanced at his watch. 

"As you say," said Jan. 

In the car he said to the girl: "And now to Sarphati- 

"Your father's office?" 

"Yes, please. How do you know?" 

"Everyone knows Smit & Zonen. That's why I tested 
your identity with the diamond ring/* 

"Anna, you're no fool." 

"I'm the biggest fool on earth. I shouldn't have let you 
stop me at Ymuiden. By now my body would have been at 

( 106 ) 


the harbour mouth and nobody the wiser. I'd have been 
nicely out of the way with no more problems." 

"Anna, you must stop talking like that. How lovely all 
the houses look in the sunshine. At least they don't seem 
to have bombed Amsterdam." 

"Not yet." 

As the car turned into the broad Sarphatistraat Jan 
turned round in his seat: "Well, gentlemen, here we are. 
Five minutes to eight, not bad: and the whole happy day 
before us." 

"Do you think your father will be in his office already?" 
asked the Major. 

"Of course he will. Punctually at eight. He's a stickler 
for work." 

"What do you want me to do?" Anna asked. They had 
stopped in front of a tall, narrow building. 

"Could you wait for a bit? If they start bombing the city 
come inside and we'll pop you in the cellar." 

Walter gave his head a shake as if to rid it of all the in- 
consistencies. At eight in the morning Julia would be back 
in the kitchen, making breakfast for Nicholas. Watching 
the toast, frying the bacon if there was any. Not surprised 
that he and Jan had stayed away without letting her know, 
but jumping to natural and perhaps uncomplimentary con- 

At the top of a steep flight of stairs Jan thumped heavily 
on a solid oak door. 



IN THE year 1888 Jan Kors Smit, Senior, then aged thirty- 
two and engaged in the export of Dutch vegetables, mainly 
to Germany, read an advertisement in the Algemeen 
Handelsblad asking for industrial diamonds. A man of im- 
mense vigour and modest means, with a small house in 
Amsterdam's Covert Flinckstraat, he appears to have had 
unlimited courage in business affairs; and before the year 
was out he had founded the firm of J. K. Smit, which was 
subsequently to become internationally known in the dia- 
mond world. To enter the diamond trade required capital, 
of which he had only the minimum, and expert skill, which 
he took urgent pains to acquire. The business grew on a 
basis of absolute trust in this vastly energetic young man 
who travelled ceaselessly in search of new markets; and as 
soon as they were old enough, he took two of his sons into 
the firm, which then became J. K. Smit & Zonen. At the 
time of old Jan's death in September 1929 the firm was ex- 
panding and its reputation growing. In 1938 one of his sons, 
Johan J. Smit, organised celebrations to mark the fiftieth 
anniversary of the firm's existence. The party, attended by 

( 108 ) 


other diamond merchants from all over Europe, lasted a 
week. On the fourth day of this party one of Johan's sons, 
Piet, married a Miss Helen Reed and later wrote: c< We 
were glad to leave on our rest-cure honeymoon." 

Johan J. Smit, son of old Jan Senior, had himself taken 
sons into the business. Piet, with his bride, was sent to New 
York in August 1939. Jan Junior had been sent to London 
and another son, who had been managing the Antwerp 
branch, was called up for service in the Dutch army. 

Inheriting the firm from old Jan, Johan J. Smit had al- 
ready proved himself a man of deep convictions. At the 
age of twenty he had gone to South Africa to try his hand 
out there at commerce, and war had broken out just when 
his own affairs were turning the corner for the better. He 
saw it clearly as a war of aggression on the part of the 
British and did not hesitate to enlist as a volunteer in the 
Boer army. "What I saw at Ladysmith/* he was to say many 
years later, "made me a pacifist for life. I was only the 
operator of a searchlight, not a fighting man even then, but 
when I saw the vultures at the corpses, when I witnessed 
what dumdum bullets could do to a man's flesh, then I 
knew that war was wrong.** 

Nothing ever shook his conviction that war would even- 
tually be eliminated. **It is predestination!" he would argue 
even if this required that individuals everywhere worked 
for better conditions and in a spirit of harmony not always 
evident in what went on around him. 

His passionate loathing of war remained with him all 
his life. As a neutral in the 1914r-18 war he communicated 
with the belligerents (after Verdun) offering his services 
as a negotiator, without effect, just as he later (after the 

( 109 ) 


occupation of Holland in 1940) was to cable Roosevelt a 
personal appeal for intervention as peacemaker between 
England and Germany in the name of liis own 'Nether- 
lands Committee for the Calling of a Peace Conference at 
The Hague.* In 1937 and 1938 he had written to Hitler: 
once offering to act as intermediary for the solving of the 
Fuehrer's colonial and raw materials problem, and again on 
behalf of his (Johan's) children's organisations. To the sec- 
ond letter, in which Johan had given a report on education 
called The Key to the Heart of the Child/ he surprisingly 
received a polite personal answer beginning Hochver- 
ehrter Hen Smit, and this letter, though quite useless at the 
time, was to prove of considerable value a few years later. 

In 1939 Johan Smit went to Berlin demanding to know 
what were Germany's intentions, and there he was sent for 
by von Ribbentrop. But this persistent Dutchman was now 
best known as a leader of youth movements and in Berlin 
he was shown a new system under which children up to the 
age of eighteen became the entire responsibility of the 
State. Later there came a second invitation to meet the 
Foreign Minister but, in the meanwhile, Germany had 
concluded the pact with Russia. From this moment it was 
clear to Johan Smit that all hope of peace had vanished. 

There were many immediate precautions to be taken. 
The firm bought up all available industrial diamonds with 
the intention of sending them to America for safe keeping. 
The British authorities were advised to do the same. 

Much as he detested war, Johan was by now in touch 
with various departments in London. Through a section of 
the Board of Trade he joined the Diamond Protection 

( HO ) 


Committee and became an adviser to London on the move- 
ment of industrial diamonds, helping to prevent direct or 
indirect supply of this vital war material to Germany. To 
other departments more closely connected with the War 
Office he was able to supply information on the German 
aircraft industry. 

As war grew nearer he sent some of his best experts to 
Britain. According to his own account Belgian and Dutch 
diamond organisations had refused to do this on the 
grounds that such a move would clash with the interests of 
local industries. An attempt to send out cutting machines 
failed: "in view of the attitude of the trade unions, the 
Dutch authorities did not give permission for their export." 

When Poland was invaded he wrote to the German Am- 
bassador at The Hague. The answer still lay in a drawer of 
his desk when German aircraft began their bombing of 
Holland in May 1940. The letter ran: "In reply to your 
letter of September 18th of this year, I have been instructed 
to inform you that the German Government, as a matter of 
principle, welcomes all efforts tending to spare the civilian 
population from the sufferings of war." 

And now it was Whit Monday, 1940. For three days the 
Germans had bombed Holland, and German armies were 
lumbering through the Dutch defences. He sat at his desk, 
with his back to the window: an elderly man now, with grey 
hair, who looked up at visitors over a pair of small-lensed 
oval spectacles. 

The heavy door opened. 

"Good morning, father," said Jan. **You re looking very 



Johan Smit betrayed no emotion beyond a faint surprise. 
He rose, well over medium height, dressed carefully and 
quietly in a brown suit, looking lean beside the vast figure 
of his eldest son. 

"Good morning, Jan," he said. "What brings you here? 
You did not tell me you were coming." 

They shook hands as if they were business acquaintances 
and Jan introduced his companions. The office was a long 
room with tall six-foot safes along the left wall as the 
visitors came in. One of the safes was open. 

"Do you see this kitbag, father? It has been lent me by 
the British Navy. To tell you the truth we have come over 
here to fill the kitbag with diamonds, all the diamonds we 
can find, and then return to London straight away, to- 

If Jan had expected to alarm or astonish his father, he 
failed. The old man smiled, waved the three of them to 
chairs, and sat down again at his desk. 

"You are a little late, Jan. I sent the best ones to England 
last night. Let me get you all some coffee." He pressed a 
bell on his desk. 

"I think you ought to know," he said and he had not 
even bothered to enquire how they had reached Amster- 
dam "that I had stocks of a hundred and forty-five thou- 
sand carats of industrial diamonds here in the town. 
Imagine that, gentlemen, and how much the German war 
machine would have coveted it as booty! I had been in con- 
tact with the British Consul at The Hague and he it was 
who advised me to get the diamonds away. I rang him up, 
of course, on Friday, the day of the invasion. After obtain- 
ing official permission from our own Dutch authorities I 


Smoke rises from the ruins of 
houses in a street near Schipol, 
May 12, 1940. 

At Whitsun, 1940, everyone 
in Holland had confidence in 
flooded dykes. 

The huge Batavia-Shell dumps 
in Amsterdam were still burn- 
ing when the first enemy mech- 
anised units rolled into the city. 

The office of J. K. Smit & Zonen, Sarpha- 
tistraat, Amsterdam, outside which 
Anna kept vigil in her Chevrolet during 
Whit-Monday, 1940. 

Johan K. Smit: "a man of deep convic- 

Jan Kors Smit: "in business he was ar 
expert among experts." 


made a lot of packets. I made these packets myself. Then 
the army gave me an escort and the British told me which 
ship I should go to, at Ymuiden. I told the maid in my 
house that I wanted my revolver and do you know what 
the silly girl did? She rushed to the kitchen! Did you ever 
hear of such a thing! Ah, here is some coffee!" 

Walter and the Major gazed curiously at this almost be- 
nign figure, with his slow unhurried speech. 

"Well," Johan continued, *1 got my car out and at first 
my wife didn't want me to go to Ymuiden alone. You know 
what your mother's like, Jan. I drive very fast, gentlemen, 
I may tell you. Also she was rather worried about the para- 
chutist scare the Germans seem to have dropped quite a 
number. Anyway, there it was, I drove down in convoy 
like a good boy but at Velsen I got tired of it all and went 
straight to Ymuiden myself. That was last night, Sunday 
night. The road was jammed and it wasn't easy to go fast 
but I made good time. Some silly people tried to stop me 
but I just fired a few shots with my revolver out of the 
window in the air, and kept going. I was in Ymuiden 
harbour by about midnight, I suppose. Last night, as I 

Johan began to fumble in his desk, looking for a docu- 

"Ah! Here we are! ... Well, finding that British ship 
in the docks at midnight was no joke. Total blackout, of 
course, and people kept challenging me. I suppose they 
had to. It took a long time to locate the ship. None of the 
people on the quaysides seemed to have heard of her or 
know where she was and some even thought she had sailed. 
However, I had quite a bit of fun and found her in the end. 

(US ) 


So I took my best industrials aboard and gave them to a 
Captain Green who kindly signed two bits of paper ac- 
knowledging receipt. Very nice of him, I thought. Here 
they are, here are the receipts .* He waved two flimsy pieces 
of ordinary paper. "My best industrials, twenty thousand 
carats, most of the cream of them anyway, are probably in 
England at this very minute. It was a nasty business get- 
ting back, though. Too much panic everywhere. But I 
made it all right, as you see. I got back at three o'clock 
this morning." 

Jan is right, thought Walter: the old man is spruce. How 
on earth does he do it? 

"I think youVe done very well, father/' Jan said, in the 
tone of a schoolmaster commending a pupil, "but you 
aren't going to tell me there aren't plenty more diamonds 
tucked away in Amsterdam. In the first place what about 
the rest of your own stocks?" 

1 shall hand them over to you without reservation. Last 
night's batch is addressed to you, in any case: to you and 
the British Government.'* 

"Well, that's a start, anyway. By the way, father, this 
isn't just a British raid. Have a look at this paper." He 
handed over the Dutch Legation laissez-passer. 

"Ah, I see," said Johan. 'That's a good thing, that 
Holland and Britain are working together. It would have 
been bad manners to have come without informing the 
Netherlands authorities in London. Well now, let's see." 
He put his hands together and laid them on the desk in 
front of him. "There must be considerable stocks, but how 
are we to get at them? Some of them are in safes at the 


Amsterdamsche Bank and others in private vaults and 
offices. There are a lot of foreign bonds that you ought to 
get at the Nationale Handelsonderneming. But there are., 
as I see it, three major difficulties. First, this is Whit Mon- 
day, a holiday. All firms and Banks are almost certainly 
closed. Even the tourist boats are not running in the canals. 
Secondly, the time element. I take it, if you wish to return 
to England quickly, that you have only a few hours. 
Thirdly, and this I fear is of some importance, many of the 
merchants, as we all know, are Jews; and much as they fear 
Hitler they are not hopeful of Britain winning the war. It's 
hard to see why they should be, yet, on paper it has just 
been victory, victory, victory so far for the German army. I 
cannot therefore see the Jews eagerly entrusting their 
stocks to London for safe keeping. I know them well. I 
have worked with them and against them for years. I like 
them, but it will not be easy." 

"Father, what do you propose we do?" 

"First, I dare say you would like some more coffee. You 
have made me feel quite young again. Then you and I, 
Jan, should go to the Diamond Bourse and see if anyone 
is about. I suspect that the merchants may not care to meet 
me in a body. You know what they're like; it's a cagey 
business at the best of times. But at least we could go there 
and beat some jungle drums. We must at least do some- 
thing, quickly. And you must find time to see your mother, 
of course. She will be dreadfully hurt if you don't.** 

The bombing of Schipol seemed to be continuous. With 
short pauses it continued through their talk, and when it 
became heavy Walter closed his eyes. At this type of work 

( US) 


he had presumed that one ignored one's mother and car- 
ried on with the operation; but his mother was somewhere 
in Amsterdam and she was impossible to forget. He ran a 
finger gently over the scar. He had always imagined him- 
self too civilised to feel hatred, but now he could feel stab- 
bing pains of hatred running through mind and even body: 
hatred for the impersonal young men in the blue sky. It 
wasn't their fault, of course: they had been trained to this: 
they were professionals putting training into practice. In a 
detached way he could accept that Schipol was a military 
objective and it wasn't anyone's fault that so many little 
ordinary houses had been built in its neighbourhood. All 
the same, all the same. . . . 

"I feel very much better," said Jan, slapping his stomach. 
"Veiy much better indeed. I am prepared to argue with 
any merchant who refuses me his paltry store of diamonds/* 
He poured himself a glass of Bok and threw it down his 

"Let's start," he said. 

"You and your father will tackle the Diamond Bourse, I 
take it," said the Major. *ln that case Keyser and I had 
better handle the Nationale Handekondenieming." 

"The car and Anna are all yours," said Jan. "The Dia- 
mond Bourse is just around the corner from here. My father 
and I will storm it on foot, poor bloody infantry. You and 
Walter must be mechanised." 

"Wait a minute," said Johan. "I must give some orders." 
He pressed the button on his desk again and a small fair 
girl slipped into the room. / 

"Mientje, my dear, you have been crying. It serves no 

( 116 ) 


purpose. Now I have something for you to do. Get young 
Leyden, and between the two of you see that all remain- 
ing industrials, in fact, all remaining stocks, are put in 
packages and properly numbered. Make out a list of the 
packages, label them, and have them in their right order. 
No mistakes now, this is very important. We are doing this 
so that the Germans never capture them, so what you do 
now is important not only for the firm but for Holland. And 
one other thing/' said Johan, "which is important, too. 
Either before or after the packaging tell my housekeeper 
to prepare a full meal for four next door. A proper meal 
with lots of wine. Have it ready so that we can eat it at any 
time, probably during the afternoon. Lay five places, so that 
Mrs. Smit can join us. Is that quite clear? Are you sure?" 

The girl bowed and ran from the room. Johan shook his 
head. "This is not an easy day to get things done." 

The Major turned to Jan. "YouTI come back here, I take 
it, when youVe been to the Bourse?" 

"Yes, of course." 

"Right then. Keyser and I will take the car and see what 
we can pick up in town. Just in case we all have to sep- 
arate, let's make a rendezvous here for, say, five o'clock. 
That gives us a bit of a margin before we have to start back 
to Ymuiden." 

"Fine," said Jan. 

The four of them went down the steep stairs together, 
out into Sarphatistraat Jan, who was leading the way, 
stopped dead. 

"Oh, God!" 

"What's the matter?" 

( 117 ) 


"Our car!" 

The broad road was empty. 

"I warned you/* said Johan, shaking his head, "that this 
was going to be a difficult day to get tilings done.'* 

( H8) 



JAN SCRATCHED his head. "It's curious about that girl," 
he said. '1 had decided to trust her. I think she may come 

The four men were standing on the pavement outside 
the Smit & Zonen offices. It was now a little after half-past 
eight. The Major took the initiative and told Jan and his 
father to carry on with their visit to the Diamond Bourse: 
he and Walter would give the girl fifteen minutes, then 
find their own way to the Nationale Handelsonderneming 
and, if necessary, requisition a vehicle in town. 

Johan and his son crossed the road, veering to the left, 
then took the first turning to the right off Sarphatistraat. A 
hundred yards in front of them loomed the famous Dia- 
mant-Beurs, a building in peculiar taste designed, you 
would have thought, by a committee of eccentrics holding 
divergent views on architecture. Its ground floor was almost 
an obscenity, constructed of orange-coloured brick, and 
the entrance to the building looked like that of a post office 



out of its mind. A few feet from the ground were vast and 
imposing windows, presumably to allow plenty of light on 
what went on inside. As the eye followed the contours of 
the building upwards, one gathered the impression that 
the committee of eccentrics had begun to sober up. Its 
upper stories were perfectly reasonable and could offend 

Johan Smit greeted the porter and asked whether any- 
body was in. The porter gave a list of names and Johan 
grunted with satisfaction. Jan followed his father into a 
large room on the ground floor, furnished with deep leather 
armchairs and not unlike a London club. A small group of 
men, in dark business suits, was huddled round the fire- 

"Good morning, gentlemen," said Johan. "We have some 
urgent business to discuss." He was anxious not to waste 
time or be drawn into long military evaluations. He shook 
hands with a number of them and was delighted to find 
that several of the Board were present: there was old 
Benjamin Soep of the Achtergracht office, beside Tn'm stood 
Mr. Spier and, over by the window, was Joseph Asscher 
representing his father's big firm in the Tolstraat. Johan 
looked round for, but could not see, Mr. Hakker, a mer- 
chant whom he knew to hold very considerable stocks. 
Standing alone was the tiny figure of another important 
trader whom Johan and his son knew by the nickname of 
Jehovah; and in a separate bunch were other merchants, 
including members of the Board. 

There were gasps of astonishment when Jan was recog- 



"My son came over this morning from England," said 
Johan, "at the request of Mr. Churchill and the War 
Office and with the concurrence of the Netherlands Lega- 
tion in London. There is naturally anxiety over there lest 
our stocks of diamonds, particularly the industrial dia- 
monds, fall into enemy hands. We have a few hours in 
which to make up our minds whether we send our stocks 
to London for safe keeping via Jan, send them overland to 
Paris or Switzerland, if that's possible, or keep them here." 

