However, the Germans didn’t realise they had captured a British general. After undergoing an operation, the general was secretly removed from the hospital by the Dutch resistance.
Hackett was taken to Ede, where for months, he was looked after by the three sisters Mien, Cor and Anna de Nooij at Torenstraat 5. He rested a lot and learned Dutch. The resistance arranged a forged personal identity card for Hackett, who was now known as Van Dalen and received a button for his jacket stating that he was deaf and dumb, so he wouldn’t have to speak.
The house bordered on the garden of another house on Grotestraat, where a detachment of the German Feldgendarmerie (military police) were stationed. The Germans kept a large goose in this garden. Hackett wanted to ‘recruit’ this goose for a festive Christmas meal, but the sisters were able to talk him out of this plan. But the goose continued to occupy Hackett, and sometimes also kept him awake at night with its loud honking...
The plan was to bring Hackett to his own troops in the liberated south of the Netherlands, but for a while nothing came of this. Then, Johan Snoek (a member of the De Nooij family) decided to use an established escape route via the water channels of the Biesbosch wetlands far to the south. First, they would have to travel to Biesbosch by bicycle. During an initial cycling practice session at Torenstraat Hackett fell from his bike on the slippery snow surface. He didn’t answer the questions of citizens and German soldiers who had hurried to assist him and just pointed to his ‘I am deaf’ button.
On Tuesday, 30 January 1945, Hackett thanked his benefactors for all their kindness and set off with Johan Snoek through the cold and snow. On Monday, 5 February 1945, they arrived in Sliedrecht, on the north bank of the River Merwede. The same night, members of the resistance rowed Hackett through the Biesbosch area to Lage Zwaluwe, on the Allied side of the River Merwede.
On Wednesday, 7 February, the Ede people involved in hiding him heard a coded message on Radio Oranje, part of the BBC European Service: “The Grey Goose has departed”. Now they knew one thing for sure: General Hackett was safely back in England!
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