Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema-Soldier of Orange

Today marks the 77th anniversary of Queen Wilhelmina arriving in the United Kingdom to take charge of the Dutch Government in Exile.

Koningin_Wilhelmina_Radio_Oranje_IIInitially I wanted to do a piece on that event but rather then focusing on the Queen, I decided to focus on Adjudant to the Queen,Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema.

Siebren Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema(3 April 1917 – 26 September 2007) was a Dutch wartime RAF-pilot, Dutch spy and writer.


Acclaimed in the Netherlands as one of the nation’s greatest World War II heroes.He was a Knight 4th class of the Military William Order and also received a Distinguished Flying Cross.

In the Netherlands he became famous as the writer of the 1970 book Soldaat van Oranje(Dutch: Soldier of Orange, also know as Survival Run) in which he describes his experiences in World War II, and which was made into a 1977 film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Rutger Hauer.

Hazelhoff was born in Surabaya, on Java in the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), the son of Siebren Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, senior, and Cornelia Vreede. His family moved to The Hague in the 1930s, and then Wassenaar. He travelled to the US in 1938, writing a book of his experiences in 1939, Rendezvous in San Francisco.

When the war broke out, Hazelhoff, was a law student at Leiden University, enjoying life to the full and keeping study to a minimum. As war loomed, he joined the army reserve. The university catered mostly for an upper and middle-class elite and stoutly opposed the German invasion. After the country was overrun, students seized a train loaded with supplies that was destined for the occupation administration and held a wild party, dressed up in stolen Nazi uniforms. However, the fun did not last long. The Germans closed the university.

Hazelhoff  managed to escape to the United Kingdom as a crew member aboard the SS St. Cergue, a Swiss merchant ship in June 1941, together with Bram van der Stok, Peter Tazelaar, Gerard Volkersz. and Toon Buitendijk

(No pictures available of Gerard Volkersz. and Toon Buitendijk)

In London, Hazelhoff Roelfzema, with the help of general François van ‘t Sant, director of the Dutch CID (Central Intelligence Service) and Col. Euan Rabagliati (Secret Intelligence Service) set up a secret service group known as the Mews, after Chester Square Mews where they lived in London.

The goal was to establish a contact with the Resistance in the Netherlands. Several agents were parachuted, others were put ashore at the beaches of Noordwijk and Scheveningen. Their actions included dropping off broadcast equipment for the Dutch resistance at the Dutch coast and also pick up people from occupied Netherlands, who were needed in the UK. They would motor gun boats from the UK Royal Navy to get as close to the coast as possible and use row boats for the last bit of the journey.Motor_Gun_Boat_314

Roelfzema did not receive much cooperation from the Dutch government.

The Mews was subsumed into the CID, the official Dutch central intelligence department, eventually led by Colonel MR de Bruyne.

de bruyne

This combined the SIS-style function of intelligence gathering with the SOE one of sabotage. The two elements were later separated and, later still, recombined, and the CID and its components passed through a series of not always competent chiefs and sets of initials.

De Bruyne did not do a good job. He failed to recognize the fact that his agents were arrested and continued to broadcast messages – for the Germans. The usual procedure for transmitting messages was to include small errors. If an agent was forced to work for the Germans, he would leave out the errors. The result should be that contact was aborted immediately. De Bruyne, however, concluded that the agents simply forgot to use the security-checks and even sent messages to remind them. Other intelligence blunders were the maps he had attached to the wall in his London office, showing the landing sites of Noordwijk, Scheveningen and Walcheren in full detail.

Hazelhoff, strong-willed and outspoken, often fell out with de Bruyne. The colonel threatened to have him court martialled for insubordination in summer 1942, but he was saved by the award of the William order, the Netherlands’ highest decoration. Ultimately, the impatient Hazelhoff became disenchanted with the infighting and joined the air force as a pilot in 1944..

He returned to England in 1944, and joined No. 139 Squadron RAF, part of the elite Pathfinder Force, tasked with illuminating targets for the night bombers of RAF Bomber Command. He made 72 sorties in Mosquito bombers, of which 25 went to Berlin, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.


In April 1945, Hazelhoff Roelfzema was appointed adjudant (assistant) to Queen Wilhelmina.


He accompanied her back to the Netherlands in May 1945, and piloted the airplane in which Princess Juliana, Prince Bernhard and their daughters Princess Beatrix and Princess Irene flew back to the Netherlands. Hazelhoff Roelfzema helped Beatrix walk her first steps on liberated Dutch soil.

Hazelhoff Roelfzema led a fairly restless life after the war, including a stint in Hollywood as an actor and then a writer. During the 1950s he worked as a writer for NBC’s Today Show and Tonight Show in New York City. He later wrote for Dutch newspapers. He was appointed director of Radio Free Europe in Munich in 1956. Later he was involved in a failed attempt by the CIA to support the South Moluccas Republic’s bid for independence from the rule of Indonesian dictator Sukarno He was involved in the creation of Racing Team Holland, attracting sponsors using his fame. His book Soldier of Orange (Soldaat van Oranje), published in 1970, relates his adventures during the war and the political turmoil of the Dutch government in exile. It attracted a lot of attention, even more so when it was made into a film by Paul Verhoeven in 1977, starring Rutger Hauer as Hazelhoff Roelfzema. The film brought Verhoeven, Hauer and Hazelhoff Roelfzema to wider public attention outside the Netherlands, and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

In 1980, Hazelhoff Roelfzema played a ceremonial role as one of two kings of arms at the coronation of Queen Beatrix. He was close to Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, whom he entertained frequently at his home in Maui.

He moved to Hawaii in early 1973, and joined energy company Barnwell Industries Inc. as a director in 1977. He wrote a second autobiography, In Pursuit of Life, in 2000. He died on 26 September 2007 at his home in Āhualoa near Honokaa, on the Island of Hawaii, at the age of 90.He was survived by his wife, Karin Steensma, daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter and great grandson.

His ashes were brought to the monument “Voor hen die vielen-for those who fell” in Wassenaar.

In November 2015, it became known from the upcoming biography of François van’t Sant , a trusted advisor to Queen Wilhelmina, that Hazelhoff Roelfzema together with others had planned a coup in 1947 to overthrow the democratically elected Dutch government out of disagreement with the Linggadjati Agreement, an accord between the Dutch government and the unilaterally declared Republic of Indonesia recognizing Republican rule over major parts of Indonesia under the Dutch crown.


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