Relation with Lake (class): none. Cemetery without lake link. 
Total nr. of graves here (TC): 112 today (90 WW2). 9 French exhumed 1949.
Lake casualties, initially, end WW2 (LC-I): 0
Unknown today: 17 Commonwealth servicemen, WW2. Unknown French: 14
of which unknown from Lake (LC-U): 0
of which unknown from North Sea (NS-U): all.
Initial burial site in WW2: yes.
Post war burial site for collection and reburial from other sites: no.
Cemetery with Lake casualties today: no


Unique island cemetery, hidden in the dunes. Probably the most beautiful (war) cemetery in the Netherlands. Only for washed ashore 'victims of the sea'. First grave dates year 1906, last 1968. Hundreds of sailors washed ashore here since medieval times. Originally they were buried without much formality at the foot of the dunes, often too close to the sea, which exposed the bodies again. From 1863 on, burials were made higher up the dunes along the road to the lifeboat station. In 1917, under pressure of a growing number of dead WWI sailors, local townsmen among them hotel keeper Mr. Sake van der Werff, took initiative to give the grave location a more permanent and dignified status. With help of the owner of the island at that time, German count Ernst August von Bernstorff (islanders are Dutch), a small cemetery was set up. It grew considerably in size during WW2. In this website article the build up of the cemetery is explained.

Dutch name cemetery: Vredenhof. 
CWGC name: Schiermonnikoog (Vredenhof) Cemetery
Address: Reddingsweg. Near German Wassermann radar bunker.
No vehicles are allowed on the island.
There is a bus-service from ferry-pier to village v.v.
Car park is at ferry station on the mainland
Address: Zeedijk 9, Lauwersoog. 
Ferry-frequency is 5 times per day.

For reaction or comments; send us an email,
see address and info at CONTACT.
Please use as subject title: 'Vredenhof'.

Up to today the cemetery is privately owned by the Vredenhof Foundation, in which Hotel van der Werff owner Jan Fischer, cemetery caretaker Wyb-Jan Groendijk and the German Bernstorff family are leading. Mr. Jan Fischer lead the hotel for 32 years and died on 30 August 2014 (74). He is buried in Vredenhof Cemetery next to Mr. Sake van der Werff (see photos further below). Unique to this cemetery is that all nationalities were buried next to each other in washing ashore sequence and still rest here today. All graves are uniform and have a frame filled with sea shells and a typical low headstone that is tilted back in a 45° angle. Only the inscription-language varies: "Ein Deutscher Soldat", "Mort pour La France", "An RAF Airman of the 1939-1945 war Known unto God", etc.

After WW2 the fighting nations centralized their war dead. Then caretaker of this cemetery, Mr. Sake van der Werff, withstood the pressure and could accomplish that the casualties from the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Poland, Germany and France were not exhumed and not moved to elsewhere. They could stay in their initial resting place. Only 9 identified French soldiers & sailors (1940 Dunkirk victims) were exhumed 1949 and were repatriated to their family in France. The other 22 Frenchmen stayed at rest here. This site is the only one in the Netherlands outside centralization cemetery Kapelle were French soldiers are buried. 






Postcard below: situation 1922. One of the first photographs of this cemetery. The perimeter is fenced off with chicken wire. The white stone cross reads 'Oorlog 1914-1918'. Cemetery gate is a steel rod fence with name 'Vredehof'. Tool shed/morgue behind the cross is not build yet. 'Vredehof' is a Dutch translation of the German word 'Friedhof'.


