Background on Story
Mrs. Ingrid Lambermont was born in The Hague, Netherlands and her daughter who lives in Oshawa arranged for this recording of the story and the audio slideshow below.
My name is Ingrid.Lambermont, I was born in Holland in 1932. On my 8th birthday, in May 1940, the Nazi army marched into our quiet middle-sized town of Zeist (near Utrecht, Amsterdam, Arnhem… near everything, Holland is small.)
Wartime, for us children, was both fearful and exciting. We had no idea what the next 5 years would have in store for us. It was no picnic to grow up in an occupied country. In addition to the dangers and fearing for our lives, we also learned to live with huge shortages of food, clothing, shelter and everything else.
The first thing my father did in the summer of 1940 was dig up the entire back yard and turn it into a vegetable garden. He also planted fruit trees, berry bushes, strawberry plants, etc. Unlike many others who were not as prepared, we had fruit and vegetables all through the war years.
What was most frightening was the ongoing fights between Allied airplanes and German anti-aircraft guns.
Our house was part of a row of semi-detached houses at the edge of town, our backyard looking out over farmers’ fields and orchards.
On a summer night in June 1944, when I was 12 years old, I was asleep in the attic room I shared with my 15-year old sister. We suddenly woke up because, overhead, the Lancasters and Halifaxes from Britain were battling German fighter planes and anti-aircraft fire. We lay there, holding our breath, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the noise to stop. Then, the roar increased, the noise became more intense and threatening, and a red glow filled the room. The next day we learned that a plane had crashed in the field behind our house.
Later that summer I was raking leaves and pulling weeds with my father when I found something soft, made of blue/grey cloth – an army cap! I held it up over my head and said to my father, “Look Pa, a “kraut” cap!” He grabbed it from me and pointed to the R A F letters: Royal Air Force. It was a British soldier’s hat… Possessing such a keepsake was strictly prohibited by the Germans, so my mother hid it in a box of gloves and scarves for the duration of the war.
After the war I contacted the British Air Force to try to return the hat to the family of the unfortunate airman. But, I was very surprised to receive their reply, pointing out the large letter C surrounding R.A.F.… which meant that it was a Canadian Air Force cap! After contacting the Canadian Force, I was told that they could not give me any information about the owner of the hat. So I carefully wrapped it up and saved it.
At the end of the war, a few days before my 13th birthday, Zeist was liberated by Canadian soldiers! They were heroes to us.
On May 6, 1957 my husband Jan and I immigrated to Canada with our infant daughter, Jeannette, on board a DC9 Constellation. The cap came with me, carefully stowed in my luggage.
We settled in Canada, becoming Canadian citizens with our daughter, and the two sons who were born here. We moved around quite a bit, living in Toronto, Cambridge, Montreal, Ottawa and Mississauga as my husband pursued a career in the civil service, and later the foreign service. Throughout the years, on Remembrance Day, we have brought out the hat to show to friends and acquaintances, remembering the Canadian men who were part of the liberating armies in Holland.
On May 8, 1998 we opened the Nederlandse Courant, a Dutch-Canadian newspaper we subscribed to, and saw a review of a book, THE LONG RETURN by Bob Porter, a Canadian ex-POW. The book details Bob’s experience as a 21-year-old R.C.A.F. bomb aimer, whose plane was hit by German fire on June 16th, 1944, exploding high in the sky, and crashing in the fields near the town of… Zeist! Bob was lucky enough to parachute out, and land in a tree, which broke his fall. There was a picture of the young airman wearing a cap that looked identical to the one I had found in our garden.
I immediately sent Bob a fax:
“Hi! Do I have a burning question for you!
When you bailed out of that burning Lancaster bomber over Zeist, Holland, in June 1944, did you lose your cap?
I mean, a similar piece of head gear to the one you are wearing in the photograph.”
Bob answered right away by telephone and we talked at length. And of course we read his book: an unbelievable story of survival. This is a man who never fears, never gives up. After surviving the crash he went into years of hiding with people of the Dutch underground and, later still, survived time in a Nazi prisoner of war camp.
On October 2, 1999, in a private ceremony at our home, incredibly, I was able to present “the cap” to Bob — as we stood in the company of family, friends, army colleagues, and even some media. He put it on his head, and it fit perfectly. After 55 years, this airman’s hat went home. It was an amazing and powerful moment.
And we have become great friends…
Listen to audio story
Click on SoundSlide Symbol to watch Flash ( Turn up volume)
Instructions for Downloading file
If you want to download this SWF file go to link below. After downloading, unzip the file, click on index.html to run slideshow