There was a long silence, followed by a barrage of ques- 
tions. Johan Smit held up his hand. "What I suggest is that 
we gather all the Board if possible and hold a meeting at 
noon," he said, "This is a matter of the gravest importance 
and the greatest urgency. If any of you should want to see 
my son's laissez-passer from the Netherlands Legation you 
are, of course, entitled to do so.'* 

The merchants raised their hands in protest. 

"How is your son proposing to return to England? Has 
he got an aeroplane?" asked Jehovah. His quiet, silky voice 
did not sound co-operative. 

"He has a destroyer," said Johan. "Mr, Churcbill has 
given friTn a destroyer." 

This statement had considerable effect. Churchill had 
barely become Prime Minister and it seemed remarkable 
that with all western Europe now aflame the new Premier 
should have found time to send a destroyer for their stocks, 

Johan Smit could sense a certain wavering. "As far as I 
am concerned," he told them, "there has been no difficulty 
about a decision. I sent the cream of my industrial dia- 
monds to England last night and intend to hand over the 

(121 ) 


rest this afternoon to Jan. We cannot of course be certain 
that the Germans will sweep through to Amsterdam and 
occupy the city, but to me it is plain that there must not 
be even a chance of letting our stocks fall into their hands. 
Now I think we should start at once trying to get the full 
Board together. What do you think?" 

"Agreed," said Spier. *Where are Cardozo, Hakker and 
the others?" 

Jan had taken no part in the conversation and followed it 
with only a part of his mind. He was worried about Anna. 
Could he be certain she was completely trustworthy? If she 
was not, their presence in Amsterdam and the purpose of 
their mission would now be known to the enemy forces and 
fifth columnists in the town. Did the facts add up? Fact 
number one: she seemed about to commit suicide when 
they had found her. Fact number two; she is engaged to 
be married, or says she is, to a soldier at the front. Fact 
number three: she is intelligent. Fact number four: Hol- 
land is full of spies. Fact number five: she knows what we 
are up to. If three, four and five are to be accepted, the 
mission is as good as finished. Traitors in Dutch uniform 
could easily surround the Smit office building in Sarphati- 
straat. On the other hand, surely no one of Jewish blood 
would work for the Germans: it seemed impossible. Un- 
less, perhaps, you were a lovely girl and required protec- 
tion. She had refused to give them her surname. But surely, 
again, no agent would want to commit suicide now, on the 
eve of triumph: unless, of course, a wave of conscience 
about the betrayal had come after the blowing up of the 
trawler. The sinking of the trawler had had nothing to do 

( 122 ) 


with her, and could not possibly have been engineered by 
her, but the emotional impact of the sight of it coupled 
with a sense of betrayal . . , He felt his mind going round 
in circles. 

It took time to convene the Board meeting. The mer- 
chants moved round in groups, speaking too low for Jan to 
overhear what was being said. There was the occasional 
roar of planes overhead but no bombing: the aircraft 
might contain parachutists or be carrying mines to the 
coast. Jan's unrelenting companion, his prodigious thirst, 
began to nag at him. It would be impossible to quench it 
here, he supposed, at least for the moment. 

It was twelve o'clock before the Board had been gathered 
together. There had been no time to inform the general 
membership of the Bourse. Mr. Landau was in Antwerp 
and it had been impossible to contact Cardozo. The men 
moved into the Board Room which had large windows 
facing inward to the main business hall, now practically 

Mr. I. L. Themans, an alternate director, was in the 
chair. As this was an emergency meeting, no official record 
was kept. 

Johan put his plea again. One could not put too much 
faith in the complacent official communiques from the 
front. Maastricht and other towns had fallen. It was prob- 
able that the O.K.W., the German High Command, was 
not lying when it claimed that German troops in the 
north had occupied Groningen, reaching Harlingen and 
the east coast of the Zuider Zee. The Grebbe Line from 
Amerspoort to the Rhine, and the Peel Line farther south, 

(123 ) 


had both been breached. All Luxembourg was in German 
hands. The Belgians had admitted enemy crossings of the 
northern part of the Albert Canal. 

It was now highly unlikely, he explained, that the Ger- 
man advance through Holland could be held. Although it 
was not yet official there was good reason to believe that 
the enemy had reached the Moerdyk Bridge and crossed 
the Hollandsche Diep. The Moerdyk Bridge, as they well 
knew, was the principal link between north and south 
Holland and if the Germans had crossed the Hollandsche 
Diep, then they held the whole of the mouth of the Maas. 
It was not a pretty picture. 

He was not prepared to estimate the exact commercial 
value of the diamond stocks held by members of the Bourse 
but their value to the German war potential was obviously 
prodigious. A heavy responsibility lay in their hands, a 
responsibility to their country now at war with an im- 
placable and ruthless enemy, a responsibility to their 
children and the future. 

But they were also business men. As business men they 
must consider the ultimate safety of their stocks. For him- 
self, he repeated, the decision had offered no difficulties 
and he had not hesitated for a moment. But every man was 
entitled to his own point of view. 

Jan watched his father with respect He could sense that 
not all the members had been won over but he was confi- 
dent that Spier and Soep shared his father's view and it 
was probable that Hakker's diamonds, too, would be en- 
trusted to him. They had not been sent here to get only a 
fraction of the total stocks: they had been sent here to deal 

( 124) 


a real blow to Germany. Joseph Asscher, representing liis 
father, still seemed to be in two minds; and Jehovah, not 
for the first time, was going to prove a problem child. 

When Johan had finished, a voice from the end of the 
table asked: "What about insurance? If we give our dia- 
monds to your son to take to London, how will they be 
covered? Even in a destroyer this is a risky journey. The 
Luftwaffe is in command of the skies." 

Johan flushed. Staring grimly down the table he said: 
"I have not insured my son, and a man's son is more im- 
portant to him than his business stocks." 

There was a silence before discussion became general 
Could stocks not be sent overland, through Brussels, to 
Paris? Even if Holland and Belgium were overrun it was 
ludicrous to imagine that the Maginot Line would be 
broken. At the very worst there would be a delay while 
the Germans re-grouped their forces for the full attack on 
France. What was the point in being defeatist? 

Mr. Spier was the first to come over frankly on Johan s 
side. "I shall visit you this afternoon," he said, "and I shall 
bring my stocks with me." There were some murmurs of 

The meeting lasted more than an hour. At the end of it 
Johan suggested that those who wished to do so should 
follow Spier's example. He would be available in his office 
for the rest of the day. 

"There is one important point not yet resolved," the 
chairman pointed out. "Some members have their stocks 
in the vaults of the Amsterdainsche Bank. This is Whit 
Monday. I am under the impression that on holidays such 

( 125 ) 


as this the vaults will be under time-lock until tomorrow. 
In other words there is no way of getting at them today ." 

Johan, his temper getting short, flared up again: "This 
is no time for the niceties/' he said. "Dynamite can be 
used to force the safes in the Bank." 

There was another silence and a little later the meeting 
broke up. ,/ ;> :, #' 

On their way back Johan said to Jan: "Your chances are 
fifty-fifty. Several of the Board did not want to commit 
themselves publicly and I don't think the day is lost yet. 
I look forward to an interesting afternoon. It is the Jewish 
members who are in the worst predicament and I don't 
envy them. Their lot will be hard enough under occupation 
in any case, but if it's learned that they have sent their 
diamonds to Britain they can expect no mercy. Equally 
they can argue that if they keep some stocks available, 
they will come in handy to ensure lenient treatment. Dia- 
monds provide a powerful argument in any country .* 

"My Godl" said Jan. 

They had turned into the Sarphatistraat 

"What's the matter?* 

"Look! The carl" 

In front of the Smit offices stood Anna's Chevrolet. She 
signalled to them as they crossed the road and Jan 
shambled hurriedly over to her. 

'What on earth have you been up to, Anna? I thought 
you'd deserted us!" 

"That's very polite of you. I don't see anything in your 
shopping bag," she added. 

Jan leaned his bulk against the car. "Come inside at 
once," he said. 


"Thank you, but I don't like to leave the car. Cars are 
valuable things these days." 

"I'll have something sent down for you to eat. Look, take 
this revolver, it's worth having beside you." 

"It's very thoughtful of you/' said the girl, "but I'm 
armed already." 

Jan, glancing up and down the street, noticed a marked 
and disturbing change. Where previously the Sarphati- 
straat had been almost deserted there were now patrols of 
men in uniform. They were at both corners nearest to his 
father's office. Other men, in pairs and wearing civilian 
clothes, were staring ostentatiously into shop windows. 
The troops carried Tommy guns. A military truck drew up 
at the corner of the street leading down to the Diamond 
Bourse and a dozen more soldiers jumped wearily out of 
the back, deploying at once, in couples, and surrounding 
the hideous building from which he and Johan had just 
come. The truck reversed into the Sarphatistraat and then 
parked beneath an archway leading into a courtyard. The 
driver pulled out a ration and began eating stolidly. A 
young officer, alone, strolled into a cafe opposite the Smit 
front doon 

"Why did you go away?" asked Jan, 

"That's a very rude question indeed," Anna said. "You 
ought to be old enough by now to know that a girl must 
disappear from time to time. And I did a little shopping." 
She indicated the orange rose in the dashboard. 

Jan gave a gesture of exasperation. "What about my two 
friends? Have you seen them?" 

"Oh, yes, they're all right In fact, they're in your office T 


( 127) 


While Johan fumbled with the key of the outer door, 
Jan looked back at the girl in the car. Her hands, both 
gloved, rested on the steering wheel- She seemed utterly 
detached, in some strange world of her own. 

( 128 ) 



WALTER and the Major had not had long to wait. A few 
minutes after Johan and Jan had turned the corner to visit 
the Diamond Bourse, the Chevrolet had drawn up outside 
the Smit building. Anna had apologised and the apology 
had been accepted in silence. Neither of the two men had 
asked her what she had been doing: they had climbed 
into the car and in answer to a question from Anna the 
Major had replied: 'Vyzelstraat, please. Do you know the 
Nationale Handelsonderneming?" Anna had nodded and 
they had driven off. 

A curious creature, thought Walter: she seems sus- 
pended in space, far away from us all in some secluded 
serenity of her own. He winced and ducked involuntarily 
as three or four shots were fired less than fifty yards from 
the car. He saw men at work trying to efface strange signs 
and arrows that had appeared on various buildings code 
messages, obviously, for fifth columnists or guidance for 
parachutists. If I survive this day, he thought, I shall 
remember it not by the bombing, not even so much by our 
success or failure, but by her perfume. If I get back to 



England, lily-of-the-valley will always bring back this day 
to me: it is an element of the unreality, this pleasant per- 
fume in the midst of total war. Jan's bulk, the Major's cool 
precision, vengeance stalking the sunny streets, the bomb- 
ing of Schipol, the piled-up dead at Ymuiden with the 
young, blank faces staring outward, the lorries loaded up 
with families, the unending chatter of the radios, the 
dazed, bewildered looks on the faces of the soldiers all 
these were tangible enough, yet he felt they would soon 
glide gently from his memory or at most become compo- 
nents of a general confusion. It was because they were so 
real that they would remain unremembered. But this girl's 
remoteness, her dark head with its unknown thoughts 
these and the perfume would never leave him. He did not 
know what he had expected to find in Amsterdam, other 
than war: but he had certainly not expected this. The girl 
had aroused no physical feeling in him unless you counted 
pity as being physical. There was no question of being 
plagued by desire. Nevertheless she had left an impression, 
deep and hard to define, which was putting its mark on the 
whole fantastic day. 

Fighting in the streets seemed to have increased but it 
was always isolated. They passed a house surrounded by 
troops, the soldiers hiding in doorways or prone in the 
road, firing at its upper windows. The main canals looked 
empty without their usual tourist launches which would 
normally today be packed with holiday-makers; but there 
were also caf6s which showed no sign of war, where 
people were drinking and gossiping in quiet groups as if 
there were nothing untoward; and only a second glance 
confirmed that among these groups were no young men. 

(130 ) 


To their surprise there were no troops, no sign of a 
guard, outside the Handelsonderneming, an ugly dark 
grey, almost black, stone building with what seemed like 
prison bars across all the ground floor windows. 

"It looks rather shut/* said Walter. 

"Don't you believe it," said the Major. "Follow me." He 
drew his revolver and Walter followed suit. The wide street 
was at this point almost deserted. 

They rang a bell and the main door was cautiously 
opened a few inches. 

"Who are you, what do you want?" asked the door- 
keeper. "Nobody not connected with the building is al- 
lowed in here today." 

"Why notr 

"There is a special Board meeting upstairs but no other 
business is being conducted. This is a holiday, where do 
you come from, are you mad?" 

He had begun to back away at the sight of the revolvers. 
"It's no good giving the alarm," said Walter, "we shall 
introduce ourselves to the Board without your help. As I 
remember it the Board room is on the second floor." 

"First floor." 

"Thank you," said the Major. He led the way up the 

"How do we go about this?" Walter asked as he followed. 

"We just go ahead with our business," said the Major. 

They had a little difficulty in locating the room but were 
led to it by the hum of voices. 

"Ready?" asked the Major. Walter nodded. 

Each with his revolver at the ready they burst into the 
room. The air inside was thick with mingled cigar and 

(131 ) 


cigarette smoke. At a long oak table sat eight men, all 
elderly, who turned round sharply at the intrusion. From 
three of the walls former chairmen and directors, high- 
collared and white haired, gazed from their portraits with 
apparent disapproval. The table was littered with papers 
and on the farther side of the room all four tall windows 
were tightly closed. 

Amsterdam for the moment seemed silent and it was 
hard to believe in the reality of events outside the building. 
The Major left the talking to Walter. 

"Good morning, gentlemen/* he said. "I hope you will 
excuse the manner and the abruptness of our visit." 

The man at the head of the table, tall and lean with a 
brilliantly red face, snapped out: "Who are you? You have 
no right to be here. Why do you carry guns?" 

"In the first place we are not Germans and we are not 
fifth columnists. On the other hand, circumstances force 
us to be a nuisance to you. We crossed from England last 
night and the purpose of the mission is to deny to the Ger- 
man army various commodities that might be of value to 
them. Such commodities would include foreign bonds and 
other valuables. We hope to return to England this evening. 
In London everything will be stored safely until the war 
has been won when, of course, it will be restored to its 
owners in Holland. I should add that our mission enjoys 
the highest priority from His Majesty's Government and is 
being executed with the co-operation of the Netherlands 
Legation in London. You might care to glance at this 

Walter, feeling a little pompous and not altogether com- 
fortable with the unaccustomed revolver in his hand, 

( 132 ) 


placed the laissez-passer on the table in front of the chair- 

The chairman read the document and passed it to his 
neighbour. It was then circulated in silence. 

When all the Board had read it the chairman looked up 
and said to Walter and the Major: "Well, gentlemen, I 
really do not see why you should feel constrained to bran- 
dish firearms. Why don t you sit down?" 

"We are in a hurry and we are on very serious business," 
Walter explained. "There is no time to waste, and quite 
bluntly we are asking you to hand us now whatever you 
have available for despatch to the U.K. 7 * 

"In that case, my dear sirs, it is our turn to apologise. 
The truth of the matter is and here the Board will con- 
firm what I have to say that we have already, so to 
speak, taken time by the forelock. The news from the front 
is very conflicting but one must, you understand, be pre- 
pared for the worst as well as the best." 

The chairman put his arguments quietly, cogently and 
with unruffled good manners. It was true that the building 
had contained a large number of foreign bonds and other 
certificates which should neither be destroyed nor allowed 
to fall into enemy hands. It was for this reason that an 
emergency meeting of the Board had been held to assess 
the situation and to take appropriate action. He looked out 
of the window for a moment. 

"What did you dor asked Walter. "Time is limited." 

The chairman patiently explained that urgency had been 
their own driving motive. Although they were not them- 
selves military men, they had had to diagnose the new 
prospects of the war. The possibility of Amsterdam being 

(133 ) 


occupied had to be faced and in such circumstances they 
had certain responsibilities as Dutchmen as well as business 
men. There had been, he explained, considerable discus- 
sion: divergences of view on the respective merits of Lon- 
don, Brussels and Paris as safe destinations for the bonds. 
Even before the meeting had begun, arrangements had 
been made for packaging, so that there should be only a 
minimum delay once a firm decision had been taken. 

The Major seemed about to interrupt but changed his 
mind. "Did you in fact make arrangements to send the 
goods to London?" Walter asked. 

"In fact, no," said the chairman. They had had to do what 
they thought best for Holland; and apart from the grave 
danger of London soon becoming the victim of very heavy 
bombardment from the air there had been no reasonable 
method known to them of despatching the goods there. The 
decision had finally been to send them to Paris, which was 
most unlikely to be bombed and more practical in every 
way as an immediate destination. The bonds, documents 
and anything else that could help the German war machine 
were, to tell the truth, already on their way to the French 

The cigar smoke eddied about the room. With its win- 
dows closed it had become hot and stuffy but in no sense 
relaxed. Even here, in comfort and silence, there was the 
taut sense of crisis, of decisions that would affect everyone 
present for years to come. Walter felt that there was some- 
thing vital and important that he ought to say but the 
impasse was complete. 

"It's most unfortunate," said the chairman quietly, "that 
you did not visit us yesterday." 

( 134) 


Walter bit his lip and made no effort to disguise his sense 
of frustration. He glanced at Dillon, who shrugged his 
shoulders. There was nothing more to be done. It was not 
even possible to reproach the Board. They had realised the 
gravity of the situation; they had met, and they had acted. 
If in fact action had been taken yesterday, and in the light 
of yesterday's optimistic High Command communiques 
from the French and Belgian fronts on Saturday's fighting, 
it could be argued that they had acted not only swiftly but 
wisely. Indeed swiftly, wisely and patriotically. One could 
only hope that Paris would not fall and their confidence 
in France prove justified. Walter and the Major could at 
least report to London that the bonds had left Amsterdam 
and warning could then, if necessary, be passed to Paris. 

The Major was pocketing his revolver. Walter forced a 
smile and said to the meeting: "We must apologise again 
for encroaching on your time. It is good news that you have 
got everything away, and we shall tell London what you 
have decided and what you did. At least you have made 
sure that the Germans find nothing in your vaults." 

As he left the room with the Major, Walter tried to 
analyse his own illogical annoyance. He knew he was being 
childish: he wanted to have the goods so that he could 
take them back to London. Looked at objectively his own 
voyage still remained so hazardous that the consignments 
were probably in far safer hands moving across the conti- 
nent by road. He could not even logically attach the slight- 
est blame to the directors of the concern who had wasted no 
time and whose motives had conformed to the highest 
patriotism. If anyone had behaved badly, it was he and 
the Major bouncing in like a couple of schoolboys with 



their pistols cocked. What was this mission doing to him? 
Was it turning him so soon into a cowboy? 

The Major seemed unperturbed. 

"A nuisance, that," he said. "We'd better get back, there's 
more to do. We can't blame 'em." 

"That's what annoys me," said Walter frankly. "Unless 
we do better with the diamonds the whole mission will 
have been a flop." 

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," said the Major quietly. 