Grave list 1922

Battle of Dover Strait, 20/21 April 1917.
Based on North Sea current-pattern and time elapse, the group of first four buried 1917 German sailors cannot be casualties of the Battle of Jutland. That sea-battle was too far north, down-stream and a full year before these German sailors washed ashore here. We believe the first German sailors 1917 washed ashore here are casualties of the German Torpedo boats SMS G.42 and SMS G.85, sunk in battle with HMS Broke and HMS Swift near Dover/south-east Ramsgate on 20/21 April 1917, see map below. Ships sunk and bodies followed the same route to this island as the later Dunkirk victims in 1940. SMS stands for 'Seine Majestät schiff' (HMS). These G-class destroyers were type 'Großes Torpedoboot 1913' and build on the Germaniawerft (G) in Kiel. In this battle the German Kaiserliche Marine lost 69 men. Read more on this clash here:

Mine sweeping 20 April 1918.

The German ports on the North Sea (German Bight) were blocked by the Allies with huge minefields. On 20 April 1918, a convoy of four German Torpedo boats, assisted by a number of small M-class minesweepers of the 8th Minensuch Halbflottille, tried to work their way through the minefields. They were heading west towards Zeebrugge and Oostende (Belgium coast). In the shipping-lane above the Dutch Frisian Islands, on position 33km north of Terschelling, the German minesweeper M.64 (Minensuchboot) was hit by mine-explosions. Also the M.95 and the M.39 were hit when they came to the rescue. The other ships stopped and rescued 60 men, but 100 sailors were missing, 7 washed ashore here.

In the above table, German Sailor Gerhard Spiessen was crew of M.39. Captain was Oblt. z. See Otto Ivens. The father and mother of Gerard Spiessen visited the grave of their son on this cemetery in 1920 and showed photos of him and his ship (see below). Also the other German sailors are very probably casualties of M.39, M.64 and M.95. On next Frisian isle Ameland also washed ashore on 3 July 1918 a crew member of M.64, this was Paul Otto Muller. He was exhumed and reburied in the German centralization cemetery in Ysselsteyn in the Netherlands, but Gerhard Spiessen and his friend Otto Kranick still rest at Vredenhof. Photo below: their Minensuchboot M.39.
















Below: sea chart Battle Dover Strait on 20/21 April 1917.

In year 1925 the tool shed was build. No further change except that the family of German sailor Gerhard Spiessen placed a large grave monument and a so called 'grave drum' on his grave (grave 29). Below image is a postcard from that period, sold then to tourists on the island.

A new grave was added approx. 1930. On below postcard from year 1934, this grave is visible most left in grave 21. A man on the same row studies Gerhard Spiessens monument and grave drum. Two boys are standing at the 1914-1918 cross.       

Postcard below. In 1936 the name of the cemetery changed to 'Vredenhof'. The steel gate was replaced by a wooden gate with 'rising sun' (or setting sun) motif and the new name. This is how the entrance would look for the next 10 years and during WW2.


1938 until June 1940. Start of WW2.

1938, the Headless Giant. In July 1938 a man washed ashore, buried grave 23 (see below photo & map). Local folklore says this man was very tall. He measured 2,0 meter from shoulders to feet. If his head would have been present, his length would have been 2,20 meter. His head was cut clean off with a strait cut, as done by a very sharp blade. Furthermore he wore oilskin gear and yellow boots with climbing-irons/spikes. On this grave marker came: "A German Seaman, 23 July 1938".

WW2. In Sept. 1939 WW2 broke out. Two months later the 1st English airman washed ashore, LAC Alan Wilson. Holland had not entered the war yet (10 May 1940). Wilson was buried in presence of the British military attaché. The Germans occupied this island 16 May 1940. From then all burials were made under their control and often with military honour. In June 1940 two crew of a RAF Blenheim, Sgt. William Martin and P/O M.E. Ryan were buried by the Germans left next to Wilson, see further below.

Plot 2 (behind the tool shed) build 1939.
The leading man behind the cemetery, Mr. Sake van der Werff, decided in 1939 to extend the cemetery with a new 2nd plot behind the tool shed. A remarkable decision, since WW2 had not started yet and there was plenty of free space available on plot 1. As a former police constable and since 1913 hotel owner with a lot of international (read German) guests, he must have developed a clear and foreseeing view of the dark years to come. Under: virgin plot 2 in development. The connecting path to plot 1 is not made yet.

