`Bangladesh is our love and as if our child becomes and remains besides Bangladesh always as their friend.’ William A. S. Ouderland says all these to his wife and only daughter when he was laid admitted into a West Australian hospital Perth. Here in his last word shows the love and devotion to the Bangladesh and to Bangladeshi at the same time. Ouderland is a foreign freedom fighter and for the participation in our Liberation War in 1971 Bangladsh Government has awarded the fourth highest gallantry award, the Bir Protik. In 2001, May 18 William A. S. Ouderland takes adieu from the world forever.
Oudeland is an Australian but born in Netherland’s (Holland) capital city Amsterdam in 1917 at 06 December. He was not much educated so when he was a man of seventeen he joined in Bata Company as a polish man. After his two years of service he joined in National Army in 1936. Here he performs till 1944 as a Surgeon in Royal Signal Core. Later he joined in Dutch guerrilla Bahini as a commando and took part in World War II (1939-1945)
Ouderland came to Dhaka in 1970 as the Production Manager of the Bata Shoe Company. During the earlier half of 1971, Ouderland was appointed as the Executive Director of the company in Tongi , Dhaka. On 25 March 1971, rising political discontent and cultural nationalism in East Pakistan was met by suppressive force from the ruling elite of the West Pakistan establishment in what came to be termed Operation Searchlight. He was moved by the killings of the Pakistan Army on 25 March and took photos which he sent to the international media. A war between the West Pakistan Army and guerrilla force, the Mukti Bahini, started immediately. Sheikh Mujib also called upon the people to resist the occupation forces through a radio message. Rahman was arrested on the night of 25–26 March 1971 at about 1:30 am (as per Radio Pakistan’s news on 29 March 1971).
Guerilla operations, which slacked during the training phase, picked up after August. Economic and military targets in Dhaka were attacked. Ouderland organised the guerrilla warfare in Dhaka. He built a friendly relationship with 22nd Baloch Regiment captain Sultan Newaz and penetrated into Dhaka cantonment. Subsequently he created close relation with Governor General Tikka Khan and Adviser Civil Affairs Major General Rao Forman Ali. He became a “Distinguished Friend” of A. A. K. Niazi at the headquarters of Eastern Command and managed a security pass to contact with them frequently. Besides Ouderland continued gathering information for the Mukti Bahini and sent it to Major ATM Haider of Sector-2.
From his office at the Bata Shoe Company, Ouderland organised and trained the guerrilla fighters of Mukti Bahini. He planned and directed a number of guerrilla operations in Dhaka and nearby areas. He provided the fighters with food and medicine and often gave them shelter.
A planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army– codenamed Operation Searchlight – started on 25 March to curb the Bengali independence movement by taking control of the major cities on 26 March, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Before the beginning of the operation, all foreign journalists were systematically deported from East Pakistan.
Recently I have seen a documentary film in our National Museum on William A. S. Ouderland. I was the advisor of this documentary film. In this inaugurating program Hasanul Hoque Inu was the chief guest and AAMS Arefin Siddique- Pro VC of Dhaka University, Mafidul Islam- Trusty of Muktijuddho Jadughar and Australian Ex-High Commissioner Lieutenant General (retired) Masud Uddin Chowdhury were present there as guest. Among them I also get the chance to deliver some speeches on William A. S. Ouderland.
To preserve and honor him a road is named after his name in our capital city at Gulshan. On the other hand when our honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina goes to join the Commonwealth Summit every year she bids adieu in front of William A. S. Ouderland’s Epitaph.