Walter bit his lip again. In his own preoccupations it was 
so easy to forget that the Major was involved in various 
affairs quite independent of the others. He had not even 
enquired what they were. They drove back in silence to 

( 136 ) 



ANNA refused to enter the Sarphatistraat house. Nothing 
would induce her, she explained, to leave the Chevrolet. 
Walter and the Major went in together. Johan and Jan were 
still away, presumably at the Diamond Bourse, but they 
were greeted by Mrs. Smit, a large kindly soul brimming 
over with goodwill. She prepared rodkvlees sandwiches 
and coffee, apparently as unperturbed by events as she 
was oblivious to danger. Many of her anxieties, now that 
Johan had safely returned from what she considered a 
risky journey to Ymuiden the night before, were centered 
on her son Jan; but she was careful not to show her feelings. 
When the two Smits, father and son, returned from the 
Bourse, Johan explained the position. He was hopeful, but 
nothing had been definitely decided at the meeting of the 
Board. His own task would now be mainly to await devel- 
opments and make certain phone calls if the lines were 
still open. While there had been no sign of immediate or 
unanimous desire to entrust the diamond stocks to Jan, he 
had confidence in the patriotism and common sense of the 
majority of the merchants. The hardest decision, of course, 

( 137) 


faced those of them who were Jews and the Jews con- 
stituted the great majority. He had been able to put his 
case clearly enough in the Board Room and if there had 
been no assent, neither had there been serious opposition. 
One must remember that these were hard-headed business 
men who would have to weigh the pros and cons thoroughly 
short as the time was before coming down on one side 
or the other. 

Jan poured himself a drink and wolfed some sandwiches. 

One of the more important obstacles to success, Johan 
explained further, was the Amsterdamsche Bank with its 
vaults under timelock until tomorrow morning, the Tues- 
day. This was an old custom of the Bank at holiday week- 
ends and under normal circumstances a reasonable pre- 
caution. He must now attempt to contact directors of the 
Bank in their homes. He had already tried to ring the Bank, 
without success: although it was technically closed it was 
just possible that some members of the Board were there, 
with no one at the switchboard. The Diamond Bourse had 
been technically closed, too, yet by no means deserted. 
This would have to be gone into. 

Jan and Walter, who had been roaming the house talking 
about old times and now listening to Johan, switched to 
the possibility of a quick raid on the Bank. This was no 
time to be squeamish and there was at least an hour or two 
to spare, perhaps longer, before the merchants could be 
expected to start arriving at the Smit offices. The bombing 
seemed to have decreased again and Dillon had his own 
affairs to settle. 

"If we draw a blank at the Bank we might have time for 
a quick call on my mother,'' Walter said, half apologetically. 

( 138 ) 


He still did not know whether it was quite the thing to 
mix business with pleasure on such occasions and was care- 
ful not to make the remark in front of Dillon. He merely ex- 
plained that he and Jan \vould try the Bank unless he 
(Dillon) required the car. The Major said he did not re- 
quire it. They agreed again that the three of them should 
meet at Sarphatistraat in the afternoon with a tentative 
deadline of five p.m. for departure. If there were unavoid- 
able delays, they could start their journey back to Ymuiden 
even later; but allowance would have to be made for 
trouble on the road or at Ymuiden itself. 

After they had gone Johan Smit sat at his desk, his eyes 
half closed as he polished his rimless oval spectacles with 
a slow methodical movement: the forefinger remained still 
and the thumb, pressing lightly on the special leather, 
snailed its way round the glass for minutes on end. It was 
not so much a cleansing operation as a caress. The May 
breeze, coming in through the window behind him, 
cavorted gently with the greying, almost white, hairs. To 
his right as he sat were the tall safes, their doors now open 
and patently empty. On his desk everything was in order; 
the correspondence trays in military alignment, pens and 
pencils spraying out from the small silver jar and the 
cigar box at an exact diagonal to the corner of an un- 
blemished green pad of blotting paper. To all outward ap- 
pearances he was a relaxed elderly gentleman with little 
on his mind and with no reason in the world to be on the 
alert against instant danger. His appearance belied the 

With the exception of a certain amount of Brazilian 
and river diamonds moving in their own markets, London 

( 139) 


had for a long time been the world distributing centre for 
diamonds in the rough, while Amsterdam and Antwerp had 
become the twin centres of the diamond manufacturing in- 
dustry. Throughout 1939, but particularly after the Ger- 
man invasion of Poland in September and the declaration 
of war, diamonds had left London in large quantities for 
manufacture in the Low Countries. In order to prevent as 
many as possible of these diamonds from reaching enemy 
hands, Protection Committees, supervised from London 
by the Board of Trade, had been formed in both the cities 
mainly involved (Antwerp and Amsterdam) to try and 
control the manufacturers. J. K, Smit & Zonen, a firm which 
for fifty years had played a leading r61e in the diamond 
world, had not hesitated to join the Amsterdam Protection 
Committee (the Amsterdamsche Comite ter Bescherming 
van den Diamanthandel) working in close co-operation 
with Britain's Ministry of Economic Warfare. 

In the world of diamonds full-scale economic warfare 
between the belligerents had raged for quite ten months 
before the physical invasion of Holland. Germany, a nation 
short of diamonds, had offered prices far in excess of nor- 
mal market prices in order to tempt continental dealers 
and manufacturers. Britain too, whenever the opportunity 
offered, bought up diamonds at almost any price if only to 
deny them to the German war machine. Merchants in 
Holland and Belgium who traded with Germany had been 
put on a Black List but, so long as both nations remained 
neutral, no serious action could be taken. All that could be 
done was to prevent such dealers from obtaining diamonds 
from Britain, leaving them only the diminutive "free mar- 
ket" and warning bona fide dealers and manufacturers 



friendly to the British cause not to trade with these mer- 

Despite every precaution it was too much to hope that 
such measures could be a hundred per cent successful in 
damming the flow of diamonds to Germany. Among the 
diamonds that could be of great value to the enemy were 
the "borderline goods," cuttable diamonds of approximately 
the same value as industrial diamonds, which could be used 
for both industrial and gem purposes. For this reason 
Johan had been approached by the Diamond Advisory 
Committee (attached to the Ministry of Economic War- 
fare) and asked whether he would be prepared to manu- 
facture diamonds in England and, by sawing and cleaving, 
destroy their value for industrial purposes. Johan did not 
hesitate. Despite understandable fears on the part of some 
believers in unblemished neutrality, he was able to engage 
the necessary key men, and Britain provided immediate 
Home Office entry permits. It was thus that certain experts 
in cleaving, sawing and polishing had already slipped 
quietly from Holland to the United Kingdom. When this 
had been done Johan had bought up sawing machines 
and made an application at The Hague for an export 
licence. This permission was still pending with the saw- 
ing machines at Rotterdam ready for immediate shipment 

In other words Johan Smit, sitting there calmly enough 
at his desk in Sarphatistraat, was already in the war, by 
deed as well as by conviction. And the enemy was closing 

When the phone rang on his desk he put on his glasses, 
folded the square of leather he had used for cleaning them 
and almost in the same movement lifted the receiver. "Yes, 



yes, show him in straight away. Thank you." Although it 
was a holiday he had brought in one of his booking clerks 
to keep watch in the outer office. 

"Ah! My dear Jehovah! I had not expected to see you 
quite so soon. I thought our little rendezvous was for half 
past three. However, delighted to see you, my dear fellow! 

He pushed forward the cigar box. 

The man they called Jehovah rolled silently across the 
carpet. If rolled is not a precise description, then neither is 
writhed nor slithered. His movement defied all ordinary 
description. He moved, certainly, but did not appear to 
walk; and the movement had something of the undulating 
quality of a snake yet it was impossible to attribute snaki- 
ness to a man of five foot two with a figure like a squash 
ball. He was dressed very correctly in black which accen- 
tuated the alarming whiteness of his face, and he gave out 
the veiy feeling of softness with his diffident, apologetic 
motions. He could melt into a room, or away from one, 
without being observed; and his voice, soft, sibilant and 
slow, matched his appearance. He did not rank among the 
major merchants and his business was comparatively 
small; but he was a man of probity whose opinions were 
always greatly valued. Johan knew that he was a man well 
capable of influencing others: a shrewd little business man 
with a touch of the philosopher. Other dealers, financially 
of much greater weight, might well be waiting to know 
what Jehovah had decided before they made up their own 
minds. He accepted a cigar from Johan as if it had been 
forced on him and apologised profusely for arriving with- 
out warning. 

( 142 ) 


Johan's features remained as blank as those of his visitor. 
There was so much to gain and so little time, yet there must 
be no sign of emotion, no indication of anxious haste. Ever 
since he had left the Bourse Johan had felt that one or two 
of the merchants would come round to him privately, in 
advance of their general appointment, and now his prog- 
nosis was proving correct. 

"You have had time to consider our discussion of this 
morning?" asked Johan. 

"I have considered it,** said Jehovah, "and frankly there 
are two aspects of the plan that worry me. Firstly, there is 
the question of insurance, and secondly, one should con- 
sider the possibility of an alternative route." 

These points had already been put up at the Board 
meeting. Why had Jehovah come round to go over them 
again? Did the little man just want to talk aloud or was he 
trying out Johan on some third scheme of his own? 

Jehovah ran through a whole list of difficulties, and it 
soon became plain that the lack of insurance was the bug- 
bear. He emphasised the dangers of the North Sea, in- 
fested with German submarines, of the Luftwaffe's superi- 
ority in the air, of the folly it was for any business man to 
entrust his life's stocks on such a journey without adequate 
cover "not even," he added with a sudden smile, "ade- 
quate air cover." The whole idea was surely a little pre- 
posterous. Was it not possible, even at this late moment, to 
exact some land of guarantee from London, some assurance 
that the value of the consignments would be covered? 
What about Lloyds? What about the Diamond Trading 
Company? Surely, something could be done. 

Johan fully sympathised with Jehovah's preoccupations. 

( 143) 


As well as anyone he knew that the proposition he had 
made that morning was tinged with folly by normal busi- 
ness standards. No one in his senses would send his stocks 
on such a trip at ordinary times unless they were doubly 
insured from every angle. He did not want to repeat what 
he had said before that he had not, after all, insured his 
own son because his own personal worries were nothing 
to do with those of Jehovah. Jan was almost a red herring 
as far as the other dealers were concerned. 

Then there was the question of an alternative destina- 
tion. What about Antwerp? Or Paris, or Bordeaux? There 
might be risks of occasional strafing if the consignments 
went by road but these were nothing compared with the 
risks at sea. 

As the two men circled the various arguments it was 
plain that Jehovah was as anxious as Johan to ensure that 
the diamonds be denied to Germany. They were not fight- 
ing over principle, merely over technique. But to Johan it 
was passionately important that his son, Jan, should take 
the diamonds to London: to him that was the only proper 

"I wonder," said Jehovah, "what Asscher and Spier and 
Hakker and the others are deciding? And Arends and 

"I wonder, too. I am hoping to discuss it with them 

Jehovah uncurled himself from the armchair. The talk 
was over and they had seemed to get nowhere. As he went 
he said: "Our rendezvous still holds, Johan. But one must 
think, think, think." 

"I hope to see you later, then," said Johan, After the 


Commander H. G. Bowerman, 

H.M.S. Wdpole-'Weaxly the 
only ship in the entire Navy that 
weekend which had orders to keep 
out of trouble." 


little man had gone he felt oddly tired. He had no idea 
whether he had won or lost. 

Fifteen minutes later his phone rang again. This time it 
was Mr. Spier, and his son. Spier was a known and re- 
spected member of the Board of the Diamond Bourse, and 
this time there was no hesitation, no beating about the 
bush, no agonising arguments. Spier explained that he had 
come early because there were so many things to attend 
to: in the meantime he had withdrawn his stocks from their 
safes (which he had taken only a few days before out of 
the keeping of the Amsterdamsche Bank) and at once 
handed over the consignments. No, he did not require a re- 
ceipt. The two men discussed the situation for a while and 
Johan thanked Spier for his co-operation. 

"If others should ask me what you're doing," he said, 
"may I tell them?" 

"Of course, why not? I don't see how anyone can decide 
otherwise. 7 * 

When Spier had gone Johan looked at the neat little 
packages on his desk. At long last, at least a start! But the 
battle was far from won. There were all the other big mer- 
chants, owners of important stocks, and still no certain in- 
dication of which way they would be likely to turn. The 
phone rang again ten minutes later. They must be queuing 
up, thought Johan but queuing up to say yes or no? To 
agree or to refuse, or just to hesitate and argue? 

"Ah, Isaac! What a surprise! I didn't expect you quite so 
soon! Do sit down! A cigar?" 

No one had ever discovered Isaac Axends* age. That he 
was over seventy was obvious. The long grey hair drooped 
over the back of his collar, there were drooping lines about 

( 145) 


his eyes; his movements were hesitant and fumbling, yet 
he too in the close community of the diamond world was 
still reckoned to be a minor force. Warm though the day 
was he wore a long black overcoat almost to his ankles, 
His first question was characteristic of the man: "Tell me, 
Johan, what are the others doing?" 

Johan explained about Spier and showed the packages 
on his desk: the others he hoped to see later. As to him- 
self, he had no qualms. For the third time that day he ran 
through his arguments. He began to feel, however, that 
Isaac Arends was not following him with full attention. 

Tm worried about my wife," said Arends suddenly. 
Then the story came out. Mrs. Arends was ill. Was he 
right in understanding that the destroyer was to return to 
Britain that evening? It was all right for Johan, who was 
not a Jew, but what was going to happen to the old peo- 
ple when the Germans marched in? His wife had been 
coughing badly: he had tried to have a doctor examine her 
lungs for weeks past now. She could never survive the rig- 
ours of a Labour Camp, nor even the low rations which 
would be imposed on Jews. He personally would stay in 
Holland; there was his staff to think of. At long last the 
direct question came out: would Jan take Rachel with him 
to England on the destroyer? 

Johan explained the situation. Such a decision could 
come only from the destroyer Captain and it was almost 
certain that he would have to refuse. Warships could not 
pick up civilians, just like that; and if he accepted one, he 
would have to accept a thousand. He would talk to Jan, 
but old Isaac must hold out no hopes. He turned the con- 



versation gently to the matter of stocks and Isaac's bony 
hands began to scrabble at the leather straps of his attache 
case. When he finally got it open he pulled out several 
packages and placed them alongside those of Spier on Jo- 
han's desk. 

"There was no decision to make/* said Isaac. "At least 
not that I could see. My stocks must go to England; it's 
only right. I wish now that I had more." Johan looked at 
the old man and said nothing. After a pause he said: "111 
give you a receipt." 

"A receipt, Johan? Tve known you thirty years. Please 
don't be silly/' He began to button up his long overcoat. 
"It's my wife I'm worrying about. Tm sure they'll take her 
to England when they know the facts. It's all this cough- 
ing. You know how it is." 

Johan put an arm round Isaac's shoulder. "Look after 
yourself," he said. "I'll talk to Jan but as I've said, he him- 
self is under military orders. And when the Germans come 
in, keep in touch with me." 

"I'll ring you from the Labour Camp," said Isaac Arends. 
"That's a poor joke but it's probably the kind of joke we 
shall have to learn to practise. Goodbye for now. Don't for- 
get about my wife, it's so dreadfully important. I must go 
home now and tell her to pack. . . . Just the one suitcase, 
I presume, not more than one suitcase." 

After the old man had gone Johan walked wearily back 
to his desk. His hatred of war welled up again: but what 
could the individual do? Isaac Arends and his wife had 
little chance of surviving an enemy occupation: for all 
their honesty and despite their age they were about to 

( 147) 


be swept up in savagery. It was not even an individual 
savagery but something nationally inspired and directed 
against an entire race. 

War is war but had London had time to consider what 
was being asked of the Jewish merchants in Holland? Sim- 
ply by being Jews they had committed one crime that was 
serious enough: and now they were being asked to com- 
mit another, to help the Allies at the very moment when 
the Germans were at the gates of Amsterdam. One of 
the first acts after the occupation would be a check on 
the diamond stocks. From the Berlin merchants the Ger- 
mans would know exactly the size and scope of individual 
Dutch holdings; they would even know, almost for certain, 
exactly where they were stored. 

And if the stocks were missing? Johan closed his eyes for 
a moment. Jews were not allowed to make "mistakes." 
There would be neither leniency nor compassion. Ger- 
many was not in the mood to be thwarted and her re- 
quirements for war production were urgent. Any Jew who 
had "disposed" of his diamonds would only have doubled 
his own incrimination, his own guilt. 

And, finally, why should any of them believe in ultimate 
German defeat? She was fulfilling her ambitions almost 
without a check. Where there was resistance, as in Poland, 
it had been shattered in a matter of weeks: where there 
was fear, as in the Balkans, whole countries were falling 
like ripe plums into her lap. On the east she was protected 
by her alliance with Russia, and to the west America, in 
no direct danger herself from Germany, was remaining 
outside the conflict. How long France could fight re- 
mained to be seen, but should France fall, Britain would 

( 148 ) 


be alone and helpless, with the whole continent armed 
against her. In these circumstances, why send one's stocks 
to England? 

In a matter of hours he would know what decisions the 
merchants had arrived at. Some diamonds, a few, would 
now certainly go to Britain. For the rest it was a question 
of how far faith and courage could win the day against 
self-interest and logic. He had personally not found the 
decision hard but he was not a Jew. 

( 149) 



EMERGING into the street, Jan and Walter had found 
Anna in conversation with a young Lieutenant. He was 
almost classically good-looking, fair hair, clear blue eyes, 
straight nose: a face of bone and character* He had taken 
off his cap and they could see that his hair was parted in 
the middle. He put his cap on when Jan and Walter ap- 
proached and gave them a salute. 

"Can I help you at all?" he asked. "I am at your service. 
If you would care to let me know where you're going I 
should be happy to provide a small escort. Amsterdam is 
calm enough, but you never know. If I can be of any as- 
sistance . . ." 

"That's extremely good of you," Walter began, "As a 
matter of fact . . .* 

"It's very, very kind," Anna interrupted, "but we are 
really all right. Tve promised to drive these gentlemen to 
a little restaurant I know not far away, and surely there's 
no danger. They are both very hungry." She smiled at the 

The young man shrugged his shoulders. Then he clicked 

( 150) 


Ms heels and bowed. "Just as you wish," lie said. "It was 
only an idea.** Anna smiled again and they drove slowly 
down Sarphatistraat 

Her eyes were on the driving mirror. At the fourth turn- 
ing off the main road she made a leisurely swing to the 
right Neither Jan nor Walter had said a word. Once out 
of the Sarphatistraat, she accelerated sharply. 

"Anna! What on earth's the matter?" Jan shouted. 

The girl drew up just short of a small cross-roads nearly 
half a mile from Sarphatistraat., facing a direction opposite 
from that which they had been taking. 

"I'm sorry if I alarmed you/* she said in her quiet voice, 
"Now where do you really want to go?" 

"May I drive the car?" asked Jan. 

