Miss Breman


Miss Breman was a 15 year old girl who lived in Oosterbeek and kept a diary as the battle unfolded. Her parents' home was taken over on Thursday 21st by men of the 1st Parachute Battalion's Mortar Platoon, included amongst whom was Sergeant Harold "Dick" Whittingham, Private Nobby Clarke, Frank McCormick, and Reg Curtis. What follows has been taken from a report compiled by David Clarke, which traces the Arnhem exploits of his father, Nobby Clarke.


Thursday, September 21st


This morning the English soldiers give us something to eat: meat and vegetables. Last night they almost managed to set the room on fire. They had put a candle on a glass ashtray. The ashtray got so hot that it burst, so that the tablecloth caught fire and a hole was burnt in the table itself. Fortunately they discovered it before it was too late. The shooting has continued all morning and we are not allowed to leave the cellar. At noon we had another English meal which was very nice.


In the afternoon the Germans suddenly start to fire very heavily. Many English soldiers get into our cellar. Then another comes down and tells us that a container with ammunition at the other side of the house has been hit and is now burning. Everything will now explode. The soldiers that were in the other cellar now also come and join us: the container stands just outside the cellar and they are no longer safe there. They all bring axes. Some parts of the wall collapse, but there is no fire. We all sit tight together on our heels in order to make room for all the people. We get very stiff. A couple of soldiers come down with a wounded man. They put him on the ground and cover him with a blanket. I stand up, but suddenly my legs get very wobbly, so I must sit down again. Suddenly Len and Gerald come down. I am very pleased to see some familiar faces. They examine the wounded soldier and say that he has no wounds but that he has a fright, that he has a "shock", because of a grenade exploding near to him. He looks a bit calmer now. They have given him some eau-de-cologne and now he dozes a bit... We call the wounded man "Uncle John" {His real name is Private Nobby Clarke} because he resembles my Mummy's brother who is also called John. He has had something to eat and drink, but he is still very absent-minded and does not recognise me when I ask him how he is. They have put a wet towel on his head. The other soldiers often come to have a look at him. They treat their wounded very differently from the Germans who stayed with the Klaassen family.


Saturday, September 23rd


The English now begin to have a shortage of food. Yesterday many parachutes were dropped but too many landed outside the English lines, so now the Germans have them. Some parachutes came down in the meadow, but the shooting was too heavy and the soldiers could not get near them. We went upstairs to watch the parachutes come down, some landed in our garden and at the back of the house. Then the shooting began again so we had to go down. I asked Gerald about Len, but he does not want to talk about him.


In the afternoon Frank {McCormick} comes down. He comes from Ireland, so he is also a volunteer. He is a nice boy with thick, black; curly hair. He is mad on Roelie, whom he calls Blondie. She has taught him some Dutch: "Hou je mond. Je bent een wurm. Nee. Ja. Je bent een kip zonder kop. Je bent een kat". ("Shut up. You are a worm. No. Yes. You talk through your hat. You are a cat.") He is very proud of what he has been taught. When he comes down they rehearse everything.


Monday, September 25th


During the morning everything is rather quiet. I went upstairs with Gerald. We stood talking to Aunt Jo in the corridor when a wounded soldier came up the stairs from the other cellar. He had one arm in a sling and a bandage round his head. Behind him came another wounded soldier, who was being helped by six others who carried him upstairs. It was Hawk-nose! {Sgt "Dick" Whittingham}. He is one of our friends. His left leg has been bandaged. I am very sorry for him that he is now so helpless. I go down into our cellar, the shooting has started again. Then Frank comes down. He serves the mortar, but in between his shooting he comes down to talk to us.


See also: Sgt Whittingham.


Back to Dutch Civilians

Back to Biographies Menu