On the fourth of October 1921, my sister [Hella] walked in the grocer shop with the maid [in Rotterdam], when a stork flew slowly overhead. The maid told her that the stork had just delivered a parcel at home. The parcel was me, Willem Hendrik Johannes Haasse, wrapped up in blankets, in a with ribbons adorned cradle. When I was approximately three months old our family returned to the Netherlands East-Indies. My father was posted to Soerabaja, a town in the eastern part of Java. He had a job with the Department of Finance and Taxation. Of the next few years I have no recollection at all. Apparently we used to go to a mountain resort each year, to get away from the heat. Air-conditioning was unknown in those days. Even ceiling fans were a luxury.
Unfortunately my mother caught a bad cold on one of those trips, which developed into pleurisy and a mild form of TB. On advice of our doctor, she was booked into a Sanatorium in Switzerland. Just before I turned four years old, my mother and us two children, left for Europe. Strange enough I can remember one impression of this trip, being a vague picture of the ship's swimming pool. The swimming pool was constructed by suspending a canvas in the opening of a shallow hold.
We landed in Genoa in Italy. My mother went to Davos in central Switzerland and we were both taken to Holland, by our two grand-mothers. At first the idea was, for each grand-mother to look after one each of us. My mothers mother however, was a woman more bent on social activities and my sister became therefore a bit of a hindrance.As my other grandmother was at that stage in the sixties, a burden of two youngsters would be a bit to much. My sister was therefore boarded out in the same village where my fathers parents lived, so she could spend the weekends with us. My first recollection of this period, is me walking with my grandfather [W. H. J. *1860] along a lane in this village of Baarn. The reason why I can remember this, must be the fact that my grandfather scolded some naughty boys.
My grandparents lived in a three story house [Parkstraat 6] with a garden of about one acre. Lilacs were climbing all over the walls and in the back garden there was a kind of a low hill, bordered by gooseberry bushes. That used to be my favourite playground in the summer months. During the cold period of the year I used to play in either the sitting room or a huge glassed-in conservatory. Certain items of furniture I can still remember. A Moorish coffee table with arches, used to be a garage for my motorcars. Two big mantle clocks, one depicting a crusader, the other depicting a Saracen soldier, made a great impression on me. In the afternoons, I was put to bed. My bed was in my grandparents room, and above it hung a large picture of Josephs and Mary's flight to Egypt. I can especially remember the donkey on which Mary was seated, holding the baby Jesus. On Sunday mornings my grandfather used to put me on his knee, while seated in front of the window of his study, and tell me fairy-tales. He must have worked his way through every conceivable story for at least half a dozen times as far as I can remember. His study had a big roll top desk, on top of the bookcase stood a little bamboo house, a present from my father, on the walls hung his collection of butterflies. There was also a huge preserved, framed spider. When the days were pleasant, my grandfather used to take me for walks in the forest. To avoid monotony, my grandfather devised different walks. The environs of Baarn were mostly forests, sandy heath, small lakes and some agricultural land. The summer palace of the Queen was nearby, in walking distance. The huge palace stables were alongside the main road and the coaches and horses always provided new interest.
There is not all that much, that I can remember of those days. Apparently my mother came to visit us for a short period, but of that event I have no recollection. My Uncle [Gerrit van Sillevoldt], the husband of my father's sister, used to bring us an occasional hare, partridge or quail. He used to be an avid hunter and never missed a year of hunting. He possessed a beautiful double-barrelled shotgun with a lot of engraving on it. Whatever he used to bring, was hung in the cellar for a while. This cellar was a big affair and it used to be ice-cold in there. Another thing I can remember is the ice-tea which the maid used to make for me. This was always a special treat for me when I came back in the house after playing outside.
Before I turned six, my mother was declared healthy enough to leave the Sanatorium for good. My grandmother took Hella and myself, in the train to Switzerland to meet her.
We spent a couple of months in the area near Montreux and Chateau-Deux [Château-d’Oex] and visited Geneva and Bern. I have vague recollections of that period. Next to one of the hotels used to be a big concrete pool, full of trout, which were caught for hotel use. I also saw my first pictures here. Two titles I remember, were "Nell Gwynne" and "The Nibelungen Saga". In the first picture there was a man locked in a steel cage, who was kept on a starvation diet, and then lowered above the table where everybody was gorging themselves on food and wine. This gave me some sleepless nights. The second picture was about the Germanic hero Siegfried, who slew a dragon and then bathed in the animal's blood. This made him invulnerable against being wounded. Unfortunately a leaf from a tree fell on his shoulder blade and left him vulnerable in that particular spot. Needless to say that became his undoing. We also visited some very old castles, where the dungeons left a lasting impression on me.
Not long after we arrived back in Holland, my father came back from the Indies. I remember going to the railway station to meet him. He had landed in Genoa and had come through on the train. I could not remember him very well, he was somebody from the dim past, but things soon settled down. We rented a home in Baarn. My father had seven months leave, but found it necessary to work, in order to make our lives more comfortable. He did some administrative work for my mother's step-father, who was an antique dealer and stockbroker [Anne de Vries].
He had a seventeenth century home in the centre of Amsterdam on the Keizersgracht, loaded with beautiful antiques. He also had a home in Heemstede. This place backed onto the river. My mothers mother [Seraphia Weitzel] was terribly fussy and would not allow us to play in the house. In the back garden however, there was a large timbered garden house where we children felt quite happy. In the meantime I had entered school, which was a whole new experience. Hella and I used to walk there and back together. On the way home, we used to buy some zoutdrop for the colossal price of one cent. The amount of drop we used to get for that one cent was quite astonishing.
Our stay in Baarn did not last that long, but left me with some long lasting impressions. One of them was our dog Miarca, she was given to us by Uncle Gerrit. [Miarca is a girl's name and a ship's name.] He used to have a kennel of dogs at his home in Rotterdam. He had a property a few miles out of town. I have never been able to work out what he did for a living. I believe he owned quite a bit of property around, but gradually sold it off, maybe that kept him going. Anyway our dog had pups. They were absolutely beautiful. One of them was the dead spit of the character Bonzo. [George Ernest Studdy (Davenport, 23 June 1878 – 25 July 1948) was a British commercial artist. He is best remembered for his creation of Bonzo the dog, a fictional character in the early 1920s that first appeared in The Sketch Magazine.] White with black tips on his paws, on half his nose and a few spots on the body. The rest of his nose was pink. We were really heartbroken, when we finally had to leave them behind. Another great event was the veggie man. He used to come past with his horse drawn chart and allowed me to come with him on part of his round. When we arrived back at our place, he used to give me some huge carrots, to feed to the horse. Another event was the celebration of my parents copper wedding anniversary. This was held in the local hotel and most of our relatives and some close friends attended.
At the end of 1927 [it was the year 1929] we returned to Java. This time my father was posted to the mountain city of Bandoeng. This was a garrison town, surrounded by mountains. Our house was situated opposite a huge landscape park, with Government buildings in the background. This park proved invaluable as a playing area for my sister and myself and our school friends. Late in the afternoons, when the shadows started to fall and the place started to look a bit spooky, Hella used to concoct horror stories and had everybody shivering in their boots. Our neighbour was manager for the Fiat motor company and insisted on taking us for drives around the countryside, in every new model Fiat that arrived in his showroom. These cars used to be big seven seaters with benches that folded up against the front seat. Driving around with the hood folded back, with a good view and a nice breeze, was always a pleasure.
About a year later, my father was transferred to Buitenzorg, a township situated sixty kilometres away from Batavia, on the slopes of the mountain ranges. This town had become quite popular during the previous century, for people from Batavia to come to, as a means of temporary escaping the heat of the northern plain. The Vice-Roy, or Governor-General as we called him, had a summer palace here, surrounded by a huge botanical garden of world renown. Just about every conceivable plant or tree of the tropical world was here. There were also huge glass houses with orchids and other exotic plants.
Our house was situated towards the edge of town on a hectare of ground. In the back of the garden we had a fenced off area with three deer. A small creek ran through it and there were bushes of banana trees ad also a mango tree. In the front we had a rotunda of about fifteen feet in diameter, in which my sister organised plays and games. We used to get violent thunderstorms in the rainy season, and more than once, one of our tall coconut trees would be hit. A type of Betja [a kind of bicycle taxi] used to take us to and from school until we were given a bike each. Motorcar traffic was virtually non existent in the small country towns in those days, so it was safe for us to bike to school. Life in those days was without air-conditioning and fans were only seen in the foyers of hotels. Homes were built in an open style and floors were made of marble or tiled. These floors were swabbed over everyday and when it was really hot, I used to lie flat on the floor to feel a bit cooler.
We had quite a pleasant time in Buitenzorg. Our school took us for excursions to the Botanical garden and to a swimming pool, which was constructed in a mountain stream. The water used to be ice-cold and occasionally you would stand on a frog. One picture we saw, had Buster Keaton, the legendary comedian, as the star performer. Up to this day, I have been able to remember this picture. Therefore I was quite surprised, to see the same show, on a Buster Keaton documentary, on TV the other day.
Early 1931, we moved to Batavia. My father was transferred to the Head-Office in Batavia and Hella had to go to high school. We were both sent to a private school, that combined primary as well as secondary education. The other high school in Batavia did not have a good name, because of its rough elements. School used to start at seven in the morning, until one in the afternoon, with two ten minutes breaks in between. The class rooms had high ceilings and opened up on one side to a long covered gallery. Big trees in the school yard provided shade. On the way home from school we sometimes went for a short swim, as the swimming pool was on our way. We used to have lunch at about two in the afternoon, when my father got back from the office and afterwards a period of rest until about five. We children usually did some study, went swimming or played tennis. About half past five, we had afternoon tea on the covered front veranda and dinner at eight o'clock at night.
Our life at home was entirely in European style, in contrast with that of families who were born and bred in Java. Our food was mainly European, but on Sundays, birthdays and on other special occasions, we used to indulge in rijsttafel, nasi goreng or mie. These meals used to be real feasts, as the cook was left a free hand. She used to make sufficient, for the servants to have their fair share as well. Our servants used to live in the special servants quarters, which made it easy for them, as well for us. We were always on good terms with our servants and there was a feeling of mutual respect. Once a year the servants used to organise a so called 'selamatan'. This was a gigantic festivity, laid on to pacify the spirits, who dwelled on the property. We paid for it and they organised it. The men folk would sit cross legged on mats, spread out in the garden. The food was placed in between the opposing rows of participants and the food was eaten with the fingers from a banana leaf. A native used to chant the necessary incantations to put the good spirits in a pleasant mood and to ward off the evil ones. The women folk had had to eat on the back veranda. In the backyard of one of our homes, there was the grave of a hadji, a holy man, who who had made the trip to Mecca. Natives used to enter our garden freely, to place their offerings on the grave, which was situated underneath the foliage of a huge tree. The local cats must have had a splendid time.
My mother used to organise the housework early in the morning. She used to walk around with a small cane basket, in which all the keys for the different cupboards and doors could be found. We used to have one female servant to do the cooking, one to do the ironing, general cleaning work in the house and the making of the beds. A male servant used to do a kind of butler job and another looked after the garden. There was never much of a turnover in the servants force, only if one a bit too dirty in general appearance or was caught pinching, was there a change. My mother used to receive the new applicants and ask them about their background and experience and possible references. As there was a constant coming and going of Europeans, there were always servants looking for jobs. Their working hours were fairly elastic and there was never any reluctance to give them time off.
Most of our gardens had all kind of fruit trees, such as bananas, mangoes, rambutan, dukuh, tamarind and pawpaw. The mangoes used to be special treat, we ate them ripe or half green, dipped in salt. This last recipe can't have been too good for our health. One big mango tree was situated right on the fence line, alongside a small lane. With some friends, I sometimes climbed in this tree and pelted passers by with small mangoes. We were lucky not to have got a hiding from them and they must have considered us fair little BBBB's.
My mother [Käthe Diehm Winzenhöler] was a good pianist. She had studied at the Conservatorium in Amsterdam and at the age of sixteen performed for the Queen and King of Belgium. She kept her piano playing up through the years and gave a lot of concerts in Batavia. She was asked to go to Bangkok, to perform for the King of Siam at a certain occasion, but refused, as she did not feel all that well at the time. She used to give piano lessons and directed a women's choir. All this kept her flat out and the house was always full of music.
My father on the other hand, had his interest in reading and was chairman of the Association of Academics. This was a society of professional men, who interested themselves in discussing ways of improving certain aspects of government and was semi-political. In his younger days, my father used to write regular articles for one of the newspapers. He was also a good administrator. In his early days, he used to work for the Shell Company, but switched over to a Government job before he got married. Over the years, he steadily climbed up the promotional ladder, until he got the job of Inspector-General of the Department of Finance and Taxation. This job was very similar to that of Deputy-Commissioner of Taxation in Australia. In this position, he travelled extensively over the whole of the Netherlands East-Indies, inspecting the different offices, making changes in the administration where necessary, draft new tax laws or suggest changes. This travel used to be done by car, boat or train. One trip he made along the West-coast of Sumatra, followed a maintenance track along an oil pipeline, crossing rivers on primitive pontoons and having to dodge fallen trees and earth falls. On this trip he came across a tribe of Indonesian Aborigines, people who live in the deep forest and avoid contact with other humans as much as possible. The same sort of tribes are also to be found in the Malaysian jungle. All his good work, earned him eventually the Knighthood order of Officer in the Order of Oranje-Nassau.
School life in those days was probably much the same as it is here today, except for the working hours. The only difference was probably the subjects we had to do, to pass our TEE. We had to do four languages, all the maths and science subjects, biology, geography, history, economics, commercial drawing, chemistry and sports. Hella followed the six year high school, where she had to study Latin and Greek as well. Four times a year we had progressive exams, with the last one determining whether you advanced to the next grade. For our TEE, we had to do oral and written exams for most of the subjects. For the language exams, we had to read eight books of each language. During the oral part of the exam, we had to describe the contents of a given book, in that language. For sports, we got the aggregate mark over the whole of the last year.
[TEE = Tertiary Entrance Exam. For the new examination and curriculum system that has replaced the Tertiary Entrance Exam (TEE), see WACE (Western Australian Certificate of Education).]
With the high school, we made weekend- or holiday excursions to mountain retreats or national parks. We had a lot of school balls, ordinary dances or fancy dress balls. When you had your birthday, it was customary to invite your friends for a party at home, with the old gramophone providing the music. The standard party dress for boys used to be white shirt and tie, a blazer and grey flannel pants. This used to be a mighty hot outfit. We used to perspire terribly. When you are young, and used to living in the tropics without air-conditioning, you soon get used to it. To prepare us for all these parties, we used to attend dancing classes. Our teacher was a big, fat German of middle age with a beer belly. It was unbelievable to see this man move over the dance floor. His fat body seemed to float nimbly and gracefully along. He taught us the usual ballroom dances and used to award good efforts with a prize. Up to this day I still have a jade tie-pin he gave me. His home was filled with exquisite Chinese porcelain and jade objects and nicely carved antique furniture. His office contained a lot of radio gear, which made us wonder whether he was a spy. A large portrait of Hitler and a swastika flag hung on the wall. He was interned with all the other German citizens when war broke out.
My mothers sister, tante Lily, lived in Bandoeng. Her husband was a major in the army and in charge of the pyrotechnical workshops. They had three children, our cousins Gerard, Lily and Corrie. Gerard was an adventurous character, who used to go out hunting and camping in the mountains. He wetted our appetite with all kind of stories, which resulted in us making him promise to take us out camping one time. The opportunity came, when we stayed with our aunt, during school holidays. As we were frightened that our parents would not let us tramp off into the wild, we asked permission to camp at Dago heights, above Bandoeng. There was a hotel nearby and a safe place to camp. Once we got the o.k. we got ourselves organised, and took off with a tent, blankets, toothbrush and Gerard's gun. Instead of the bus to Dago, we squeezed ourselves and our gear into a dilapidated bus, which carted us off to Telaga Patengan, a crater lake, south of Bandoeng. The bus drive itself was quite a thrill. The driver negotiated the endless hairpin bends with great speed. At every sharp bend, baskets with chickens and other gear would shift from one side to the other. My cousin Gerard seemed to think it was all quite normal. He sat smoking native cigarettes with the local Sundanese passengers and pumping them for information. We got out at the final stop, bought some supplies at a little native store and followed a little track to the lake. The lake was surrounded by virgin jungle, with some open patches where the population had been burning. We erected the tent on one of these patches and waited for sunset. Gerard was going to show us how he shot flying foxes. Unfortunately, none were to be seen and around midnight we all squeezed in the tent. We did not sleep much. Funny noises could be heard all night. Early in the morning we were disturbed by buffaloes, grazing around our tent. We packed up in a hurry and did some exploring at the lake's edge. We found an old leaky canoe, in which we took off forthwith. As there was only one paddle, Gerard had to move the canoe, while we three kept bailing out the leaky vessel. It was all a lot of fun, away from the civilised world. In the afternoon, we picked up our gear and caught the bus back to Bandoeng, where we arrived dog tired. Aunt Lily was not amused. She had decided to check on us in Dago and had not been able to find us. You can imagine the blast we got.
Other times, we used to stay with friends in a hamlet, called Tjitjoeroeg, where there were only a few cottages. We children used to go and play in the river, in which white water came tumbling down over huge boulders and then lost momentum in large gravel bottom pools. Huge trees and groves of tall bamboo threw shade over most of these pools. We used to spend days down there and roaming through the near country side.
Another place we used to go to was the Puntjak Pass, over which traffic was able to shortcut the Bandoeng to Batavia route. Most of the way was through forest in those days. Now on our last visit to Java, there was hardly a tree to be seen under the fifteen hundred foot level. There are tea plantations everywhere and a lot of erosion is occurring. The nights up here used to be cold and the daytime temperatures fairly mild. When we came up here, we used to play tennis, swim or go for walks.
