Christopher Rigg writes:
WITH the death in January of Elna Provoost, aged 97, the Church
in the Netherlands has lost perhaps its longest-serving member,
perhaps also the last English war bride.
She was born in Bristol to a Norwegian sailor and his English
wife, but spent most of her early years in Staffordshire, in recent
years still happily switching to a Staffordshire twang on
In the war years, she met her husband, who was what the Dutch
now call an Engelandvaarder, "England sailor", a member of the
Netherlands military who escaped to Britain in 1940 to continue the
fight against the Nazi occupation. In 1945, she joined her husband
in war-torn Zeeland, where she learned the local dialect. She had
to relearn her Dutch when her husband was on a posting to The
Finally, they moved to Harderwyk in Guelderland, once a thriving
seaport on the Zuyder Zee, the "South Sea", and home of the
one-time university where Carl Linnaeus founded systematic botany.
From the 1960s, she was the contact person for the Anglican Church
in Harderwyk, and organised regular coffee mornings for the
English-speaking women. Until she turned 80, she organised an
annual carol service, children from the town's secondary school
reading the lessons. Sadly, she could not find a successor to take
over the organisation.
Once a month, she would take the train to Zwolle for the
Anglican services in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. More
recently, successive chaplains of Utrecht diverted there to collect
and take home the then three "Harderwyk ladies". Mrs Provoost made
it worth while for the chaplains with her delicious home-baked
cakes - of which she never herself partook, because of diabetes. On
other Sundays, she attended her husband's Protestant church.
Her funeral was at St Catherine's Harderwyk. She was buried with
her husband, who died about 1980.