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William AS Ouderland (6 December 1917-18 May 2001) was a Dutchmarker Australian commando officer. He actively took part in the World War II and the Bangladesh Liberation War. Later, he was awarded with the fourth highest gallantry award, Bir Pratik by the government of Bangladesh. He is the only foreigner to receive this honorary award.

Early life

Ouderland was born in Amsterdammarker on 6 December 1917. He left his studies when he was 17 to work as a shoe-shiner and later joined Bata Shoes. In 1936, Ouderland enlisted in the Dutch National Service before the Nazi invasion in Netherlands. Later, he became a sergeant of the Royal Signal Corps and his team had 36 members. Following the invasion of Germany in Netherlandsmarker, Francemarker and Belgiummarker, Ouderland was arrested. He escaped from prison and trained soldiers who came back from Germanymarker in 1941. Ouderland was fluent in German and Dutch and started working as a spy for the Dutch Underground Resistance Movement.

Bangladesh Liberation War

Ouderland came to Dhakamarker 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 Tongimarker, Dhaka. On 25 March 1971, rising political discontent and cultural nationalism in East Pakistan was met by brutal 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. Guerrilla operations, which slacked during the training phase, picked up after August. Economic and Military targets in Dhaka were attacked. Ouderland organized the guerrilla warfare in Dhaka. He built a friendly relationship with 22nd Baluch 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 and Ziaur Rahman.

Inside his office of the Bata Company in Tongi, Ouderland organized 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.


Ouderland was awarded Bir Pratik, one of the highest gallantry awards of Bangladesh. In 1998, he was invited by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, to receive the award and certificate but was unable to attend due to illness.

Later career

Ouderland retired from Bata Shoe Company of Bangladeshmarker in 1978 and went back to Australia. On 18 May 2001, he died at a hospital in Perthmarker, Western Australiamarker.


  1. Genocide in Bangladesh, 1971. Gendercide Watch.
  2. Emerging Discontent, 1966-70. Country Studies Bangladesh
  3. Anatomy of Violence: Analysis of Civil War in East Pakistan in 1971: Military Action: Operation Searchlight Bose S Economic and Political Weekly Special Articles, October 8, 2005
  4. Pakistan Defence Journal, 1977, Vol 2, p2-3

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