Prince Harry joins friends and family of kayak 'escapees'

Prince Harry joined well-wishers awaiting the arrival of a team recreating an epic 1941 escape attempt from Nazi-occupied Holland to England.

Four men from Suffolk and two Dutch marines left the Netherlands by kayak on Monday.

The prince chatted with friends and families of the men on Sizewell beach on Wednesday afternoon.

Three of the kayakers completed the voyage, arriving at Sizewell at about 16:00 BST.

The remaining three had to abandon the voyage due to exhaustion.

Eight survivors

The adventurers were following the route of 32 Dutchmen who escaped during World War II.

Only eight of the escapees survived the 118-mile journey, landing at Sizewell beach 56 hours later.

The 2011 team completed the voyage in 40 hours.

Oliver Hicks, from Thorpeness, and Dutch marines Ben Stoel and Chiel van Bakel were the only members of the team to complete the journey.

They were greeted by about 150 people on the beach but arrived too late to see Prince Harry, who had taken a break from training at nearby Wattisham Airfield to visit earlier.

The Prince chatted to the men's families and spoke of his regret that he could not stay to welcome them ashore.


Mr Hicks, 29, said: "It's fantastic to be home. I think the numbers speak for themselves: three of us made it back.

"We started with a team of six so everyone's played their part and people have pulled out through different reasons - injury or they just couldn't keep up with the pace - but it's fantastic we made it here."

Mr Hicks is well-practised in endurance sports, having been the youngest person to row solo from the US to England in 2005, aged 23.

Harry Franks, 25, of Sutton, near Woodbridge, had to abandon the attempt, but said: "Olly has just been solid. Last night I had to stop Olly passing out in his kayak going along.

"The wind was force five, gusting six, and I don't know how he did it. It's a very long way and I didn't expect it to be as tough as it was."

A crowd of well-wishers gathered near a monument on the beach to the escapees.

The term Engelandvaarders was given collectively to 1,700 Dutch people who escaped to England to join the Allied forces during World War II.

Most of the Engelandvaarders took a long, dangerous route over land through Spain and Portugal.

A smaller group reached England via Scandinavia.

Fewer than 200 succeeded in crossing the North Sea in small motor boats, kayaks or other vessels, with many more being arrested or drowned before they reached their final destination.

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