Once a year, my father had his annual holidays, these were taken sometime in January, during our school holidays. A mountain resort, called “Selahbintanah”, used to be our regular spot. The hotel was built in bungalow style, with a separate wing containing the office and dining room. A golf course surrounded the hotel and there were a huge swimming pool and tennis courts. In the early morning hours we used to go for a walk through the tea plantations or the bush, afterwards we children went swimming for most of the remainder of the day. My parents used to stretch out in lazy chairs, reading a book or writing letters etc.
The hotel was built on the slopes of Mount Gedeh, which was 11000 feet high. We climbed to the top twice. My father, one of his colleagues and me used to start off early in the morning mist and smoke of the native fires still hanging low between the trees and foliage. Once we got past the cultivated areas, a gradually denser jungle took over, which started to peter out gradually, when coming closer to the top. Late in the afternoon, we reached a forestry hut, situated a few hundred metres underneath the crater rim. We spent the night here, rolled up in blankets. It was bitterly cold and there was an eerie stillness around the place with an occasional murmur of the wind. We had a wash in a pool next to the hut, which was covered by a thin layer of ice. It was still dark when we made our way to the top. Sunrise up there was magnificent. The air was still clear and you could see the Java sea and Indian Ocean simultaneously. The crater underneath us was bubbling sulphur and hot mud and sulphurous smoke plumed its way upwards. About an hour later the view started to disappear as the mist rose up from the plain. The way back was of course a lot easier and we returned to the hotel early in the afternoon. Thinking back, it seems rather tragic, that my father's colleague, who was in the naval reserve, was a few years later killed in the battle of the Java sea.
In 1935, my father had his tropical leave again, and we sailed to Holland in one of the latest built passenger vessels of the Rotterdam Lloyd line [Marnix van St. Aldegonde]. As we were able to book well in advance, we managed to get cabins no. one, three and five, all situated on the promenade deck. These cabins had the advantage, that you could be on deck after only a few metres walk and our deck chairs were right underneath our cabin windows. As we made this trip in the middle of the school year, we had to study every day. This was rather difficult with all the distractions around, but my father made sure we stuck to it and even went as far as examining us occasionally. We made sightseeing trips in most of the ports of call. Singapore was a far cry of what it is today. Orchard road, the big shopping area nowadays, was just bush and none of the big industrial areas existed. The population was also considerably smaller. Medan, on Sumatra was smaller still, but the island of Sabang, situated at the extreme top end of Sumatra was very picturesque. This harbour was free port and a coal and oil bunker station. The island itself rose high out of the sea with palm fringed beaches and the harbour was situated in a crescent shaped bay. The locals used to make a lot of handicrafts and these were always feverishly snapped up by the various travellers. In Colombo we made the usual trip through town and also went to a resort called “Mount Lavinia”, situated south of Colombo. We children swam there while the grown-ups took it easy. The stretch between Colombo and Suez was rather boring as except for seeing the island of Socotra and Cape Guardafui and stretches of sandy desert along the Arabian coast, there was not much to see. During this period, different sports carnivals were held and for the grown-ups there were balls. And this was the first trip through the Suez canal at an age that I could remember things, I did not miss too much of what was to be seen. Several passengers chose to travel overland to Port-Said and there rejoin the ship, but my father was not very keen on that idea, so we travelled through the canal instead, which was interesting enough. In Port-Said we were beleaguered by Arab vendors and small boys were swimming around the ship, singing out to us to throw coins in the water, for them to pick up. How on earth they were able to spot these in the water, had me tricked.
We visited a store of world renown, called Simon Artz, where all kinds of goods from all over the world could be bought. Otherwise Port-Said is not really worth bothering about. From Port-Said we travelled via Genoa and Southampton to Rotterdam. In Genoa we visited the cemetery of Campo-Santo, a graveyard for the rich and famous and well to do. Enormous mausoleums of marble are to be seen there with marble angels of men size. Slabs of marble with letters of gold etc. etc. We passed Gibraltar in the mist. Little did I know then, that I would see this rocky fortress plenty more times, later in life, under rather different circumstances. In Rotterdam we disembarked. For some reason we stayed over in the Hague for a few days, before travelling to Baarn, where my grandmother still lived. My grandfather had unfortunately passed away earlier that year as a result of contracting pneumonia. After staying with my grandmother for a while, we rented a place nearby. My sister and I went to the local high school [Baarnsch Lyceum]. Due to differences in curriculum and finishing times of the school year, the Head master advised my parents to let us do the same year again. Fate must have intervened here, because if this had not had happened, I would have been in Europe at the outbreak of Word War Two, with a possibility of having either lost my life there or having become a prisoner of war, as at that stage I was set to join the cadet corps of the Netherlands Army. The idea of joining the Navy developed a couple of years later. My parents toyed with the idea of leaving us behind as we both planned to receive our further education in Holland. Altered circumstances however, saw us eventually return with them to Java. The time high school in Holland was quite pleasant, especially because of the fact that the school used to be closed, when the temperature soared over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. In those cases we were sent out in the surrounding woods for walks. During the summer holidays, our parents took us for a fortnight to the Harz mountains, in central Germany. The country there was beautiful. We stayed in little local hotels and made long walks through the country side. I can still smell the pine trees with which the hills were covered. In the evenings we used to enjoy dinner, sitting outside in the beer garden. We were also allowed to have either a pot of dark German beer or a rather heady apple wine. The latter was one of my favourites. In those days it was already noticeable that things were changing in Germany. Troop columns were moving around and groups of the so called Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) were marching everywhere. Another interesting part of our trip was a visit to the city of Wernigerode.
The family of the wife of the first member of our family to come to Holland, had a pewter factory and workshop here at that time, but enquiries as to whether their descendants were still around, proved fruitless. This city has real medieval appearance. There are some beautiful buildings there. We also visited a cave, which was rather similar to the ones near Margaret River. Here I bought my first bit of petrified wood and the tooth of a pre-historic bear, which I still possess today.
After our return to Holland, my mother and sister went to stay in a hotel in the countryside, while my father took me on a bicycle tour through the northern part of Holland. Both carrying a backpack, we peddled our way through the provinces of North-Holland, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel and Gelderland back to our province of Utrecht. For lunch we invariably had buns with butter and cheese, topped off with a mug of milk. We usually stopped at about four in the afternoon, which gave us time to look around in villages or cities where we spent the night. At one time, we stopped for lunch, beside some old burial mounds, of tribes which inhabited this area in the stone age. Digging around, I found an old stone axe head, which fortunately I also still have today. All in all it was an extremely interesting trip. The countryside changes rapidly even in a country of such small size. It is hard to believe, that there are areas in this densely populated country, where you think you are alone in the world. There are vast stretches of inland dunes and heather and substantial stands of timber, in contrast with the heavily industrialised areas of West- and Central Holland.
After the summer holidays, it was back to school and in November 1935, we returned again to the Netherlands East-Indies. This time we took the train to Marseilles, in southern France, where we joined our ship. The train had comfortable sleeper wagons and a luxuriously appointed dining room. Early afternoon saw us in Marseilles and the ship took off a few hours later. Of the trip itself is not much to tell, saw all the same ports again and did very similar shore excursions. The 5th of December, St Nicolaas day, we arrived back in the harbour of Batavia, called Tandjong Priok. We moved into a hotel, until my parents had found a house. It was also back to school and it was annoying to see all my former class mates, one class higher up, due to the fact that we had to repeat this first year of high school.
From now on I had to study pretty hard and in my spare time did a lot of sport, like athletics, fencing, swimming and working on the parallel bars and the horse. Holidays were the same as before, usually going to the mountain resort of Selahbintanah above the township of Sukabumi. Made trips to the south coast of Java and to the Sunda straits. Both areas are very picturesque and the south coast is pretty rough.
Hella did her TEE in 1938, and had to leave for Holland, in order to go to the University in Amsterdam. To make the sudden departure from home not too much of a shock, my parents let me go with her on the ship as far as the port of Medan in Sumatra and then return again from there with the next ship coming back. As Hella was a good letter writer, we were kept well informed of her life in Holland and got gradually used to her not being around. My school life was much the same as it had always been, but I started to get interested in girls, who I escorted to school and back or met in the swimming pool or took to the school dances. One of these girls, was the daughter of a Lieutenant-Commander in the Navy, who took me to see some of the warships, whenever they arrived in port. This awakened the desire in me to take the Navy on as a career, but I still kept the Army in my mind as a backstop. The war in Europe broke out in 1939 and in April 1940 I passed my TEE. As I had turned eighteen, I was without delay called up into National service, after first passing a medical test. I was sent to the Depot Battalion in Bandoeng, where all the called up boys were initially trained in the military basics. After that we were destined to be entered in a reserve officers school.
2. Army days and Naval Academy.
Fortunately, the Navy decided to open an academy for midshipmen in Soerabaja in eastern Java, but this would take some time. All the same, I entered my application form and then packed my bags and set off for Bandoeng and reported to the Depot-Battalion. This was a huge militaire camp, surrounded by barbed wire and sentry towers. I resorted to the duty Officer and was told to join a group of others in the next building. Here we were at the mercy of an army doctor, who pumped us full with large quantities of typhoid, cholera and tetanus serum. Then we were taken to a clothing store, where we were presented with some extremely ill fitting green uniforms, made from a very heavy kind of material, leg puttees and black boots. Then it was off to one of the barracks. This was a huge open building with one section containing wooden benches and trestle tables, then a toilet and bathroom section and then the sleeping area. The cots were of iron with wooden planks on the bottom. We were issued with mattresses, which looked more like a ball when we received them and had to be jumped upon for a while, to make them so you could sleep on them. Even then they had more of a S shape. The toilet consisted out of a concrete trench, through which water was running at a fair speed. Foot pads were constructed in the concrete for comfort. As there were no partitions you could enjoy the company of your friends during this important business.
The daily routine was quite strenuous. Reveille at five in the morning, when it was still fairly dark. It used to be quite cold in the early morning, so it did not take us long to get ready. Half an hour later we had to sit down for breakfast, which consisted of a mug of coffee, tasting of the camphor that was put in and a few slices of rough bread with some butter and jam. The medical experts of the forces were convinced that adding camphor to the coffee helped to suppress the libido of the soldiers. They should not have bothered however, because at the end of the days we were so worn out and tired that girls were the furthest from our minds. After a hurried breakfast we were herded to the weapons magazine, where we were issued with a rifle and ammunition. The rifles dated from the first world war and were terribly heavy. The sergeant in charge had a fiendish pleasure in letting us do intricate exercises with the rifles, while our arms were aching like mad after the inoculations and while running quite a bit of a fever. Marching used to go on for hours and we had also exercises going in gas chambers, having to take our masks off in there and then putting them back on. As it was only chlorine gas, it did not harm you too much but it used to sting like blazes. Lunch consisted out of a plate of rice with soupy vegetables which I found quite tasty. In the afternoon we were allowed two hours rest and then the fun was on again until about four o'clock. Sometimes drill and sometimes taking rifles apart and cleaning them. The evening meal consisted again out of rice. I cannot remember whether I ever saw a potato while there.
After about six weeks I received a letter from the Navy, instructing me to report in Soerabaja at a certain date for a medical examination. There was quite a large group of us boarding the night express to Soerabaja. After the fare in the barracks the food on the train seemed manna from heaven. In Soerabaja we were picked up by Navy busses and taken to the Naval barracks for our medical examination. This was very thorough indeed, with a lunch in between. It took most of the day. The navy put us all up in a local hotel and paid all the expenses. Next day, we appeared before a Commission consisting of four high ranking naval officers, who asked us all kind of questions in regards general knowledge and naval matters in particular. Afterwards we were taken to a men's tailor. Everybody who came for this testing, was measured up for his uniform so in case he passed and was accepted. I had to return to the eye specialist for another good going over. Apperently they were not quite happy with my left eye. That night we were put back on the train to Bandoeng and the spartan life was resumed.
A few weeks Iater we received word about our results and I was quite happy to know that I was accepted as number sixteen of the forty who were taken on from about two hundred forty applicants. Three of my highschool class mates were also included. As the army had now no further use for us, we were released in order to prepare ourselves for our new career.
In the beginning of August I travelled again to Soerabaja and reported to the Naval barracks. The sleeping quarters and mess hall for us midshipmen was situated in a building within the boundary fence of the naval installation. A big private home, not far away, had been purchased to provide class rooms and a recreation area. We all received a serial number and were handed our uniforms and all other equipment. This included the lot, underwear, socks, shoes. sheets, pillows and towels. We even received swimming trunks which were horrible black and white striped things. We were divided into four groups / two groups to a hall. We had double decker beds with mosquito nets and well designed cupboards for our clothes. We were given instructions in how to fold up our clothes in proper navy style and basics of the routine we were going to follow. The next day, the sixth of August 1940, we were officially installed by the Commander in Chief of Naval Forces in the Indies. There were a lot of invitated guests and the band of the Marines played marches. Our previous instruction in drill came in handy. It allowed us to form up and march in a fairly military fashion. Afterwards we were marched off to our recreation building, where we could amuse ourselves for the rest of the day. The chaps living in Soerabaja. were allowed to spend the rest oF the day with their parents.
The next day, everything started in earnest. Up at six, breakfast half an hour later, then lessons. Drill, sailing or whatever else was on the roster. Lunch at one o‘clock in the afternoon and then rest until four o'clock. After havIng a shower and a cup of tea, it was off again to the study quarters for more lessons or just study. Back to the barracks at six for dinner, then back again for more study and an hour for relaxation. Nine o‘clock back to the barracks and Iights out at ten. This rigorous system was followed all week. Saturday morning there was more study and the afternoon off for leisure. We were not aIIowed to go to town except on Sundays and then only to go to church or to visit families who had to write a note that such was the case.
This system only lasted like that during our first year. A month after our installation, some midshipmen arrived, who had come out of Holland on one of our older cruisers which had been used to bring princess Juliana and her children to safety in Canada. These chaps had been in their final year at the Naval Academy in Holland and now had the task to bastardize us for a month and knock some sense into us. This was a most unpleasant period, as in the military system you cannot talk back or show your displeasure at the treatment you receive. As there were only twenty of them, they were given two of us each to instruct in the ways of the navy system. My so called sea father was a chap called Richard Ferwerda whose brother and uncle were also in the Navy. Unluckily for him, he was killed in the battle of the Java sea together with fourteen of the other elder year midshipmen. We were given the roughest treatment possible and one of the elder year colleagues who slept in the bunk underneath me, picked me to sort out his laundry and make sure it was done on time. He was a big fat slob of a bloke and stank. It proved to be a most distasteful task. I also had to make up his bed. According to them the first year midshipmen were the lowest form of life in the naval system and they never let up telling us so and grilling me constantly on general knowledge. This lasted only a month and on the night of initiation the fun really started. With a rope around our neck, we had to jump around in frog fashion until we just about had it. We also had to run the gauntlett while being thrashed with anything they could lay there hands on and finally ut twenty of us were shoved in a toilet. the door was closed and then we were hosed down through the window. It was very cramped and we could hardly breathe. After that it was peace. Our treatment as equals had finally begun and we all drank beer together and sang at the top of our voices. All the past misery was forgotten. All the same, we got our own back in the swimming- pool. They were pretty rotten swimmers and we gave them some good dunkings in return for all the hardships we had suffered.
At the end of our first year, we had exams and were then out on board of the cruiser "de Ruyter", for our first sea training. The morning before the ship sailed, we were put to work on peeling potatoes, as we were supposed to learn to do everything, we would ask our subordinates to do, later on in our navy career. When the ship sailed and moved to the open sea through the narrow Western passage, we were put on swinging the lead. This was used to determine the depth of the water as there were no echo sounding systems developed as yet. A big cylindrical and tapered hunk of lead was fastened to a long rope, which was marked for feathoms with coloured strips of cotton. To get the lead moving, you had to swing it with about fifteen feet of rope between your hand and the lead. After swinging it backwards and forwards in increasingly higher arcs, you came eventually to the point were you pulled it overhead with a big jerk and then kept it moving around in a circular motion. When you got a good speed up, you let it shoot forward. As it plunged into the water and slipped towards the bottom, you kept an eye on the markings of the rope and when it hit bottom and the robe stood vertically up and down, you read off the depth from the markings and called them out to the bridge. To do all this, you were strapped on a little platform which extended out over the water. My first efforts nearly jerked my right arm out of its socket as I could not get the required speed up and the lead plunged downwards instead of coming into a circular motion. Eventually I managed to master it. One of my colleagues was hit on the side of his head and shoulder and had to be treated in the sickbay or ships hospital. We were taught how to strap and stow hammocks, had to splice steel and manilla ropes and learn how to make proper knots. We also got our first practical lessons in the handling of the sextant and had to take turns at the wheel. While anchored near the island of Billiton, we were lowered down the side of the ship on planks, in order to repaint some patches of the hull. The water was very clear and this was the first time I saw sea snakes cruising along with their heads rearing occasionally out of the water. We visited some islands in the Riouw archipelago, in the vicinity of Singapore. On one island we went swimming in a mountain lake. It was very cold and a fairly high waterfall came thundering down at the far end. The time on board passed very quickly. There were gunnery exercises at night. As there was no radar in those days, we had to rely on range finders and search-lights to home in on the targets. We had also damage control exercises. A simulated hole in the hull had to be temporarily repaired. To do this, we had to manoeuvre an immense tarpaulin over the hole. This was done by fastening ropes to one end of the tarpaulin and manipulating them under the bow to the other side of the ship. The ropes were then pulled, while giving slack to the ones at the other end of the tarpaulin. Once situated over the hole, the water was supposed to seal the hole off.
