Free Dutch Sailors in Steep during WWII
The majority of the information for this article comes from a Petersfield Post Nostalgia article 19 June 2019 written by a Petersfield Museum volunteer.
Dutch sailors from Dutch navy cruiser HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerk were invited to Steep by the Scheltema Van Putten family who lived at a house named Little Hawsted in Steep. The cruiser came into Portsmouth on 10th May 1940. Julie Van Putten was a Dutch national, living with her husband Theodore and children Herbert and Annemarie at Little Hawsted.
Julie invited the Dutch sailors to tea and realised that they were separated from their homes and families and needed a place to rest and relax. She contacted the Dutch Admiralty in exile and offered to set up a home for them when they were on leave. By November 1940 she had arranged for them to sleep at a house belonging to Bedales School named Foxcot. Dutch Admiral Prupper inspected the house and found it suitable. He also arranged for a Dutch chef to cook for the sailors at Little Hawsted.
There were sometimes as many as 15 men staying at Foxcot. The sailors and possibly others from the merchant navy lodged at Foxcot until at least November 1941, possibly slightly later. They were no longer there by the spring term of 1943, as the house was reclaimed again by the school, as it was needed for staff accommodation. The Slater and Jarman families were living at Foxcot from 1943 onwards. The newspaper account reports that later in the war, Dutch sailors suffering from shell shock were also cared for. Elizabeth Brieberg, née Slater thinks that after 1943, the Dutch sailors may have lodged somewhere at Little Hawsted.
Mrs Scheltema hung a large Dutch flag above the dining table at her house where the sailors ate.
The sailors spent time relaxing and enjoying the countryside. They visited The Harrow and Cricketers pubs.
by Fran Box
Petersfield Post Nostagia article 19 June 2019
Elizabeth Briemburg née Slater memories of Steep 1943 – 1955
Information from Bedales archives supplied by archivist Jane Kirby