The Freedom Museum in Groesbeek near Nijmegen has been given a unique photo album made by a British volunteer in the region during World War II.
Jack Speller, a pacifist and conscientious objector to the war, ended up on the front lines in the Netherlands after joining the YMCA, which ran a welfare operation for young soldiers.
“Because he was a pacifist, I think wanted to do something for people who suffered so much in the war,” daughter Marcelle told broadcaster NOS. “He was deeply influenced by what he saw and experienced.”
Graves on the beach in Normandy had a great impact on him when he landed, four days after D-day. He travelled through France and Belgium and ended up in Nijmegen, on the fringes of Operation Market Garden.
Soldiers were happy to see his van, with the red YMCA label on it and his services were very welcome. The average soldier, Marcelle said, was satisfied with anything that was “wet and warm”, she said, meaning a cup of tea.
“If someone was at breaking point, you could see it in their eyes most of all,” Speller’s daughter told NOS. “These were boys with the worries of old men.”
During his time in Nijmegen, Jack met and fell in love with local girl Tonnie Kuijpers and they remained together. Daughter Marcelle will officially hand over the album to the museum on Wednesday night.
The photos show “a deliberately invisible form of care on the front line, which also makes it less visible in our post-war memory,” the museum said.