On 13 May 1940, Queen Wilhelmina escaped from the invading German troops and travelled on the HMS Hereward to England. Later that day, Queen Wilhelmina arrived at Harwich, where the British authorities had already arranged for a train to London. Wilhelmina wrote, “At the station, I was met by King George and by my children, who were very upset and did not understand that I should have had to follow them so soon. The King asked me to be the guest of himself and the Queen, and escorted me to Buckingham Palace.”1
The following day, she issued another proclamation telling the people that the government had to be moved abroad. “Do not despair. Do everything that is possible for you to do in the country’s best interest. We shall do our best. Long live the Fatherland!”2
On 24 May, Wilhelmina spoke on the radio for the first time during the war. From 28 July, the BBC broadcast Radio Oranje (Orange) where Wilhelmina spoke 48 times over the course of the war to encourage the Dutch people. Radio Orange was broadcast for 15 minutes and began with the words, “Radio Orange Here, the voice of a combatant Netherlands.”3
During her first broadcast, she spoke the following words;
“I am delighted that thanks to the benevolent cooperation of the English authorities, this Dutch quarter-hour has been incorporated into the broadcasts of British radio, and I express the hope that many fellow countrymen, wherever they may be, will now be faithful listeners of the patriotic thoughts that reach them along this way. And now I am delighted to be the first to speak to you in these fifteen minutes.
“First of all, I would like to commemorate with you all the Fatherland, so deeply affected by the calamity of war. We commemorate the untold suffering that has come upon our people and that it is now constantly experiencing. We want to pay tribute to the heroes, who fell victim to their duty in the defence of our Netherlands, tribute to the courage of our resistance, which on land, at sea and in the air, with the effort of her utmost strength, have been able to withstand a much stronger assailant much longer than he expected.
“After all that has already been said and written about the war in which we are wrapped up, you will certainly not expect that I will deal briefly with the war itself and the many issues related to it. But we must realise that the war increasingly reveals its true character, as being in its deepest essence a battle between good and evil, a battle between God and our conscience on the one hand and the dark powers that reign supreme in this world. It is a struggle – which I need to tell you – belongs in the spiritual world and is fought deeply hidden in the heart of man, but which has now emerged in the most appalling way in the form of this great worldly struggle, of which we are the unfortunate victims and which causes suffering to all nations. This war is all about giving the world a guarantee that those who want good will not be prevented from accomplishing it. Those who believe that the spiritual values acquired by mankind can be destroyed by the edge of the sword must learn to realise its vanity. Crude violence cannot deprive people of their convictions.
“As in the past neither gun violence, nor the flames of the pyre, nor the impoverishment and suffering of our sense of freedom, our freedom of conscience and our freedom of faith have ever been able to wipe us out, so I am convinced that even in the present age we and all who think as we do – whatever people they may belong to – are strengthened from this trial and through all that is sacred to them and we will rise.
“That it is for this lofty purpose that thousands of our brave have already made the sacrifice of their lives and that this sacrifice has not been in vain, for the comfort of their relatives and for all of us. Although the enemy has also occupied the national soil, the Netherlands will continue the battle as long as a free happy future appears before us. Our beloved tricolour flies proudly on the seas, in the larger Netherlands in East and West; and side by side with our allies, our men continue the battle. The parts of the Overseas Empire, which so aptly expressed their compassion for the disaster that struck the Motherland, are more closely than ever associated with us in their thinking and feeling. In unbreakable unity, we want to maintain our freedom, our independence and the territory of the entire Empire. I implore my countrymen in the Fatherland and wherever they are to continue to trust, no matter how dark and difficult the times are, in the final victory of our cause, which is strong not only by the strength of arms but no less by the realisation that it concerns our most sacred goods. I have said.”4
For the first few years, her speeches were recorded on a gramophone record which was then played by the BBC. From March 1942, she began to speak live from the studio. She wrote her own speeches and often worked for hours on them.
It was illegal for the Dutch people to listen to English radio and the Nazis eventually demanded everyone to turn in their radio. Many kept their radios to be able to listen to the broadcasts as they also often included coded messages for the resistance. After the war, Wilhelmina was criticised for not putting enough emphasis on the plight of the Jewish people.
Wilhelmina later wrote of her broadcasts, “My broadcast speeches were not only concerned with the new times. They also aimed at inspiring and stiffening resistance against the oppressor and at informing the nation of the government’s policy. At the same time, I did what I could to assist my countrymen in their spiritual struggle and paid homage to those who have given their lives in the great cause.”5
- Lonely but not alone p.154
- Wilhelmina, Krijgshaftig in een vormloze jas by Cees Fasseur p.280
- De Oranjes in de Tweede Wereldoorlog by Carel Brendel p.80
- Lonely but not alone p.172