Once we got back to Soerabaja, we received our corporal stripes and fourteen days leave. I flew back to Batavia in an old Fokker plane which held a maximum of sixteen passengers. At home I saw a lot of my old school friends again, went to the pictures and read books. One of those was "Gone with the wind", which had just been released with pictures of the film in it. Back at the Academy the study began again in earnest. A new batch of midshipmen was installed and now it was our turn to put them through their initiation. We had an academy ball, in which we performed some plays and pantomines. We also sang the special midshipmen song, which goes back to the initial formation of the Netherlands Naval Academy. Our elder year, which had given us such a bad time initially, received their commission and were posted all over the fleet.
Halfway through the year we had more examinations and were proud to receive our sergeants stripes. Again we went on a cruise and this time it was on a large minelaying vessel. We received practical lessons in the handling of mines, mine laying and sweeping and also in preparing depth charges for firing. Our navigational skills were also put to practical tests. We refueled at Pulau Sambo, situated opposite Singapore. At night you could see the city lights. Moored next to us, was an American fleet tanker named "Pecos", on board of which we got coke and popcorn. All day they had loudspeakers blaring music of Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw, which we midshipmen did not mind a bit, but which drove the captain and chief engineer out of their mind. The crew were a friendly lot, but unfortunate for them, five months later, most of them were dead, as their ship was sunk by the Japanese after leaving Tjilatjap, in Southern Java, while trying to reach Australia. As soon as we got back to Soerabaja, we were sent to different branches of the Navy, for further experience, such as the torpedo works, the gas school and the Naval airforce base, Morokrembangan. During our stay there, we had the opportunity to fly in all the different types of Naval aeroplanes, to experience what they were able to do and what uses they could be put to. There was an older type flyingboat, the Dornier X, where you could sit in the front machine gunposition and have a good look around. The position was open and the strength of the wind would flatten your face slightly. There were also PBY Catalina’s, in which we were taken up to do practise bombing runs on a barge, moored in the Madura straits. We had to sit next to the open bomb bay, peering through the bomb sight. When the target showed up under the cross of the bombsight, we would release a bag of chalk. If you were successful, you could see a white spot on the barge. One good thing about all this, was the fact that we raked uo an hourly flying allowance, which augmented our slender academy pay. The Dornier flying boats had some bunks in them, especially provided in case of long distance patrols. We used to wangle permission to go on flights in them when we had time off and when we got bored with the scenery, we could earn our flight allowance while having a catnap. We used to eat in a large open mess hall and there were a terrible lot of flies around.
Another thing that sticks in my mind, is the visit of some American pilots while we were at the base. They had some Ryan twin seater, open cockpit, mono wing aircraft. We were invited to go up with them. Nothing had us prepared for what was in store for us. They looped, did slow rolls, which made you drop six inches out of your seat while hanging upside down and my pilot reserved a special treat for me in the form of a divebomb attack on a freighter, steaming up the Madoera straits. I was gazing in a petrified state at an ever growing funnel opening rushing towards me, until the pilot suddenly pulled up and sent my innards hurtling towards my backbone. All in all it was quite an experience.
A week after returning to the Academy we went for a trip in the mountains with the midshipmen ot the Marine Corps section. In the middle of the forest I drank water from a clear mountainstream. Whether this act or the flies at the airbase were to blame for my consequent attack of typhoid a little while later I will never know.
One day I felt as good as gold, the next I was as sick as a dog. Vomiting, bloody runs and dizzy spells were my lot. The militairy doctor thought I was faking sickness as we were due to go to another temporarily posting. In the end they accepted that something was wrong and transferred me to the hospital within the barracks. Blood samples were taken. This was quite an ordeal. One of the native orderlies would front up with a tray on which lay a small glass plate and the nib of a pen, the type we used at high school and which you could pull out and change. The orderly would then proceed to push this nib in the top of one of my fingers in a slow but determined manner. Not the nice quick jab you get these days. The doctor’s first diagnosis was jaundice, but as I became sicker all the time, I was packed off to the main military hospital. Organisation there, must have been virtually non existent. The stretcher I was laying on, was dumped on a side verandah near the Office and after that they must have forgotten about me for most of the day. As the day proceeded, it got hotter and hotter and I came into the full sun. Towards the end of the afternoon I was carted off to a ward and put to bed. This time proper blood samples were taken and I must have gone off into a coma. Two days later, I came to and found I had been transferred to an isolation ward. Typhoid had been the verdict. My parents flew over, as my situation was deemed to be critical. After a week I showed signs of pulling through and my mother stayed behind another week to keep me company. I had been in hospital for about a month, when the war with Japan broke out. My mother came to visit me a few times and during one of these visits there was an air raid. My mother insisted on dragging me under the bed. How this would have helped, I don't know. After another few weeks I was declared fit to leave. Had to learn to walk again first, as I had been laying on my back with the feet in a slightly higher position. When the blood came rushing down, I knew all about it. One thing that had been worrying me all along during my stay in hospital, were the terrible screams and noises I could hear every now and then. Coming from the direction of a ward behind mine. In my mind I visualised torture rooms and all kind of nasty things. To my great surprise, it turned out to be the labour ward.
When I was released from hospital, I was allowed a weeks leave, which I spent with my parents in the mountains. Then it was back to Soerabaja. The Academy had been shifted to a new site where all the facilities were combined. We would not be there very long. As our year was far enough advanced to be of some use on the fleet, we were detached to several fleet units. Twelve of us were transferred to the cruiser "Sumatra". This ship left the Netherlands East Indies early in February 1942 with destination England as major repairs had to be done and the situation in Java did not look very good. Thirteen of us, including myself, went to the motor torpedo boats. The remainder were sent to various other ships. All the younger year midshipmen stayed at the academy and were eventually evacuated to England, where they finished their training in Dartmouth.
3. War in the Netherlands East-Indies.
The Japanese kept visiting us daily, up to three times a day with bomber formations of up to fifty planes. They used to fly at a great height, but managed to inflict serious damage all the same. The Japanese could carry these raids out because they had occupied the airbase at Kendari in the Celebes early in February and occupied Makassar, now called TandJung Pandang. On the sixth of February our available fighter force had dwindled back to about fifty at this stage, due to heavy losses in Malaya. Also there were only about a hundred bombers left to do damage to the Japs. New aeroplanes, arrived from the USA, were partly destroyed in a surprise raid and further reinforcements were constantly harassed by the Japs. The Australian Government. becoming rather anxious over the ever advancing Japanese kept some of these reinforcements back for themselves, probably thinking all was lost anyway. Against this background of lack of means of defenses the military leaders tried to do the best they could. Our crew transferred to HTB no. 5. as no. 8 had to have repairs done to it. On the sixteenth of February we endured a particulary long and concentrated attack by bombers. Probably because the cruisers "de Ruyter" and "Houston" were moored alongside to take on fuel and stores. At times both cruisers were covered in spray of near misses and through this spray you could see the flashes ot the anti-aircraft guns of both ships. It was one hell of a noise. An old armoured cruiser, dating back to the beginning of the century and in use as a school ship before the war, received a very lucky hit. A bomb went straight through the grating above the engine room and exploded down below. The ship settled down on the mud bottom of the harbour, and hastely fastened steel ropes prevented it from capsizing for a while, but during the night she turned on her side. One day, the Japs hit a ship loaded with rubber. I remember this very well because we were only a few hundred yards away from her when she was hit. A large Japanese formation came over and for a moment you could see the bombs fall and glitter against the sun. Not long after, some hit this ship loaded with rubber. There was a terrific explosion and then flames all over the ship and debris flying in all directions. The ship burnt for three days in succession. Made a good beacon when going on patrol. Eventually she was towed out of the channel on to a sand bank and we put some torpedoes in her to try and finish the job, without all that much success however. When the raids caught us on the water, we used to be able to get well out of the way at most times. Then we used to watch the spectacle in comparitive safety, while listening to radio reports and having a sunbake. Sometimes the anti-aircraft batteries used to bring down a Japanese plane. The fighter planes still at our disposal also played their part. I remember one formation coming over, one plane already shot down and only six left. A fighter was sitting on their tail like an angry wasp. He choose another target, some machinegun bursts and another Mitsubishi developed a smoking tail and went in a long steep glide. At a few thousand feet she tried to recover but failed. She hit the ground nose first and exploded, throwing up a huge grey-black cloud of smoke.
On the seventeenth of February, we received orders to prepare for a possible absence from base of about fourteen days. We worked all night, preparing the torpedoes, checking our twin barrel machine guns, stored ammunition, took in water and got our charts up to date. The next afternoon we tried to snatch some sleep in between the usual air raids. At six pm. we received our instructions and cast off at seven pm. We were on our way to the Lombok straits and strait Badung between Bali and Lombok island with the orders to support an attack by our naval forces on an expected Japanese landing attempt there. Just out of the channel, one of the vessels struck a beacon, was badly damaged, and had to return to base. The seven of us that were left proceeded through rather unusual rough weather for that time of the year. There was a gale blowing and the rain poured down in buckets. You could only just see the wake of the preceding boat. Later on there was a lot of lightning. Some time after midnight the weather cleared up and stars became visible. Daybreak saw us near the coast of Bali to keep out of sight for the time being. We had to be in Banjoewangi - situated on the Java shore of the Bali strait - late in the afternoon. A convoy with special aviation fuel was due there then. We camouflaged the ship and took it easy until about midday. A constant watch was kept for Japanese reconnaissance planes. After eating a bit of lunch, we managed to get out of the bay. We struck coral three times during this effort. We now made a bee-line for Banjoewangi, where we arrived at about three o’clock in the afternoon. There were a couple of trucks on the small ferry wharf loaded up with fourtyfour gallon drums. Refuelling had to be done by handpump and made very difficult by the conditions of the sea, which was running pretty high. We were finished by seven pm., had a bite to eat and then proceeded to the Pang-Pang bay, some distance south of Banjoewangi on the Java coast. We arrived there by nine a.m. A temporary depot ship was moored there, camouﬂaged with leaves and green nets. The other boats were already moored alongside. The commanding officers went on board of the depot ship to receive their last instructions. At ten pm. sharp we set out for Patanu, the beach near Den Pasar in Bali. Unbeknown to us the Japs had already managed to land troops there and were trying to push our own forces back towards Den Pasar Getting closer to what is now called "Bukit Badung", the peninsula [of Bali] on which the Nusa-Dua resorts are situated, we could hear the rumble of gun fire as the first allied wave of ships moved through strait Badung. The airfield at Den Pasar was burning fiercely and showed up at the horizon in a rosy glow. When we rounded Bali's southern point, a thick fog or smoke made visibility very poor. All of a sudden the second allied squadron steamed past, consisting out of the "Tromp“ and four American so called Fourstacks. These older type destroyers had served in the First World War, but still did a sterling job. This squadron met some Japanese ships closer towards Patanu and in the following melee "Tromp" was hit eleven times and came out of this with ten dead and thirty wounded, of whom seventeen very seriously. We also lost a destroyer, the “Piet Hein”, which sank after a furious gun battle. The Japs lost two ships and had some further damage. In the midst of all this we looked for targets and for possible survivors. The gun flashes and trails of tracer bullets were quite a sight. We noticed an explosion which could have been our destroyer. In the darkness, a big black shadow loomed up at great speed, but we were unable to establish whether it was friend or foe. All these engagements were over in a relatively short time and were more or less planned as running fights. This was especially the case when the first squadron moved through the strait as it met a Japanese force head on at high speed. Our two groups of MTB’s had lost contact with each other and close to daybreak all was quiet. As ordered, we left for the return trip to base. We were all alone, no other ship in sight. Suddenly we sighted three Japanese Zero fighters flying low over the water. Luckily they did not notice us. We would have been a sitting duck as our only defence was a double barreled 7.7 mm machinegun. At eleven o’clock we reached the Pang-Pang Bay rendezvous, where we had already been given up as lost. All the boats were heavily camouflaged, which was just as well, because a large Japanese bomber formation came right over our heads and bombed Banjoewangi instead, causing a lot of damage and casualties. We refueled and after dark set out for Soerabaja. We moved at great speed, which together with the weather condition made it hard to keep contact. As a result, we finished up on our own again. There was heavy rain and very poor visibility. Daybreak found us at the entrance of the swept channel through the minefields protecting Soerabaja. All of a sudden a conning tower at a submarine rose up from the green-blue sea, which was now as flat as a pancake. Not knowing as yet who was who, we put on to full speed and circled around the submarine, ready for action if necessary. She soon flashed a reconnaissance signal and proved to be the S 23, an American sub. She was not too clear about the swept channel and wanted assistance to get through, which we gladly provided. A patrol vessel took her in charge once we were through, after which we proceeded at high speed to Soerabaja. We arrived there at about eleven am. but were delayed going in because of another raid. Eventually we got in late in the afternoon.
The boats needed some maintenance and the usual patrol work was on again. Air raids as usual. If you were at the base, you had three possible choices. One was to get your boat moving in time. If for some reason you couldn’t, then you had to make for one of the concrete shelters or a stretch of beach we called Tobruk. There was an anti--aircraft battery there. At one time, Harry Heckman, a colleague of mine and myself had found shelter there. A chap from one of the mine sweepers arrived with his monkey and a stray dog trom the wharf. The battery was firing away for all it was worth. The monkey was hanging under the dog’s belly and found it quite safe there. Unluckily a couple of bombs fell at about fifty yards distance and exploded with a deafening roar, throwing a curtain of sand up. One of the soldiers manning the battery was hit in the back with shrapnel and was bleeding terribly. Another man had an attack of nerves and it took quite a bit of doing to calm him down. Harry and I did not feel too bright either. The air raid shelters on the Naval base were made of thick concrete in the shape of a beehive. They had two stores with benches along the circular walls. They must have been well constructed. because during some near misses they only shook a bit and did not show much damage. One day, coming back from a run up the northern arm of the Madoera strait, we saw a Kittyhawk fighter ditching into the sea after a scrap with some Zero fighters. As this happened quite a distance away, it took us a while to get closer and the water was so shallow that we had to launch a rubber dinghy to go and have a look. One of the sailors and myself rowed over to see what we could do, but upon arrival there was no one there. As it was only a few hundred yards to shore, he might have made the distance by himself or possibly with the help of some of the many small fishing boats around.
The Japanese were by now ready for the last assault. Java was the prize that had now to be taken. To ensure their grip on this region, Singapore had fallen on the fifteenth of February and the Japanese had overpowered the Dutch forces defending Palembang in south Sumatra and were pushing on towards the harbour town of Oosthaven, situated across the Sunda strait from Java. Makassar in the Celebes and Bandjermasin in south Borneo were in their hands and two large Japanese fleets with many transport vessels were ready to assault Java. The Allied High Command realised that the forces at their Command would probably not be able to meet the Japanese challenge and came to the conclusion to pull back most of their forces, in order to defend Australia and Burma against a further Japanese threat. This was of course cold comfort tor the Dutch, as they had sacrificed most of their submarines and aeroplanes during the defence of Malaysia and now expected some tangible support from their Allies. The British Eastern Fleet, which was quite a potent force, was doing nothing near Colombo, and troops who had earlier on be destined for this theatre of war, were repositioned in other areas. As Java has a very long coastline, it would be impossible to stop any landing taking place. If the fleet was split up to defend the separate areas that were threatened, then the ships would not be able to have much success against the very strong Japanese forces. It was therefore decided to keep the force intact and see whether it would be possible to prevent one landing and then double back to attack the other landing force. Except for their submarines the Allies left the ships still capable of action under the command of our Admiral. Our air defence still consisted out of about fifty fighters and about fourty bombers. Against this the Japs ware ready to throw four battle hardened divisions, five hundred fighter planes and about four hundred bombers. These figures are official American statistics. The old American aircraft carrier "Langley" had managed to leave Fremantle on the twenty second of February with fourty one P 40 fighter planes, complete with pilots, but was attacked by a Japanese force in the Indian Ocean and was sunk not far from the south coast of Java.
The most easterly Japanese fleet, protecting fourty one transports, started to get ready near Makassar on the twenty fourth of February. We therefore expected this fleet to reach Java on about the twenty seventh of February. As the main body at our fleet was cruising backwards and forwards between Bawean island and Semarang on the Java coast, we were given the task to patrol north of Madura island. We therefore cruised up and down the Madura coast all night from Thursday night the twenty fifth of February to daylight on the twenty sixth without seeing anything. In the evening of the twenty sixth the main body of the fleet left Soerabaja with the orders to find this Japanese eastern force and attack it until destroyed. We took our MTB‘s out towards the north coast of Java with the orders to try and prevent any landings. The main body of the fleet was cruising north of Madura island and received some skimpy information about the enemies movements, which were supposed to be north east of them.
