102-Year-Old Veteran’s ‘Heart Wish’ Fulfilled, He’s Dutchman Again

World War II veteran Andrรฉ Hissinks dream has come true: he is officially Dutchman again. The 102-year-old – the last surviving pilot of the 320 Dutch Squadron of the British Royal Air Force – was presented yesterday with proof of his Dutch citizenship by the Dutch Ambassador of Canada.

โ€œIt feels like something has finally been rectified to me,โ€ Hissink says on the phone. He lives in Perth, Canada. The veteran abandoned his nationality in 1953, so he was initially able to join the government in New Zealand. โ€œI never wanted to give up,โ€ explains the veteran, but, according to him, it was the only way to be able to work in aviation.

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He had gained plenty of experience in this during the Second World War. But because Hissink did not finish his studies, due to the outbreak of the war, and there were too few travelers, the veteran was told that it would be impossible to work in civil aviation in the Netherlands.

โ€œI was so angry about it,โ€ says Hissink. Although he lost his Dutch citizenship, his move abroad was a success. In Canada, for example, he worked at Canadian Pacific Airlines (CPA) and later at the UN organization International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

โ€œReally satisfied nowโ€

Nevertheless, it continued to feel unfair to the born Dutchman that he was not a Dutch person on paper. And that while he carried out all those bombings just before his native country, he explains. His loved ones therefore started an action to give him back his Dutch citizenship.

โ€œHe really wants to be able to die as a Dutchman, it was his hearts wish,โ€ says Yvonne Poppink of Museum Engelandvaarders. She was closely involved in the operation to make this possible. Together, it took about a year to return Hissink to Dutch nationality.

โ€œIt was an emotional moment for Mr. Hissink yesterday,โ€ Poppink says. โ€œBut also for his family, who is very proud of him.โ€ The veteran can pick up his passport once his passport photo has been processed. โ€œIm really satisfied right now,โ€ Hissink says with relief.

Hissink went through a lot during the Second World War. In 1940, he escaped the bombing of Rotterdam by hiding in the then unfinished Maastunnel. โ€œIve never seen such a fire in my life. Then I said: Im going to pay the Germans.โ€

The aviation officer was able to join the British armed forces. Together with two comrades, he sailed along with a destroyer, a ship that was docked at Hoek van Holland. โ€œWhen we arrived in England, the Dutch government was stunned. Apparently, we were the first military refugees to arrive.โ€

Back to Batavia

He was promoted from corporal to sergeant. Then Hissink sailed to the other side of the world for his flight training by the Royal Navy. This took place in the then Dutch East Indies, where he was also born in 1919. โ€œI was finally home in Batavia, where I was born.โ€ Today, this is Jakarta.

In 1942, Hissink returned to England to take a seat in the illustrious, Dutch 320th squadron, a unit of the British Air Force. As a bomber and navigator, the military endured 69 war flights. From France to Germany and the coast of Norway. โ€œWe flew over the gun, threw the bombs and flew back over the gun. As soon as you were back above the Channel, you breathed a sigh of relief. But then you werent there yet: there were also enemy fighter planes in the air.โ€

โ€œI have swungโ€

The former military man has seen countless comrades die. Despite the ever-present fear, the work also started to get used to a bit in the long run. โ€œIts amazing when I think back to it. You swung, I always tell myself.โ€

Now Hissink is the only one still alive from his squad. โ€œSomeone has to be the last,โ€ he says soberly. He simply did his duty, he explains. Thats why it feels so good to him that he is officially Dutch again.

Next month, the veteran turns 103 years old. โ€œIll have a beer on that,โ€ he says with a laugh.