1938 - June 1940


Burials 1938 until June 1940.


DUNKIRK. May 26 - June 3, 1940 and breakthrough July 28 1940

Dutch newspapers report that on Sunday 28 July 1940, five French soldiers, one of them an officer (Marquézy), washed ashore here and were buried on the 30th July 1940. A day later again 17 soldiers washed ashore, found by three young man that were swimming. One bumbed into a floating corps. The men laid the body on a plank that the sea had delivered on the beach (driftwood). When they looked closer, they noticed more bodies in the water and recovered them all. Spread out on the beach and based on the uniforms, it could be made out that 14 of them were French, 3 were British.

The three young Dutchmen (21 years old) were mailman Tjalle de Jong, village carpenter Leo van Veen and dyke-worker Nico Faber. The local doctor, the mayor and German island-commandant Kapt.-Lt. zur See Arnold Rehm (died 1976 in Bremen) searched the bodies. They ordered Leo van Veen to build 17 coffins and Nico Faber to dig 17 graves on Vredenhof because the till then sleeping cemetery had no personnel. Nico held this job for the rest of the war. The coffins on the treeless island were used up in the burial of the first 5 French. Therefore Leo van Veen used driftwood to make new coffins. After sanding the planks, they were decent and suitable. Natural planks were kept together to make a natural coloured coffin, darker wood for darker ones. The handles were made of rope also found on the beach. In the weeks to follow the number of French grew to 31. We have made a reconstruction of their names and grave numbers on below list. Nine French were repatriated to France in July 1949, 22 rest here today.  

Minesweeper Emile Dechamps.
On 5 men it is known they were on board the French Navy auxiliary minesweeper Emile Dechamps. We believe that much more of them, if not all, were on board this vessel. The Emile Dechamps was the last ship of the entire operation Dynamo that took troops off the beach of Dunkirk. This was Monday evening 3rd of June 1940. Packed with 500 battered French soldiers, see hit a mine at 22:00h close to the English coast at Ramsgate and sank in 10 seconds. 400 died. He sunk in the same area as (almost on top of) the SMS G.42 and G.82 twenty three years before (see above alinea 'Battle of Dover Strait 1917').


Photo above: l'Emile Dechamps. Civilian vessel, commissioned as minesweeper by the French navy before the war.

Below: Vredenhof cemetery situation after Dunkirk and the sinking of the Emile Dechamps. 30 July 1940 - early 1941.












Photos below: the 3 English Dunkirk victims, washed ashore with the French on 2 August 1940. Buried in line, aside the 3 RAF airmen that were buried earlier. Also they received white crosses. The names on the crosses, left to right: William Martin, Alan Wilson, M.E. Ryan. Buried before: J.O. Roberts, H. Richardson and S. Windle.


Below photo:
After several burials of French and English military, on the 17th Agustus 1940 the German occupation troops could bury their first countryman. It was Kriegsmarine sailor Karl Jungnickel (grave 42). With him also 2 French Dunkirk-victims were buried. At that moment, the cemetery had no French flag yet (see coffin in the door), but some time later they obtained one (see photo further below). It became custom for every burial to cover the coffin with a national flag and burial with some kind of military honour.   

Note the above coffins are made of sanded driftwood. Regular coffins were used up, the island had not other wood. Handles were also beach-finds, every rope was made the same length. On above photo the Frenchman is buried in a coffin of natural planks, the German sailor (same ceremony) received a coffin of assembled darker planks.

The original grave marker on Vredenhof was the small white wooden sign with painted black text. In 1940, only the first 6 English casualties received white crosses. Already in 1945 every grave received an enamel plate with grave number, name and other details. Because the enamel (emaille) plates were stolen, they were replaced in recent years by marble plaques, solidly constructed onto the original concrete base. In 1948 only the Commonwealth casualties received an additional white steel cross, but these have not been there for a long time (rust). See photo of these steel crosses further below.

