This is a story of two separate wartime friendships that developed into romance but sadly never had the opportunity to blossom fully. It is the story of three young people at the time of war. It is the story of Evelyn, now aged 106.
The item in our collection and linked to the story is a Midshipman’s Poniard, given to junior officers in the Royal Netherlands Navy on their ‘passing out’ as officers. It is worn mainly on ceremonial occasions.
Following the invasion of the Netherlands by German forces in 1940, a number of vessels of the Dutch navy ended up at Holyhead. Initially, the Dutch mariners were looked upon by the local population with a degree of wariness. It wasn’t long before their fears were allayed, with families welcoming them into both their hearts and homes.
One such Holyhead family befriended a young Dutch student who had travelled to Holyhead from Manchester to join the Royal Netherlands Navy. Han Jordaan became a regular visitor to their house and began dating Evelyn, one of the daughters. Sadly the romance was short lived as Han was seconded to the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) before being parachuted into German occupied Amsterdam.
Jordaan was betrayed to the Gestapo after only five weeks. After aggressive interrogation he was forced to transmit misinformation to his handler in the UK. However, using a special word he was able to alert his handler that his position had been compromised. Sadly Jordaan did not survive the war and died in a concentration camp three weeks before the cessation of hostilities.
Evelyn’s wartime story however did not end there. Several months later she met and fell in love with another Dutch mariner, Jan Christiaan van Aller. He had enrolled as a cadet in the Royal Netherlands Navy in 1939. On his passing out he was presented with his ceremonial poniard or dagger. Following further officer training at Falmouth, Van Aller was posted to Holyhead.
It was at a dance at the Station Hotel that the couple first met and soon became quite close. At some point in time he transferred to the Marine corps and in January 1942 was promoted to the rank of Sub Lieutenant.
Once again Evelyn’s dreams were shattered when a month later he was posted to Jakarta in the Dutch East Indies. Before departing, the couple vowed they would write to each other and when the war was over he would return. As a token of his feelings he gave Evelyn his poniard.
In February 1942 Singapore fell to the Japanese and his ship, SS Mentor, was diverted to Suriname in Dutch Guyana. As to where Van Aller ended his war years is unclear. However, due to the fact that the letters suddenly stopped arriving, Evelyn assumed he had been killed. She frequently reflected on ‘what might have been’ before she met her future husband George, whom she married in 1946.
In 2014, Evelyn donated the poniard to the Maritime Museum, a treasured reminder of a typical wartime romance that was not meant to be.
Two memorials to the presence of the Dutch Navy at Holyhead during WW2
Contributed by Peter Scott Roberts and Graham Van Weert from conversations with Evelyn and her family.
© Holyhead Maritime Museum
The image of HNLMS Medusa is from Wikimedia Commons. Original source – Mark, C. Schepen van de Koninklijke Marine in W.O. II Alkmaar: De Alk bv, 1997
This series of posts is to showcase items from the museum’s collection and to support the ‘Ports, Past and Present’ project that features and promotes five ports of the Irish Sea connecting Wales with Ireland – Rosslare, Dublin Port, Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke. More information here – https://portspastpresent.eu/