Klaassens and Niemeijer

Geert Klaassens was born on 19 September 1904 in Gieten, a village he never left except for military service. He was married to Geertje Faber and fathered two sons aged 7 and 4 when the war erupted. Klaassens was a farm labourer by profession just like Hendrik Niemeijer. On 28 December 1905 Niemeijer was born to Hendrik Niemeijer and Zwaantje Wiegers in the hamlet Vetstukken located in the municipality Odoorn but now lived in Valthermond.

At right: Hendrik Niemeijer

 

In addition to their work, both men had something else in common. Niemeijer was also married to a Faber, Geertje’s sister Hillechien, and both men serve in the 1st Battalion, 1st Company, of the 9th Infantry Regiment. The members of this regiment generally were from the northern provinces although the company had been quartered in Haarlem since 1 September 1939.

Because Hillechien is not house bound – they have been childless since a daughter they named Zwaantje died when only 12 days old – she frequently visits her husband. For this purpose, she found lodgings with the family Warmerdam in Sassenheim. Her husband and brother-in-law also spend as much time as possible there. as, This is where they all were staying on 10 May 1940 when war erupted, the Friday before Whitsun. Hillechien Niemeijer is at the Warmerdam home in Sassenheim and both brothers have taken leave to stay there as well. Other units of the 1st Infantry Regiment were also being quartered in bulb sheds in Sassenheim and Hillegom which probably led to the misunderstanding that both men were stationed with the 1st rather than 9th Infantry Regiment – an error still visible on their tombstones.

Back row, fourth from left: Geert Klaassens

Transport under air attack
   

On 10 May, in the early morning, Airfield Valkenburg is under attack. At 5:30 am, the First Compagny is ready and gets ammunition. The unit is ordered to go to Rijnsburg via Oegstgeest. As the unit has no transport facilities, many cars are claimed. Klaassens and Niemeijer say goodbye to Hillechien and step into a car.

In a long queue, the convoy of cars moves to Rijnsburg via Rustenburgerpad and the Valkenburgerweg. There, a German warplane opens fire on the convoy.

Many soldiers are hit. Three die on the spot and six badly wounded men are transferred to the 'Academic Hospital' (now LUMC) in Leider or to an emergency hospital in Oegstgeest. However, all six die from their injuries and are buried on the graveyard of the 'Groene Kerkje' in Oegstgeest. Among them, the brothers-in-law Geert Klaassens en Hendrik Niemeijer. Both die on the first day of the war.

Th mortal remains of most Dutch soldiers at the 'Groene Kerkje' are reburied elsewere in 1970 en 1971, mostly at the Grebbeberg Honorary War Cemetary. However, both widows decide that Klaassens and Niemeijer should stay at the 'Groene Kerkje' and that explains why both brothers-in-law share a common grave.

 

Right: common grave of Gerrit Klaassens en Hendrik Niemeijer.