At nine in the morning of the twenty seventh of February some Japanese planes attacked without success. We came back into port about midday and the main body also returned about two o’clock in the afternoon. The whole force turned around however at half past two, when aircraft sightings came in, placing the enemy only a few hours away from the Java coast. The main body now steamed at high speed to an area west of Bawean island, we ourselves refueled and were ordered to leave at nightfall and patrol an area near Tandiung Awar-Awar and Toeban on Java‘s north coast as this area was thought to be the most likely landing place. The main body of the fleet got contact with the enemy at about four sixteen that afternoon. Both fleets started firing from a long range and manoeuvred a lot to get into better positions. Some shells found their target on both sides and minor fires broke out. The enemy kept changing course, trying to put itself between our fleet and their transports. Our Admiral kept attacking them and in the following melee the British cruiser Exeter was badly damaged by gun fire at five pm., and quarter past five our destroyer Kortenaer was hit by torpedoes and broke in half. At half past five the British destroyer Electra was hit by torpedoes and sank. Another Dutch destroyer, Witte de With, was badly damaged by gunfire and ordered to escort the badly damaged Exeter back to Soerabaja, where they arrived at about nine pm. We met these ships at about seven pm. as we cruised through the mine fields. We also encountered the four American destroyers we had seen near Bali. They had fired all their torpedoes and were running out of ammunition and fuel and had therefore to return to Soerabaja. Half past nine that night sank the Jupiter, another British destroyer and at about twenty minutes past eleven the end came for the Dutch cruisers de Ruyter and Java. Both fell victim to swarms of Japanese torpedoes. This was the end of the battle. The Australian cruiser Perth and the American cruiser Houston, the British destroyer Encounter and the Dutch destroyer Evertsen were the only survivors but three were sunk in the Sunda straits during the following night, after a very gallant fight. According to Japanese reports which became available after the war, the Japs launched no less than one hundred fifty one torpedoes against our ships, compared with fourty four of ours. As far as can be established, the Japs lost only one ship sunk and several badly damaged.
On that fateful night our MTB’s were split in two groups. Our group, consisting out of the numbers 15, 5 and 7, were posted in a most westerly position. During the night, a Jap destroyer showed up escorting some landing craft. We got ourselves into an attack position and fired our torpedoes. The Japs were however aware of us and managed to dodge them, returning the compliment with heavy fire. As our job was now finished, we had to get out of the way. Our fuel supply was also getting dangerously low and after an initial high speed burst we travelled back to Soerabaja at economical speed, where we arrived just before midday. The naval base was in one hell of a mess. The decision was made to save whatever ships and menpower that could be more usefully employed for the allied cause in a fightback on more equal terms. Exeter, Encounter and the American ship Pope were given orders to leave immediately after dark and try to force their way towards Colombo. Unfortunately they were all caught by the Japanese and the already heavily damaged Exeter was the first to go, followed by Encounter and finally the Pope, who had tried to escape in a rainstorm. The American four stack managed to escape through the Bali straits towards Australia. The heavily damaged Witte de With was blown up with torpedoes, together with the damaged submarines K 18 and K 13. Three older type submarines and some minesweepers managed to elude the lane as well and finally arrived in Fremantle. A couple of subs which were in patrol positions were sent to Colombo.
The few remaining aeroplanes managed to do some damage to the landing Japanese, especially at the western end, where they managed to sink the ship with the Japanese Commander in chief on board. On the twenty eighth of February the lane was thus ashore and a start was made to blow up the naval base. Fires were burning everywhere and there were a lot of explosions. As our small ships did not have the range to get to safety and as there were no more torpedoes anyway, as the stores were being blown up we were instructed to grab some clothes or whatever and find a train to the harbour of Tjilatjap in southern Java, where there were quite a few merchant vessels which had been given orders to evacuate as much navy personnel as possible. The Japs were already pushing south, probably hoping to cut of this escape route. Two of our group of thirteen wanted to go home first and say personally goodbye to their parents. One of these was taken prisoner, the other died on a ship trying to leave Java a day after us. We got ourselves on to this train, which besides the normal passengers tried to accomodate an overflow of personnel coming from damaged or sunken ships and base installations. All I took with me was a towel, toilet gear, helmet, revolver, clean socks and underwear. Abandonded the rest as I did not know what really would happen at Tjilatjap. In the train I wrote a letter to my parents, informing them of what was going on and that I might get out of the country. There was no food and we got pretty hungry. When the train stopped in Jogjakarta I managed to post my letter at the station and buy a drink. The train rattled on through the night with numerous stops. Towards midday of the first of March we reached Tjilatjap. As nobody was able to tell us what we had to do or who to report to, we wandered around between the unorganised mess in the harbour area. There was navy personnel everywhere and also some Australian soldiers. An occasional Japanese plane would zoom over, which had everybody scuttling for cover. Early in the afternoon we were approached by an officer of the army, who asked us whether we wanted to join a guerilla force which he was trying to put together. We thought that not such a bad idea and marched with him to a shed, where he started to supply us with the necessary gear. All of a sudden a naval officer came running up, who told us to forget about this and come with him to the wharf where according to him sloops from some of the vessels moored up stream would come alongside to pick up personnel. There were cases on the wharf with unpacked aeroplane parts and even some planes, but everything was in a big heap. As no one told us what ship to go to, we made our own choice. A freighter of the Holland-America line was moored not far away and looked rather well kept and fast. When we got on board, it proved to be the Sloterdijk. Once on board, there was still no food provided until late in the afternoon and this was tinned nasi-goreng which was stiff, fatty and cold. You could cut it out of the tin in big squares. You could not blame the crew, who were all of a sudden saddled with about two hundred extra passengers and was only built to carry about ten above the normal ships complement. Towards nightfall things became organised and we had a warm meal. There was nowhere to sleep, so we settled with our group on the starboard bridge deck, where we just had to lay on the wooden deck and use our gear as a pillow. There was a lot of movement in the harbour, small boats moved backwards and forwards between the wharf and the ships. Fires started to burn on the wharf as oil tanks and magazines were set alight. All in all it was a terrible mess, cars and trucks made movement difficult and also blocked up the roads. Cranes were being blown up and on top of that the Japs started to throw a few bombs. Surprisingly, they did not try to worry us too much. They were probably well aware that in the end they would catch most of the ships outside with their naval squadron. According to reports made available after the war, the Japanese naval force in the Indian Ocean watching the south coast of Java consisted out of six aircraft carriers, the ones used against Pearl Harbour. Four battle ships, four heavy cruisers, a light cruiser, eleven destroyers and some fleet tankers and supply ships. Through this watchful curtain we had to try and going through. The ship Zaandam left towards the evenings escorted by the old destroyer Stronghold. A few hours out of Tjilatjap the destroyer left them in a great hurry, in order to investigate a sighting. She ran into a strong Japanese force and was sunk. This most likely saved the Zaandam which ship arrived later on in Fremantle. The Australian gunboat Yarra escorted a British minesweeper and a tanker and was sighted by the Japanese. The Yarra tried to hold off the Japs, but was sunk together with the others. Down with her went the survivors of the merchant vessel Parigi who had been picked up by Yarra a short while before. The only survivor of the Parigi was a ships engineer who had been torpedoed once before that month. He was lucky to be picked up by a Dutch submarine on its way to Colombo. In one week the Japanese sunk three destroyers, two gunboats, a mine sweeper, eleven Dutch and several other merchant vessels and a tanker and captured four freighters. All in the Indian Ocean south of Tjilatjap. Our captain decided to do his own thing and in the middle of the night of the second of March 1942, we went on our way. It was very dark. You could hardly see the banks of the river while going out to sea. Once outside, we followed close in to the Java coast to a spot somewhere south of Jogjakarta and then followed a south-easterly course towards Australia. The ship was kept in total darkness. We midshipmen had to take turns in the crows nest in the top of the foremast to keep a good watch all around. The radio operator heard a lot of Japanese talk on the radio and also some signals from another ship,. reporting Japs in her vicinity. One early morning a few days later, while keeping watch in the crowsnest, I noticed an aeroplane coming closer and informed the bridge of this. Without further ado, the gunner manning our anti-aircraft gun started to fire away, the shells not passing me by much either. Luckily the captain calmed him down quick smart. The plane proved to be a Catalina flying boat. Some signals were exchanged and we all felt a lot better, knowing we were getting in comparative safety. I cannot remember what day we arrived in Fremantle but it was not long after. The earlier mentioned Zaandam was there as well. We anchored close by her and were able to shout messages backward and forward. During the whole voyage we washed our uniform under the shower but had to stand in our underwear to wait for our clothes to dry, as we had nothing else. Luckily this situation was rectified in Fremantle. We thought it was terribly cold when we arrived there. Coming from a long spell in the tropics. We were therefore issued with uniforms worn by the Anzacs [Australian and New Zealand Army Corps] in Gallipoli [Z.-Italië]. Ours must have been cavalry uniforms. The long pants had red stripes along the seams and buttons with the map of Australia on it. They were nice and warm all the same. We also received some parcels trom the Australian Comfort Fund, in which we found blue and green socks and hankies and for which we were very grateful. We were not allowed off, as we were anchored well out, while the authorities tried to figure out what to do with us. Two days later we raised anchor and on to Melbourne, where we arrived after an uneventful trip and tied up alongside the wharf.
Of the fourty midshipmen of my years three had been killed. Ten had been taken prisoner. Fourteen had finished up in England with the cruiser Sumatra and us eleven and two more late arrivals in Australia. My commanding officer, who had an escape plan of his own, was captured and finally died in Burma. Of our elder year that had been promoted to sub-lieutenant eight months earlier fifteen were killed and five came to Australia in the Tromp. One of these went on a spy mission to Java in 1943, was betrayed by a Chinese shop keeper and finally beheaded in 1945. Our younger year finished up in England. Only a couple of them were lost.
The Japanese in the meantime, had entered Batavia on the fourth of March, broke through the defences of Bandoeng on the eighth and entered that city on the ninth. Organised resistance on Java did not last too long after that. Units holding out in the country side were sent ultimatums to surrender or otherwise the civilian population would bear the consequences. My father was taken from our home on the sixth of March and locked up in the local prison, together with several other leading public servants. From there he was transferred several times until finally finishing up in a camp near Bandoeng. In one of these camps the Japs sometimes flooded the cell floors with water during the night, which kept the prisoners from sleeping. The next morning they had to parade at daybreak and stand a few hours at attention. In this camp my father caught a bad attack of dysentry and was at one stage close to dying. Luckily he pulled through. As my father was not required to do manual work he had to keep himself busy somehow. He worked his way through a couple of books which my mother had been allowed to bring him while he was still in Batavia. One of them was a thesis on the relativity theory of Einstein. He also wrote a few poems. He was finally freed in September 1945. He still had a good word for some of the Japs as the guards were mainly drawn from called up reservists of a fairly advanced average age. When I caught up with him, he was as thin as a rake. But more about that later.
My mother stayed free for a while longer. As she was German born the Japs did not want to put her in a concentration camp. This was allright as long as my father was still imprisoned in Batavia. My mother could bring him some clothes and necessities. When he was shifted somewhere else however, there did not seem to be much sense in trying to battle on alone. She had no income, had to sell furniture and other things to get money. Some of the servants stayed on regardless, but this could not go on forever. Except for persons of half-caste origin or being born of axis nationality or being native, everybody else was put in a concentration camp. It did not take the Japs long to realise that a lot of these foreign born women, were in fact of Dutch nationality through marriage and started to round them up. Nothing was more welcome to my mother at that moment, who was by then virtually penniless and wanted to share the fate of her friends. She had found it very uncomfortable to be looked upon as an outsider. She was shifted a few times and finished up in a camp near Batavia, from where I eventually shifted her with help of the [British] Navy. This last camp consisted out of long bamboo huts with benches on either side. These benches where six feet wide and each woman was given just enough width to lay on. All their possessions were stowed underneath the bench, either in a small bag or suitcase. The women grew vegetables, which kept them busy and active at the same time. The main guard building was an old plantation house. In it stood an old piano which the Japs allowed my mother to play during Christmas. One more thing of interest is the fact, that my mother carried our family papers with her through the camps, sown in a pillow slip and handed these to me when I got her out of there.
Dit hoofdstuk heeft Wim in 2005 herzien. Zie deze link.
4. Australia, Africa and Indian Ocean.
As previously mentioned, we arrived finally in the port of Melbourne, about the middle of March 1942. We had to wait until disembarkation arrangements were made. In the meantime we were allowed to stretch our legs, on the quay, alongside of which we were moored. The wharfies took a shine to us and broke open some crates of bottled beer, which they generously distributed amongst us. After a few days, we received orders to move. Early one cold morning we disembarked and boarded a train, for this purpose railed on to the wharf. After what seemed hours, we finally moved and proceeded at slow speed, stopping regularly, through Melbourne and suburbs. Unfortunately, the organisers had not given much thought to the effect of the cold weather on people coming from the tropics, mostly, only dressed in tropical outfits. The necessity, to use the toilet for a small visit, was overlooked. None were provided on this train. The result was, that eventually the only way to find relief, was through the open doors, which caused quite some consternation to the unsuspecting public. Late afternoon, we arrived hungry and thirsty at Crib point, the end station on the line to Flinders Naval Base. We got out of the train and were lined up in marching order. The Navy band preceeded our motly group into the Base, where we received a welcome speech from the commanding officer. The officers and we midshipmen were taken to the wardroom and presented with tea and biscuits. We were given sleeping quarters in some of the Naval College classrooms, especially fixed up for this purpose with cots and cupboards. That evening and many afterwards, we dined in the main diningroom. We felt rather ill at ease, sitting down in our poor garb, at the beautitully polished mahogany table, on which silver utensils were laid out. There was also some fine china and crystal glasses on the table. There were many speeches, toasted with some heady red wine, and everybody felt quite happy at the end of the evening.
A few days later we midshipmen were sent to Melbourne for the day, to be fitted for blue navy uniforms and to buy the necessary things like shirts. socks, pyjamas, hankies etc. All these things were to be booked up to the Navy. In this heady atmosphere of heavy spending I bought myself two pairs of yellow silk pyjamas, which were extremely comtortable. We arrived back at Flinders late in the afternoon and the following day were issued with tropical outfits from the naval store, towels, sheets, pillowslips and shoes.
Our arrival had been made public in the paper and as a result, the authorities decided to farm the navy men out to different families, to be shown around Melbourne and have a spell. From the navy routine, we were therefore railed to Melbourne and assembled in front of the Town Hall. Small groups of us were taken aside and a man with a loudspeaker would then ask, who would like to entertain this group. Hands went up and this way we were distributed amongst the Melbournians. This is how we met the family Bruce-Small of later Gold-Coast fame. They were the ones who developed the Gold-Coast in Queensland. They had a loveiy home in Melbourne and were very generous. We went to the entertainment centre at St. Kilda and saw much of the town. The weekend passed rather quickly and we were soon back in Flinders. Luckily for us, there was an Australian Lieutenant-Commander, named McKenzie at the base. He thought that we should see a bit more the place and organised it with his wife, who was living in Sydney, to find addresses where we could stay tor a week. She got onto her friends and McKenzie obtained permission from the naval authorities to let us have a week off and to receive return train tickets to Sydney. The end of March saw us get onto the train to Sydney. Upon arrival we were met by our hosts. Four of us went to stay with the Smith family at Wahroonga on the North-shore line. The Smiths had two daughters, both nurses, and two sons. One son was a naval cadet on the cruiser Canberra, the other was a cadet in the merchant navy. Old man Smith was the Chief Harbour Pilot tor Sydney. They were a very pleasant family.
The house had a large garden and there was a stable with two horses. One of the daughters, named Constance, took me out for a ride towards the coast. The horse I was on must have been quite docile really but with my attributes as a horseman I found it took all my time and soon skill not to become airborne or being wiped off by low hanging branches. We used to have get togethers between the different host families and went to communal dances. All in all, it was a most pleasant time, while we were in Sydney.
We were surprised by the arrival of another one of our colleagues who had arrived on a different ship. That brought our number to eleven. He were sorry when our week was up and after saying farewell to Mrs. McKenzie and all our hosts, we returned to Flinders. Some days afterwards. we were asked where we would like to be posted to. We eleven had to be spread out over different ships. Four of us decided to ask for a posting on the Tromp which was still being under repair in Sydney. The remaining seven of us had to be shipped to Colombo. Four of us including myself had asked for the Jacob van Heemskerck, an anti-aircraft cruiser and being only a few years old. The other three had to be divided over a minelayer and a destroyer. On the twelfth of April we went aboard the City of Paris. This ship and her sistership the SS City of London would transport us from Melbourne to Colombo. A few hundred Navy personnel and a detachment of Australians, bound for Birma, were embarked. We were conveyed by two American destroyers. But the weather was that rough that in the end you did not know who was looking after who. The destroyers were rolling and heaving something terrible. You could see the red anti-fouling paint of their hulls and their stabilisIng keels every time they rolled over. They were more often than not covered in spray and foam. We tied up in Fremantle for a couple of days and everybody was given shore leave. There were a lot of people who thought. that this might be the last time ashore ever. We would have to proceed to Colombo unescorted. As a result. a lot of very drunk people returned to the ships. On the twentyfirst of April, we steamed out of Fremantle, blowing huge clouds of smoke high into the air. An Australian Corvette escorted us for the first hundred miles. After that we were on our own. It was just about full moon and the ships silhouettes stood out against the sparkling sea. Huge columns of black smoke pouring upwards into the sky. The ships were in total darkness and proceeded at their best speed, being about fourteen knots. We steamed due west for a consliderable time before turning north at a spot roughly due south of Ceylon. To fill the day, we organised games and physical training sessions. Some people had to stand watches and make sure the blackout was strictly adhered to. Officers and midshipmen used to gather in the lounge after dinner and have some drinks. One of the officers, a paymaster of the earlier mentioned Witte de With, used to play the piano. He was a pretty good pianist and when he got really well under the weather he would start playing "Georgia on my mind" over and over again. Somehow this tune has stuck in my mind and will always remind me of this trip. 0n the thirtiest of April, it was Queen Wilhelmina's birthday. He had more games on deck and in the evening we midshipmen sung our academy song and we all sang the national anthem. After that it became a real booze up. The Australians got completely out of hand and proceeded to heave a piano and some furniture over the side before being stopped by the crew. Nothing much stirred the next day until well after breakfast time and then there were a lot of seedy looking characters around. On the sixth of May, we entered safely into Colombo harbour. Here we were transferred to the Plancius, a passenger ship which had escaped from Java. Only us midshipmen, a few officers and about a hundred men, stayed on her, the rest of the people on our convoy left for other destinations. As our ship was supposed to be ‘in the neighbourhood’ we were kept in Colombo. In the hope that it might show up some day. As the days passed, we kept ourselves busy playing tennis or squash at the Colombo lawn tennis club, of which we were made honourary members, or visiting the Dutch Burghers Club, an institution founded by descendants of the Dutch settlers at earlier days, when this was Dutch territory. They were all pretty dark skinned as a result of years and years of interbreeding with the local population. Very nice people, who made us really welcome. We had to sign the Visitors book and were made members as well.
