Royal Netherlands Dutch Air Force Recruits.


Peter's book detailing stories of the Dutch recruits who arrived at Cardington.

A little known fact is the important role RAF Cardington played in the rebuilding of the Dutch Air Force towards the end of the Second World War and in the years immediately after. In May 1940 following both an aerial and ground assault the Germans overran Holland destroying much of its air fleet in the process. Some of the pilots of the Dutch Royal Flying Corps and The Naval Air Service managed to escape to France and many arrived in England to form two Dutch squadrons within the RAF. By 1943 the Dutch Spitfire Squadron 322 manned entirely by Dutch personnel was formed in England.

Dutch military heads regrouped in London and began making plans to form a National Dutch Air Force when the war came to an end. In early 1945 Holland was slowly liberated and young Dutch volunteers were selected and sent over to the Recruitment Training Centre at Cardington for basic training. These young recruits spent almost 4 months at Cardington before moving on to other centres for specialised training.

The above information has been taken from a wonderful book written by Dutchman Peter J Huijskens (shown left) called “Cardington – A Pillar in the Development of the post war Royal Netherlands Air Force.” (shown left). Peter was one of the young men sent to Cardington for training after the war and has an obvious affection for Cardington. He went on to have a very successful career in the Royal Netherlands Air Force. His book has many first hand stories and photographs of some of the young recruits and their seniors who spent time at Cardington and the extraordinary routes some of them took to reach England during the war.  I would love to show more photographs from Peter's book but I have been unable to contact him to  seek permission to do so -  but his book deserves wider recognition for the information he has presented and I hope he is happy to see his work recognised here.

Author Peiter J Huijskens - himself a recruit at Cardington in 1945.


This photograph taken from Peters book, shows a victorious Dutch football team with their winning trophy at Cardington in April 1945 having triumphed over teams from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Poland and Czechoslovakia. The man centre sitting down is Camp Commander Arnold in charge of the station at the time.


Ben Evenboer in uniform.

One of the men featured in the book is Ben Evenboer who has made contact.  Ben recounts “I got my basic training at Cardington and was posted to 13 O T U Croft near Darlington. In 1946 and 1947  I served at RAF Langham (Norfolk) at the first Dutch School of RNAF and Royal Naval Air Service technical training. At the moment I am 86 years and a retired First Lieut. Royal Army.”

Thank  you Mr Evenboer for getting in touch.


Above standing second from the right Dutch airman Jan Verrijt also shown in the photo right.This month we have heard from Robert van Staveren in Holland who is trying to find out more information about his second cousin who arrived at Cardington in 1945. “I'm searching for information about my second (Dutch) cousin who went to Cardington in 1945. His name was Jan Verrijt. He got of course his English wings, and later his Dutch wings, pinned on by Prince Bernard. From May 1945 until June 1947 he was at R.A.F. Cardington and Bridgenorth for ground school, and Wolverhampton for Tiger Moth training, then Spitalgate (Grantham) for Texan A-6 (Harvard training) and combat flying. From June 1947 he was at Airbase Twenthe in The Netherlands for B-25 Bomber training and later was flying photo reconnaissance missions in Indonesia. In September 1949 he was discharged with honour as first Lt. On the picture with the Tiger Moth, he is second standing from the right. Those are the things that I know from the letters he wrote to me, I don’t have his military reg. number or a date of birth. I can’t ask him anymore, since he and his wife passed away a couple of years ago.”


Hank Helmink.

Hank Helmink's story 1945

I was very pleased to hear from another Dutch gentleman who found his way to the station in 1945. Here is his story:

"Hello Jane – here is my story

Early 1945 I left home, Nijmegen in The Netherlands, and ended up in Blankenberg Belgium. Here we got a ride in an L C T. There were 6 of us, it was a rough night. We landed in England in the morning, where I don’t know. Dry clothes and a warm breakfast was a good start. We were interrogated for two days. Next stop, Cardington, there I got my basic training. Then a transfer in to the Dutch Navy Airforce, more training in Dundee Scotland. Next a cruise to Shri Lanka then back to a Dutch 321 squadron in the R A F, to get in to Indonesia.

Two years in Soerabaja. Return to the Netherlands. Next trip on a maiden voyage on the Dutch aircraft carrier The Karel Doorman. After a couple of airforce stations in 1949 I got my discharge as a p/o aircraft man OVW. Next two years as a civil servant in the Navy Airforce before I emigrated to Canada and became a Canadian citizen."

Thank you Hank you certainly are well travelled!

Jan ter Doest - RAF Cardington January 1943


Jan in 1945 when he had just got his pilot ‘wing’.


Jan in 2004.


Jans service record. It shows that Jan had served at no less than 17 stations between Jan 1943 and July 1945. The Dutch Royal Air Force regrouped in the UK during the war and Jon seems to have led a rather nomadic existence being reposted almost on a monthly basis. One must assume that this was typical for all the Dutch airmen at the time

Jacobus Pieter Zwaan September 1945

I have heard from Ineke ter Doest who is trying to find out more about his father Jan ter Doest who escaped from Holland and made his way to Enlgand and arrived at Cardington in January 1943. Ineke has sent in his fathers service record and the above photos which gives us a fascinating record of the movements of a young Dutch serviceman after his arrival in England.

" Dear Jane,

I am currently doing research on the wartime years of my Dutch late father, Jan ter Doest. My father arrived in Cardington on 20 January 1943, after he had travelled from Holland to England thorough occupied Europe. Within the RAF he was first trained to become a ground engineer on Spitfires and subsequently managed to get trained as a fighter pilot.

From his work-file (service record) I understand that in January 1943 he was 'put to work' or 'housed' at the Balloon Development Establishment (BDE) in Cardington. But I don't know what the abreviation "P.I." means."

Thank you Ineke for getting in touch and sharing your information with us - Jane.

Jan in 1943 part of a group photo of groundcrew (mechanic.)


Jacobus Pieter Zwaan shown 3rd left top row.


Signatures on the back of the group photo shown left.


Jacobus Pieter Zwaan. August 1946.

This month I was pleased to hear from Jabcobus Zwaan who has sent in some photos (below) of his father Jacobus Pieter Zwaan who was at Cardington in September 1945.

“Please find attached a few pictures of my father Jacobus Pieter Zwaan born 02-11-1926. Although he might have signed up when he was too young? Would you have any information about him? Are any of his mates still alive? The names on the back of the photo could perhaps help in identifying others. My dad lived in Canada since 1974 and he passed away in August 1998. He later joined the Royal Dutch Air Force in Woensdrecht for training as a pilot and flew Harvards in formation.

He was an instructor there for a few years and then joined the KLM until his retirement in 1969."

I don’t often get to see photos of the Dutch men who arrived at Cardington so this photo is a real treat. Please take a look at the men and signatures you may know someone. It is interesting that Jacobus ended up in Canada in later years as some of the men who arrived at the station in the war were posted to that country. Thanks to Jacobus jnr for getting in touch. – Jane. May 2020.