Francis Steinmetz

Francis Steinmetz (20 September 1914 – 2 January 2006) was an officer in the Royal Netherlands Navy who escaped from Oflag IV-C, Colditz Castle, a German POW camp, during World War II, making a "home run" to safety.[1]

Francis Steinmetz
Birth nameFranciscus Steinmetz
Born(1914-09-20)20 September 1914
Batavia, Netherland East Indies
Died2 January 2006(2006-01-02) (aged 91)
Allegiance Netherlands
Service/branch Royal Netherlands Navy
Years of service1932–1959
RankKapitein Luitenant ter Zee (commander)
AwardsBronze Cross (Netherlands)

Early lifeEdit

Steinmetz was born 20 September 1914 in Batavia, Dutch East Indies and entered the Dutch Royal Navy in September 1932. After periods on various boats he was posted to the submarine service. He was captured in 1940 in Amsterdam by advancing German forces.

Initially sent to a prison camp at Soest, Germany, Steinmetz was then transferred to a POW camp Silesia. He refused to sign a German parole saying he would refrain from any hostile act towards Germany and was transferred to Sonderlager IVC, at Colditz Castle.

Escaping ColditzEdit

 
Colditz Castle, prison camp (1945)

At Colditz all Dutch escapes were coordinated by the Dutch escape officer Captain Machiel van den Heuvel, known as "Vandy" by the British. Van den Heuvel quickly recognised the possibilities of the exercise park and soon had his first escape plan ready. On 15 August 1941 Steinmetz and Hans Larive hid under a manhole cover under the cover of a rugby scrum. Lieutenant Gerrit Dames then created a diversion by cutting a hole in the barbed wire fence, before allowing himself to be caught, shouting to imaginary escapers to run, so that the Germans would think that the missing officers had already escaped.

Larive and Steinmetz hid for several hours. The cover was fixed with a heavy bolt, which Van den Heuvel had replaced with a fake made of glass. Once it was dark the two men forced the manhole cover open from below, and replaced the now broken glass bolt with the original one. They then made their way out of the castle. (This escape method was repeated on 20 September 1941 by two other Dutch officers, C. Giebel and O. L. Drijber.[2]). At Leisnig Steinmetz and Larive took a train to Nuremberg where they waited for their next train in a nearby park. To avoid attracting unwanted attention, they pretended to be a courting couple, with Steinmetz pulling a blanket down over his shorts so it looked like a skirt. They crossed the Swiss border on 18 August 1941.

Under Swiss neutrality law they were not allowed to leave the country, so the Dutch Legation provided false papers describing them as sugar planters on their way to Cuba. They travelled on a sealed train in which neutrals were able to pass through France into Spain. At Barcelona they boarded the neutral ship, Isla de Teneriffe, sailing for Havana. The ship was intercepted by a Royal Navy cutter in the Strait of Gibraltar and the two men were taken off[3] and arrived in Gibraltar on 4 November. They then sailed to England aboard the submarine HNLMS O 21 and arrived in London on 17 December 1941.[4]

After interrogation by the British, Steinmetz served on motor torpedo boats, taking MTB 222 to the West Indies. He later commanded Dutch motor torpedo boats in the Far East.

Post-war careerEdit

After the end of the Second World War, Steinmetz returned to Holland and served at the naval training camp at Hilversum. In December 1950, he commanded the minesweeper Boereo in Dutch New Guinea, before returning to the naval training centre at Voorschoten.

Steinmetz later commanded the minesweeper De Bitter and the frigate De Zeeuw, before joining the Dutch Ministry of Naval Affairs. His final ship was the destroyer Limburg.

After retiring, Steinmetz worked for Ole Anderson in Denmark, making fan impellers.

FamilyEdit

Steinmetz married twice, first in 1946 to Regina Henrietta Noren (until her death in 1974); and then Peggy George, who predeceased him. He had one son during his first marriage; and two step-daughters by his second.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Kapitein Luitenant Francis Steinmetz". The Daily Telegraph. 25 February 2006. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  2. ^ "Home Runs from the Castle Camp & Grounds". colditzcastle.net. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Obituaries : Kapitein Luitenant Francis Steinmetz". telegraph.co.uk. London. 25 February 2006. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  4. ^ Hans Houterman & Jeroen Koppes. "E.H. "Hans" Larive". unithistories.com (in Dutch). Retrieved 27 September 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

External linksEdit