As a team, we used to visit the swankiest hotel in Colombo, the Galle Face hotel. This was situated at the seafront in the plushiest district of the town. Big lawns stretched out towards Government House and the Law Court. Big palm trees were planted everywhere and it looked really nice. We used to get into quite a bit of mischief there at times. At one time we found some bicycles and proceeded to bike over the front verandah dodging tables and chairs occupied by tea drinking English Colonials. The unfortunate waiters who tried to stop us had to jump tor their lives. In the end, we were convinced by the manager that thus was not the right form and we therefore trotted off to the bar, where we stayed the rest of the evening. We must have had a fair bit to drink, as after arrival back on the jetty, one of our mates kept on walking and stepped right over the end. After a lot of efforts we eventually got him back on dry land. He finished up the most sober of the lot of us. For some unexplained reason, we had to do watch duty on the Plancius, which duty consisted out of patrolling the ship during the nights to prevent unwelcome strangers boarding and committing sabotage. Between patrols we used to kill the time by organising cockroach races, which at times became quite hilarious.
At last we received news that the Heemskerck had arrived in Bombay. The four of us, who were supposed to join her, were therefore again embarked on the City of Paris. We left Colombo on the thirtyfirst of May and arrived in Bombay on the fourth of June. The Heemskerck had left by that time for South Africa to undergo urgent repairs and arrangements had been made for us, to board a big passengership, the Reina del Pacifico. This ship had transported troops to India and was now due to return to the U.K. We transferred to her on the fifth, but as she was not do to sail until the eighth, we were allowed to take shore leave. The cruiser Sumatra which had departed from Java in February with some of our colleagues was also in port. We had quite a pleasant reunion on the Sumatra. Except for some imposing buildings, Bombay was a dirty looking place, we could not really be bothered to look around too much. It was very crowded and extremely hot and humid.
On the eighth of June we left for Capetown in South-Africa. There had not been time or the ship to be properly refitted as a troop carriers therefore the interior was still the same as when she was on the Southampton- South-America run. Everything was in old Spanish style with beautitul wrought iron work. The cabins were comfortable and the food was good. There were not many people on board. Mainly survivors from the English aircraft carrier Hermes, the cruisers Cornwall and Dorsetshire and the destroyer Vampire. All these ships had been sunk a hundred miles south-east of Ceylon, by a strong Japanese naval force. Our trip was quite uneventful. The ship travelled at high speeds Constantly zig-zagging during the first few days. About a week later, we arrived in Durban, situated in South-Africa’s province of Natal. The father of one of my four colleagues was Dutch Consul there and we were able to get in touch with him. He arranged, after telephoning the Commander of the Heemskerck in Capetown who was a friend of his, for us to leave the ship in Durban, stay a week with him and then travel by train to Capetown. We thus disembarked and moved in with Harry’s father and stepmother. They showed us around Durban and took us to Isioingo in the so called Valley of a Thousand Hills, south of Durban, and in a Zulu reservation. It was very interesting to see their round beehive- like huts and their homecrafts. All good things come to an end however and it was soon time to board the train which would take us to Capetown. The journey took about two and a half days via Kimberley and Bloemfontein. At Kimberley we got out of the train, as it was stopping for an hour, and walked over to the so called Big Hole, the old diamond mine. It is an enormous open crater with a bit of a wire fence around it. During the trip, we talked to local passengers, who were mainly Boers from Dutch descent. We were quite able to understand each other, even though their kind of Dutch is a bit old fashioned and is mixed with French, English and German words. Early morning saw us move through the Drakens mountain range and later that day we arrived in Capetown. We were met by a representative of the Navy and put up for the night. The Heemskerck was now in Simonstown the naval base to the north along the Coast from Capetown. We were put on another train and finally arrived at Simonstown late in the afternoon. There was nobody to meet us, so we took a taxi to the base gate and found our way from there to the wharf alongside of which our ship was moored. We reported to the duty officer, who enquired what on earth we were coming here for. After this warm reception, we were taken to the executive officer and the Commanding officer. Their problem was, that there was really no room anywhere to put us. The ship had an overtull complement and all quarters were taken up. Eventually, room was found for us in the very rear end of the ship. This was the emergency steering compartments full of rods and wheels and oil sloshing around in the scuppers. We were given hammocks, which we could swing from some overhead beams. Our possessions however had to be kept in our kit bags and suitcases. The date was the twentyfourth of June 1942. It had taken us roughly two and a half months to reach our destination.
Our life of comparative leasure was now over. Each of us was placed in one of the four watch divisions. My main jobs were, second in charge in the gunnery control centre during action stations and during the so called state of war condition watches. During normal conditions, I was assistant watch officer on the bridge and during hours off had to keep the navigation charts up to date. On top of this, we had to acquaint ourselves with the outlay ot the ship, study damage control measures, find out where the different pipelines were going, spend some time in the engine- and boiler rooms, so as to understand what made the ship tick as a whole. Had to take sun and star shots with the sextant and do the necessary calculations. The job in the gunnery control room could be quite uncomfortable. There were two Control rooms. During alarm, both would be manned. One was aft on the level of the main deck, the other, forward, deep down in the bowels of the ship, just in front of the forward boiler room. You had to struggle down four long ladders to get there. The ventilation was virtually non existent and it was red hot in front of the boiler room. All the instruments and iron parts felt hot and the air was stale and foul. At one stage there had been an escape possibility through a shaft going up towards the bridge. But during one of the refills this had been filled up with cables to such an extent that a mouse would have severe difficulties trying to get through. If something had happened, while in there, you would not have had a chance. When on watch during state of war conditions, the forward control station used to be permanently manned and the aft one would be available tor the other alarm crew. My job in the Control room was the feeding in of the information I was given by the officer manning the range finder and also to put the dials of my control table in line with the electronicly fed in information from this range finder. On a wide paper scroll, pips would appear, which represented the course and distance of the enemy. By moving a ruler along this line I would transmit the necessary elevation and direction to the dials mounted on the guns. These dials would be followed by the gun crews. On the commando "open fire" I would push a button, which would flash on a red light in the gun turrets. The guns could be controlled from either the control room or manually.
On the twenty seventh of June, we left harbour and picked up a Convoy which we took as far as Durban. We were then ordered to return to Capetown in order to escort a convoy of seven ships with important war materials, destined for the middle East. During the few days that we waited in Capetown for this convoy, we had the chance to go to the top of Table mountain. The view was magnificent. We took over the Convoy on the fourth of July and delivered this at Kilindini, the harbour of Mombasa in Kenya. In Mombasa, we joined Force B of the British Eastern Fleet. On the twentieth of July we were directed to Colombo to join Force A. As soon as we arrived, we made a sweep into the gulf of Bengal. Our force A consisted out of the battleship Warspite, two aircraft carriers, three cruisers and five destroyers. A Japanese squadron consisting of two heavy Japanese cruisers had been reported to be on its way to the gulf. After patrolling a few days and finding nothing, the fleet returned to Colombo after refuelling at Trincomalee. On the tenth of August the whole squadron left for Kilindini where we joined up with force B. All the ships were now combined to carry out tactical exercises. The reason being, that we would be sailing to Madagascar, to bring this under Allied control. On the sixth of September we left Kilindini, in company of the cruiser Birmingham and the aircraft carrier Illustrious. Two of the three accompanying destroyers were the Dutch ships Tjerk Hiddes and van Galen. These ships had been taken over from the British and manned with our Navy personnel, salvaged from Java and the Netherlands. All the warships assembled a hundred miles off the coast, near the harbour of Majunga. During the night – in full moonlight – the transports offloaded the troops into barges and the landing was succesfully completed. After refueling the squadron moved to the east coast of Madagascar to put troops ashore near Tamatave. As the element of surprise was now lost, the Warspite fired a few rounds with her fifteen inch guns, which very soon resulted in the running up of the white flag by the Vichy French defenders. The Heemskerck returned to Kilindini towards the end of September in the company of the Warspite and two destroyers. The ships engine room and boilers needed urgent maintenance so we tied up on a buoy in the roadstead, Kilindini itself is not much of a joint, but it is in walking distance of the town of Mombasa. This place is fairly old, the Portuguese built a fort here in the seventeenth century. During the maintenance period we were given the opportunity to take some days off so we could see a bit of the country. My colleague Glaser and myself took the train to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. I celebrated my twentyfirst birthday on this train with Glaser and a British colonel, who shared our compartment. We got rid of a bottle of whisky in quick smart time. The train ride was very interesting. Herds of giraffe and antilope could be seen trotting alongsIde the train and Mount Kilimanjaro could be seen in the far distance. Nairobi was a clean looking town and as we had been booked into a hotel on the edge of town, we were away from the dust and the noise of the business district. Glaser hired a car and we made a trip to one of the game parts not far from town. Unfortunately we did not see any lions. The nights were cold in Nairobi but the days pleasant and warm.
Once back on board, we soon sailed again for another sweep in the Indian Ocean, keeping watch on the aircraft carrier Illustrious. We used to hang some distance behind her for anti-aircraft protection. This used to be quite fun at times. Our bridge was level with their flight deck and you could see the crew play net ball and doing gymnastics. During exercises, we could watch the planes take off and land. We saw two planes crash during these exercises. They overshot the flight deck and went over the side. In both cases we tried to save the pilots, but were only successful in one case. The first plane had sunk like a stone, taken the pilot with it, probably stunned or dead. The second plane was still adrift and the pilot managed to extricate himself from the wreck in time. We threw him a buoy and let down the rope ladder with which we got him on board. Ten minutes later, we had him in dry clothes drinking Bols gin in the ward roomu to warm up a bit. As soon as we were back in Kilindini we were given orders to proceed to Australia with our two Dutch destroyers. All we knew was that we had to sail in a hurry. Working in the chartroom however, I found a pad the navigator had been using. The pencil he used. had printed faintly through to the next page and I could therefore see what our destination was going to be. This news was of course quickly passed on to my mates but otherwise kept to ourselves. Half October we sailed at a speed of about twenty two knots. We called in at Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago to refuel. This was a really god-forsaken place. The natural beauty was terrific but that was all there was. There was a tent city of Indian troops with an English Officer in command. We got to know him quite well during our short stay. He was happy to be able to talk to somebody. He must have been close to going nuts. His previous command had been a position on the Khyber Pass near Afghanistan. He requested a transfer and finished up here. His quarters consisted out of a huge tent with carpets and cushions on the floor. There were plenty empty whisky bottles and a good supply of full ones. A water pipe was positioned in the centre of the tent. We were invited to sit crosslegged on the floor, the waterpipe in the middle and everybody sucking on the numerous hoses that came out of the bottle. Smoke trom the tobacco was drawn through the water in the bottle and purified. It was quite an experience. The reason of the garrison being there, was the fact, that the atoll creates a large natural harbour. The water inside the atoll is quite deep and very clear. There are a lot of sharks and good edible fish. The garrison was equipped with some anti-aircraft guns and small weapons. To trick any possible enemies, coconut trees had been cut down and positioned underneath camouflage nets to resemble a heavy gun emplacement. After refueling, we set course for Fremantle, where we arrived on the twentyfifth of October. We were to form part of the American fourth fleet and came under American operational Command. Our main task was convoy duties as it was important to protect Australia's lifelines. To our great surprise we found Lt. Commander McKenzie stationed in Fremantle. His wife was also there and she organised for three of us to take the Annear sisters to dinner. That is how I met Mum, who now became my steady companion every time we came back to port. We did several convoy trips to Addu Atoll south of Colombo. On one of these trips we had a rather interesting meeting with a German blockade runner. The date was the twentyeighth of November. Our companion, the Australian cruiser Adelaide and ourselves were steaming on a north-westerly course, when a ship became visible.
As it failed to answer our reconnaisance signals, we opened fire with our battery of four inch guns. This caused a flurry of activity on the ship, which we had by now recognised as the Ramses, a successful German blockade runner and auxiliary cruiser. This ship had captured quite a few merchantmen and was now on the way to a port in the Japanese occupied areas. Seeing that resistance would be useless, their captain decided to abandon ship. We could see explosions as the crew scuttled the ship and hurriedly scrambled into three lifeboats. Adelaide closed in to pick them up. Ten Norwegians, captured during the voyage of the Ramses, were now freed. The Germans were put ashore in Fremantle and finished the war in a prison camp. Half February 1943, we met a convoy carrying the Australian ninth division home. This was a convoy consisting out of some of the worlds biggest ships,. nl. Queen Mary, Acquitania, Isle the France and the New-Amsterdam. The British auxiliary cruiser Queen of Bermuda was also in the party. As escorts there were ourselves, the Dutch cruiser Tromp, the British cruisers Gambia and Devonshire and the Dutch destroyers van Galen and Tjerk Hiddes. We disembarked some troops in Fremantle and carried on with the rest to the Eastern States. We encountered some exceptionally rough weather in the Bight. The big ships ploughed through with a speed of nineteen knots. We poor chaps, were more under water than above, we delivered the ships in Sydney and went into Cockatoo docks for repairs and to have a new battery of twenty millimeter anti-aircraft guns and also more modern Radar equipment installed. During this time I was able to renew my acquaintance with the Smith family, who made me stay there while the ship was in dock. On the first of March I was commissioned to sub-lieutenant. We were back in Fremantle in April. By now Mum and I had set a date to get married, but unluckily this had to be changed, because we now had to escort the New-Amsterdam who was carrying New-Zealand troops home to Wellington. The course set, went deep towards the south. It was ice cold and the weather was again very bad. We could not get off the bridge for thirtysix hours, as there was only a ladder way to the deck below. We had ourselves strapped to the compass and struts, to avoid being swept overboard, and the ship lurched and heaved. You could see huge waves coming at you. The ships forecastle would disappear under the waves and then the whole ship would shudder. Foam and spray would come constantly over the bridge. One night we had a very lucky escape. We were positioned in a spot slightly in front of the New-Amsterdam. As we were following a zig-zag scheme, the officer of the watch gave an alteration of course to the man at the wheel, and the amount of rudder he had to apply. Unfortunately the man misunderstood the order and turned the wrong way. The officer of the watch just happened to look behind him and saw the huge bulk of the New-Amsterdam looming up. Only a very quick response with the wheel managed to save us. The chaps in the range finder were already taking their boots off. If the ships had collided not many of us would have survived in the rough and cold sea. A similar accident happened twice in the war. One such occassion was in the Mediterranean, where a cruiser was split in half and was lost with all hands. Near Hobart we had an asdic contact and sent New-Amsterdam scurrying up the Derwent. We dropped depth charges and searched around but lost contact. Refueled in Hobart and continued on to Wellington around the bottom of south island. The view of Mt. Heemskerck and Mt. Egmont, so named by Abel Tasman, was something to behold. Both covered in snow and towering high up into the sky. We delivered the troops and then escorted New-Amsterdam back to the Indian Ocean, where others took our duty over.
Mum and I were married on August the third, in St. George's Cathedral. The wedding breakfast was held in Greenmount and all my colleagues attended. Mum and I set up home in Forest House on the Terrace. The day after the wedding I had to be back on board as we had to do another convoy run but I was given leave as soon as we returned. Mum and I used to go a lot to Bernie's hamburger bar along the Swan river and visited the Cabarita nightclub in Hay street. Some time later, the ship was sent to Exmouth Gulf in a big hurry. We had to be the anti-aircraft battery for the base there, as there were some disturbing reports about Japanese activity in the Indian Ocean. We were anchored about a mile out from the base with steam up at the ready. It was pretty hot and all we could see was hot air shimmering above the scrub. After a week, we were ordered back to Fremantle. The ship started to show signs of wear and tear and now it was decided that it should return to England for a big overhaul. A list was made of personnel married in Australia and an effort was made to transfer as many as possible to the ships staying behind. Our commanding officer did his best to get me transferred, but unfortunately the only chap I could be swapped with had a position which I could not fill. It was therefore with great sadness and a heavy heart that I said goodbye to Mum and sailed from Fremantle on the fourteenth of December. Christmas day saw us refuel in Colombo and about New-Years day we got to Aden. Here we received news that we would not go to England for repairs, but stay in the Mediterranean. Another anti-aircraft ship, the Palomafis, had been sunk by aircraft and a replacement ship was therefore urgently needed. We travelled through the Suez canal, where we saw two dummy battleships in the Bitter Lakes. These consisted out of wood and canvas and were constructed to scare the Italians and give them the wrong idea about the strength of the allied fleet in the region.
5. Mediterranean and Europe.
Once through the canal, we took up alarm stations as there was a lot of German air activity. We did twelve hours on and twelve hours off at our stations and changed over at midday. This was extremely tiring after a few days, as other work had to be done as well, such as the daily maintenance routines.
We called in Malta on the seventh of January to refuel and then on to Bizerta, in Tunis, to join a convoy with destination Algiers and Gibraltar. Bizerta was just a mess, with houses blown to pieces and blown up. About nine days later, we arrived in Gibraltar, where we were welcomed by the Commander in Chief. From now on it was a very busy time. Large convoys, with destination Italy, came from America and the U.K. There was also a lot of movement between Algiers and Oran towards the Italian mainland.