"No! It's my car and I probably know this city even bet- 
ter than you do. It's safer for us all if I drive." 

"But why this peculiar behaviour? We're in a hurry." 

"In a hurry to die?" asked Anna. 

"What on earth are you talking about?" 

"I'm sorry. I'm probably being silly. But IVe seen that 
Lieutenant before and . . . weU . . . woman's intuition 
or anything else you like to call it, I thought we might be 
better off without his escort, that's all. He's probably per- 
fectly loyal and I've possibly got the jumps. I apologise if 
I upset you, really I do. Now, where do you want to go?" 

"The Amsterdamsche Bank." 

A few minutes later Anna asked: "How long do you ex- 
pect to be in the Bank?" 

"That's hard to say. If we can find or force a way in, per- 
haps twenty minutes, perhaps longer. Would you mind 
waiting for us?** 

( 151 ) 


"Yes," said Anna, "I would mind. Ill tell you why. I 
don't think I should leave this car parked in any one spot, 
particularly an obvious spot like that, for any length of 
time. If you don't object I'd rather keep moving. It might 
be idiotic to advertise your whereabouts." 

"So what do you propose to do?" 

"Drop you at the Bank and leave you there. Then I'd 
come back by the Bank at a stipulated time. Twenty min- 
utes? Half an hour? An hour?*' 

Jan looked at Walter. "Make it twenty minutes every 
twenty minutes/* 

"Very well. I'll be back every twenty minutes, three 
times, for an hour. After that I'll cruise round at irregular 
intervals. I'm sure it sounds silly but I know it makes 

"Are you quite sure you'll be all right?" Walter asked. 
"We hate dragging you into all this nonsense." 

"All the world today is nonsense, Mr. Keyser. Now here 
we are. Please get out quickly. I shall be round again ex- 
actly twenty minutes from now. Bonne chanceF* 

The car had left them even before Jan and Walter 
reached the doors of the Bank. 

It took only a second or two to confirm that the main 
doors were closed. They stepped back to see whether any 
lights were on inside the building. Banks, being naturally 
gloomy, often showed lights right through the day. They 
saw none. 

"There must be a watchman or a caretaker or some- 
thing," said Jan. They hammered on the main doors, try- 
ing not to attract attention in the street, but there was no 

( 152) 


response of any kind. It was physically impossible for the 
Bank to have side doors and they tried the street at the 
back; but this was too far back to have direct access 
to the Bank. Walter cursed. Here was another frustra- 

"Never mind/* said Jan. 'There's a cafe over there. 
WeVe got time on our hands." 

From the cafe Jan rang his father. When he had finished 
speaking he was grinning. 

"My father's confident that all will go well. Already one 
consignment has been received. We are not to go back 
there for an hour or two. In the meantime we can cele- 
brate. Two large Bols and then two more," Jan shouted to 
the man behind the zinc-covered counter. "Any news?" 

"The Dutch army is advancing all along the line," said 
the barman. "We are just waiting for confirmation on the 
radio." The little bistro was packed. "In France," the bar- 
man added, "the Germans are being slaughtered like pigs. 
The British army is whipping them in Belgium/* He put 
the two glasses down on the bar and wiped his hands. 

A small, bow-legged man on their left said: "Two hun- 
dred German planes have been shot down in the past 
twenty-four hours. The Luftwaffe is being routed/* 

"But they are still dropping parachutists/* said another. 
"They are dressed as nuns, as Dutch soldiers, as University 
professors. These parachutists must be shot at sight, what- 
ever they wear/* 

"One can overdo it," said a lean man in a long overcoat. 
**I have just seen two nuns being beaten in the street by 
boys. The only trouble was that they really were nuns. Our 



troops came along and saved them. They were organising 
the evacuation of children." 

"Why evacuate children?" the barman shouted. "The 
Germans will never reach Amsterdam. And if they'd 
wanted to bomb us, they'd have done so by now. The 
war is four days old already ." 

A big blonde woman in a corner was weeping quietly 
by herself. The door onto the street was kept closed be- 
cause there was another rumour that all liquor stores were 
supposed to be shut. The barman, who was also proprietor, 
said he was sure that it was just a rumour, probably spread 
by the enemy in their midst. One should only believe the 
truth, like the defeats of the invading army. Two young 
soldiers came in and everyone slapped them on the shoul- 
der and asked how the war was going. 

"No idea!" they said. "We get orders to leave Amster- 
dam and then we get orders to stay where we are. Every 
couple of hours it's a different order. Some units are busy 
mopping up parachutists, others are being kept in their 
barracks ready to move to the front/* 

"I suppose you know," said the barman, "that we are ad- 
vancing on all sectors?" 

"Delighted to hear of it," said one of the soldiers. "Two 
beers, please Heineken." 

The blonde woman in the corner suddenly shouted at 
them: "Why aren't you at the front? What are you doing 
here? Both my boys are at the front and you come in here 
swilling beer. Bastards I" 

"Cheer up, Ma/' one of them said. "Your boys will come 
back as Generals. You'll be all right," 

( 154) 



There was a crackle of rifle fire from a neighbouring 
street. "And you just stand there! Drinking!" The blonde 
banged her glass on the table. 

"It's queer to think," a man was saying, "that I came 
into Amsterdam this weekend to see the Sadler's Wells 
Ballet from London. I'm very fond of the ballet. They 
were due to give a performance last night no, Saturday 
night. We don't get much ballet here so I thought it would 
be worth the trip. I got up early, a lovely morning it was 
on Friday, but the air was full of aircraft. I saw German 
aircraft hedgehopping, flying as low as you like, you could 
see the marks on the wings and even the pilots at the con- 
trols. Seemed weird, seeing the pilots. Then I watched an 
air battle over Hilversum, fought away high up and you 
couldn't tell who was winning, you couldn't even tell 
whose the machines were that came spinning down with 
their trails of smoke." 

"When was that?" 

"Oh, it must have been nearing seven by then. Broad 
daylight, anyway. There was a big pall of smoke over Schi- 
pol, they said someone had blown a dump and the hang- 
ars were burning already. I shouldn't like to be living near 
Schipol. Next thing I knew was there were military patrols 
on the roads leading into Amsterdam, stopping everyone 
and asking for papers. I wanted to explain that I was com- 
ing in to see the ballet over the weekend but I dropped 
the idea it would have sounded so queer they'd have 
arrested me as a parachutist. So I just said I was coming 
in to join up." 

( 155) 


"And why haven't you?" asked the blonde. 

"I have. At least I went to unit headquarters. But they 
told me to stand by. I've been standing by since then, 
since Friday morning/ 7 

People were strangers to each other but everyone was 
talking to everyone else, exchanging experiences. An el- 
derly man had cycled all the way from Rotterdam. 

Rotterdam had been extraordinary, he said. Heavy fight- 
ing and machine-gun and mortar fire in one part of the 
city, people sitting out and having their drinks on the 
pavement a quarter of a mile away. Germans had been 
landing men at the rate of five hundred an hour at Waal- 
haven. The whole of the Old Town had been ablaze by 
Saturday night, Dutch troops had had to use mortars and 
machine guns on houses where there were known to be 
snipers, and blasting them out like vermin. But the dam- 
age was already tremendous. The big Maas station was on 
fire, as were the banks and business houses on the river 
front. The western half of the island was like a bonfire and 
the flames were crackling up from the three-funnelled 
Statendam, second largest ship of the Holland-America 
Line. On Saturday night, church spires and the taller 
buildings were all lit up by the glow. The left bank of the 
river seemed to be entirely in German hands. It wasn't 
going too well. 

He had seen some of the parachutists surrender, he said. 
Mere children, they seemed to be, and white with fright, 
asking for cigarettes and calling for their mothers. It was a 
scene he wasn't likely to forget. But the worst thing of all 
was the confusion. Nobody knew for sure whom to trust. 
It was much quieter and calmer in Amsterdam than it had 

( 156 ) 


been in Rotterdam. The wireless, in his view, was talking 
a lot of nonsense. But according to the last radio he'd 
heard the Germans had widened the breach in the Grebbe 
Line and were advancing on Utrecht. They claimed to 
have crossed the Maas into France and there were ru- 
mours that Liege in Belgium had fallen. This was the big 
thing, all right, not just Holland. Anybody who expected 
help from the French or the British was talking gibberish. 
One of the things that nobody seemed to have time to 
think about was the number of cattle drowned in the flood- 
ing. The figure ran into thousands, he'd heard. 

When the twenty minutes was nearly up Jan and Walter 
left the cafe and returned to the front of the Amster- 
damsche Bank. Anna's Chevrolet turned up on the minute. 

"In you get," she said. She glanced at the still empty 
kitbag in Jan's hand but made no comment. "Where 

"If we've time," said Walter, "I'd like to look in on my 

"Of course weVe time. You direct us." 

"It's quite a good idea not to return to Sarphatistraat 
before we have to," Anna said. "In the course of my idle 
cruising I passed a Dutch army car. That young Lieuten- 
ant is apparently still worrying about us and, to be frank, 
I am still worrying a little about him. However, I don't 
think he saw me." 

"I hate making you drive right through Amsterdam," 
Walter said. "How do you feel about it, Anna?" He used 
her given name diffidently, for the first time. 

"The bargain was very simple," she said. "It stipulated 
that I should remain with you as driver for the day, and 

( 157) 


the day is not yet over. I wonder which is our best route? 
It's not out by Schipol, is it?" 

"No, nowhere near Schipol, but we may have difficulties 
all the same. It's near the outskirts." He gave Anna the ad- 
dress o his mother's flat. 

( 158 ) 



ALTHOUGH the main stream of traffic was taking the 
same direction as themselves, it was impossible to move 
fast. Loaded vans, cumbersome lorries, over-anxious driv- 
ers and military check points held them up. They were 
forced to turn off the main road and in one of the side- 
streets found a figure so incongruous that even Anna was 
forced to smile. He was a road-sweeper, methodically 
sweeping the gutter with a long-handled broom. In the 
street where he worked a stick of bombs had fallen: entire 
houses had been destroyed but he seemed to have shut 
them out of his mind. The little details of the gutter were 
absorbing his attention, and he was whistling quietly as he 

"Hey, you," Jan shouted. "Are you crazy? Why don't 
you take shelter or do something useful? Who cares if the 
gutters are dirty on a day like this?" 

The man looked up at the car, peering at its occupants 

( 159) 


from under immense and almost carrot-coloured eyebrows. 
He must have been over fifty. "Listen," he said, "I'm paid 
to sweep gutters and sweep gutters I will. We want no 
panic round here. When our visitors are gone we shall 
want our streets clean again and that just happens to be 
my job. Not all of us can go traipsing round in cars, war or 
no war. You stick to your job and I'll stick to mine." 

Walter gave his mother's address and asked how they 
could best reach it. 

"Why couldn't you ask a civil question in the first place?** 
the sweeper grumbled. "Well now, it so happens that that 
street hasn't been hit, but it's been cut off, understand? 
So long as she's had the gumption to stay home, she's all 
right, she is. The only thing is they've got to clear away 
the rubble of a house or two about a quarter of a mile this 
side of her road, understand? They reckon they'll have the 
job done by nightfall but as things are you can't even get 
near the street. That's how it is." 

"You're absolutely certain about it being impossible to 
get near the street just now?" 

"Now listen," the sweeper began, "Do you suppose. . . ." 

"Oh, all right, all right Jan, what about you?" asked 

Td like to go to Leidsestraat." He asked the sweeper 
whether the route was clear and the bushy eyebrows shot 
up. "Now there I can help," said the sweeper. "I was up 
that way first thing tms morning. Listen carefully, Miss." 
He gave Anna detailed instructions. "Can't guarantee any- 
thing," he concluded, "but that was open up to four or five 
hours ago. Better hurry though we're about due for an- 
other." He glanced up at the sky. 

( 160 ) 


"I'm extremely grateful to you," said Jan. "Here, take a 
few guilders for luck." 

The sweeper looked at the money and spat in the gutter. 
"Listen," he said, "I'm not a travel agency. Tm a sweeper," 
Without paying any more attention to them he went back 
to his work, jabbing with his broom at the cigarette butt 
Jan had thrown from the car window. 

"About your mother, Walter, I don't feel so good," said 
Jan. "I think we ought to have a try." 

"Do you mind if we do?" 

Ignoring the sweeper's advice they attempted to find a 
way through. Here in the outskirts there was far more con- 
fusion than in the heart of the city. Some roads were 
blocked by rubble, others had been artificially barricaded. 

"It's no good," said Walter wearily. "We'd better drop 
the idea. Anna, you'd better see if we have better luck with 

He could feel his scar throbbing, but less than before, 
and instinctively caressed it gently with his finger. He had 
never really believed that he would have the opportunity 
of visiting his mother and it had made matters worse that 
they had attempted it. She would be sitting there patiently 
in the flat but at least she could not possibly be expecting 
him. And what could he have done for her? He could not 
have taken her back on the destroyer and, knowing her 
character, he felt convinced that she would in any case 
have flatly refused all offers of a journey to England. She 
would remain on her own soil, not worrying about herself, 
happy in the knowledge that Walter and the family were 
safely out of Holland and away from it all. It was probably 
a good thing that they hadn't been able to see her. 

(161 ) 


It was much more the thought of those boys in the sky, 
dropping their explosive hatred on the small houses of the 
district where his mother lived, that had started the scar 
again. He realised that the point was approaching where 
he would have to be careful about his nerves. He knew his 
limitations. In the past it had always been so easy to be 
dispassionate, to remain outside political and emotional 
turbulence, but it was his own mind now that had been 
bombed, and the bombing was beginning to have effect 
The nerve-tension was sweeping from his brain to his 
hands. He tried to calm himself by thinking of Julia and 
Nicholas and the house at Oxted but for the moment he 
could not infuse blood into the images. Their remoteness 
made them impregnable and at this point in time Oxted 
was too insubstantial to cling to. Only the muguet, Anna's 
perfume, was real: that and the throbbing of the scar and 
the dust from the rubble that blew into his eyes. 

Jan was chain-smoking as usual. 

"There is one aspect of the address which we are going to 
visit/' he said, "that is not without importance. There is a 
bottle of Napoleon brandy there. I know of this because it 
was I who left it, pending my next visit. Even if we fail 
with diamonds and foreign bonds, we can at least deny the 
German hordes this precious bottle. As for the lady who 
lives there, you will be astonished to learn that she is of 
great respectability. I propose to pick her up and take her 
to my father's house. She will be safer in the city than in 
these outskirts." 

They were forced to make a number of detours where 
streets and side-roads had not been cleared. Here and 

( 162) 


there dead and wounded whether from bombing or from 
street-fighting was not clear were being carried away. 
Children were being bustled out of the area, some of them 
on wheelbarrows, some crying, some laughing. Lost dogs 
roamed the streets. Here and there a bath poked out, intact, 
from the first or second floor of a house cut clean in half. A 
mild breeze had blown up and the unsettled dust was get- 
ting into everybody's eyes. 

As they were approaching the address a young man rec- 
ognised Jan from the street and started running toward the 

"Stop a minute, Anna/' Jan said. "I know this boy. He 
may be able to help us/* 

"Jan! Jan! JanP the boy shouted. He was about sixteen, 
very dark, and the voice was just short of a scream. When 
he reached the car he was panting. "Jan, what are you doing 
here? Where are you going?" 

"There's no need to yell, Solly. Keep calm. I happen to be 
in Amsterdam for the day and just making a little tour." 

"But Jan, I thought you were in England!" 

"Listen, Solly, tell us the quickest way to the Leidse- 
straat. We are in a hurry/' 

The boy began to shout. "I can't stand it here, I can't 
stand it! My family have been killed." He began clawing at 
the door-handle and before they could prevent it had flung 
himself into the car. He lay on the floor shouting: "Turn 
round and head for the coast. Everything here is being 
destroyed. We must get away! Jan, you know me, you know 
Solly, you've known me as a kid, I used to go and fetch 
things for you. It's all right for you but I'm a Jew, I've got 

( 163 ) 


to get away. Jan, youVe got to do it, you can't refuse, 
you've got to see me to England, you've got to!" 

Jan and Walter lifted the boy from the floor of the 

"Solly, youVe got to be a man/' said Jan. "This is terrible 
news about your family, but there is bad news everywhere. 
Now, which is the quickest way to Leidsestraat?" 

The boy began sobbing, beating on Jan's chest with his 
fists. From the driver's seat Anna said something in He- 
brew and the boy immediately calmed down. 

"Thank you, Anna," said Jan. "Ah! Here is Meerstraat. I 
know where I am. Third turning on the left and we're 
there. Number forty-seven.'* 

At the house Jan jumped from the car. It was a small, 
quiet street and apparently deserted. No sound came from 
the house except the mewing of a cat. They watched Jan 
ring the bell, then begin searching his pockets for a key 
at which Walter raised his eyebrows. When he opened the 
door they saw the cat jump at Jan's legs, twining itself 
around them and rubbing itself against them. A few min- 
utes later Jan came out again, the cat following him. He 
walked slowly down the few steps and over to the car. 

"She must be out shopping or visiting friends,'* he said 
slowly, his voice careful and controlled. "Please go in and 
help yourselves from whatever you find in the cupboards 
while I wander around and make a few enquiries. Then 
I'll be back." 

"Is this a good idea, that we separate?'* asked Walter. 
"I hate to say it, but you and I. . . /* 

Jan looked at Walter as if he did not recognise him. 
"For twenty minutes,'* he said, "a length of time surely not 



excessive, I shall make a little search. If I am not back by 
then, return to Sarphatistraat and continue with the opera- 
tion. I'll find my own way there. And here take Timothy 
with you into the house." He lifted up the cat and handed 
it to Walter. 

"We'd better use a front room/' Anna said. "I'm not go- 
ing to let that car out of my sight." 

They watched Jan amble down the street, his shoulders 
hunched, his right hand in the pocket where the revolver 
lay and still swinging the empty kitbag with his left. The 
cat began to struggle in Walter's arms and, as soon as they 
were in the house, he let it down. 

"I wonder how much importance Mr. Smit attached to 
the cat," Anna said. 

"How do you mean?" 

"I mean it is very hungry, or very thirsty, or both. It has 
not been fed for a good many hours." 

"Yes, I see." 

"Solly," said Anna. "Perhaps you'd be good enough to 
see if there's any milk in the kitchen. Mr. Keyser, do you 
want to eat?" 

"Not particularly, but you've had nothing." 

Anna shrugged her shoulders and they sat together by 
the window, watching the car. Solly came back with half a 
jug of milk. They put some in a saucer and the cat rushed 
at it, crouching over it as he lapped it up. Looking at the 
cat Anna said: "No human being has been in this house for 
many hours. And if the lady of the house had expected to 
be out to lunch, she would have left milk in a saucer on the 
floor. No one who owns a cat would forget to do that, even 
on a day like this." 



They ate some pastries and waited for Jan. Finally they 
saw him returning. 

"A pity," he said, "I couldn't find her. She hasn't gone 
shopping so it's obvious what's happened. She has gone 
out to lunch with friends." 

