The Scot who liberated a Dutch town on a bicycle

Angus Mitchell, who liberated the Dutch town of Boxmeer on a bicycle in 1944. Picture: Hemedia

Angus Mitchell, who liberated the Dutch town of Boxmeer on a bicycle in 1944. Picture: Hemedia

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A SECOND World War veteran has relived the moment he liberated a Dutch town from Nazis – on his bicycle.

During the critical stages of conflict in the Netherlands in 1944, the Inns Court Regiment, nicknamed The Devil’s Own, were sent to the country.

Angus Mitchell, a 20-year-old lieutenant at the time, commanded a small troop of eight men and three armoured cars.

The men had been dispatched to the town of Boxmeer with orders to find crossings along the River Maas, about two miles from the current border, on 26 September 1944. Another troop with similar instructions had come under heavy fire and was captured by the Germans.

Mr Mitchell and his men waited beside a railway track outside Boxmeer, when they were joined by a Dutch resistance fighter who claimed the Germans had withdrawn.

As the most senior officer, Mr Mitchell decided to trust the man, named Frans, and together they cycled into Boxmeer to see whether the area was clear.

Speaking on the 70th anniversary of the liberation, Mr Mitchell, of Inverleith, Edinburgh, said: “We were told to wait at a certain railway line, just outside the town of Boxmeer, which is only a mile from the river. On the other side, the RAF had orders to shoot up any vehicles moving on the other side.

“I said ‘we can’t move forward because the RAF may shoot us up’. He suggested we should borrow bicycles from the pub and go into Boxmeer to have a look, so I did. I was the senior officer present and the only person who could do it.

“As our cars could not safely go further at that point, Frans and I borrowed bicycles from an inn and had a short cycle ride into the town to make sure it was clear of enemy troops.

“That didn’t take very long. I guess, ten minutes to cycle into the town. I checked that it was free from Germans.

“It was really a rather pleasant little bike ride. I was the first British solder into Boxmeer, but I wasn’t being kissed by beautiful Dutch girls or anything.

“I checked it was free from Germans. I went back to my troop and radioed my squadron. By that time we hoped the RAF had been called off so we would not be shot up by them.”

The troops who soon moved into town were greeted with cheers by around 5,000 people.

Mr Mitchell said: “As the first British troops into Boxmeer, we were of course enthusiastically welcomed as liberators. They were over the moon to see the British at last. They were all waving their Dutch flags at us. It was a heartwarming experience.

“We couldn’t stop there, because my orders were to go right up to the river and see whether there were any bridges left.”

Mr Mitchell and his men moved through the town and went down to the River Maas, where they were fired upon from German forces on the other side. The men spent most of the winter there and held the line, while enemy forces tried to fight back. But the following spring they were able to move forward and cross the Rhine.

Mr Mitchell was presented with the Dutch Order of Oranje-Nassau medal. He said: “I like to think that it was in honour of that particular liberation. I’m very proud of it.”

His wife Ann, 91, who worked as a cryptanalyst at Bletchley Park, added: “I think it’s an exciting story, but I didn’t hear about it until about 1946. He was a handsome young man.”

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