 Below photo: POW French troops in Dunkirk, June 4th 1940. Below group is typical for what the Emile Dechamps had on board and is buried here: navy crewmen of the ship itself + remnants of French-Moroccan rifle regiments and their French NCO's and individual soldiers from all kinds of French army units.

1940 Dec - 1941 January
The first burials on plot 2. Now with new acquired national flag, small military escort at grave 50, unknown French soldier. Right: Grave 51, RAF Sgt. Stephen Martin. The Frenchman was buried begin December 1940, temperature still OK to wear normal battle-dress. During Martin's funeral a few weeks later in January 1941, it had snowed and the German soldiers are cold.

Photo below: German troops are walking towards plot 2 for attending a funeral with large military display. Date is 7 August 1941. Notice on below photo that all French graves on plot 1 are in position. The last empty spaces on plot 1 will be filled in 1943.

Photo below: 
Military funeral on plot 2, August 7th 1941. The coffin stands on grave position 59. This is the grave of RCAF Sgt. William A. Strachan (Wellington R1063, 115 Sqn), shot down in the North Sea 7 July 1941. He washed ashore and buried a month later. This funeral served German propaganda, a drummer and a camera team are present. German interest for Allied burials gradually diminished.

Photo below: on 4 September 1941 there was a funeral for washed ashore German pilot Oberfeldwebel Heinrich Schwiering (grave 61). At this funeral also a group of German navy sailors attended. A week later on 11 Sept, the cemetery and grave were inspected by this German naval officer. His rank is vice admiral. We believe he is Vizeadmiral Johannes Bachmann. He was Küstenbefehlshaber Deutsche Bucht, naval commander of this area from Feb. 1941 until June 1942. He was killed in April 1945 in a contact with American forces. On the right the grave monument and grave drum of Gerhard Spiessen are well visible.






1943-1945 and 1949-1968, the last 22 burials on Vredenhof

In March 1943 burials had commenced on the last row on plot 2 (graves 96, 97 and 98). It became clear that plot 2 soon would be full, but WW2 was far from over. Decision was made to return to plot 1, first use the free spaces there and then go back to plot 2. In total 9 RAF airman got a position on plot 1, see blow list. In 1955, the caretaker of the cemetery and his son were buried on plot 2, back row on the last free spaces. 

Grave 96. After the war, around 1950, the CWGC striked in their register the RAF-status of this unknown airman and set the date of death on '1943'. Found by Germans 16 March 1943 at pole 16. We believe there could be a relation with Halifax BB252 and the post war id-proces of Canadian RCAF F/Sgt. Laurence Clifford King (initially buried as unknown). Possibly King was moved in the process to 89 (next to his crew in 90-94) and an unknown airman, not RAF -1943, moved to grave 96.

Grave 112. On 5 July 1945, 2 months after VE-day (Victory in Europe Day May 8, 1945) Dutch resistance patrolled the beach and found near pole 16 a washed up body in very decomposed state. Died at least 6 weeks before. The resistance men were T. van Dijk and carpenter Leo van Veen. The corps had on a blue striped sporting shirt, brown shoes and a brown leather belt around the waist. In the low brown shoes was written 1941-5-9. No other ID or markings on the body. This man was buried in grave 112. This could have been next to Walter Welzel in grave 111, but is was done on a more prominent position on plot 1 left side of the entrance. Maybe based on the shoes on the grave marker came: "An Airman", without rank, without RAF or date. 

Grave 113. There are no recordings found yet of a use of grave 113. Last burial was (number) 112. Remarkable is that there are no American airmen here. Also no records found so far on exhumed American airmen. This in contrast to the other Frisian Isles. Info welcome.

Grave 114, burial 1949. Halifax crew BB252 or not?

