Each year the month of September is a time of remembrance in Oosterbeek. In particular we recall what has become known as the ‘Battle of Arnhem’ during the Second World War. The well known film ‘A Bridge Too Far’ dramatised the event for the cinema.
Among the victims of ‘the only battle lost by the allies that is still remembered each year’ were three Mill Hill Missionaries. Here’s a report from our archives.
Those who fell through the violence of war in their homeland.
It was Sunday, September 17, 1944, a sunny late summer day. But around noon the peace and quiet was suddenly broken. Countless planes roared through the sky; paratroopers came down in masses; the great leap north had begun; Eindhoven; Nijmegen and Arnhem suddenly became a focal point of battle.
And the day after, on Monday, September 18, it happened.
At the Batavierenweg in Nijmegen, where our St.Petrus-Huis stood (a double rented house, where the young priests followed an extra mission course, but were on vacation at the time) there was also heavy fighting. Fr. Ahaus, Fr. Vlasveld and Brother Nico were then in the St.Petrus-Huis. What exactly took place could not be traced. Certain information suggests that they were shot. The houses along the Batavierenweg were burned. Later the ruins were knocked down and this area was forbidden to civilians. First on Monday 12 Nov. 1945 the remains of Fr. Ahaus were found under the rubble and on Saturday 24 Nov. buried in the cemetery of the St. Joseph Study House in Tilburg. The bodies of Fr.Vlasveld and Brother Nico have still not been found.
Fr. Dr. Hubertus Ahaus was born in Dordrecht in 1877. He was ordained a priest at Mill Hill in 1900. In 1903 he obtained his doctorate in Rome and became professor of Theology in our Mother House at Mill Hill. In 1912 he founded the St. Joseph Study House in Tilburg, for the training of future missionaries, and led this foundation as Rector until 1931. After that he was an inspiring promoter of mission (not least among the intellectuals) through his compelling word and through various writings.
Father Bernardus Vlasveld was born in Leiden in 1902. In 1926 he was ordained a priest in Mill and that same year he left for our Mission in Nellore (India), where he was also the secretary of Mgr. Bouter until he was appointed Rector of St.Joseph Study House in Tilburg in 1937. In 1943 he became Rector of the St. Petrus Huis in Nijmegen.
Brother Nico (de Rijk) was born in 1905 in Nieuwkooi. Since 1926 he worked in our Mission House in Roosendaal. In 1929 he took his perpetual oath. In 1941 he was appointed to the newly started foundation, the St. Petrus Huis in Nijmegen.
May they rest in peace