Queen Wilhelmina had been forced to flee after the German invasion in 1940, and she spent most of her time in exile in England with her government. By March 1945 – the war was still going on in the northern parts of the country – Wilhelmina wanted nothing more than to return home. During a 10-day-visit organised like a military operation dubbed “Nightshade”, Queen Wilhelmina returned home for the first time.
On 13 March 1945, Queen Wilhelmina stepped over a border-crossing marker made of flour at Eede in the south of the Netherlands. She had been brought there by a United States army vehicle with a single piece of luggage and a man named Baud, Princess Juliana’s former secretary who had been held hostage during the war. She travelled to Breda where she moved into a house called Anneville.
On 18 March, she attended a service in the Great Church of Breda. From Anneville, she visited Tilburg, Eindhoven, Den Bosch and Maastricht. On 22 March, she fled back from Venlo to England. She had spent ten days in her beloved country, but it had not been wholly liberated yet. She wrote to the British King George VI that it was, “a most moving and touching occasion which I shall never forget.”1
She could finally return home for good on 2 May 1945, three days before the peace was officially declared. She was joined by her daughter Juliana, and the two landed at Gilze-Rijen Airport.
Wilhelmina returned to the Anneville house, and in the evening of 5 May 1945, she spoke on the radio again. “Men and women of the Netherlands. Our language has no words for what is now in our hearts in these hours of the liberation of the entire Netherlands. At last, we are the masters of our own homes and castles. The enemy is defeated, from east to west and from north to south. Gone is the firing squad, the prison and the torture camp.”2
In England, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, wrote to Queen Mary, “What a woman and yet so clever with her Government.”3