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Jacob Groenewoud

Captain Jacobus Groenewoud

 

Unit : Jedburgh Team Claude

Awards : Militaire Willemsorde

 

Jacob Groenewoud was born in Amsterdam on the 8th November 1916; the second of four children of Jacobus Groenewoud Senior and Hendrika de Klerk. In 1934, having left school, he found employment with the Holland Africa Line Agency, working at their Head Office in Amsterdam. Four years later, aged 21, he emigrated to South Africa and continued to work for the Agency until their office was closed on the 31st March 1940, due to the onset of war.

 

At this time, Groenewoud heard that 27 Dutchmen were leaving South Africa for the Dutch Indies to volunteer for the KNIL (Royal Dutch Indies Army), and he felt that he had a moral obligation to follow them. He had been called up for conscription in 1935, but had failed the medical test due to his poor eyesight, and two years later was declared unfit for military service. Consequently his efforts enlist by contacting the Dutch legation in Pretoria resulted in three rejections, finally he wrote a letter in red ink directly to the Dutch Ambassador, who advised him to register with the consul.

 

While he waited for a response, Groenewoud sought employment and had several temporary jobs before, on the 1st December 1940, he secured a more permanent position as an accountant at the SESCO Works. On the 25th September 1941, Groenewoud was informed that he had been accepted into the Dutch Army and was to report to the Princess Irene Brigade in Britain. As he had been hired on the understanding that he was unfit for military service, the company, who by now were involved in war production, were far from happy to be losing a man whom they had come to regard as an integral part of their business, but their protests came to nothing.

 

Dressed in a British uniform, Groenewoud set sail for the UK on the 20th January 1942. His arrival in Glasgow, on the 17th February, was not all that could have been hoped for as the port authorities would not allow him and the other members of his party to disembark as they had not been forewarned of their arrival and so were technically illegal immigrants. The matter was soon resolved, however, and by the end of evening they had joined their Dutch comrades at Wrottesley Park, near Wolverhampton. Groenewoud did not stay very long though, as he was selected for officer training and, having excelled on the course, was granted a temporary commission as a reserve 2nd Lieutenant in October 1942. This position qualified him to serve as a Liaison Officer, and he was attached to a battalion of the Canadian Black Watch, where he acquired the all too predictable nicknames of "Dutch Joe" and "Amsterdam Joe".

 

In December 1942, he was sent to the Officer Cadet Training Unit at Aldershot, and by the following August, with his rank confirmed, he was transferred to the Headquarters of the 76th Home Guard Division. Groenewoud was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in February 1944, and was posted to the 18th Battalion The Welch Regiment, where he came to be regarded by his Commanding Officer as his best platoon commander. His stay was brief, however, as he was then transferred to the Special Operations Executive to be trained in the Jedburgh role, subsequently becoming one of the three members of Jedburgh Team Claude; his companions being two Americans, Lieutenant Harvey Todd, and Technical Sergeant Carl Scott.

 

Due to the rapid liberation of France and Belgium, it was clear that Holland would be the immediate target for Jedburgh operations, and this led to a number of its Dutch officers, including Groenewoud, being promoted to temporary Captain. On the 10th September, Team Claude were informed that they were to be attached to the 1st Parachute Brigade for Operation Market Garden, with Groenewoud serving as a Liaison Officer. He met Brigadier Lathbury and Major Hibbert on the same day.

 

Jedburgh Team Claude took-off in a C-47 from Barkston Heath on Sunday 17th September. Having landed safely on DZ-X, Groenewoud and Lieutenant Todd left to find transport while Technical Sergeant Scott looked for their equipment and his wireless set. By the time he had succeeded, both officers were on their way to Arnhem with the 1st Parachute Brigade and Scott would not see them again. He spent the remainder of the battle in Oosterbeek, and although he was safely evacuated across the Rhine he was killed in action five weeks later.

 

On the way to the bridge, Groenewoud took part in an attack on a German Headquarters (Rijnpaviljoen), where he discovered a number of important documents. He and Todd arrived at Arnhem Bridge on the evening of Sunday 17th September, and installed themselves alongside Brigade Headquarters. On the following day, Groenewoud was at a meeting with Lieutenant-Colonel Frost and Major Hibbert in attendance, and hearing that they had been unable to make contact with the rest of the Division, he volunteered to make his way to Oosterbeek, but this was deemed unnecessary. That evening, Groenewoud made use of his Jedburgh list and telephoned trusted members of the Dutch Resistance to discover the whereabouts of known German sympathisers in Arnhem.

 

On Tuesday 19th September, the shortage of medical supplies at the Bridge was becoming acute, and so Groenewoud and Todd volunteered to make what was by then a near suicidal dash to the nearby home of a doctor, from where they hoped to get in touch with the St Elizabeth Hospital and arrange for supplies to come through. They had only covered a short distance before they came under fire and Groenewoud was shot in the head by a sniper and died instantly. Todd was forced to shelter in a house, but managed to make contact with the Hospital, only to learn that the Germans had threatened to shoot any staff who attempted to assist the British. 

 

After the battle, Major Hibbert wrote a report which described and praised the efforts of Jacobus Groenewoud, and Lieutenant Todd recommended that he be posthumously awarded a medal for sacrificing his life in the hope of helping the wounded. The Dutch War Department were duly informed and Groenewoud was awarded the Military Order of William 4th Class, the highest honour that the Dutch military can bestow. In Peterborough Cathedral, there is a monument which remembers him and all of the fallen Jedburghs. 

 

 

My thanks to Jim Ommeren and Martin Groenewoud their help with this story.

 

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