Nobody spoke. 

"Now we must have a drink," Jan continued. "Follow me 
down to the cellar." 

Anna refused to leave the window and Jan soon re- 
turned with two bottles. "This one," he said, waving his 
right hand, "is the Napoleon I spoke of and it returns with 
us to London. We must have something to prove that we 
were in Amsterdam. This other one, on the other hand, is 
to be drunk at once. Timothy, you too must have a sip, a 
saucer of brandy. Solly, fetch the glasses!" 

They drank various toasts and Walter had the same 
feeling that he had had in the kitchen at Oxted, a thousand 
years ago. Everything was unreal and what was spoken 
was automatic, as if taken from a script. The brandy had 
drained him of fear but left a mounting residue of hatred, a 
hatred bolstered by frustration. Surely they could be doing 
something rather more constructive than this? They had 
failed to obtain the foreign bonds, failed to have the vaults 
of the Amsterdamsche Bank blown open, and the great 
bulk of the diamonds still lay in undecided hands. But 
they drank their toasts, obedient to Jan, until caught up 
short by the sound of Solly sobbing. 

<c lt's time we got going," said Jan. "Come along, Solly, 
well give you a lift out of this area." His voice was suddenly 
dry and serious. He put the bottle of Napoleon brandy into 
the kitbag. 

( 166 ) 


Walter held the door open as they filed out. 

From beneath one of the chairs by the window they 
were watched by a pair of pale and baleful eyes, as Timo- 
thy began a second vigil for his mistress. 

( 167) 



"WE'RE IN a hurry now?" Anna asked. Jan looked at his 
watch. 'Well, yes." It was a quarter to four. 

Movement in the outskirts was still difficult. There was 
no panic but an understandable selfishness for the road, for 
space, so that the wave of traffic bulged outwards, con- 
stantly trying to overtake itself. Profanity abounded, a sub- 
stitute for tears. Infants, exhausted by lack of sleep, slept 
in their mother's aims or used their knuckles to drive the 
dusty rubble deeper into their eyes. 

Leaning out of the car window and waving a nondescript 
bit of paper, Jan began to bellow a way through the crowd. 
He kept his revolver in his right hand. As they approached 
each obstruction he bellowed: "Ministry of War! Ministry 
of War!" muttering to Anna to drive straight at people. 
It was the only way. 

When they reached the city proper there seemed to be a 
change of atmosphere. In the morning there had been a 
sense of urgency, even if it did not seem directed to any 
obvious purpose: but now there were signs almost of 
apathy, as if some immense decision had been reluctantly 

( 168 ) 


accepted. Along the narrow roads that ky beside the 
canals people still gathered round radio sets and here and 
there a family was still busily loading a cart with its be- 
longings. Occasional shots rang out from distant side- 
streets, but there were fewer troops and there was this 
curious listlessness in the air. 

"I hope to God there hasn't been any capitulation/' Jan 
muttered. The Dutch flag still flew from almost every 
house, but that did not prove anything. 

They were forced to make a wide detour and found 
themselves in the neighbourhood of the Oudezijds Voor- 
burgwal, that lovely and notorious street that begins near 
the Weepers' Tower (where according to tradition sailors 
used to bid their girls farewell) and wanders up to the very 
edge of an area of great respectability. Here in the bright 
sunshine lay a fair share of Amsterdam's long history: the 
fourteenth-century church near the house called "The Lord 
in the Attic" where Catholics gathered in secret during 
the Reformation days to assist at Mass, and streets nearby 
so narrow that two pedestrians could hardly use them 
walking side by side. On one side of the little canal was the 
Municipal Pawn Shop, deliberately and conveniently 
placed across the bridge from the old Town Hall. Farther 
up the street the ancient Alms House, gin distillery and 
monastery seemed quiet and deserted. 

Along both sides of the canal prostitutes but fewer of 
them than was usual on a sunny afternoon sat on the steps 
outside their rooms or paraded with varying degrees of 
demureness at their lace-curtained windows. One or two 
drunks lurched up and down, peering lecherously into 
windows, determined that no such incident as war should 

( 169) 


interfere with their brief and inexpensive escapades; and 
at one of the bridges a group of the girls, ignoring the calls 
of custom, were engaged in heated discussion. For them as 
for the whole population of Holland, a new situation had 
sprung into being. The Jewish girls among them were in 
mortal terror: their fate would be decided for them and it 
was unlikely to be pleasant. For the others there remained 
the agonising choice: what should they do if and when 
German troops occupied the city? Those who had been 
working for the Germans as minor agents for some time 
were loudest in their protestations, keeping up their little 
act until the final curtain should bring them their reward: 
silks and champagne, at long last, lay round the corner. But 
for those who were Dutch and loved their country, whose 
gentlemen friends had disappeared since the day of general 
mobilisation, whose life had been bounded hitherto by the 
walls of a room in this narrow street astride the canal, for 
such as these stood the stark and ugly question should 
they flee now to some other place or stay where they were 
to entertain the conquering foreign soldier? As war had 
come closer they had been able to raise their prices a little, 
but otherwise there had been no appreciable difference in 
routine. Few of them had dared to think out in advance the 
implications of a German occupation. In any case everyone 
had told them that the Germans would never attack. In the 
temporary silence of Amsterdam their anxious, desperate 
voices filled the street. 

Crossing the big bridge by the Oude Turfmarkt, Anna 
drove the Chevrolet up through Rembrandt Square where 
a couple of light tanks were now in position. The big caf 6s 
in the square were doing little business, although at this 

( 170 ) 


time on a Bank Holiday they should have overflowed with 
families taking their leisure; and outside the little night 
clubs just off the square a number of the international flags, 
which always included the Union Jack and the French tri- 
colour, had been quietly taken down. 

"I don't like it, I don't like the feel of it," Jan muttered. 

A platoon of troops was being paraded in the Frederik- 
splein at the top of Utrechtsestraat and a group of children 
stood in front of them, waving small Dutch flags. A military 
truck with a loudspeaker rushed round the Square telling 
the people to remain calm. They must on no account leave 
the city to obstruct the roads was to obstruct the Dutch 
army. Already there were too many people on the roads. 
People must remain calm, stay where they were. The Cab- 
inet and the Army alone would make decisions, and the 
people would be duly informed. The blare of the voice died 
away as the truck started down Utrechtsestraat. 

"It all seems astonishingly peaceful," Walter remarked. 

"Too bloody peaceful for words, my dear Walter. Per- 
haps my father may be able to tell us what's been happen- 
ing." He looked at his watch again. Four-fifteen. "That's 
not at all bad, Anna; you've done a wonderful job. Now as 
we approach my father's house I think we should keep 
our eyes skinned. There seemed to be too many troops 
round the place when we left it." 

As the car turned into Sarphatistraat they could see that 
there were still troops around. "It's possible," said Anna, 
"that they've been put there for our protection. Don't ask 
me why or how." 

"We shall assume nothing," said Jan. "Now, young 
Solly, what are we going to do with you, eh?" 

( 171 ) 


The boy slid off the seat of the car onto his knees. "Jan! 
Mr. Keyser 1 You must take me to England, you must! I shall 
fight for the English forces. Nothing will make me stay 
here. I can't, I can't, I cantl" 

"I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll take you inside and 
give you a good meal, then you'll feel better. But I'm sorry, 
Solly, we cannot take you aboard the vessel which will be 
waiting for us. You might be able to get on one of the 
trawlers though hundreds if not thousands of people are 
getting away that way. Don't you agree, Walter?" 

The boy shifted his gaze. Tears had run crooked channels 
down the dirt and dust on Solly's face and his black hair 
was dank and tousled. He wore an old cotton shirt, open 
at the neck, and his dark trousers were torn at the knee. 

"One thing I do know," said Walter with sudden con- 
viction. "This is the last time I go on what the Major calls 
'a party/ How loathsome it all is!" He looked again at the 
boy's dark, almost black, pleading eyes. <C I suppose you're 
right, Jan. No, Solly, we can't take you to England with us, 
much as we'd like to, and that's that." He hated his own 
voice as he said the words. The car had now stopped out- 
side the Smit office. 

"Anna, are you sure you can't leave the car? You won't 
come inside?" 

"Absolutely certain, Mr. Smit." 

"I wish you'd call me Jan. I'm not a centenarian." 

"All right, Jan. Thank you." 

"If you see anything like trouble approaching, blow four 
times on the horn. Okay?" 


( 172 ) 


There was not a sound from the street as they went up 
the steps to the building. 

"Too quiet/' said Jan. "Too quiet by a long chalk." 

Without looking round they could feel they were being 
watched. To his astonishment Jan found the door had not 
been locked. "What on earth goes on?" he muttered. He 
thought he had reminded his father to keep it locked all 

Before following Jan into the house Walter turned round. 
Anna was still at the wheel of the car: she had taken the 
orange-coloured rose from its place on the dashboard and 
was stroking the petals. "I must remember to have a little 
water sent out," he thought. "This is no time for symbolism 
but we must keep her rose alive." If anybody deserved a 
trip to England it was this girl: and at the thought of 
Julia's face if he brought Anna to Oxted he was just able 
to smile. Jan was now entering the house. "J an /* b shouted, 
"is Solly in there with you?'* 

"No. Why?" 

"He's disappeared." 

Jan returned to the steps and they looked up and down 
the street. There was no sign of Trim: he must have slipped 
away when Jan was talking to Anna for she too had 
noticed nothing. It was typical of the day, Walter re- 
flected. All the incidents were untidy, not cleared up, and 
with some bitter quality to them. The whole morning had 
been full of loose ends, each carrying its own threat. 

They re-entered the house and at the top of the stairs 
Walter heard Jan cursing. Johan's office was empty. The 
desk was as tidy as before and the safes still open. 

( 173 ) 


Jan cocked his head on one side, listening, then opened a 
side door o the office which led to some imlit steps. Draw- 
ing his revolver he pushed open a heavy oak door. 

They entered a high panelled dining-room of which the 
window curtains had been half drawn. On the long ma- 
hogany table half a dozen yellow candles burned steadily 
without a flicker. Their light fell on plates of food, on cut- 
lery, on bottles of wine and on the polished table. Flickers 
of light reached the deep-framed portraits on the walls 
and caught the long pale-silver organ pipes running up to 
the ceiling from the far corner of the room. 

"Hullo, father/' said Jan. He spoke casually, trying to 
hide the strain in his voice. "What's the news?'' 

Johan did not answer his son immediately. He swung 
round slowly on the chair he had been using, by the organ, 
and Walter was shocked at the anxiety that now lined 
Johan's face. His jaw was set and suddenly he seemed hag- 
gard. Instead of looking at his son he gazed direct at 

"Mr. Keyser," he said, "I am not a Jew and I am not a 
Christian in the sense of adhering to any organised reli- 
gion/' He was speaking very slowly as he lifted one corner 
of his philosophy. Music, he explained, was the nearest 
thing he knew to prayer. In his spare moments he had been 
a composer all his life. ( He did not know, as he spoke, that 
within a few months he would be composing music for the 
Dutch underground, songs that would be sung in secret 
for more than four years. ) If there is any way of stretching 
out beyond this world to a ... what should he call it 
... to a wider comminiion, then music, to his mind, sup- 
plied the route. Although he kept looking at Walter he 

( 174) 


seemed more to be thinking aloud than speaking, and 
Walter could not catch the immediate relevance of this 
monologue. He took his eyes off Johan's face and looked in 
fascination at the immense organ, so solidly installed in the 
corner farthest from the street. Following his thoughts 
Johan explained that Walter was now in his private house, 
next door to the office building, connected both here, on the 
first floor, and again on the ground floor. The relevance of 
his host's remarks occurred to Walter a second later: the 
time had come, according to the way you f elt, for music 
or for prayer. 

At last Johan turned to his son. 

"Jan, I owe you an apology," he said. "I was optimistic 
over the phone so as not to damp your spirits. The truth is 
that the merchants are a little overdue. Two of them 
Spier and Arends came in early and have given me con- 
signments, but that is all we have. Nobody can enter my 
office next door without my knowing it here, and the door 
below is open so that no one need be delayed. This is our 
critical hour. Where is the British officer?" 

"He'll be here in a minute, I've no doubt," said Jan. '"We 
don't know where he's been." 

"In that case," said Johan, "I advise the two of you to eat 
There's nothing any of us can do, but wait. And by the way, 
did you get into the Bank?" 

'It was shut like a fortress." 

"I'm not surprised. I pleaded with the directors at their 
homes but nothing can be done about the vaults. All the 
safes are under time-lock till tomorrow, and that's that. So 
a small proportion at least of the diamonds are out of your 
grasp. It's sickening, but there it is." 

( 175) 


Mrs. Smit bustled in, still hiding her anxiety, and they 
sat at the table. Jan's appetite was a fantastic thing to 
watch. Walter ate slowly, without enthusiasm. Another 
loose end, left dangling in the air: another failure. None 
of the failures had been final, none disastrous in itself, but 
the aggregate gave little cause for hope and none for jubi- 
lation. Walter poured himself a glass of wine. 

Through the closed windows they clearly heard a car 
horn sounded four times. 

"Excuse me," said Jan. He heaved himself from the table 
and was out of the room before Walter had got to his feet. 

Anna was still at the wheel of the car. 

"I didn't want to alarm you, Jan," she explained. "First 
of all, many thanks for the food you sent down. But some- 
thing has been happening round here which I'm not quite 
satisfied about. Might I use your father's phone while you 
guard the car?" 

"Of course. What's worrying you?" 

Til teH you later." 

She left the car and went up the office stairs where she 
met Walter, telling him that she was anxious to use the 
phone if the lines were still open. They went into Johan's 
office and she dialled a number: her relief, when she got 
through, was obvious. 

Her voice sounded casual enough: "I'm so sorry to bother 
you, Colonel ... yes ... Im still in Amsterdam, at the 
house I mentioned . . . Yes, I'm perfectly all right, thanks. 
It's quite a small point but I wanted reassurance. Up to 
twenty minutes ago we seemed to be guarded, that is to 

( 176) 


say there were pairs of troops round the house. Oh, they 
were yours. Bless you! However, the point is that they are 
being relieved by fresh ones. Is that at your orders? It 
isn't? Ah! I'll tell you what worried me about them, about 
the new ones I mean, some of them are wearing the insignia 
of Joseph's unit tell me, are there any elements at all 
of Joseph's division or regiment in Amsterdam? Yes, I'll 
hang on . . ." 

She looked around the office, at the immensely tall safes. 

"Yes, yes, I'm still here. You're absolutely sure? No troops 
at all from Joseph's unit in Amsterdam now? That rather 
clinches it. I'm glad I rang you. No, I don't think we've 
got what we came for yet. . . . No, I don't know when 
we're leaving but obviously no action will be taken against 
us until we have all we want and are on our way out. Yes, 
send what help you can, we shan't be off just yet. . . . 
Yes, of course I'll take care of myself. And bless you, too." 

Anna turned to Walter with a smile. "I suppose you 
caught the drift of that? It looks very much as if fifth col- 
umnists in Dutch uniforms are turning up to give us a send- 
off. The situation is becoming delicate." 

"We'd better tell Jan," said Walter. 

"Don't count your chickens, but help is being sent us. 
It might take time," said Anna. 

They went down the stairs together and out into the 
street. Jan had adopted an elaborately debonair pose, lean- 
ing against the car, but with one great paw in his right- 
hand jacket pocket. Anna explained that there was some 
doubt about the loyalty of the men in the street but the 
matter was being looked into. If the enemy in Amsterdam 

( 177) 


had any inkling of their mission, they would wait until the 
last moment before making a nuisance of themselves. They 
still had time. 

"We can't possibly leave yet, anyway/ 7 Jan pointed out. 
"Not only is our shopping far from over but the British 
Major is still missing. God knows what he's been up to. He 
may be in disguise by now. Keep your eyes skinned for a 
little old Arab in a burnous or a tiny Chinese conjurer ." 

"The longer we wait the better," Anna repeated. "On the 
other hand you probably don't want to miss your connec- 
tion if that's the right word at Ymuiden." 

It occurred to Walter slowly, without particular force, 
that the girl's telephone call to some mysterious Colonel 
might in the end prove to have saved their lives. But now 
she was looking at herself in her hand-mirror, patting her 

"Hey! What's this?" Jan swung round and Walter's hand 
went to the revolver in his pocket. Two big cars, travelling 
at speed, had swung into the Sarphatistraat behind them. 
Even before they had stopped, the back door of the leading 
car opened and a diminutive round figure dressed entirely 
in black eased itself gently to the ground. Behind him came 
three or four others. Each carried an attache case, except 
the first, who had an old-fashioned Gladstone bag. He 
seemed to roll up the steps rather than walk, and he did not 
just go inside he melt&d into the building. The cars had 
driven off before the last of the men had mounted the steps. 

From Jan came a hissing sound, like a locomotive releas- 
ing steam at a siding. "If this weren't so public a place, 
Anna, I'd kiss youl That was of course Jehovah and some of 

( 178 ) 


his friends important people, I tell you. Now all we need 
is the Major/* 

"Are you talking about me?" enquired a voice behind 
them. The Major, not in any kind of disguise, looked at his 
watch and said: "Time's getting on. All going according 
to plan?" 

"We'll know pretty soon," said Jan grimly. He explained 
the situation. "No point," he added, "in worrying my 
father about the troops, at any rate not for the moment 
After you, sir!" He reminded Anna to signal again if she 
saw any further disquieting changes in the street. 

Walking up the steep stairs he nudged Walter in the ribs 
and nodded in the direction of the trim figure of the Major 
ahead of them. "Isn't that typical?" he whispered. "Wan- 
ders back on the scene as if he'd just been for a stroll across 
the Sea of Galilee." 

Behind them they heard another car drawing up at the 
Smit offices. 

( 179 ) 



"GENTLEMEN, you are very welcome!" Johan Smit was 
saying. "Pray be seated." He handed round the cigar box 
as if this were nothing but a chance gathering of business 
acquaintances. There was nothing in his manner to show 
the torment he had been through. By this time two other 
cars had arrived. Jan, glancing round, saw that almost 
every important diamond firm was represented in the room. 
Outside, looking through the window, he could see that 
the sun was sinking. While his father sat at the desk, Jan 
remained standing, leaning against the wall by the door: 
he wanted to be in a position to make a sudden dash if 
Anna signalled from the street. 

There was a silence while several of the merchants lit 
cigars. Johan had picked up the round ebony ruler on his 
desk. At last, in a quiet sober voice he said: "I think it may 
be best if the British officer puts his case to you.* 7 

The Major, speaking in Dutch, began by saying: "Gentle- 
men, I don't want to waste your time with special pleading 
or with a long review of the situation. The situation, as you 
know, is a serious one." 

