Hortense Clews

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Hortense Daman Clews
Born 12 August 1926 (1926-08-12)
Leuven, Belgium
Died 18 December 2006 (2006-12-19) (aged 80)
Newcastle-under-Lyme, United Kingdom
Allegiance  Belgium
Service/branch Belgian Resistance
Rank Courier
Awards Croix de Guerre
Order of Leopold II

Hortense Daman Clews (12 August 1926—18 December 2006)[1] was member of the Belgian Resistance during World War II.[1][2][3][4]

Early years[edit]

Born as Hortense Daman to parents Jacques and Stephanie Daman in the Belgian town of Leuven (Louvain in French) in 1926 where her mother ran a grocery shop.[2]

World War II[edit]

She became involved in the Belgian Resistance when she was 13 after the Nazis had invaded Belgium in 1940. She began helping her brother François with his work with the Belgium Resistance, helping allied servicemen evade capture. She mainly worked as a courier which involved carrying messages, explosives and weapons beneath the upper layer in her cycle pannier whilst pretending to be carrying out grocery deliveries for her mother.[2][3]

Betrayal and arrest[edit]

On the 14 February 1944, the Gestapo raided the family home after someone informed on the family's resistance work.[2] Hortense was arrested along with her parents, and they were taken to a local prison where they suffered interrogation and vicious beatings by the Gestapo and Belgian SS. She was sentenced to death without trial and moved to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany with her mother; her father was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

Concentration camp inmate[edit]

Whilst at Ravensbrück, Hortense was subjected to experiments including infecting her leg with gangrene (the German doctors deciding not to amputate) and sterilisation.[1][2][3]

Whilst at Ravensbrück, her life was saved by the actions of British secret agent Violette Szabo,[5] who was also a prisoner there.

At the end of the war, Hortense and her mother were taken under the protection of the Swedish Red Cross and reunited with her father and her brother.[2]

In 1946, she met and married Sydney Clews who was a Staff Sergeant in the British Army; and they eventually settled in Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire. Sixteen years later, despite the experiments that had been carried out at Ravensbrück, she gave birth to daughter Julia and, seven years later, son Christopher.[3]


A Child at War: Hortense Daman. Bles M ISBN 978-0-7515-0460-6