It was after severe storms on Saturday March 19, 1949 when Mr. Eelke Hoekstra and Mr. Simon Wijdenes saw near beach-pole 14/15 (beach pole 14/15 position in 1949) a military jacket sticking out of the sand. Inside was a skeleton. Police found a wallet and 4 English coins. However, nothing inside the wallet was readable. The airman remained unidentified. He had been about 20 years old. A hat or cap on the remains showed 'RAF'. Buried in this grave.

Newpapers 1949 published a press-release from unknown origin, stating that he was probably a crewmember of mine-laying Halifax MkII BB252 (10 Sqn). This bomber had tried to emergency belly land in darkness on 9 January 1943 on the frozen beach (18:15h). Crashed hard and broken apart in several parts, large and small (see photos underneath link Willem 626 Squadron), some parts were deep in the sand. This was at beach pole 15 (beach pole 15 position in 1943). According to the 1949-papers only five crew were buried of this aircraft: Fish, Wilson, Featherstone-Haugh, A. Smith and J.W. Smith. However, apparently it was forgotten or not known in 1949 that a sixth crewmember was buried same day as 'Unknown Sgt. Clifford' and that one man of the crew died in a hospital on the mainland, making the crew complete (7 men).

The day after the crash at 13:00h, the Germans recovered six men from individual wrecked sections. Two gunners were still alive, one died after taking him out of his position. Mutilated bodies in flying suits were then laid down next to each other on the frozen sand (German photo). Four men appear to be on the ground (at that moment), in stead of five. Wilson had his life-vest on and smashed-in face (German photo and doctors report). 'English' gunner 'Clifford or A L ford' was alive but unconscious, 20 years old. He died that evening (10 Jan.) in the medical barrack on the island at 22:00u. This must have been F/Sgt. Clement Lawrence Clifford King (post war identified). The six men were buried on 12 Januari 1943.

In book 'De oorlog in woord - Schiermonnikoog 1940-1945' by Bauke Henstra (2012) is an interview with Nico Faber stating that he remembered the day of the interment of the six well, it was a sad day. According to him, the 7th man Sgt. Boyle jumped out before and was found wounded by the Germans near the old footbal field. He was taken to the mainland to Leeuwarden Hospital, died there. This was 15 Jan. 1943, he rests there today. If all seven crewmembers were accounted for in January 1943, who then was the RAF airman found in the sand in 1949?

Newspapers in 1949 said that finding position of the 1949-body was only 200 meters from the 1943 crash site or pole 15. However, 200 meters is a considerable distance on a beach and area were so many airmen washed ashore in WW2. A link between Halifax BB252 cannot automatically be made, even if a crew member had been missing. The position of pole 15 has changed over the years. The old Dutch WW2 position of pole 15 was in the center of the Island. See map below, not at todays pole 15 position at 'De Balg'. Most probable is that the 1949-airman is a washed ashore airman period 1938-1947. The headstone inscriptures also point into this direction. In March 1974, again after severe storms, the Dutch Airforce Recovery Unit (Mr. Gerrit Zwanenburg) was called in to take a look at a Rolls-Royce Merlin XX (20) and a Halifax-wing that were uncovered by the storm at position pole 15,6 (position of pole 15-16 in 1974). The engine and the wing belonged to Halifax BB252.

Map below: Old km-poles (P) and the ones today (in red). 1km between each pole.




Grave 117. In 1959 the cross of sacrifice was build on plot 2. An unknown person that washed ashore in 1959 was therefore buried or re-buried in an old French grave on plot 1, which was exhumed before in 1949.

Grave 118. This person washed ashore in July 1968 and was identified August 2015. Dutch police (KLPD) and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) carried out a cold-case investigation on more than 500 Dutchmen that are listed as missing person since 1920. DNA was taken from unknown persons buried all along the coast and relatives of the 500 missing people. In this case a match was found with a family in Urk. The man in grave 118 proved to be Fisherman Albert Swaan from Urk. His ship the UK 91 was lost in a storm in January 24 January 1968 some 20km above Ameland island. He was 28 years old and had 4 children. Four crew are still missing. 