Some of these convoys consisted of up to sixty ships. Big liners, merchant vessels and tankers, all loaded to the hilt. The German planes were very active and kept attacking these convoys. On the nineteenth of March, the first of April, the eleventh of April and the twentieth of April, there were strong attacks on some of these convoys. Mainly by Junker 88's and Heinkel 111's and 177's. They were armed with bombs and torpedoes. In the case of the attack on the twentieth of April, we had been spotted by a Junker 188 at around midday, while steaming eastwards at a speed of nine knots. He kept hanging around for a while, at a height of about seven thousand meters, plotting our position and course and speed. You could easily see his vapour trail in the sky. Nine o'clock that night, we received a radar warning from shore installations near Algiers, as we were situated in a northerly direction from that city. Our ship was posted in the port section of the convoy, in the middle of a row of ships and with one more line of the ships to port. This, because we could expect the planes to come from the port side, as they were based on the Balearic islands. Ten minutes later, one of the freighters signalled that five planes were nearing the convoy head on, flying very low above the water. Immediately after, we saw three planes closing in the port and three to starboard. Within a minute there was a terrible explosion. A freighter, carrying ammunition, was hit and blew up into small pieces. There was absolutely nothing left of her. Unluckily, this explosion put part of our radar system out of action and also our asdic, the anti submarine detection devise. As soon as the planes were out from between the ships, we opened fire on them but could not tell the results. The asdic was in the meantime fixed and this saved our lives. A Heinkel 111 was coming in fast over the port side. We kept firing on him all the way and saw shells burst very close to him. In the meantime, the asdic picked up the sound of two torpedoes which were closing in fast. This enabled us to turn towards them and they were seen to pass us by, only to hit the American destroyer Lansdale, which broke in half and sunk. Another three ships had been hit, but only one of these sunk on the spot. At ten o'clock, the all clear was given. These German planes used to make very determined attacks. Most of the convoys we took to Malta or Naples and some were destined for the Anzio beach head [50 km onder Rome], was erupting at that time. A couple of times we called into Malta. This is a very interesting place. The old Crusader- and Knights of St. John fortresses are still there in all their glory. German bombs had hit the old walls, but made hardly any impact on them. We were taken on an organised trip to the medieval town of Medina, where you think you are back in the middle ages. The floor of the old church is covered with tombstones, showing the armorials of the knights buried underneath.
When on the way from Malta back to Gibraltar, the convoys had to negotiate a channel through the minefields laid between Cape Bon in North-Africa and Sicily. This channel was only two miles wide. You can imagine what happens when a convoy consisting of fifty to sixty ships has to manoeuvre through there. Hours beforehand, signals used to fly backwards and forwards between the ship of the Commodore and the rest of the convoy. Some lines of ships had to speed up, others slow down and alter course to bunch up. This used to be a dangerous time, as submarines could have an easy time if undetected. Supplies were sometimes slow in coming and at one stage we had potatoes and hash for a full week. Everybody was glad when the menu changed. In Algiers, there was a huge American stores depot. As it was part of my job to look after the ships paint and steel ropes store, I had to get supplies from there and duly made up a list of what was required. A light truck was made available and with a few men I set off to the depot. This depot was enormous, more like a city of Quonset huts. There was everything there, from needles to Jeeps. Being used to the tight fisted British naval stores, I expected a lot of red tape etc., but there was none of that. They virtually told me to help myself to any amount or size I needed and then offered some more. A very refreshing experience indeed. Algiers is a real French looking city. Wide boulevards lined with trees and houses with wrought iron balconies. Especially nice, is the view from the harbour, with the white houses against the hilly background. The Atlas mountain range was easily visible from out to sea, with snow covering the top in the winter months. It used to be a pretty sight, when steaming between Algiers and Malta. The weather in the Mediterranean can be very fickle at times. The sea can be very peaceful at one moment and then suddenly change into a choppy and windy environment. Quite often, we entered the harbour of Gibraltar, as near here, convoys were taken over coming from the Atlantic and others were handed over, going back to the USA or UK. When in port, we used to go for walks around the rock and at one time even climbed up against the concrete walls of the rainwater catchment area. When arriving at the top, we stared in the face of a soldier, who probably thought we were spies or saboteurs. There are tunnels right through the rock, gun emplacements, store rooms and a complete hospital. We also had a look at the airstrip, and viewed a Spitfire fighter plane. The Spanish border was just alongside the runway and some sinister looking characters used to gaze through steel fence, to see what was going on. The restaurants were very good, we used to order a Spanish omelette, which was big as a serving dish and about two inches thick, full of spinach, tomatoes, capsicum and onions. In one word, terrific, especially when washed down with red wine. We also organised some water-polo matches against the poms but they never had much of a chance as quite a few of us were brought up in the Indies and had spent most of our youth in the water. During the first days of June, we were told to proceed to Liverpool, in the UK, where we arrived half June. The ship was now to go in an extensive refit, which would take months and months. The ship was put in a dry dock and the whole crew transferred to a camp about fifteen miles out. Transport to and from the ship was by bus. We were given a weeks leave in July. Together with the Australian liaison officer Pearson, I spent a few days in Chester, which is quite a pretty old town. Here I received a telegram announcing the birth of our daughter Helen, which was celebrated with some glasses of wine. From Chester, Pearson and I travelled to Edinburgh, a town Pearson was keen to see. We had a look at Edinburgh castle and the castle of Holyrood [bij Edinburg]. Here I received another notification of Helen's birth, this time from another authority. It was good of them to make sure that I received the news.
After arrival back in Liverpool, we younger officers were asked, whether there were any volunteers to go to the motor torpedo boat squadron in Dover. Joining was completely voluntarily. As there was not much to do on board, except watching maintenance crews doing their work and thinking, that after the MTB's there might be a chance for a transfer back to Australia, I agreed to go, together with my colleague Glaser. We were put on the train to London and from there took transport to Dover, which was at that time in a restricted area. The so called pens, or MTB harbour, was a huge concrete block, with quarters inside on the upper floor section and stores and pens for the boats, underneath. It was constructed alongside the outer mole of the harbour. Glaser was directed to HMS Wasp, a navy establishment at the other side of town, where the gun boats were based, I was kept in the pens. There were seven MTB's here. I became second in command on MTB 236. My predecessor had been badly wounded during some action, a shell had exploded against the navigators cubbyhole and made a mess of him. Luckily for him it was only 20mm shell. We mainly went out towards dark, either on an offensive sweep or to wait on designated patrol positions. Unless you shot off your torpedoes and had to come back in, we were out there until day break. Coming in, we would get the boats refuelled and resupplied and then go off to bed after some breakfast. After being woken up late in the afternoon, we had a cup of tea and a bite to eat, and then the game was on again. Our task was connected with the operations in Normandy, having to harass the shipping from and to that area. On one sweep along the French coast, one of our three boats developed engine trouble. We stayed with them, in case trouble might develop in the form of German R or E boats, a similar craft to ours, but the E boats being far superior. Just at dawn, the boat became mobile again and as it became light quite rapidly, we attracted the attention of the German coastal batteries, which peppered us all the way home. The Germans used to lob shells into Dover quite regularly from their battery at Cape Gris Nez. Another night when we crawled in front of Boulogne, we could hear the whistle of the trains leaving the station. When on designated patrol positions, we used to get grid references from Dover castle or Dungeness. These distances and bearings were applied by me to the relevant chart. The references were always of German targets or plots as we called them. This way we could follow their progress along the French coast and try and pounce on them at the best moment. Some nights we just laid somewhere in the Channel, being unmercifully rocked about by the sometimes quite rough sea, with nothing happening and then returning sleepy and half seasick, to base. There were nights when we could observe the launching of doodlebugs or flying bombs by the Germans. You could see a bit of a flash and then a noise, similar to that of an immense two stroke engine, spluttering through the sky. The red tail frame was quite a thing to behold. Now and then we made attempts to shoot them down and quite often a mosquito night fighter would come along and chase it. They would position themselves alongside the bomb and then tip it over with a flip of the wing. When the nights were foggy, it was quite terrifying to hurtle along at forty knots, only about fifty yards behind the boat in front. It could be an absolute pea soup at times and the merchant vessels had the dreadful habit of tossing boxes and bottles over the side. Hitting one of them, would leave a nice hole in our plywood boats. Our boats were propelled by three Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engines of twelve hundred H-power each or three Vosper engines of about the same power. We had two, twenty one inch torpedo tubes, two anti aircraft machine guns, two rocket launchers and depth-charges. An awesome armament for a boat of only seventy-six feet in length.
Amongst the notes which I kept, there are several, referring to some of our patrols. As a navigator, I had to keep very precise track of what we were doing, even with the boat altering course dozens of time and changing speed, as after an action, we had to know which was the shortest way back to Dover. With all buoys and navigational aids extinguished in the English Channel and Dover straits and with numerous shoals, sandbanks and mine fields, British as well as German, you had to know where you were. Out of interest, I will copy one of my log entries.
|21.00||hrs||Cast off. Course 157 degrees , speed 25,5 knots|
|21.10||hrs||Speed 20 knots|
|21.18||hrs||Pass number seven buoy , course 190 degrees.|
|21.40||hrs||At south Varne buoy , course 195 degrees.|
|22.00||hrs||On patrol position.|
|02.30||hrs||to 03.30 hrs Receiving plots from Dover castle in regards enemy ship movements along the French coast.|
|03.37||hrs||FN 4 (boats 204-240 and 236) prepare to attack plot no 5 with torpedoes.|
|04.01||hrs||Attack plot no 5.|
|04.07||hrs||course 136 degrees. Speed 20 knots.|
|04.23||hrs||Speed 18 knots.|
|04.25||hrs||Speed 14 knots.|
|04.30||hrs||Speed 11 knots.|
|04.35||hrs||Speed 8 knots. Closing in on enemy.|
|04.37||hrs||Speed 14 knots , course 210 degrees.|
|04.47||hrs||Speed 18 knots , course 250 degrees.|
|04.50||hrs||to 05.10 hrs. Fire rockets.|
|05.30||hrs||Speed 11 knots , course 140 degrees.|
|05.33||hrs||Fire both torpedoes. Speed 35 knots , course 350.|
|05.51||hrs||Heavy fire from German coastal batteries.|
|06.00||hrs||Speed 23 knots.|
|06.25||hrs||At south Varne buoy , course 011 degrees.|
|06.41||hrs||At no seven buoy , course 344 degrees.|
This was a typical log book entry of one of our patrols.
The Allies had started to break out from the Normandy beachhead on about the sixteenth of August, with the Canadians pushing northwards towards the Seine river. Towards the end of August they were ready to cross this river and attack Le Havre and move towards Boulogne. This caused a flurry of activity from the Germans, who were trying to move material along the coast line. As a result of this, we attacked a fleet of five German trawlers, protected by R boats [Räumboote], on the night of the twenty-fifth of August and sank one of them. On the night of the thirtieth of August we were subjected to very heavy German artillery fire while sweeping close in to the French coast. On the night of the first of September, we attacked four German landing-ships-tanks and sank two of them.
As the Canadians were now pushing up along the Channel coast, the Germans gave up on their coastal movements and the role of our ships came to an end. The Netherlands navy was reorganising itself for the return to Holland and thus decided to put the MTB crews to other uses.
During the last thirty-four days, we had been out on patrol seventeen times on which we actively engaged the enemy five times, and were subjected to fire from enemy coastal batteries twice, were on active standby another thirteen days and had three days on which to give our ships maintenance.
On the twentieth of September I was transferred to London, to the coding and decoding section of the navy in Whitehall. Upon arrival in London, I reported straight away to the relevant office in Whitehall. Entering that place, puts you back in the atmosphere of the days of captain Cook and admiral Nelson. The navy headquarters is an immense, huge, high ceiling and ice cold building, with broad flights of steps and oaken stairways. The office in which I would work, was an immense room with ceiling to floor windows. There were tables with coding and decoding machinery everywhere. The first thing I was told, was to find some accommodation. No attempt had been made to organise anything. Luckily one of the younger officers, suggested to me to go to the YMCA in Chelsea, which I did and was put up in a dormitory with a few more servicemen. This suited me fine as there was a good bus service to Whitehall. Work was from nine in the morning to about six or seven at night, depending on the workload, with an hour for lunch. One of the other officers there, was a younger year of mine, with whom I usually spent the lunch hour. We both, had to work on Saturdays and had a roster system for the Sunday. Through him I became acquainted with a family Oldfield, an older couple with a daughter who was married to a Czech air force mechanic. The air force chap had been a good ice hockey player and had also played in the Czech national team. He gave me one of his jumpers, which I used to wear underneath my uniform coat and was nice and warm in the winter. In any case, they were friendly people, and very hospitable. The air force chap was called Rudy Bloch, he was Jewish and he and his parents had fled from Czechoslovakia before Hitler moved in. One of the lucky ones. It was good to know somebody in a town like London, it can be very depressing and lonely otherwise. During this time, the Germans shot quite a number of flying bombs, the V one, and a modified version, the V two, which was a forerunner of the modern moon rockets, towards London. All of a sudden you could see a flash somewhere in London, which meant that a V two rocket had dropped. With the V one, there was a bit more suspense, as you could see and hear it coming, and had to wait for the motor to stop before it would come gliding down.
Whilst at the office in Whitehall, I was in a position to see where our ships were going to be sent. Every time I noticed a coming move to Colombo or Fremantle, I got onto my superior officer with a request for a transfer. Unfortunately without any results. Looking back, I realise that it was already planned for me, to be eventually returned to the Heemskerck as I was familiar with the ship and plans had already been drawn up to return the ship in the not too distant future, to the Pacific. Of course I was not to know this and every time a request was denied I got further down into dumps. On top of this, I was transferred in early November, to a Netherlands navy camp at Brightlingsea, north west of London, along the coast. This was a holding camp for our navy personnel, before being distributed to so called port parties. These port parties were being formed, to occupy Dutch harbours as soon as these were liberated and to assist in mine clearing etc. On the sixth of November, the Allies had taken Antwerp and on the ninth they managed to occupy what was still above water of the Dutch island of Walcheren, in the province of Zeeland. To break the German resistance, the Allies bombed the dykes, which resulted in the flooding of three quarters of the island and also in a considerable loss of civilian life. On the twentieth of November, I left the camp with four big trucks, a small ute type wagon and three motorbikes. There were also thirty-four petty officers and sailors in my party. My orders were to cross from Chatham to Ostend and deliver this party to the officer commanding the town of Flushing, on Walcheren island. We carried a fair bit of gear, such as radio equipment and food. At Chatham, we were put up in a transit camp for the night, which was all muddy and slushy. Planks had been laid, to walk on and we slept in tents with wooden floors. It rained and blew and it was also bitterly cold. The next day we embarked on a landing ship tanks, which as the name suggests, had a lot of these on board. They are quite big ships of three to four thousand tonnes, armed with anti aircraft guns. We rode our equipment through the big open front doors of the vessels and were quartered for the coming voyage. We sailed that evening and arrived before Ostend early the next morning. Ostend was hidden in the fog, and it took a bit of doing to get the ship in a position to discharge her cargo, as there was a lot of damage done to the port and there were quite a few wrecks around. It was still dark when we got our vehicles and equipment ashore, but were finally sufficiently organised to start our journey. I had not been given any instructions at all, on how to get to my destination. Therefore I decided to strike out north along the coast, until reaching the Dutch border and then make for the harbour of Terneuzen, situated on the mainland, opposite Flushing. There I would try to get a ferry across, if there still was such a thing. There was snow on the roads, which were in a very bad state with several bomb craters and burned out vehicles and tanks alongside the road. We saw a small inn alongside the road and stopped, to try and get some kind of a hot drink to warm us up. We were lucky enough to get a mug of a kind of surrogate coffee each. It was hot, that was the main thing. The kind proprietor absolutely refused any sort of payment, which we found a bit embarrassing. We had been quite prepared to give him English money, as that was all we had. Towards late afternoon, we reached Terneuzen, where I reported to the officer in charge and asked for a place where we could put up for the night. We were made comfortable in the school and received a nice hot meal. To my chagrin, I found out that there was no possible way of getting to Flushing from here and had to take a route via Antwerp. So, off we went the next morning, slipping and sliding all over the road, via Antwerp into Holland again. We turned left on to the island of south Beveland via a causeway and stopped in the township of Goes. Here I was confronted by four of my petty officers, with the request to be left behind here, as their families, which they had not seen since 1940, lived here. This was granted, with the order to report sometime next day, to the officer in charge in Flushing. We reached Walcheren an hour later. This was a terribly distressing sight. Water everywhere, with roofs and the tops of trees, being just visible above the water. The road had water lapping over it, but we finally made Flushing, where I delivered my group and asked for further instructions. The next day I had to return to Antwerp for further orders. The temperature was freezing cold and there was a lot of fog. I was put in a small motorboat and transferred across to Terneuzen, from where a supply truck took me to Antwerp. Reported there to the navy officer in charge and was put up for the night, as they had to signal to London, to find out what to do with me. That night, the Germans dropped two V bombs on Antwerp, which made a big mess in the business district. The next day, I was off again, this time back into Dutch area of Flanders, where I had to report as second in command, to an officer leading a group of naval personnel, engaged in observing and pin pointing the positions of mines, which the Germans kept dropping in the Schelde river, which flows from Antwerp to the open sea. Finished up in the hamlet of Rapenburg, a one street community of about a dozen houses. I found my new CO in a little shed at the end of the village. There was smoke everywhere, coming from a leaking pot-belly stove. The office equipment consisted of two wooden chairs and a wooden table, a couple of wooden benches and a cupboard along the walls. My new CO was also from the MTB's, so that was very pleasant. Our men, were mainly new recruited from the local population and therefore lacking in any kind of discipline. Nice boys all the same, very willing to carry out any required task. We had bunkers or foxholes along the bank of the river, which is between about five and ten kilometres wide at this point, forming an estuary towards Flushing, situated at the mouth. We rigged up gadgets for the men, so they could take relative bearings and we gave them some idea of distance at their particular posts. We picked spots, where there were farm houses situated close by. We left three men at each post, to work in shifts and arranged for their food and quarters in the farm house. They were also provided with .303 rifles, to take pot shots at the mines. The CO and myself stayed in the village with a signal man, two drivers and a cook. Every day we would go around, checking on the posts and seeing whether the men were alright. Everything was well covered in ice and snow by now, which made that a rather unpleasant chore. You could not get warm, in the trucks we drove around in. The wind blew through everywhere, and we would be glad to get in the bunkers with the men, as they had a little kerosene stove in there. If there were mines dropped, which we could not dispose of ourselves, then we had to signal through to Antwerp, for a minesweeper to be made available. It was very important to keep the estuary and river clear of mines, as supply ships now came to Antwerp along this route with war materials, needed for the coming spring offensive.