( 180) 


He explained the London background to their mission: 
the decision, taken at the highest level, to release a de- 
stroyer in order that the Germans be denied the vast dia- 
mond stocks they would expect to capture in the event of 
Amsterdam falling. He did not have to tell experts like 
themselves the value of the industrial diamonds to the Ger- 
man war effort to what, since Friday, had become for 
Holland the enemy war effort. There was not an hour to 
waste. Whatever decision they arrived at, the destroyer 
would return to a British port at once. They could rest 
absolutely assured that all stocks would be put into safe 
keeping for the duration of the war. There would thus be 
every chance to reopen business when the war was over. 
Any dealer who decided to retain his diamonds in Holland 
would certainly have them confiscated by the German 
authorities and his business closed. But there were, of 
course, very serious risks attendant upon either decision. 

Johan was carefully watching the faces of the dealers, 
men whom he had known for years, competitors as well as 
colleagues, enemies and friends. When the Major had fin- 
ished he added a few words of his own, emphasising once 
more, for what it was worth, that he had found no difficulty 
in arriving at a conclusion, nor had Spier and Arends. 

The cigar smoke began to eddy gently round the small 
room. A pall of smoke from some enormous fire edged 
across the brightness of the windows. It was a small, incon- 
sequent scene that was to burn itself on the memories of 
those who were destined to survive and several of those 
there now would be dead in a few years* time. Jan kept 
his eyes on his father: he did not want to appear to be 
watching the merchants. Suddenly he remembered that 

( 181 ) 


the kitbag was in the dining room, where they had eaten. 
In the stillness o the room a large clock near the door 
ticked out the seconds with mechanical emphasis. 

"No, Johan," said Jehovah at last, speaking from his 
chair, "there is no time to waste. Our decision is made. The 
diamonds must leave the continent. Therefore we now en- 
trust to England and to the British Government, through 
your son and this officer, Amsterdam's stocks of industrial 
and other diamonds all, that is, that have been available 
today. We ask for them to be properly and safely stored 
until the day comes, and pray God it will, when we can 
redeem them . . ." There were murmurs of approval. Je- 
hovah leaned down and began fumbling with the catch of 
his Gladstone bag. The Major, on behalf of the British 
Government and speaking with obvious sincerity, thanked 
the merchants. Jan rushed through the side-door to the 

Walter closed his eyes. By any standards this was an 
astonishing gesture. Nearly all the dealers in the room were 
Jews and none of them fools. It was a hard enough decision 
assessed only in the light of the war: everything, at the 
moment, was going against the English. British forces were 
outnumbered in the air and on the groundrOne country 
after another in Europe was being swallowed up in the 
German maw and if France should fall it was plain that 
England would be alone in her struggle with Germany. 
Behind Germany would lie the industrial potential of the 
whole continent, a labour force beyond the dreams of con- 
quest, ready to supply a large efficient army already proven 
in the field. 

It was hard enough, then, for all the dealers: but for the 

( 182 ) 


Jews it was agonising. German leadership had made it plain 
to the world that the Jews must be exterminated. Simply 
to be a Jew, in occupied territory, was to be in constant 
terror of one's goods and life; and to be a Jew who had 
helped the enemy, England, was to damn oneself to the 
very hilt. Only as a person prepared to place his business 
experience and skill fully at German disposal could a man 
hope to live in any kind of tortured peace : Germany would 
require not only the stocks but the know-how. And then, 
as everyone knew, even the Germans were venal. With 
money, big money, the kind of money that diamonds could 
provide, a man might buy his way out of trouble: might 
even with luck bribe his way, and that of his family, into 
Switzerland, or Portugal, or Spain. 

Without fuss the dealers were piling their consignments 
on Johan's desk. 

"Gentlemen," said Johan, "you have risked your lives by 
coming to this house and now you have risked your lives 
again by your decision. But I am convinced that it is the 
right one. This deed may never appear in any history of the 
war, it may never be told to posterity at all, but I join with 
the British officer here in thanking you. He thanked you 
on behalf of the British Government. I do the same, for 

"We must be off," said Jehovah brusquely. "We told the 
cars to return in fifteen minutes. This is no day to leave 
cars standing." 

"I can give you receipts in my name before you go." 

Another merchant broke in: "Receipts from you, Johan? 
Don't be mad! You would only incriminate yourself." The 
dealers were busy doing up their attache cases. Jehovah, 

C 183 ) 


finding himself beside Walter, held out a plump little white 

"Au revoir, Mr. Englishman," he said. Walter could not 
fail to perceive the irony of the "au revoir." The Major was 
shaking others of them by the hand, thanking them indi- 
vidually. "Are we all ready ?" asked Jehovah. "The cars will 
be round in two minutes." 

"Au revoir, Jehovah, my dear old enemy and friend." 
Johan put his arm round the little man's shoulders. He had 
intended to say more but found that he could not speak. 
The merchants filed out of the room. Walter heard cars 
draw up and go away, with no shots fired. Johan was back 
at his desk, his head in his hands. I don't suppose he feels 
any sensation of triumph or elation, thought Walter: 
neither do I. Yet here are the diamonds, and all we have to 
do now is get them home. He could still see the bowed 
backs of the merchants as they had left the room, all wear- 
ing overcoats despite the warmth of the May afternoon. 
Perhaps he was, or would be, the last Englishman with 
the Major to see most of them alive. If they were tortured 
and if any of them were weak, the first name revealed 
would be that of Johan. And Johan was electing to stay in 
Holland, to be with his employees. He felt an admiration 
which was also affection for the firm's chairman but there 
was nothing he could put into words. 

Jan had returned with the kitbag. He took out the bottle 
of Napoleon brandy, packed the consignments carefully 
and then replaced the bottle at the top. It was nothing 
much to look at, the kitbag, even though it was brand new. 
It had only been made . . . when? . . . was it only the 
night before? And yet there it lay on the desk, worth per- 

( 184 ) 


haps a couple of million pounds even at ordinary market 
rates, leaning a little drunkenly to one side. 

It had all happened so quickly, in just less than a quarter 
of an hour. No histrionics to speak of, no obvious emotion, 
a quarter of an hour of the big war which in all likelihood 
would never be recorded. 

"Father!" said Jan. "You've been wonderfuir 

"IVe done nothing, Jan. I used no bluff, no blackmail, 
no threats, not much persuasion. What they did, they did 
themselves. That's most important. They did it entirely of 
their own free will, and God knows what will happen to 

Jan came back from the dining-room with a drink in his 
hand. "One last plea/' he said. "Won't you and mother 
come to England?" 

"No, Jan. We've got to stay here. There's no question of 
coming to England. The grandchildren and our staff will 
need protection, that's obvious." 

"It won't be safe for you here." 

"That's unimportant. We've got to stay." 

Jan looked his father full in the face and realised that 
it was useless to argue further. 

"One last point, Jan," his father said. "I've been thinking 
things over today and have come to a decision that affects 


"As from tomorrow the head office of J. K. Smit & Zonen 
is in London, until the end of the war. In other words, I 
want you to run my head office for a while. It cannot for 
obvious reasons remain in Amsterdam." 

"I see. Thank you, father." 

( 185) 


"And now I think you should say goodbye to your 

The time was half past five. Mrs. Smit, seemingly un- 
perturbed, said goodbye to Jan. He repeated his plea that 
she and his father should find their way to England but 
she ridiculed the notion. The staff was in Holland and it 
was silly to suggest that they run away and leave them be- 
hind. She and Johan would be all right. After all, his father 
was known to the Wilhelmstrasse : there was nothing what- 
ever to worry about. From here perhaps they could con- 
tinue to work for peace. 

Walter and the Major shook hands with the Smits. It 
was all grotesquely casual. 

When they got downstairs into the street Anna gknced 
at the bulging kitbag. 

"Ymuiden?" she asked. 

"Yes," said Jan, before the Major could reply. "And isn't 
it a lovely day?" He rubbed a little dirt off his revolver, 
glancing up and down the street. "Anna," he asked sud- 
denly, "may I come to your wedding? I have a sudden feel- 
ing that all the auguries are good," 

The girl made no reply and the car began to move for- 
ward. The street seemed emptier than it had been before 
but all three men had their revolvers ready. Jan had put 
the kitbag on the floor between his legs. The reason for 
the emptiness became obvious near the bridge over the 
Amstel, less than two hundred yards from the Smit office. 
A detachment of troops sauntered into the roadway. "I 
don't think," said Jan, "that we should stop and discuss the 

At the same time, from the far side of the bridge, they 

( 186 ) 


saw two military lorries approaching at great speed. With 
a scream of brakes they both stopped and other troops 
poured out of them. Anna closed her eyes for a second 
when she recognised the Colonel among them. There was 
a clatter of shots and a bullet went through the rear of the 

*Xet her rip," said Jan, quietly. The car accelerated and 
the three men were astonished to catch a glimpse of a 
Dutch Colonel saluting them. Behind them there was sud- 
denly bedlam, with the chatter of Tommy guns and a hub- 
bub of shouts and cries. Two more bullets went through the 
back of the car and others flicked up the road in tiny spurts 
alongside. In less than a minute they were out of the dan- 
ger area. Anna's eyes were blurred with tears but she said 

Soon the Chevrolet was threading its way through the 
suburbs, held up again by the traffic which defied orders, 
traffic still heading for the port of Ymuiden. They heard a 
radio announcing good news from France: the main Ger- 
man attack had been repulsed with gigantic enemy losses 
and the Luftwaffe routed, to the tune of some four hundred 
aircraft in three days. Germany was throwing so many 
tanks into the battle, the broadcast said, that her army was 
running short of fuel. The British were doing magnificently 
in Belgium. 

"Even with these delays, 77 said the Major, <e l think we 
should be all right. We made a good start and our row- 
boat man said he'd be waiting for us at seven-thirty. After 
that it's only a question of rowing out to the destroyer and 
one has to admit that when the Navy makes an appoint- 
ment it usually keeps it." 




"WHAT a pretty rose!" said the Major. He was sitting in 
front with Anna and seemed completely relaxed. 

'Isn't it? I bought it this morning/* she said. "It's begun 
to wilt a little/' 

"I'm afraid you must have had rather a tiring day." 

"Oh, I don't know. I've spent most of it sitting peace- 
fully in the car." She could not very well return the com- 
pliment and ask the Major how he had spent his day, even 
though something in his manner suggested that his mis- 
sion had been accomplished. 

From the back of the car Jan asked bluntly: "What are 
your plans, Anna, after you've dropped us at Ymuiden?" 

Anna shrugged her shoulders. "Return to Amsterdam. 
Try to catch up on some sleep. Report to my office to- 
morrow as usual. Nothing very exciting/' 

The Major knew that Holland was to capitulate the next 
day, Tuesday. There was no possibility of holding out 
more than another twenty-four hours: powerful allied land 

( 188 ) 


forces wliich had been asked for in the early hours of Fri- 
day were now themselves desperately and directly en- 
gaged with the enemy elsewhere. Isolated Dutch forces 
might hold out for a while in Zeeland but the country as 
a whole was already as good as subjugated by the jugger- 
naut now swinging left-handed into France. 

Although the diamonds lay on the floor of the car at the 
back, between Jan and Walter, both men were worried 
about Anna. It would probably be impossible ever to know 
fully how far she had helped them. There had been this 
confused melee which seemed, at least, to have been di- 
rectly connected with their departure from the Smit offices; 
and Anna's disappearance during the morning had still not 
been explained. There had been no proof of an attempt to 
recapture the diamonds: it was all part of the chronically 
untidy sequence of events and yet there was no doubt what- 
ever of the bullet holes in the car. What was also certain 
was that even as driver, sharing their risks, Anna had been 
of enormous assistance. Now there was this added com- 
plication that she was more than pretty, she was almost 
beautiful, and she was young. The German combat troops 
would be the first to enter Amsterdam and they would be 
subject to military discipline. This would mean that their 
behaviour would quite probably be correct But behind the 
German army would come that trail of slime, the agents 
and the Gestapo, the interrogators and race specialists. She 
looked absurdly cool, sitting there in front of them, her 
face dead white, her eyes on the road ahead, the black hair 
falling over her shoulders. It was a predicament that the 
three of them would have to face and share: after all that 
she had done, were they to leave her to the tender care of 

( 189) 


Nazism? On the other hand, except perhaps in novels, 
military missions did not normally rescue girls as a sideline. 

Three or four times the car was held up by bomb craters 
where the main road had suffered direct hits. Their prog- 
ress was slow. An outcoming lorry told them that it was 
still possible to reach Ymuiden, with difficulty, but there 
was a good deal of shooting going on inside the town. 

Although he could not explain it, Walter felt himself 
being overcome by a wave of lassitude with which went a 
curious relaxation. He had the extraordinary feeling that 
his scar had vanished. It had certainly ceased to bother him, 
as if it had been cauterized by the day's events, by the thud 
of bombing and that final shattering clatter of small arms. 
Even his hands were quiet now. He looked at them, ob- 
jectively. There was no blood on them, figuratively or 
otherwise, and they were at rest: scholar's hands, ready to 
work again at the desk in his study. Oxted! Oxted was still 
a million miles away. 

"We're not too badly off for time/' the Major was saying. 

"We might stop off and have a drink," suggested Jan. 

"We might not/* said the Major. 

Progress became slower and slower as the congestion in- 
creased near Velsen. Running through the little township, 
under the bridge and past the railway station, it became 
clear that Ymuiden had been bombed again. Untidy 
bundles of smoke lay over the port and within a few min- 
utes they could hear more small-arms fire. 

"Poor little Ymuiden/' said Jan. "Bombed from the air 
and now a junior civil war on its hands." 

"It doesn't look madly healthy/' the Major admitted. "ItTl 
be nice to be back in that cosy wardroom." 

( 190 ) 


Walter marvelled at the bland optimism of the man. 
He supposed they were all like that, the men who went on 
"parties"; otherwise they wouldn't be in their peculiar 
trade. He began to wonder how on earth they were to reach 
the destroyer alive. 

They were in the outskirts of Ymuiden almost as soon 
as they had left Velsen. A strong military patrol stopped 

"You can't go through the town," said a red-headed Cap- 
tain. "But we have orders from Amsterdam to see you safely 
to the harbour. Excuse my double-checking, sir,'' he said to 
the Major, "but please give me the names of your party " 

When this had been done the Captain looked curiously 
at Anna and asked her to draw the car into the side of the 

The Major said to Anna: "You'd probably better stay 
here. It may be a little unhealthy down by the shipping." 

"I hate leaving a job unfinished/* she answered with un- 
usual primness. From the tone of her voice it was im- 
possible to make out whether she expected to be taken to 
England. A final decision had again to be postponed. 

Walter looked at his watch. It was already seven-twenty. 
Darkness might be a help to them but they were running 
short of time. The destroyer would lie off at eight o'clock, 
and they still had to find the boatman who had promised to 
row them out. The evening was less calm than the morning 
had been and there might well be a sea running. At the 
corner of the road a tree was bent in the wind. 

After several minutes the Dutch Captain called them 
back. "It's not very nice down there," he told them, looking 
again at Anna. "But this man will guide you through side- 

( 191) 


streets which are still pretty clear. Tin afraid there's a lot 
of broken glass and youll just have to trust to luck." 

"Thank you very much. Does Bussemaker still control 
the port?" 

"We haven't heard from Bussemaker for some hours, sir." 

"I see. Well, thank you, Captain. Good luck to you." 

"And to you, sir." 

A wiry little Dutchman in a peaked cap with a broad grin 
on his face bowed to them. "This is your guide," said the 

"You hop in front with the driver," said the Major. "Well 
cram the back." He pulled out his revolver and the others 
followed suit. Walter sat between Jan and the Major, grip- 
ping the kitbag. 

Surprisingly the car swung left, in a direction away from 
the harbour, then right and right again. They could hear a 
good deal of shooting. Several houses were burning, light- 
ing up the debris in the streets, now mostly deserted, 
though men and women were peering out through doors 
and windows; and at one point a horse and cart, smashed 
to smithereens, blocked the road and forced them to jolt 
over the pavement. In the Kanaalstraat not one of the little 
bungalow-houses had a window left intact. They cruised 
downhill to the harbour. To their astonishment they had 
not been stopped or interfered with. It was too good to be 
true. From the quays and docks came a confused babel of 
sound: the car turned the bottom corner and in an instant 
they were in the middle of it. 

Again the quaysides were a picture of confusion, much 
as they had been in the morning but rendered grotesque 
in the flickering flame-light which threw up sudden mon- 

( 192) 


strous shadows that burst on the eye for a second and as 
quickly disappeared. In high heels on the cobbles were 
women (the same women? ) wearing their fur coats, weep- 
ing, wailing and in some cases dangerously near hysteria. 
Among them were children either playing games amongst 
themselves or sleeping on the ground, oblivious to every- 
thing, among the silent and deserted limousines. Elderly 
and not-so-elderly men in long overcoats and velour hats, 
their faces glistening with perspiration, cursed, shouted, 
commanded, pleaded. 

"This is madness," said Jan soberly. "One bomb here 
would kill hundreds.'* 

Anna edged the car forward. Nobody paid any attention 
to it, it was just another car, a late car, from Amsterdam. 
If anything it was resented: here were more people to add 
to everybody's difficulties. The gulls were still restless, 
adding their thin cries to the hubbub as they circled grace- 
fully like winged ghosts in the wind. Underfoot the fish 
market was still a shambles: broken glass from the sheds 
and shelters, a body or two still unattended, suitcases left 
by those who had departed in haste, the shrieking of the 
children some in a wild ecstasy of their own, others in 
misery and despair and behind it all the seagoing sounds 
of any port, the shouts from deck, the chug of an engine 
and the thin little siren of a tug. In small interludes of 
comparative silence came the crackling of burning houses 
from up the hill. 

Anna stopped the car near the water's edge and the Ma- 
jor gave a bundle of guilder notes to the guide who pock- 
eted them without a glance, grinned, touched his cap and 
vanished. Jan handed the kitbag to Walter and said: 'You 

( 193) 


stay here. The shed we want is only fifty yards away. I'll 
get the boatman and bring him back/' They watched him 
force his way through the crowd, the revolver in his hand. 

"Jesus wept!" said Walter quietly. He wondered whether 
even Hogarth could have captured a scene like this, a 
nightmare in flames where you could see individual agonies 
flit across the scene, then disappear: where you could hear 
despair give voice. Even the smell, he thought, even the 
smell: for behind the stink of bombardment lurked even 
now the quality of a fish market. Here was almost every 
wretchedness under the sun wrapped up and concen- 
trated on this little stage. 

Jan returned alone. 

"The boatman kept his appointment," he said soberly. 
"I found him just where he promised to wait for us, by the 
shed. But unfortunately he's dead." 

There seemed nothing to say. They remembered his 
words: "Holland has not come into the war for money. We 
are allies now, you understand ... At seven-thirty to- 
night you find me here . . ." They had never even learned 
his name: for them he would remain a figure bowed over 
the oars, an unknown Dutchman who kept his word. 

"May I make a suggestion?" asked Anna after a long 
pause. Her voice was cool and contained. The three men 
turned to her. 

"You don't need a trawler. A hundred yards or perhaps 
a little farther away is where the tugs tie up. All you need 
is a tug." 

"Which way?" 

