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. She spoke to the Dutch overseas citizens, saying “Firstly, a word of thanks for your sympathies with the unmentionable suffering that has befallen our motherland so undeservedly and which reached its pinnacle with the occupation of our land in Europe despite the fierce resistance by our military forces supported by the coldbloodedness of our people. Their remarkable courage and determination in the most difficult of circumstances have earned them the admiration of friend and foe. Despite the experienced setback, my trust in the future remains unaltered. Our people have known troubled times before which they have overcome with their trust in God and their wish to be free. This is why I am giving you these words of encouragement. Nor my people, nor my ministers, nor I have in these dark days doubted what our duty commands. And we shall be calm and courageous, trusting in the justice in our cause. We shall all rise above the events of the moment because we follow the mainline of a great principle, the only ones who are powerful and confident and who bring along that they fight against injustice.
“Then now a word of confidence for you all overseas. For centuries we have been together, and from that, we have bonds of appreciation and affection, so strong that they, in these heavy days, are helping to support us. Our constitution has made the overseas lands to an unbreakable unit, and it is my satisfaction to say that these are not empty words. You have given this a meaning, so deep and rich, that alone is a guarantee for a better future, resting on the unity of the realm, which has remained so strong and alive. The call for help on the Dutch East Indies from the motherland has been answered by all layers of the society of the Dutch East Indies, and great sums of money have been made available to me. I thank them, from the name of the motherland, that we will never forget how the people of the Dutch East Indies have to the aide of their overseas brothers.
“Our tricolour, a symbol of peace, order, safety and enforcing the law, even for the least and the weakest, will wave proudly over the largest part of the realm. With God’s help, this will remain this way until the end of days. Gather around the Governor, support him with his heavy task, move aside your difference and be of one mind because you should remember that it is about the preservation and the salvation of the Kingdom. My thoughts are with you.”3
The following day, she also addressed listeners in the United States and the United Kingdom. From July, the BBC broadcasted Radio Oranje (Orange) where Wilhelmina spoke 48 times over the course of the war to encourage the Dutch people. It was illegal for the Dutch people to listen to the broadcasts and many did so in secret. King George VI was most impressed by Wilhelmina, calling her “a remarkable woman and wonderfully courageous.”4 Winston Churchill described her as the only real man in all the governments in exile in London.5