A Story of War, Love and Gin.
Naval Air Station Valkenburg (Marinevliegkamp Valkenburg) was a military airport just north of The Hague, the Netherlands.
Marinevliegkamp Valkenburg was located between Wassenaar and Katwijk, on the west coast of the Netherlands. Construction of the airfield started in 1939 in preparation for war and was still continuing when Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940
The German invasion airfleet (some 50 Ju-52s) that landed there to capture the airfield sustained heavy losses when their aircraft, stuck in the soft and wet soil, were destroyed by Netherlands fighters and artillery.
During the war the airfields construction was continued by the Germans, who renamed it Fliegerhorst Katwijk. They operated Messerschmidt Bf-109 (aka Me-109) and Focke-Wulf Fw-190s from the base, but only for short periods.
In May of 1945 the airfield was used as a dropzone for Operation Chowhound. Chowhound was the US part of a joint RAF/USAAF effort to bring food between 29 April and 7 May to 3 million Dutchmen that were suffering a famine. Ten B-17 Bomb groups of the 3rd Air Division of the USAAF flew 2200 missions to designated dropzones, sometimes flying as low as 400 feet. 2268 sorties were flown by USAAF, staring 1 May, delivering 4000 tons of food, including K-rations. Although they were not considered combat sorties by the British and American High Command, they were still dangerous. Nobody was really sure what the German FLAK positions would do if they saw the temptingly slow and low flying bombers. When Allied forces finally liberated Holland the airfield was pressed into service by the RAF, who used PSP-plates to reconstruct the damaged concrete German-built runway in just a few days.
When the RAF left, the Netherlands Air Force took over the airfield and based a transport squadron (1TransVA) there. In October 1947 however the base was transferred to the Royal Netherlands Navy (Dutch: Koninklijke Marine) and renamed Marinevliegkamp Valkenburg.
And thats where my future history starts.
It was somewhere in the 1950's when my dad was in the navy and was stationed at Marinevliegkamp Valkenburg. Somehow he found time to go and explore the area and met a girl who was living in the Katwijk, close to the airfield. That girl had recently moved to the Netherlands with her mother from Liverpool in the UK.
They had lost their father and husband at the beginning of the war when he and about 4000 others lost their life aboard RMS Lancastria when it was sunk on 17 June 1940 off the French port of St. Nazaire while taking part in Operation Ariel, the evacuation of British nationals and troops from France, two weeks after the Dunkirk evacuation.
The Lancastria was the largest loss of life from a single engagement for British forces in World War Two and is also the largest loss of life in British maritime history - greater than the Titanic and Lusitania combined. But it is a largely forgotten chapter in British history, a fact that lefr survivors and relatives aggrieved.
Well anyways he served, he fell in love, he married and they got kids, 3 in total, one of them is me. there must be much more to tell about that time, but unfortunately they are no longer around to tell.
My dads uniform from the 50's.
Whats Gin got to Do with it?
Well that's a good question. But when i saw Driftwood Distillery being located on the Naval Air Station Valkenburg. I felt i had to visit them both coz i like gin but also because it brought back memories of my own heritage and i wanted to see the place where it all started.
The more i enjoyed that we got in contact and even have/had a nice cooperation on Instagram giving away one of their bottles of Gin and 2 distillery glasses.
Unfortunately the Corona pandemic has prevented me to visit them but i'm sure i will sometime soon.
About Driftwood Distillery
A small artisan distillery based on Vliegkamp Valkenburg, near Katwijk. They do pretty much everything in house themselves! From botanical, to still, to bottle and labelling, its is only when you know every facet and detail about how something is made can you adapt and improve upon it. Our craft distillery is designed for that; experimenting and improving.
They named one of their gins Chow Hound based on the American mission that happened at the end of WWII. Chow Hound Gin at 44% abv is a playful gin with an emphasis on the cardamom, coriander and cinnamon, which results in a warm spicy gin, perfect for the autumn and winter.
Check them out on https://driftwooddistillery.nl/