Grave 115, 116 and 117. In 115 and 116 rests cemetery-initiator Mr. Sake van der Werff and his son. On the left hand side in grave E (Empty), now grave 119, was interred in September 2014 the successor of Mr. Van der Werff: Mr. Jan Fischer.





Below commercial postcard shows the situation end 1945. In that year the 1936-WW2 chickenwire fence and 'rising sun' gate were replaced by a cement wall and a new wooden gate with 4 white hourglass (sand timer) pillars. This would stand until 1957. The German sailor (1918) Gerhard Spiessen in grave 29 still has the large grave monument that his family placed in 1925, but within 5 years this would be removed and he got the standard stone.



September 1945.
This is a meeting in which 10 men (9 soldiers of different nationality and a medical doctor or journalist) visit the cemetery. Most are high ranking Canadian officers, one of them is a general with 4  stars on his shoulder. One of the officers seems French. This is one photo of a serie of five.

1947, Plot 2
On below photo there is no Cross of Sacrifice yet. The grave with large grave monument is of German pilot Heinrich Schwiering (grave 61). His wife arranged it during WW2. Soon after this photo was made, the monument was replaced by a standard Vredenhof headstone. Mrs. Schwiering visited the grave of her husband last time in 2002.



In 1948 every Commonwealth grave received an extra a white steel cross. They did not stand long. German pilot Heinrich Schwiering's monument is replaced.

1957 - CWGC
Vredenhof was and is a private cemetery for washed ashore victims of the sea. Because of WW1 and WW2 it became mostly a war cemetery. Organizations from different countries tried to take over control, but Mr. Sake van der Werff kept it independent. After his death in 1955, the management could not resist an offer by the CWGC for a new entrance. On Plot 2 the Cross of Sacrifice was placed for the cost of a grave position on each side of the cross.


Today. The German Wasserman-radar bunker, highest point on the Island. Overlooking the path to cemetery Vredenhof.





The low dunes on the sides are man-made. They must prevent seawater coming via the old sea-inlet during very high tides.


Plot 1. Exhumed French 1949, the English fisherman 1906

Below. Open spaces of the exhumed French are well visible today. Near the entrance and left of the bench is grave 1 of the elderly English fisherman 1906. His grave was a field grave in the dunes and already here before the cemetery was build in 1917. Grave 1 is facing north. In 1917 it was decided to face the new graves south.


 Plot 2










Below. The fresh grave of Mr. Jan Fischer, next to the graves of Mr. Sake van der Werff and his son.



 Buried on Vredenhof today are in total 113 persons: 

- 47 Commonwealth servicemen, with name, most airmen, WW2:
  See for their names website  At 'Cemetery or Memorial' type:  Vredenhof , select and click SEARCH.
- 7 French soldiers and sailors (1940, Dunkirk), identified.
- 2 Polish airman, identified, 1942.
- 4 German soldiers, identified, WW2.
- 17 men 1906-1938 (1 English fisherman 1906, 1 English Royal Navy sailor 1918, 3 German sailors 1921-1938, 12 German Navy Sailors 1917-1918).
- 3 Dutch civilians, with name, 1955 (Van der Werff) and 2014 (Jan Fischer)

Non-identified: in total 33 men, known unto God, WW2. There are:
- 4 unknown Merchant navy sailors
- 11 unknown Commonwealth airmen
- 1 unknown Polish airman, not identified
- 1 unknown airman, possible English or French (grave 47)
- 14 French soldiers and sailors (inconnu, Mort pour la France)
- 2 unknown persons, 1959 and 1968 (one identified as Mr. Albert Zwaan August 2015)



- Newspaper articles
- Postcard collection ZZAW
- Booklet 'Vredenhof' exposition 1998.
- Site  Genealogy - Projects - Vredehof

- Site
- Site CWGC

- Special thanks to Wyb-Jan Groendijk and Hotel Van der Werff


© ZZairwar (Zuyder Zee Air War).