"Up there, to the right. It's your only hope." 

There were still a few trawlers in port, but they were 

( 194) 


being besieged by crowds of civilians, mainly Jewish. At 
gangways and along the small decks, Dutch naval per- 
sonnel, armed with revolvers and Tommy guns, were try- 
ing to maintain some kind of discipline. 

"It must have been blast from a bomb/' Jan muttered. 
"He certainly hadn't been shot." He was still thinking of 
the boatman, whom at first he had thought to be asleep. 
There had been no sign of physical injury. It was out of 
the question, in the darkness, to search for his boat. 

"Anna," Walter began awkwardly, "look here . . " 

*1 think I know what you may be going to suggest that 
I come to England and I am deeply grateful," said Anna. 
She was now talking to all three of them. "Or if you were 
only going to say thank you, don't bother about that either. 
I've promised to return to work. If anybody should say 
thank you, I think it should be me, because I know that 
the three of you came over to help . , . Holland." For the 
first time in the day her voice faltered. "And that's why I 
must stay. It's not only Joseph, it's not only personal. You 
can all understand that. I hope you have a wonderfully 
safe voyage." 

There was a sudden fusillade about a hundred and fifty 
yards away and they could hear the cries of people who 
had been hit. 

"You're bound to find a tug or two," said Anna, and her 
voice was normal again. "You can't miss them. They al- 
ways dock in a bunch." 

"After the war," said Walter, "I'll send you a bunch of 
muguet. We have it in England too. It's probably out 

Jan was fumbling in one of his pockets. He had taken 

( 195 ) 


the kitbag from Walter and held it gripped between his 

"Anna, don't be angry/* he said, towering over her. "But 
here's a wedding present from the three of us. You already 
wear a diamond on your finger this one is for you to wear 
around your throat on the wedding day." 

With tremendous gentleness and clumsiness he put his 
arms around Anna, thrust a small package into the pocket 
of her grey jacket, kissed her on the forehead and added: 
"In return, I want a present from you." 


"The orange rose." 

'It's nearly dead, I'm afraid." 

"Rubbish! I know exactly why you bought it. It stands 
for the House of Orange. It's wilting but not dead." He 
snatched it from the dashboard of the car and began sham- 
bling up the dockside. Walter and the Major shook hands 
with Anna, mumbling their thanks to her, and followed 

They had gone about a hundred and fifty yards before 
they found a tug, about to dock. A lean, grizzled Dutch- 
man looked up at them. 

"I am afraid we must requisition your tug," said the 
Major brusquely. "A short trip to the harbour mouth and 
perhaps a little beyond." 

"We requisition it," added Jan, "in the name of the 
Netherlands and British Governments." 

"Don't be pompous, mister," said the tugmaster. "You're 
out of luck. I'm not budging. I've had a long day's work." 

"This will take you thirty minutes. You will be well 
paid." A small, wiry boy had scrambled oflF the tug and 

( 196 ) 


was busy securing her to a bollard. "It is a matter of mili- 
tary urgency/' 

"It's no use spouting long words at me," said the tug- 
master. "I've been pretty urgent all day myself and in 
the name of the Netherlands Government. And anyway I 
couldn't take you out of harbour even if I wanted to." 

"Why not?" 

"I haven't got an ocean-going ticket, that's why." 

A gigantic howl of laughter from Jan drowned every 
sound around them. Still laughing he jumped from the 
quayside onto the tug's miniature deck. 

"Oh, you delicious man," he shouted. "I must put you in 
my memoirs." He placed the kitbag on the deck and thrust 
his revolver into the tugmaster's back. In a lower voice he 
added: "Now then, Father Neptune, tell your toy sailor- 
ette aloft there to untie those bits of string. We leave at 
once. You'll make a fortune out of this; you'll be able to 
dine out on it for years." He beckoned to the others and 
Walter and the Major jumped down and joined him. The 
Major also covered the tugmaster who gave a signal to 
his boy. They cast off and the boy jumped back on deck. 

"To the harbour mouth and no farther," repeated the 
tugmaster. "I haven't got an ocean-going ticket." 

The tug puffed slowly from the quayside. 

"It's five to eight," said the Major. 

As they swung slightly right into the main stream they 
looked back. 

"My God! She must have followed usl" said Jan. 

Anna was silhouetted against the fires of Ymuiden, her 
hands in the grey jacket pockets, her black hair streaming 
out in the wind. Up here, away from the mobs round the 

( 197) 


trawlers, she was alone; and the picture was cut into their 
minds like an etching. Her voice only just reached them. 

"A safe journey to you all, from Holland. God keep you 
safe and well! And my best regards, my love, to England! 
Au revoir!" 

Jan waved the orange rose and she waved back. There 
was nothing they could say. Walter, looking at her, found 
the figure grow misty and insubstantial, merging into the 
flames and blackness of the night. All kinds of thoughts 
flashed through his mind but there was nothing he could 
put into words. The three of them watched her until she 
was out of sight, hidden as soon as the tug passed behind 
the first of the trawlers. 

"Right!" said the Major, thrusting his revolver again into 
the tugmaster's back. "We are now looking for a destroyer. 
She is due to lie off Ymuiden at eight o'clock, which is 
now. We are in a hurry. She should be just outside the 
harbour. Lead us to her!" His voice was perfectly calm but 
carried the sharp edge of authority. 

Walter, watching the tugmaster's face, still lit up now 
and then by flames from the shore, felt almost sorry for 
him. He had the same inflamed eyes, the look of weary 
determination, of so many he had seen since dawn. He 
probably had a wife somewhere in Ymuiden town and 
from the look of him he had not slept since Friday: he 
probably did not know whether his wife was alive or dead 
and now he had been rudely hijacked into some hare- 
brained trip beyond his legitimate call of duty. Despite 
the revolver in the small of his back he showed no trace 
of fear: part of him was accepting this further outrage on 
a man's physical endurance, part of him still resisting. 

( 198) 


"To the harbour entrance only, not beyond/' he muttered 
again. Gaunt and exhausted, he stood at the wheel, shout- 
ing occasional commands to his one-boy crew. In fact, 
though he was not prepared to mention the matter to these 
pirates who had commandeered his vessel, his thoughts 
were with his wife in the Kanaalstraat. He had been on 
continuous duty and all that he knew, from his own eyes, 
was that Ymuiden had been severely bombed. His home 
lay only a few hundred yards above the fish-market and 
he had seen the plumes of smoke coming from that area. 
Since dawn on Friday he had spent one hour inside his 
home. With his own eyes he had seen the lucky ones 
getting away and his own small part had not been wasted 
three times since Friday he had escorted vessek down 
the dangerous, bombed North Sea Canal from Amster- 
dam's main harbour. 

Jan, standing with the Major behind the tugmaster, had 
wedged the kitbag securely on the floor and held it firm 
with one enormous foot. Chain-smoking as usual, he was 
struck by the incongruous thought that he was now the 
boss of his father's firm: or to be more accurate, head of 
the Head Office, with Holland's diamonds literally at his 

As the tug chugged quietly toward the harbour mouth, 
Jan fumbled with the orange rose, trying to fix it in his 

( 199) 



IN THE pale light of the hour just before dawn Bower- 
man had watched the three men being rowed away from 
Walpole towards the fishing quays, had waved to them 
from the bridge without being seen, but had had no time 
to watch them for long. His guns were in action ineffec- 
tively, against the German bombers and he wondered for 
a second whether the rowing boat would be capsized and 
the entire mission wiped out before its work could be 
started. He swung the destroyer to port in a wide circle 
and as the vessel turned he was just able to catch another 
glimpse of the rowing boat bobbing precariously on the 
turbulence set up inside the harbour by the bombardment. 
Walpole was moving at between three and four knots. 

He shouted to the coxswain: "Can you see the exit?" 

"Aye, aye, sir!" 

"Make for it." 

"Aye, aye, sir!" 

"Full ahead together!" 

Smoothly, with gathering power, Walpole shot out of 
the harbour like a scalded cat. This was no time for dal- 

( 200 ) 


liance. Her four-inch guns, mounted fore and aft, with 
their maximum elevation of fifteen degrees, were almost 
as useless as the Lewis guns. However, she had not been 
hit, and now the open sea lay ahead of her. 

At this moment a shout came up the voice-pipe there 
was a signal classified as urgent and important, from Ad- 
miralty to Walpole, repeated to C-in-C, Nore. It was crisp, 
cogent, and clear. Do not enter Jmuiden harbour stop 
magnetically mined stop. 

On the bridge the commander smiled cheerfully. He 
waited until the destroyer had fully cleared the harbour 
with her nose in the popple of the North Sea before send- 
ing his reply. It was almost as brief and every bit as much 
to the point. Walpole to Admiralty repeat C-in-C Nore. 
Jour (here he repeated the signal number) apparently in- 
correct stop have just left Ymuiden stop. 

"That'll give them something to stir their coffee with," 
he reflected happily. 

Now came the problem of how to spend the day. He 
had fifteen hours ahead of him, fifteen hours to while away, 
with strict injunctions from the Admiral at Harwich (re- 
laying orders from above) not to get into any serious 
trouble; and there was likely to be a tempting assortment 
of trouble in this part of the North Sea. Turning south he 
made for The Hague where it was soon plain that one or 
more actions were in progress. Through his glasses he 
could see a number of trawlers heading in the general di- 
rection of the English coast, apparently without escort, 
and a short distance off-shore he recognized the silhou- 
ettes of several British destroyers appearing and disap- 
pearing through a pall of smoke which hung low over the 

(201 ) 


sea. There was considerable air activity over the city and 
the outskirts were being bombed. He received a signal 
from one of the destroyers inviting him to join the party 
but he was forced to decline, with regrets. 

Suddenly, through the haze to starboard, he heard and 
then saw another destroyer firing with everything it had 
and coming straight towards Walpole. From that angle 
there appeared to be no doubt about it: she was one of tie 
new German destroyers, apparently anxious for trouble. He 
gave his orders and was preparing to deal with it, using 
his forward four-inch guns and one Lewis gun, when it 
changed course and he saw it was a British destroyer, one 
of the newest, trying to shake off dive-bombers. He had just 
been about to give die order to open fire on it. When the air 
attack was over, this vessel, which turned out to be H.M.S. 
Kindersley (Lieutenant-Commander Knowling, R.N.) sig- 
nalled to Walpole that it was forced to return to port for 
more fuel and ammunition. Would Walpole very kindly 
look after a small tramp steamer and put it on its course to 
London? The tramp had lost its compasses in earlier bomb- 
ing and was clearly visible about four hundred yards far- 
ther out to sea. Before turning and leaving for the British 
coast Kindersley came within loud-hailing distance of Wai- 
pole and a cheerful voice from her bridge shouted as an 
after-thought: "Do be kind to her she's chock-full of 
gold!" (Already Holland had sent 117,000,000 worth of 
her gold to the States and during the weekend of the in- 
vasion another 30,000,000 worth was shipped to Eng- 
land, of which this tramp vessel held a part: but some 
25,000,000 worth fell into German hands.) 

Bowerman took Walpole over to the tramp and set her 

( 202 ) 


on her course as best he could, escorting her for an hour 
or so away from the worst danger area. Matters must be 
going fairly badly on land, but it was some satisfaction 
that the Dutch were getting their gold away. He again 
wondered what mission lay behind the trip of the two men 
he had disembarked with the little officer: it was presum- 
ably something of the same nature. Before leaving the 
tramp he repeated the course, via buoys, and wished its 
master a safe journey. From the tramp's solitary stack 
came a reckless volume of black smoke. Surely they would 
have been wiser to wait for nightfall or was there no 
time, now, even to wait one day? 

He returned to The Hague, looking out for targets along 
the sand dunes at Scheveningen, and luckily found none. 
It was not for him to know, at that time, that had he bom- 
barded the sand dunes he would probably have destroyed 
many of Holland's Old Masters, the vast majority of which 
were to remain hidden there, safe from the avaricious grasp 
of such well-known collectors as Reichsmarschall Goering, 
/"for the next four or five years^ 

Several British destroyers were blazing away at the 
enemy in the air, where hostile activity was almost con- 
tinuous. They were also sending out violent signals on a 
reiterated theme that could be roughly paraphrased as 
'send us -fighter aircraft, we are being bombed to hell' 
From the destroyers they could see German transport air- 
craft, the lumbering JU 52 ? s, sitting ducks for a fighter, 
dropping parachutists unmolested. Now and then British 
aircraft would arrive and there would be a scrap, Spitfires 
and the new Defiant in action for the first time, but from 
the sea it was depressingly the Luftwaffe's day. Blenheims 

(203 ) 


and Beauforts were being used to bomb the occupied 
Dutch airfields. 

North of The Hague the starboard lookout sighted 
wreckage and Bowerman circled the area carefully for 
some time. From what was floating on the water the vessel 
had probably been a trawler but there was no clear iden- 
tification and no visible survivors. Other trawlers could 
still be seen occasionally, doggedly heading south, their 
small decks black with humanity. 

"Looks as if Holland may have had it/' said Bowerman. 
A voice beside him on the bridge said: "Doesn't look too 
promising, sir." The Navy was maintaining its genius for 

The long day passed interminably. There were no fur- 
ther signals from London or from C-in-C, the Nore; and 
although there was continuous action of some kind or an- 
other off The Hague until dusk, Bowerman's instructions 
made it impossible for him to play a fully active role. 
Three times he rushed at full speed towards trawlers that 
were innocently heading for the two known mine-fields 
and set them on a safer course. 

tt l feel like a woman policeman helping children across 
the street/' he grumbled. He had to keep careful watch on 
his fuel figures. During the early afternoon a breeze sprang 
up freshening considerably towards the evening. He hoped 
that the little party in Amsterdam was having a more fruit- 
ful Whitsun than he was. 

Studying his charts he realised that to keep the appoint- 
ment was not going to be easy: the currents here and off 
Ymuiden were of unusual strength and extremely compli- 
cated. He remained off The Hague until dusk, which set 

( 204 ) 


in about seven, then turned northward for the run in. 
After seven the light began to deteriorate rapidly. The 
wind was now definitely rising and had reached Force 

A little before eight o'clock he re-checked his position 
and judged that he was immediately opposite Ymuiden. 
He swung Walpole hard to starboard to make the final 
passage between the two mine-fields. 

A few minutes later he cursed softly and eloquently. 
The destroyer was heading toward a barren shore which 
loomed up alarmingly close and he had to turn to port 
through almost ninety degrees. There was no option now 
but to creep inshore up the coast, inside the inner mine- 
field. Something must have gone wrong with the naviga- 
tion: he was a full five miles south of Ymuiden. 

Even in the near-darkness the black shape of the de- 
stroyer was clearly visible from the shore and Walpole was 
sniped at from the sand dunes. Fire was returned with a 
few bursts from the Lewis guns. The idea had been to 
creep in from the sea without being observed and now it 
seemed as if the enemy were preparing a red carpet wel- 

Almost to the minute the starboard lookout reported the 
small light on Ymuiden mole. Bowerman spoke down to 
the engine-room and Walpole eased her speed to a gliding 
roll. When he was immediately outside the harbour, and 
with Walpole barely moving, Bowerman picked up the 

To his considerable relief there was an answering hail 
from the Major. "We're here/ 7 came the shout, "just inside 
the harbour, in a tug/' 

(205 ) 


"Tell the skipper to come alongside." 

"He won't. He says lie can't come out because he hasn't 
got an ocean-going ticket." 

Bowerman choked. After a pause he shouted: "Do you 
mean that?" 


"Haven't you a pistol or something?" 

"Yes, of course." 

"Well, then, if necessary use it." 

"You mean that?" 

"What the hell do you think I mean? You can steer. 
Your engine-room will obey orders. But I'll come alongside 
you. I don't want you steering a tug at me. This destroyer 
is valuable/' 

"So's my bloody tug. About using the pistol is that an 

"Yes, it is." 

On the bridge, half laughing, half raging, Bowerman 
heard a hum of urgent conversation on the tug. 

"If you don't stop debating pretty soon," he shouted, 
"well start to serenade you with a Lewis gun. The Har- 
wich Express leaves from Platform Four in about sixty 

Aboard Walpole they heard a sudden clang from the tug. 
There had been no shot. The tugmaster had obviously 
shown a quick change of heart over the necessity for ocean- 
going tickets. 

"Right!" shouted Bowerman. "Tell him to come along- 
side. I'll stay where I am. Keep that weapon in the small 
of his back." 

"Aye, aye, sir!" came a slightly ironic shout from the tug. 

( 208 ) 


Bowerman gave orders to a group of seamen 
ready amidships on the starboard deck. Walpole was wal- 
lowing heavily, her nose still pointing northward. The 
tug chugged and lurched her way out of the darkness. 

"I'm not sure that you deserve it/' they heard the Major 
saying, **but here you are." A bundle of notes was thrust 
into the tugmaster's hand. 

"Watch your step!" Bowerman shouted from the bridge. 
For minutes on end it was impossible for any of them to 
transfer from the tug to the destroyer as both vessels 
were now lurching, the tug dangerously. Three times she 
charged into the destroyer's flank with an ugly scraping 
sound, threshing the water in her attempts to steer clear. 

'Will you kindly stop ramming my ship?" Bowerman 

"We haven't got an ocean-going ticket!" Jan yelled back. 
He felt insanely happy. 

The next moment he was almost dead. As he tried to 
scramble aboard his foot slipped and he only escaped by 
inches from being crushed against Walpole s side. With 
his left hand clasping the kitbag he was almost helpless. 
Three ordinary seamen hauled him aboard a few seconds 
later and he fell floundering on the destroyer's deck, the 
Htbag held in front of him. 

"Crikey!" said one of the seamen. "What have we got 
here? A ruddy whale?" 

^All the thrills of deep sea fishing," remarked another 
laconically, helping Jan to his feet. Walter was helped 
aboard a minute later and finally the Major, who brushed 
a little dirt from his trouser leg. The tug backed away. 

"That the lot?" shouted Bowerman. "No visitors?" 

(207 ) 


"That's the lot," said the Major. "Harwich, please/' 

"Aye, aye, sir!" Bowerman gave an order to the engine- 
room. From her compact belly came the growl of Wai- 
poles powerful intestines. The tug was disappearing in 
the darkness. 

Silence had fallen on Ymuiden. There was no shooting 
in the streets above the port and no light was showing 
other than a quiet glow from the houses that were burning 
themselves out. Jan, Walter and the Major were taken be- 
low to the tiny wardroom. Jan flung himself luxuriously 
onto a settee. 

'Isn't that wonderful?" he cried. "It's not even broken!" 
Triumphantly he hauled the Napoleon brandy from the 
kitbag. A few moments later Bowerman joined them. 

"Everything all right?" he asked. "Did you have a happy 

"Everything all right," said the Major. "Thanks for turn- 
ing up on time. What about you?" 

"No excitements at all. Glad to see you safe and sound." 
He pressed a button. "You'd probably like a drink. I'll have 
bacon and eggs served to you later, if that suits you. Sorry 
I can't stay but 111 have to spend the night on the bridge." 

