His name does not come to the fore usually when people talk about the contribution of foreigners in Bangladesh's Liberation War, while a picture of him wielding a sten gun is in the collection of all history enthusiasts.
The foreigner who, only to counter the atrocities of the Pakistan Army, took part in the Liberation War and played an important role is - William A S Ouderland.
It was 1970 when the second world war soldier arrived at 'Dacca' as the Executive Director of Bata. Following the crackdown of Pak Army on 25 March in 1971, Ouderland was deeply moved to take action against the injustice of the military junta. He, however, once again chose the covert role that was his speciality.
With his sleek attitude and high position, Ouderland penetrated top ranks of the Pak Army and intelligence and supplied the intel to the freedom fighters. He was no stranger to espionage as the Dutch WW2 veteran worked as a spy for the Dutch Underground Resistance Movement in the latter parts of World War II.
Ouderland often had the opportunity to participate in meetings alongside military officers in the cantonment. He used to secretly send all the information collected from there to Captain ATM Haider of Sector-2.
Bata factory in Tongi, his office, became a training ground for the guerrilla fighters during the Liberation War. His time in Dutch National Service proved to be fruitful because as a guerrilla sergeant Ouderland carried out covert attacks on Nazi forces and after getting caught, he incredibly escaped from prison and started spying.
Back to the battlegrounds, in the later parts of 1971, Ouderland himself orchestrated a number of guerrilla attacks on Pak army carried out by freedom fighters in sectors 1 and 2 as his workers formed an effective covert team.
Ouderland continued to block the advance of the Pakistani forces by blowing up the bridges and culverts one after the other on the Tongi-Bhairab railway line with the freedom fighters of Sector 2. At the same time, under his leadership, the freedom fighters launched guerrilla attacks on the Pak army camps and strategically important government offices around Dhaka. He himself fought in the frontlines for some time.
This global war hero fought for Bangladesh with not just blood and bullets but with lenses as well. Ouderland continued to take pictures of the numerous massacres committed by the Pakistani army in secret throughout the war and sent to various newspapers abroad. Those pictures taken by Oderland played a pivotal role in bringing the public opinion in favour of freedom fighters.
Following the liberation of Bangladesh, William Abraham Simon Ouderland was honoured with 'Bir Pratik', the fourth highest gallantry award in Bangladesh. He continued to serve Bata till 1978.
Ouderland, who breathed his last at the age of 84 in Perth in 2001, remains the only foreign national who was awarded by the Bangladesh government for extraordinary contribution in the liberation war. A documentary was made about his contribution to the war in 2016.