During WW1 the Netherlands were neutral but the government had to balance in complying with Germany on one hand and the British on the other in order to maintain neutrality. Because the fighting did not involve the Netherlands, not much emphasis is placed on WW1 in Dutch history in contrast to WW2. However, traces of WW1 can still be found in the Netherlands and this is particular true for the parts in the south bordering Belgium, such as Limburg, Brabant and Zeeland.
Located in the Dutch town of Flushing, the only WW1 cemetery outside of France and Belgium. This small cemetery is rather unknown and contains 41 graves: 34 British, 3 French and 4 Belgian graves.
The British that are buried here are mainly naval servicemen, victims of the German submarine warfare that washed ashore near Flushing. There are also a few pilots that crashed on Dutch teritory.
This communal grave is located in Westkapelle situated on Walcheren and contains four Dutch naval service men that were killed while trying to deactivate a sea mine that washed ashore in November 1914.
Although The Netherlands were neutral during WW1, it suffered from violations of its neutrality from time to time. This was especially true for the southern provinces bordering occupied Belgium, such as Zeeuws-Vlaanderen.
This restaurant can be found in Sluis, situated near the border with Beklgium, and was bombared in the fall of 1917 by the British as indicated by the commemorative plaque on the building.
It was in one of the books of Lyn Macdonald that I first read about the internment of British servicemen in the Netherlands during the great war. Following the fall of Antwerp in october 1914, about 1500 British soldiers of the naval division did not receive the order to retreat on time, resulting in the cut off of their escape route. In order to avoid imprisonment by the Germans, the British commander, Commodore Henderson, decided to cross the border with neutral Holland with his men. Here, the British were interned and moved to the city of Groningen for the duration of the war.
This British camp was known as Timbertown or HMS Timerbtown and was located behind the Mesdagkliniek and Sterrebos at the Hereweg. Nowadays there is nothing left of the British camp and in fact this location is a huge construction pit.
The only two reminders are a the local street name and a small stone memorial.
The bronze plaque on the memorial is quite difficult to read, but it commemorates the British servicemen that were interned at Timbertown.
During their interment 8 British soldiers died and are buried at the nearby community cemetery (Zuiderbegraafplaats), while a ninth grave was added a few weeks after the war. All graves are maintained by the commonwealth war graves commission, but, however, no characteristic cross of sacrifice is present here.
Although the commonwealth war graves commission looks after the graves, the headstones are remarkably different from the white headstones found on the British cemeteries in Picardy and Flanders.
The only monument that is present was erected by sailors of the naval division as well as local citizens.