"I meant to bring you tulips, Captain, and I forgot. I'm 
sorry," said Jan. "However the kitbag was just right for 
our shopping. Many thanks." 

"Not at all. Now then, what will you have?" 

"Nothing," said Jan. "Tonight we drink to Holland from 
this bottle which I have personally denied to the Germans. 
And I'd like a glass of water for this rose." 

Bowerman looked as if he were about to speak but said 
nothing. "What's the news like, on shore?" he asked. 

(208 ) 


"Holland capitulates tomorrow/' said the Major. 

Jan produced a corkscrew from his pocket. "Holland 
never capitulates," he said. "Holland fights on. Wherever 
there are Dutchmen, in Holland or away from home, we 
shall fight the tyranny until the swine have bit the dust." 

They did not hear the B.B.C. that night as they plunged 
across the North Sea and Jan was unaware that he was 
echoing certain words that had been spoken at Westmin- 
ster by the new Prime Minister on that same day. Accord- 
ing to M.P/s who were present, Churchill had entered the 
chamber looking a little white, with his jaw stuck out, but 
otherwise calm. One sentence, broadcast and re-broadcast 
across the world that evening, was to stick in the minds of 
ordinary people who did not normally bother to remember 
politicians* phrases. 

"I have nothing to offer," said the new Prime Minister, 
T)ut blood, toil, tears and sweat." 

An extraordinary hush had fallen on the House and 
Party differences faded into insignificance as they listened 
to the leader of the coalition government. 

"You ask, what is our policy?" There was a pause before 
the voice continued. "It is to wage war, by sea, land and 
air, with all our might and with all the strength that God 
can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, 
never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of hu- 
man crime. That is our policy. 

<c You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: 
Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; 
victory, however long and hard the road may be. . . r 

Had they but known it in the destroyer, the silent night 
above them was alive with words: the O.K.W. commu- 

( 209 ) 


nique from Berlin announcing new victories, among them 
the capture of Liege and sweeping advances across the 
Low Countries; widely various assessments from America; 
official and in parts complacent statements from Paris and 
from Brussels; and from Rome the faintly jealous but an- 
ticipatory licking of the chops of a timid jackal preparing 
to join the feast. Yet everything that crammed the ether 
on the May night was destined for oblivion except the 
growl from Westminster. 

"All that we need," Jan was saying cheerfully, "are some 
large glasses/* Bowennan apologised again for having to 
leave them. "You'll have to share my day cabin/ 7 he ex- 
plained, "as you did on the way out, if you want any sleep. 
We should be in Harwich about dawn. Ill give you warn- 
ing." He slipped out of the wardroom and returned to the 

When the glasses came Jan poured out three enormous 
measures of the Napoleon brandy. 

"We kill this bottle tonight/* he announced. "It should 
be of excellent quality and its aroma is already enhanced 
by the fact that it will never suffer the humiliation of glid- 
ing down a German throat." 

The orange rose, drooping sadly, stood by itself in a tum- 
bler of water on the wardroom table and, as the destroyer 
began to pitch and roll more heavily in the double squirm 
of which only small fast ships are capable, he put out one 
huge paw to steady it. 

"We drink to Holland, to my country," he said. Looking 
at the rose he added: "And to absent friends/* 

(210 ) 



WALTER was shaken into consciousness by a hand on his 
shoulder. He heard a voice say: "Five o'clock and going 
to be another nice day," and he dimly perceived steam 
rising from a mug of tea. "Compliments of the bridge," 
added the seaman, "and we should be in at about five 

It took him two or three seconds to remember where he 
was. The Major had again won the toss for the bunk. On 
the floor nearby an amorphous bulk of clothing enclosed 
Jan, still asleep and clutching the kitbag as if it were a 
child. Looking up, Walter saw that the bunk was empty, 
and a few minutes later the Major returned, spruce and 
shaved. Oh God, thought Walter, fancy having shaved! 
To a dyspeptic eye it looked as if Dillon had had his 
trousers pressed: even his clothes were clean and there 
was nothing in his appearance to indicate that he had ever 
left London. If King's Regulations could see you now, 
thought Walter, watching the Major with one eye, King's 
Regulations would be proud of you. His eye wandered 
and fell with distaste on his own macintosh torn, filthy, 

(211 ) 


oily. He couldn't very well leave it aboard the destroyer 
but it must be disposed of somehow before lie got home. 
He scalded his mouth trying to swallow some tea and then 
fell asleep again. Jan had never waked up. 

Just before six o'clock they disembarked. Walter's head 
felt like a balloon and his tongue was dry and hard. Jan's 
eyes, he noticed, were bloodshot. The Major glanced at 
them both but had the good manners to disguise his scorn. 
They had finished the brandy between them, with Jan and 
Walter enjoying the major share, and Walter tried to re- 
member where they had left the bottle. It must have 
looked pretty sordid, empty and alone, on the wardroom 

Bowennan, incomprehensibly alert and fresh after two 
consecutive nights on the bridge, went ashore with them. 
He apologised for the roughness of the trip back. 

"I must say we're most grateful to you," said the Major. 
"It's been a most interesting excursion." 

"One day, Dillon," Jan growled under his breath, "you'll 
throttle yourself with your own understatements." He 
hated having to admit that the Major had done everything 
required of him without turning a hair. Jan felt reluctantly 
convinced that whatever private mission the Major had 
been on, that too had been faultlessly completed. He had 
replaced the remnants of the orange rose in his button- 

"You'll need transport to London I suppose," Bower- 
man said. "I've got to report to the office and they'll be 
able to fix you up with a car." 

Behind them a flotilla of destroyers, threading its way 
through the shipping, was heading for the open sea. Here 



at Harwich there was bustle and activity but it was fan- 
tastically quiet after the scenes they had witnessed at 
Ymuiden. It was cool in the early morning breeze but with 
every promise of another full-blooded spring day. 

There was some delay over the car and it was after 
eleven before they reached London. 

"Where do we drop the kitbag?" asked the Major. 

They went first to St. Andrew's House, Holborn Circus, 
to a department of the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Jan 
and Walter stayed in the car with the kitbag while the 
Major made enquiries. When he returned he said: "Noth- 
ing doing here. They say we've got to go direct to the Dia- 
mond Trading Company in Charterhouse Street/* 

"Doesn't anybody want the thing?" Jan grumbled. 

At the Diamond Trading Company's offices their recep- 
tion was more cordial. Officials crowded round them, ask- 
ing for news of Holland, news of merchants and dealers 
whom they knew. Jan simply dropped the kitbag at their 

"There it is," he said. "That's all we could get, but it's 
most of it. The Germans won't find much." The officials, 
correctly dressed, looked at the kitbag, battered now and 
filthy, smeared with oil and rubble and dust, and Jan 
moved it forward with his foot. It seemed such a tame 
ending, thought Walter: we should be carried, shoulder- 
high, through cheering throngs to Buckingham Palace. 
Or something. 

Out in the road again the Major asked if he could be 
dropped in Victoria Street. "Better just let them know I'm 
back," he said. Before parting they shook hands. "We 
might all have lunch some day," the Major suggested. 

( 213 ) 


"Fine, fine," said Jan. They watched the Major setting 
off to make his report, as cool and composed as ever. 

<C I m going down to Oxted," Walter told Jan. "Would 
you like to come down and finish your interrupted week- 

"What's today?" 

Walter thought for a moment. "It must be Tuesday 
now," he said, "Tuesday, May the fourteenth/* 

"If it's a Tuesday," said Jan, "I must find myself a drink, 
at any cost. Tuesday is a particularly thirsty day. I'll prob- 
ably go to Ely Place and break it to them that we are now 
the head office, which is bound to call for a little celebra- 
tion. No, I won't come to Oxted, but give my love to Julia. 
By the way, I suppose we're not allowed to tell anyone 
where we've been or what we've been doing?" 

"I suppose not." 

At Victoria station Walter put in a call to Oxted but 
there was no reply from his house. He left his old macin- 
tosh in the phone booth: it was filthy beyond repair and 
his clothes were in little better condition. It never oc- 
curred to him that the Lagonda was in London, He felt 
asleep on his feet as if he had been drugged. On his way 
to the train he bought a paper. 

The greatest mechanised battle in history was being 
waged across western Europe with thousands of tanks en- 
gaged, he read. France was now facing the full brunt of a 
colossal blow and, although there were assurances that all 
was going well, the assurances were inclined to be pious 
and vague; the German communiques, on the other hand, 
were disturbingly precise. But hundreds of German air- 
craft, according to the Allied reports, had been destroyed. 

( 214 ) 


There was one item of downright good news, given 
without equivocation: the Queen of the Netherlands had 
arrived in London last night and had been met by the 
King. Princess Juliana, Prince Bernhard and the children 
had reached a British port earlier in the day. 

According to a military correspondent all the eastern 
half of Holland had only been lightly held because it was 
frankly indefensible. The original plan had envisaged a 
twenty-four hour resistance in the east, the time needed 
for flooding to be put into operation, the troops then to 
fall back on the Yssel and hold there for a further twenty- 
four hours. Holland had now been fighting for four full 
days and there was no mention of capitulation. 

All the papers were full of Churchill's speech in the 

In the train Walter fell asleep again and was carried 
one station beyond Oxted before he woke up. When he 
tried to hire a car the driver looked him over carefully, and 
with obvious apprehension, before asking for the fare in 
advance. When he got back to Oxted the house was empty. 

Now I must shave and wash and make myself look nor- 
mal, he thought, after he had let himself in. Fighter air- 
craft roared low over the house but made no impression 
on him. The scar, psychologically as well as physically, 
had ceased to be a part of him and he wondered if the 
cure, drastic as it had been, would prove permanent. He 
dragged himself up the stairs to the bedroom and decided 
to relax for five minutes before the effort of washing and 
changing. He flung himself, as he was, on the bed. 

When he woke for the third time that morning it was to 
find Julia standing over him. He lay on the bed, looked at 

(215 ) 


her, closed his eyes and looked again. He knew that ex- 
pression so well; but this time, unless he was deceived, 
there was a trace of pity in it. She looked almost clinically 
clean and tidy, yet fresh and attractive. 

"Well," she said, "any explanations?** 

He closed his eyes again and said: "No. There was a 
rush of business, that's all. I'd love a cup of black coffee." 

"It must have been interesting business," said Julia. 
"You look as if youVe slept in a London gutter, your 
breath reeks of brandy and even from where I'm standing 
I can smell a woman's perfume. Lily of the valley." 

"Yes, I did have some brandy. But what I'd love is a cup 
of coffee." 

"Were you with Jan?" 

"Yes, Jan and I were together." 

"I might have known it! Everything's happened just as 
I feared it would." 

"Julia, where's Nick?" She was entirely justified in her 
suspicions on the evidence but there seemed no point in 
dragging out the conversation. 

"We've been shopping and he's rushed into the garden," 
Julia said. "I don't think he ought to see you in your pres- 
ent condition. It's bad for a child to feel ashamed of its 

"Julia, Julia, what can I say?" He began to drag him- 
self up from the bed. At that moment Nicholas rushed into 
the room. 

"Daddy! Daddy!" he shouted. "I've found a nest with 
four young in it! You must come and see it at once! I 
don't know whether it's a chaffinch or only a hedge- 
sparrow. You haven't shaved," he added suddenly. 

(216 ) 


"No, Nicky, Tin sorry. I was just going to." 

"But it's nearly lunch timer* 

"Is it really? My goodness!" 

"Nicholas/' said his mother, "I think you ought to leave 
daddy alone. He's got to have a bath and change, and 
lunch'll be on the table in fifteen minutes." 

"No!" said Walter. "We are going straight into the gar- 
den. Lead on, Nicky." 

As they were leaving the room together Julia said to 
Walter: "You haven't forgotten about this afternoon, have 

"This afternoon?" 

"Yes, tea with the vicar. You promised." 

"The vicar! My dear Julia, of course. I hadn't forgotten 
it for a moment." 

"I say, daddy, you stink a bit," said Nicholas. 

"I hope you're not ashamed of me." 

"Gosh, no! I like a good stink." 

Without warning Julia burst into tears. Nicholas stared 
up at his mother, bewildered, and Walter put his arm 
round her shoulder. 

"Oh, Walter, Walter," she was sobbing, "can't you pull 
yourself together? Not just for my sake but for our sake, 
for the three of us?" 

"My very dearest Julia," he said in a low voice, "I give 
you my word this won't happen again. I'm terribly sorry 
if I've upset you." 

He led her gently downstairs, his arm still round her. 
Nicholas had raced ahead of them and was already at the 
door leading into the garden. 

"Oh, I say, hurry up you two," he shouted. "It's in the 



hedge on the left, about halfway down. They're frightfully 
funny, they've got no feathers!" 

"We're just coining," Walter shouted back. "We must 
look into this, all three of us, together.'* 

( 218 ) 


LATE that evening Tuesday, May 14th, 1940 Holland 
recognised defeat. A statement was issued from the Royal 
Netherlands Legation in London and at 11 p.m. the Dutch 
Commander-in-Chief , General Winkelman, broadcast from 
his own country to say: "We have been forced to lay down 
our arms." There had been no choice. By dawn on Wednes- 
day the Reichswehr was in Amsterdam. Fighting con- 
tinued for a while in Zeeland but the invasion, as such, was 
over. Without compunction the German air force had 
flattened an entire portion of the ancient city of Rotterdam 
and had perpetrated a crime that shocked the outside 

But Holland was by no means out o the war. Of her 
three million tons of merchant shipping, only a fraction 
had fallen to the enemy. Dutch sailors, soldiers and airmen 
continued the fight from abroad; and inside Holland a pow- 
erful and indomitable resistance movement soon came 
into being. A British warship had brought the Prime Min- 
ister and Government to England on the last day of open 
warfare, and this Government, with the Queen of the 

( 219 ) 


Netherlands, continued to operate from allied soil. On 
Wednesday, May 15th, the Foreign Minister, Dr. van 
Kleffens, announced the military price that Holland had 
had to pay for her observance of neutrality: 100,000 men, 
her entire bomber force and "almost alT of her two hun- 
dred fighter aircraft. 

Of many thousand tons of oil and fuel stocked in Hol- 
land, more than two-thirds had been destroyed before the 
Germans arrived. The huge Batavia-Shell dumps in Am- 
sterdam were still burning when the first enemy mecha- 
nised units rolled into the city, and the precious gold and 
diamonds, on which the Germans had set such store, had 
largely been snatched from under their noses, with only 
hours to spare. 

Many of the characters whom this account concerns are 
no longer alive. Jan Smit died suddenly in 1946 on his re- 
turn from a visit to the States, still a young man and 
mourned by a wide circle of friends who knew and under- 
stood his Gargantuan zest for living. 

Of the Dutch diamond merchants Abraham Asscher 
died in 1950, but the firm still flourishes. Mr. I. Spier is in 
New York, J. L. Cardozo & Co. still function at Amster- 
dam, and Mr. Soep died in 1952. Captain Bussemaker, one 
of a family with long traditions in naval service, is no 
longer alive but the tugmaster has his brass plate up on 
the same house at Ymuiden. The port, under German oc- 
cupation, became an important submarine base with huge 
bomb-proof pens. 

It has been impossible to trace the driver of the vehicle 
which took the mission from Ymuiden to Amsterdam and 

( 220 ) 


back again; and in this instance, therefore, it has been 
necessary to use imagination based on the facts of the sit- 
uation at the time and on eye-witness accounts of what oc- 
curred in the harbour. During subsequent salvage opera- 
tions the Germans brought between forty and fifty cars to 
the surface cars which had mostly been pushed but in 
some cases driven in despair over the quayside edge. 
Anna's case was typical of many. 

The boy Solly, who so much wanted to come to England, 
is known to have died in a gas chamber, one of the six 
million European Jews whom Nazi Germany disposed of. 
The artist "A," whom the mission visited before going to 
the Smit offices, is also dead, one of the pioneers of the 
Resistance who had completed his first important opera- 
tion before the German troops entered Amsterdam. Wal- 
ter Keyser, the Major, and Commander Bowerman are all 
alive. Walpole was paid off in 1945 following severe dam- 
age from an enemy mine. 

In a booklet written to commemorate the sixtieth an- 
niversary of his firm in 1948, Johan Smit has written: "Dur- 
ing the occupation every effort was made to fritter away 
the diamond stocks remaining in the hands of the Ger- 
mans/' Through various forms of technical sabotage some 
380,000 carats were used up and wasted on gem stones 
useless to the enemy war industry. Johan found himself 
protected by two documents a generation apart: the letter 
he had received from Hitler when the war clouds had 
begun to gather over Europe and an official certificate of 
his service in the Boer army. He now lives in New York. 

The sawing machines which he had so carefully pre- 
pared for shipment from Rotterdam to Britain fell into 

( 221 ) 


German hands. In England the same three men who had 
carried out the Amsterdam mission became involved in 
plans for an attempt to retrieve other machines known to 
be in Antwerp and Dixmude, but by now the tempo of the 
war had quickened far beyond the calculations of the 
pundits, and suddenly it was too late for anything more to 
be done. 

In London there was very nearly serious embarrassment 
some years later when the time came to return the sealed 
diamond consignments to the owners. Mr. Spier had man- 
aged to escape from Holland on May 14th, reaching Lon- 
don on May 21st, and obtained his goods from the Dia- 
mond Trading Company without difficulty. A war reserve 
of industrial diamonds was set up in Canada in 1943, in- 
cluding the property of Belgian and Portuguese companies 
(these were flown back to Britain in 1946), but there was 
a period of grave anxiety when no check could be made 
of the consignments belonging to Mr. Soep, Mr. Hakker, 
Mr. Cardozo and others among the Amsterdam merchants 
who had entrusted their livelihood to certain officials at 
the Board of Trade. There was even a moment when the 
kitbag itself appeared to be lost and when a most re- 
spected official wondered whether he was going to be ac- 
cused of becoming a multi-millionaire overnight. 

In the over-all picture it cannot be claimed that the ad- 
vancing German armies in their lightning blow against the 
Low Countries found the cupboard altogether bare; but 
it can and should be recorded that three men, in a small 
and ageing vessel, cheated the enemy of a major prize. In 
the huge swirl of agony that was engulfing western Eu- 
rope this was not the kind of episode to find its way into 

( 222 ) 


the war communiques, and never at any time were even 
the barest facts of what had been accomplished known to 
more than a handful of men. 

In the spring of 1955 the Admiral who, in 1940, was 
Commander-in-Chief, the Nore, was good enough to look 
up his private diary for that Whitsun weekend and found 
in it the following terse but illuminating entry: 
**'German*pressing forward with savage persistence. Our 
destroyers are doing gallant work, bombarding, transport- 
ing gold and diamonds, rescuing princesses, aiding sinking 
merchant ships, etc' 

There, in a couple of dozen words, is exactly what this 
account has tried to put on paper at rather greater length 
and in the human context of how a few people felt and 
acted in the year that Whitsun was cancelled in England. 

( 223)