On the seventeenth of December, the Germans launched a big counter offensive in the Ardennes, a mountainous region in eastern Luxembourg and Belgium. The main target of this push was, to retake Antwerp and so lengthen the Allied supply lines and to cut off the Allied spearhead in the south of the Netherlands. The initial surprise drove the Allies in some parts about sixty miles backwards. This day sticks rather vividly in my mind. I was on my way to one of the posts with a relief party, when all of a sudden we heard the noise of a lot of planes. Not expecting German planes, we did not take much notice, until we noticed one passing us, with iron crosses painted on the fuselage. We stopped the truck in a hurry and jumped in the ditch alongside the road. There must have been about fifty to sixty fighter planes, sent out to harass shipping in the Schelde river. The planes flew very low, in order to dodge the fire of the Canadian batteries, standing behind the dykes. I noticed one pilot looking at us as he flew past, waving his hand. None of the planes bothered to open fire on us, they were looking for better targets. The Canadians opened fire and quite a few planes came down. Once we got mobile again, we came across a downed fighter. It had come to rest in a paddock after tearing a long furrow through the clay. Pieces of plane were everywhere and the pilot was an unrecognisable mess. Found his papers and a photo which showed him as being very young. I have always wondered whether he was the one who waved.
Christmas and New-Year 1945 passed uneventfully. My mate and I knocked off a bottle of Bols gin and that was that. Early January, after the German offensive had failed, I was transferred to Goes on the island of south Beveland. There was a similar group there, only bigger and the OC there could no longer cope on his own. For a start I was quartered in the post office. There were some empty offices on the first floor. My CO had moved in with a family in town, so I stayed in the office. This job involved the same routine as the previous one, but there was one thing that made things more interesting. Chaps were going backwards and forwards through the German lines and as we were the only military authority here, they came to us to pass on their information. The island opposite us was still under German occupation and only between three and four kilometres away. This is where the men used to come from during the night, in little rowing boats. On clear days you could see the houses and church spires on the island, quite well. One day I was sent out with a local fisherman to check a marker buoy in the channel between the two islands. The light on the buoy had gone out and for some reason, beneficial to both sides, it had to be kept burning. The fisherman would not go without military protection, so to make this farce really complete, I had to accompany him armed with my revolver. The buoy was situated halfway between the islands and my main worry was the possible appearance of an E boat or a similar craft. The job was carried out however without any problems and we were both glad to get back without interference. From our position here, we could observe the firing of V two rockets by the Germans. They were still pounding London, more to annoy them than anything else though. You could see the white vapour trails rising straight up into the cold winter air and then gradually bending over to their course towards England. Another thing we enjoyed watching, was the forming up of the bombing squadrons heading towards Germany. The sky seemed to be covered in planes. Bombers with fighter cover below and above. Sometimes they used to circle around until all participants were there and then off they went. As the offices in the telephone building were required by the relevant authorities, we obtained a smaller room for our administrative work. I was quartered in the house of a rich merchant named Duvekot. The house had huge, high ceiligned rooms and was three stories high. They looked after my breakfast and dinner as well. Lunch was eaten on the job. We also had a visit from Queen Wilhelmina, who came to have a look at the liberated area of the Netherlands. We were introduced to her and she shook us all by hand, wishing us all the best. On the first of March my promotion to Lieutenant came through and towards the end of the month I was transferred to a garrison town in Belgium, called Alsot [Aalst], where I joined another so called port party, waiting for the events in Europe to unfold as the Allies were now probing into Germany. From this point on it became a matter of barracks duty and instruction of recruits until the end of hostilities. On the fourth of May 1945, the German army in NW Germany and Holland laid down their arms and surrendered. As soon as this was known, we were all given a chance to try and find our relatives. Different groups were sent off in order of priority. The married ones went off first to contact their families and and then the rest of us with only fathers, mothers, brothers or sisters in Holland. According to which area they had to travel, we organised three tonnes trucks to drop the people off as close as possible to their destination, more or less like a bus route, and then arrange to pick them up for the return trip a few days later. Everybody was given a food parcel as food was very scarce in Holland. As I only knew my grandmothers address, I decided to go there and then find out where my sister lived. The truck I was travelling in had den Helder as its destination, but made a detour to Baarn to drop me off. When I arrived at my grandmothers place, my aunt had at first some difficulty recognising me. My grandmother did not have that problem and was putting all kind of questions to me straight away. Luckily I had asked the truck driver to wait a few minutes, for me to find out where I had to go. As it turned out, my sister was living in a village near the Hague with her parents in law. Therefore I said goodbye again with the promise to contact them later on when there was more time. The truck could not take me to my destination, but dropped me off at the southern outskirts of Amsterdam, for me to find my own way. I started to walk, carrying my heavy food parcel over my shoulder. As I passed a little shop, I decided to gain information in regards a possible bus service or whatever. The man in the shop told me that buses had not been running for at least the last six months. Realising that I had a bit of a problem here, he offered me to borrow his bike. This vehicle had hard solid tyres, as rubber tyres had been out of fashion for a long time. I gave him a tin of English cigarettes in return and promised to make arrangements with my family to return the bike to him, which was eventually done, much to his surprise. From my sister I learnt later, that the tin of cigarettes could have bought him a few bikes at least, as cigarettes were worth their weight in gold at that time. I set off pushing the bike towards the Hague. Not having any idea where the village was, I had to make frequent enquiries, as all the road signs had been removed. After hours and hours of pushing against the wind, I finally arrived in the village of Oegstgeest and found the house where my sister was living. You can well imagine her surprise. We all sat up just about all night, exchanging news. The food parcel was well received, it would keep them going for at least a week. My biggest problem now, was how to get back to base. One of the other officers had parents in a village not far away and had got there with another truck. Hella and I therefore walked down there and asked him to come along our address, to pick me up on the way back. It was a very lucky coincidence, for him to live close by, because otherwise I would have had quite a job to get back.
The port party was shifted to Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands, where we received naval personnel, returning from prisoner of war camps and gave instruction to new recruits. Early in July I was again transferred. This time back to the cruiser Heemskerck, which had arrived in Amsterdam. The crew was now reorganised and mainly made up of people with families in Java or Australia. The ones with family ties in Holland were given the opportunity to stay in Holland for a while. While in Amsterdam, I had the opportunity to visit Hella, who had moved there with her husband and also my grandmother, who lived only about fifty kilometres away. The end of July we sailed, destined for Okinawa, near Japan. We went to Chatham first, to pick up supplies and then went at a speed of twenty-two knots via Gibraltar to Port-Said. Went through the canal at night and as it was now peace in this area, we could watch a picture on the quarter deck as the ship moved slowly through the canal. Arabs on camels, were following along on the banks and enjoyed the picture as well. We called into Colombo to refuel and as by now the Japanese had laid down their arms, we were rerouted to Singapore, to go from there to Java.
6. Singapore, Netherlands East-Indies and Australia.
After arrival in Singapore, we waited for further instructions. Everybody was looking forward to returning to Java, but we were not to know that our former allies, especially the Americans, tried everything to prevent us from establishing quick control in the East-Indies. Our merchant vessels, which had played a great part towards the war effort, transporting troops and equipment to the theatres of war, under atrocious conditions, were now held up by the Allies under some weak pretexts. We had six thousand marines, well trained and with good modern equipment, in the USA, ready to be shipped out to Java. In Holland we had already twenty thousand men trained and ready to go as well. These troops, together with our ships, were kept out of the way, until the English had landed a detachment in Batavia. The English commander started talks with the so called Indonesian freedom fighters, who declared themselves independent. Our government had already stated at the beginning of the war, that the Netherlands East-Indies and the Netherlands would be politically joined in a kind of commonwealth situation, after hostilities had ended and the Indonesians would have self government in a free united states of Indonesia, where all the separate tribes would have a say in the way they wanted to govern themselves. Therefore we wanted to establish order in the country first, before making the political changes. The rebel rouser Sukarno, who had Jap support, was somebody we had to get under control. There were a lot of capable Indonesians, who wanted to work with the Netherlands government, to establish an Indonesian state and they did not want a bar of the communist Sukarno and his mob. The way in which the British and Americans stagnated our efforts to establish control, only resulted in a drawn out campaign of three years, in which a lot of civilian and military lives were lost. In Soerabaja, there were a lot of Dutch internees in the Simpang hotel. Lack of British efforts to protect these people in the absence of Dutch forces, resulted in a slaughter of about three hundred unarmed civilians by so called Indonesian freedom fighters. In other towns, where the Japs had opened the gates of some concentration camps, the Indonesians killed quite a few people who had returned to their homes. A convoy with one hundred women and girls, being shifted from the interior to the coast, were attacked and murdered by a mob of Indonesian irregulars. Mind you, these were not the deeds of the ordinary Indonesians, who, in the whole, did not dislike us, but mainly young people, especially trained by the Japanese, during the last few years, to cause the maximum amount of trouble, in case of them losing the war.
Admiral Mountbatten especially, is known to have frustrated all our early efforts, to take quick control.
Against this background, we were kept for about a week in Singapore, before being allowed to proceed to Batavia. There we were anchored in the outer harbour for a few days, before tying up alongside. Our commanding officer, whose wife and children were somewhere in a camp, decided that everyone who had family here, could go and make enquiries in regards to their where abouts. We had been supplied with a few cars, which enabled us to go and visit the Red Cross headquarters, which had been established in one of the former luxury hotels. After going through their registers, they were able to inform me, that my mother was being kept in a camp about twenty kilometres south of Batavia. The camp was on the phone and I managed to get through to the camp office and then eventually my mother herself on the phone. Of course, she was very happy and excited to hear from me. I told her, that I would try and get out to the camp to see her. This was easier said then done however. The Red Cross people told me that there were several cars around the headquarters, driving for the English authorities, one of which might be able to take me out there. I got hold of a car and the Javanese driver said he could get me out there. Several kilometres out of Batavia, a truck pulled suddenly out in front of us. There was a swarm of Indonesians on the truck, armed with revolvers and rifles and flying the red and white flag. At that moment I was not quite certain what to do. I had my revolver in my hand, waiting for developments. The driver, who thought that I was an Englishman, told them that I was an official of the Red Cross, on my way to the camp. If they had got an inkling of me being Dutch, they would have made a short job of me and I was determined to take a few with me in that case. A wild looking character came to the window and I answered in English. Then there were smiles all around and they made way for us to proceed.
Arriving at the camp, I asked for my mother, who was notified by loudspeaker. She was very thin, but wiry all the same. The work in the vegie garden had kept her in trim. She showed me around the camp and the barrack in which she was housed, together with a hundred women. As it was soon time for me to return to Batavia, I looked around for safer transport. To risk another trip back, alone in a car, did not seem very wise. Luckily the Indian troops, guarding the camp, were being relieved and I hitched a ride back with them and finally got back on board just before dark. The commanding officer had also found his family, and not being very happy with the safety and conditions of the internees, he decided to take steps, to have all relatives of shipboard personnel removed from the camps and put on board of one of the refugee ships, anchored in the harbour. A few days later, we therefore organised some trucks and did the rounds of the various camps, picking up family members and carting them to the harbour, where motor boats ferried the people across to the ship, which would take them to Australia. The Admiral in charge, became pretty upset with this bit of initiative and tried to get the women off again. But once on board, there was not much he could do about it. Our commanding officer moved our ship from the quay and anchored next to the refugee ship, determined to thwart any attempts to take the women off. The ship sailed for Fremantle a day later and we moved back into the harbour. Our commanding officer however, was soon relieved from his command, notwithstanding a petition signed by the whole crew, who stood up for him and would go through thick and thin for him.
While making enquiries in regards my mothers whereabouts, I had not been able to get any news in regards of my father. Apparently, he was held somewhere inland, but the Red Cross people said, that they would find out and if possible send a message, telling him that I was in Batavia. Not long after, I received a letter from my father, telling me, that he had been transported from his internment camp to Batavia and had now been quartered in a hotel. The day I received his note however, we went off for a patrol along the coast and did not return until about a week later. Now I had the opportunity to go and see him and it did not take me long to find the right address. Just like my mother, my father was very thin and looking a bit yellowish in the face, but otherwise still very alert. We spent the evening, sitting and talking about the years gone by and he was very happy that my mother was now safe and well in Australia. He had been offered to take on another important position, but had declined, and asked to be allowed to retire. It was planned, to evacuate him to Australia, as soon as that was possible, to be reunited with my mother and to have a period of recuperation, before returning to Europe. The next few days, I managed to look him up again, but after that we had to go to the north coast of Bali, to accept the surrender of the Japanese forces there. We anchored near Singaradja and as I was in charge of a landing party, I was ferried ashore together with the commanding officer and some civil authorities, who would stay, to reorganise the immediate area, together with a detachment of the army which we also had on board. The Japanese commanding officer had his troops lined up and had the Japanese flag hauled down. We then raised the red-white and blue flag and the Japanese made a polite bow. The Japanese officers then handed over their swords, one of which became my trophy.
After arrival back in Batavia, I approached the commanding officer, in regards an earlier given promise, that I would be allowed to take leave to go to Australia. After a lot of arguments, why he could not let me go as yet, he eventually told me, that if I could organise transport for myself, it would be all right for me to leave early in December. From the grapevine, I gathered information, that the navy air force was flying Catalina flying boats to Sydney, with evacuees. After taking up contact with some flyers, I was promised that I could get on one of the planes and thus it came about, that early on a morning in December, I climbed aboard a Catalina, which had a load of about seventy people on board. This was a pretty heavy load and we were packed like herring in a tin. I managed to squeeze myself in one of the side blisters, from where I had a good view. We landed in Makassar, now Udjung Pandan, in the south of Celebes, to refuel. We were all put in a transit camp for the night and left again early the next morning for Darwin. We arrived safely in Darwin and here I decided to get off the plane, as I thought it would be quicker to get to Perth from this place, than from Sydney. Therefore I reported to the officer in charge of rerouting military personnel. There was a lot of military movement from New-Guinea and the East-Indies through Darwin and priorities were apparently hard to get. He asked me what my priorities were, and I told him compassionate leave, as I had been told that this was pretty high on the list. He shrugged his shoulders and said that people on route for duty purposes, came first and had me transferred to a holding camp south of Darwin with the promise that he would see what he could do for me in a weeks time. The holding camp, was an old operational air force base with rows of Quonset huts and tents. The place was full up and there was a lot of beer drinking going on. That evening in the officers mess, I started talking to an Australian pilot officer, who listened with sympathy to my story and after talking to some of his friends, advised me to line up in front of the camp office, before daybreak the next morning. He told me that a Mitchell bomber was going to Perth and that there would be two, three ton trucks in front of the office to pick up a group of service men who had received the nod to go.
The next morning I dutifully lined up and when the names of the passengers were read out, mine was not on it. The pilot who read them out, gestured to me to come over and pencilled my name in on the list. This, he said, was in case of an accident. After arrival in Perth, he would scratch my name off again. The trucks drove us to some airfield, where we scrambled into the plane. It was again a pretty tight fit. There were blokes all over the place. The Aussies had their rifles and packs with them and in order to get some ventilation, the bomb bay had been slightly opened. A bit later on, it became bitterly cold however and a lot of four letter words were flying backwards and forwards, as the soldiers aired their displeasure. I had found myself a fairly good seat on the toilet in the tale of the plane. This was just a seat, with a hole in the bottom of the plane and when in use, partitioned off with a canvas curtain. As a lot of beer was being consumed, I had to get off my seat rather regularly. There were benches lengthways along the fuselage and people were laying and sitting on the floor. Most of them went to sleep after a while, when their repertoire of bawdy songs had been exhausted. We were all glad to arrive in Perth. To this day, I do not know where, as there was only some small sheds and hangers. There were a few trucks waiting for us and after thanking the pilot, we were taken into the direction of Perth. Every now and then, somebody would bang with his fist on the top of the cab and the truck would come to a halt, with one or more passengers jumping out of the back. They must have been close to home. As the last passenger, I was dropped off on Saint Georges Terrace. Here I managed to get on the phone to aunt Edna and uncle Les Huntley, who were living in Mount Lawley and caught a bus to their place. Uncle Les organised a seat for me on the next days night train, with which I arrived in Kalgoorlie, early the day after. Mum and Helen were there waiting for me and it was good to be back home again at last. My mother was staying with Mum's parents, so it was quite a reunion. Some days later, we went down to Perth, where we stayed for the X-mas period. I had been told to report back to the Dutch naval authorities, after expiration of my holidays and when doing so, was told, that the Heemskerck would be on her way to Fremantle soon and it would therefore be wiser for me to stay in Perth and wait for her. This was of course good news and I was temporarily put to work in the Dutch naval HQ's at Crawley Bay. The HQ's were in the old American flying boat base buildings at Crawley. The old buildings are still on the grounds of the UWA [University of Western Australia].
I only worked five days a week, with occasional weekend duty, which gave us a lot of time together. Helen was getting used to me by now and Mum and Helen came occasionally down to Crawley Bay during the lunch hour and then we sat near the river. The Heemskerck came in not long after and I had to report back on board. The ship stayed in for another month and then, after taking all kind of supplies, we were off again to the East-Indies. For the time being, it was no good making plans for Mum and Helen to come to Java yet. We had to wait and see how things were going to develop.
Back to the Indies, things were changing. We had now control of large areas around Batavia and Soerabaja and had reoccupied some of the out laying islands. Early March, plans were made to land on Lombok island, where there was still a Japanese garrison. A transport ship, the Sansovino, the Heemskerck and two landing ships tanks, were sent there about the middle of March 1946 and I was appointed as FOB, which means, forward officer bombardment. This meant that you were landed with the first wave of landing craft and had to set up a control position ashore, from where you were in radio contact with the ship. As the ship fired gun salvoes, you had to radio back to them whether the shots were falling long or short and guide their fire on to the target. The night before we arrived there, I was transferred to the Sansovino with two radio operators and the necessary equipment. Next morning, while still dark, we lowered ourselves into a landing craft. When all was ready, the Heemskerck steamed into the Labuan Tring bay, followed by our nine landing craft. The LST's followed behind. The beach where we landed, is the same, where at present the Bali-Lombok ferry arrives. Everything was quiet at the beach. A Japanese officer and a few men lined up and stood to attention, while a few natives ran up, to see what was going on. As we were not sure, what might develop, we installed ourselves in a coconut grove and a beach head was established, to cover the disembarking of the vehicles and equipment. Late in the afternoon we were ready to proceed to the capital Mataram. The commanding officer of the army units, told me to let the ship know, that he wanted me to accompany the army group, in case trouble might develop. The road we had to follow was fairly close to the coast, so it would not be difficult for the Heemskerck to assist with gun fire, if necessary. The ride to Mataram turned out to be like a Sunday afternoons trip in the country. The locals turned out in droves, waving and calling out that they were glad to see us back. It did not take us long to get to Mataram and from there to the harbour Ampenan. We set up camp in an empty villa for the night and returned to the Heemskerck, early in the morning. We stayed at anchor for two more days, during which I saw more sharks than I have ever seen before in my life. Whenever the cooks threw the offal overboard, hammerhead sharks used to arrive in droves. The water was very clear, you could see the sandy bottom and all kinds of bright coloured fish. One of my colleagues had the bright idea to put a fishing line out at night. As it was very hot in our cabins, we used to sleep on the quarter deck, on stretchers. This keen fisherman, tied the heavy line to one leg of his stretcher and turned in. In the middle of the night there was a terrible commotion, my friend had a big fish on the line and the fish was pulling him, stretcher and all, with great speed over the quarter deck towards the ships rail. He rolled off the stretcher in a hurry and saw this break up against the rail, while his line disappeared. It must have been something pretty big, most likely a shark.
We did several trips through the island chain and not long afterwards, I was transferred ashore. This time to a unit, protecting the naval installations in Batavia. We were quartered in the grounds of Navy headquarters. We had a high wall around the perimeter of this establishment, covered with sherds of glass and a second barrier of concertina barbed wire, behind it. There were eight watch towers along the perimeter, built by Japanese prisoners of war. The towers were built of palm logs and covered, so no hand grenades could be lobbed into them. My job was to inspect the posts, especially during the night and to make sweeps in the neighbourhood and surrounding countryside, as we were situated on the city's outskirts. My father had left for Australia, while all this was happening and had joined my mother in Perth. Now there were arrangements made for Mum and Helen to come to Java. As soon as I heard when they were coming, I started looking for a place to live. Houses were hard to get, as the place was still in a shambles. Power was only available part of the time and the place was still being infiltrated by Indonesian guerrillas. The city could only be loosely protected with the available troops and you could not tell which Indonesian was for you and which one was against you. Houses were shared by different families, as the housing shortage was acute. In the end, I was offered to share a house with my colleague Schotman.
Mum and Helen finally arrived in August that year on board an Australian troopship, carrying a lot of Dutch evacuees, back to Java. With a few of my men, I drove to Tandjung Priok, the harbour of Batavia. We took a so called weapon carrier and had a machine gun mounted on the back tray. We went on board via the aft gangway and as it seemed to take ages, before everybody could pass through the immigration and health control, we picked Mum and Helen up, together with their gear and took them ashore, again via the aft gangway. This saved hours of time and nobody bothered to stop us. We moved in with the Schotmans and another family. We had the very back room for a start, but later on moved to a more comfortable room, as the families sharing our house, moved on to other postings. Helen soon mastered the Malay language, conversing with our servants. Food, had to be either bought at the so called Pasar, or native market, or from vendors who used to come along the door. On one such an occasion, an egg vendor came along. You could only get duck eggs in those days and you had to be very careful when buying them. It was always best to test them in a pan of water, to see whether the eggs were fresh. This particular time however, Mum and the other lady could not be bothered to do so. It was very hot and humid and they decided to test the eggs as they got back inside. All the eggs turned out to be bad, so the other woman grabbed a revolver and raced up the street, to see whether she could find the vendor. All in vain of course. Going to the pictures, we carried a revolver in Mums handbag. People were still being kidnapped and murdered, it was a bit like the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya. One weekend we decided to go for a drive to the Puntjak Pass, the pass through which you have to travel, if you want to take a shortcut to Bandoeng. The area between Batavia and Bandoeng was loosely patrolled by Dutch forces, but you could not take any chances. Therefore, we made it a trip for quite a few families of my detachment. We had a machine-gun mounted in the truck and took tommy guns and hand grenades. Thus equipped, we went for our Sunday drive. It was a bit cooler in the mountains and also a nice bit of a break for the womenfolk, who could not move about much at all. When I was on duty, the drivers of my unit would pick Helen up and bring her to the barracks to visit me. They taught her all kinds of songs and she always enjoyed these outings. At home we had a whole arsenal of weapons. We had a tommy gun, revolvers and hand grenades in the cupboard as the situation was still a bit unsure. Towards the end of 1946, I was sent to Palembang, on the island of Sumatra, participating in the landing of troops. The code name of the operation was “Paling baik” ["best"]. I was embarked on a LCP (landing craft personnel) with the orders to bring back two patrol boats from Palembang, after the troops had been landed. The convoy consisted out of quite a few ships and the about eighty kilometre long trip up the river, had to be made in three separate groups of vessels, as the territory between the mouth of the river and Palembang, was in the hands of the Indonesians. As we proceeded towards Palembang, we noticed groups of Indonesian soldiers along the bank. They were watching us through binoculars but otherwise kept quiet. Further up the river we passed machine-gun emplacements and also a kind of fortification with small calibre guns in it. They did not bother us and we arrived without mishap at Palembang. The idea was to protect the oil refineries at Soengai Gerong as this complex would provide us with valuable supplies of oil and patrol. The next day, I went on board the RP 121, one of the patrol boats I had to take back to Batavia and together with her sistership RP 18, sailed as quickly as possible so as to get to the mouth in day light. The Indonesians did not bother us, but we were at the ready. After another day and night of travel, we arrived in Batavia, where I rejoined my unit.
One day, we received word, that my cousin Gerard was in the military hospital with a wound in one of his legs. We went to see him, which he quite appreciated. He was shipped home not long afterwards.
In March 1947, an effort was made to consolidate our position. A general offensive was launched against the Indonesian forces. During these actions, I participated in the breakthrough to the town of Tangerang, situated about twenty kilometres to the west of Batavia. This was a fairly easy affair, as the Indonesian forces always tried to avoid any serious clashes, unless they were well in the majority. From now on things were a lot safer in the city, with most of western and eastern Java under our control and talks still going on with the Indonesian leaders in regards the eventual restoration of peace and order in the country. Sukarno had the British and Australian governments mesmerised with his version of the situation and with international pressure being applied on us, we had to put up with more violations of the existing truce by the Indonesian forces.
In June, Ingrid was due to be born and when the time arrived, I had to rake Mum in a betja to a small hospital down the road. Conditions there were not the very best, but there was no other choice. The Indonesian and half caste nurses were quite capable and helpful and Ingrid arrived in due course on the twenty second of June 1947. Unfortunately she became infected with some kind of dysentery and was in a very bad state. Her bottom was raw and she was very weak. We took her to our navy doctor, who lived opposite us. He gave us some medicine, which he said would either kill or cure her. As there was no other option, she was given the medicine and luckily survived this ordeal. As you can well imagine, we were terribly worried and it was a great relief to see her beat the dysentery. Feeding her during the night, used to be quite an operation. The power was usually shut off around ten pm and therefore we had to light a small charcoal fire during the night, to heat up her bottle. This we would do on the back veranda, with me standing guard with a loaded revolver and also holding a dimmed torch. In September, I was told that I would be transferred back to Holland in November. As Mum wanted to see her family in Australia, before going to Europe, we managed to organise leave and set to the task of getting money together for the trip. Certain items, were worth a lot of money in those days and this made it easier to reach the required sum. For an old radio, we received a thousand guilders and a small ruby, I had bought in Colombo years ago, fetched five hundred guilders. Therefore, it did not take us long to rake up the necessary finance for the trip. We were booked on a flight in a Short-Sunderland flying boat of Quantas, leaving in October from Soerabaja. Before going to Australia, we had to have everything packed, because we would fly on to Holland very soon after. During the packing, quite a few things went missing, such as a small electric oven and a jug. Some things we sold to the people, who were going to move into our house. At last, the day of departure arrived. We had to fly from Batavia to Soerabaja as we could not travel over land. While waiting at the airport, Ingrid developed a terrible red rash. The health authorities were very concerned about this and it took us a while to convince them that it probably was prickly heat. We had to fly in a DC3, with benches along the side of the fuselage. Stretchers with wounded soldiers, were taking up the space in between the seats. Some of the wounded were in a very bad state and it made us realise that we were still in the midst of hostilities.
In Soerabaja, we were quartered in the naval barracks and it was a great coincidence that the particular building we were put in, was the one I had occupied during my time in the MTB's in 1942. We had our meals in the officers mess, but as Ingrid was still in the cot stage, she had to be left in the barracks. The sailors vied with one another, to be the one to look after her while we had our meals and usually there were half a dozen or more there, by the time we came back. One night, they told us that she had been crying, so they had decided to feed her. They had found a tin of condensed milk and had kept her happy with that. We were afraid that she might develop a tummy ache after that, but luckily nothing happened. We had to explain to them that this diet was a bit too strong for a baby. The plane arrived after a couple of days and we were driven to where the sea plane had landed. There were no customs and a motor boat took us to the plane, which was tied to a buoy. These planes were quite big. There was a kind of lounge, where you could walk around, a top deck, where there were bunks for whoever wanted to have a rest, and the passengers sat in cabins for four. We soon took off and towards evening we arrived in Darwin. The flaps of the plane would not come down, so we landed at great speed and bounced with a terrifying noise on the waves. We stopped about half a mile from land and were then transferred to a launch, to be taken ashore. We were the only passengers to disembark as the others were destined for Sydney. The launch developed engine trouble and drifted around in the dark for about half an hour, before the coxswain could get it started again. As the plane had arrived a day late in Soerabaja, we had now missed our connection to Perth. We were taken to an out laying air force base for the night, which was deserted except for a maintenance staff. We were told that other arrangements would be made in the morning, but for some reason they forgot about us. We started to make enquiries and that must have put the wheels in motion, because not long after that, we were picked up and transferred to the Darwin hotel. Quantas was going to foot the bill for this, as we had missed our connection through a fault of theirs. As there was only one weekly connection with Perth, we were doomed to spend about five days in Darwin. We kept ourselves amused by watching the Aborigines play football, which was a great sight to behold. They had absolute yet black skin and legs like matches and played a real good game of footy. Helen thought it was great. We sent a wire to Mum's parents, to inform them of our mishap. To our great surprise, we received a message a day later, that they had booked us to fly from Darwin to Adelaide and from there to Perth. A couple of days after, we boarded a DC3, this time, one with proper seats and took off for Adelaide. After about an hour, the plane started to descend and all we saw was scrub and red soil. The fasten your seatbelt light came on and as nobody had told us what was happening, we thought we were in for a crash landing. I took Helen on my lap and Mum took Ingrid. All of a sudden we were on the ground and saw a small tin hut hidden in the scrub. This was Daly Waters, where the plane was supposed to make a mail drop and pick up. We were relieved indeed. We stopped at a few more small places and in Palm Springs. Arrived in Adelaide at night, where we were put up in a small boarding house for the night. The next day we boarded on ANA plane. However, the fun was not over by a long shot. We ran into some really bad weather and the pilot took the bouncing and shuddering plane higher and higher, in order to get out of this storm. A lot of people were getting sick and the stewardesses and several passengers were on oxygen. During all this commotion, I was making Ingrids bottle in the pantry, being airborne half the time. Mum was helping somebody put the oxygen mask on. For some reason, we were not affected. After landing in Perth, we took off pretty soon for Kalgoorlie. Mum's family was there in strength, to meet us. We spent the whole holiday in Kalgoorlie and all too soon it was time to leave again. This time we flew with the Mc.Robertson Miller airline to Darwin, again in a DC3. There was an Asian boy on the plane, bound for Darwin and the stewardess asked Mum whether she could keep an eye on him. Unfortunately for the boy, he became terribly airsick and so much so, that he had to leave the plane in Carnarvon. We landed in Derby and stayed overnight in Wyndham. This shows you, how much slower the planes used to fly. Wyndham consisted only of the older section near the meat works. The hotel is still exactly the same as it used to be in those days. We noticed this during our tips around Australia. We stayed overnight in Darwin and were woken up at four the next morning, with the message that we had to leave as soon as possible. This was rather strange, as the plane was scheduled to fly out at about eight. It was till dark when we got on the wharf and we were not bothered with any customs formalities as there were no customs officers there. The trip back to Soerabaja was uneventful and from there we were again flown to Batavia.
We spent one night in our old home and then boarded our plane for the Netherlands. It was a KLM Constellation, carrying a maximum of a hundred passengers. Ingrid was again in her travelling basket and Helen did not have eyes enough for the things going on around her. It was a long flight. First landing was at Bangkok and then Calcutta. Here were given a real nasty welcome by the Indian officials. They kept shifting us around and delaying our leaving for the hotel. Passport control was slow and they kept us waiting whenever they could. This all, because of the situation in the Netherlands East-Indies. Next day we left for Karachi and then flew on to Baghdad. On this leg, we ran into a terrific thunder storm. The whole sky lit up at times and in the end I could not watch it any longer. Mum however, enjoyed every minute of the spectacle. We landed in Baghdad at daybreak and it was noticed that one of the engines was leaking oil. There were long streaks of oil along the fuselage. It was decided, to fix the engine, before going any further. We received the same treatment here, as in Calcutta. It was freezing cold and we were not allowed to leave the vicinity of the plane. An Indonesian colleague of mine, who had been in my class at the naval academy, was also on the flight together with his Indonesian wife. Those poor people were shivering uncontrollably and were nearly as white as ourselves, due to the cold. We left late in the day and landed in Rome. There it was colder still. On the way to Amsterdam, we flew over the Alps and it was a magnificent view in the moonlight. I tried to get Mum to have a look, but she had covered herself with blankets as it was terribly cold in the plane and refused to have a look. Just before midnight, some day in November 1947, we landed at Schiphol airport, near Amsterdam. My parents were there to meet us and to take us to Baarn, where we would stay until we knew where I was going to be posted.
Straight after arriving back in Holland, I was given two months leave, but this was rudely interupted early in January 1948, when I received a posting to the frigat Johan Maurits van Nassau, where I was given the task of navigation and gunnery. The naval base den Helder, was were we had to make our home. This was hard for a start, as this township had suffered some damage during the war and was not geared to take the sudden influx of navy personnel, who had previously been equally divided over the European and colonial possessions of our country. There was thus a severe housing shortage, but the authorities were hard at work putting up new housing areas. We were lucky enough to obtain one of the new homes, which was rather small, but sufficient for our needs. We moved in, early in the year. Den Helder was in those days only a small township, situated at the extreme northern tip of the province of North-Holland, separated by a channel from a string of islands, stretching out towards the north-eastern provinces of the Netherlands and the German border. In the short summer months, it could be reasonably comfortable, but when autumn and winter set in, it used to be bitterly cold. Helen went to school and Willem arrived on the twenty third of June that year. After serving for about eight months on the Johan Maurits, during which time we carried out anti-submarine exercises south of England, I was lucky enough to get accepted for a long torpedo course, which would take a year to complete and this meant being posted ashore. During this period, I was sent to Plymouth, in the U.K., for a three week tactical course. After completion and passing of the exams, I was posted as Second in Command in the torpedo workshops. There we repaired and tested the course and depth setting instruments and in general all the working parts of the torpedoes, such as their engines and gyroscopes. We had an instrument section as well and also a laboratory, where we did material testing. After spending a year there, I was transferred to the torpedo workship Mercuur as torpedo ranging officer. This entailed firing torpedoes for testing purposes.The ship was based in Den Helder and this was as good as a shore based job.
Our task was to test all the torpedoes in stock in the navy magazines, and to effect any changes they might need to make them running true to target. To this end, we had a large workshop on board. Early in the morning, we used to take about eight torpedoes on board and prepare them for firing. This meant checking oil and fuel, charging up with compressed air, setting the course and depth mechanisms and changing the war head for an exercise head or blow head, as they were called. An older type submarine was made available to us, to take the torpedoes on board and fire them at a target, which we would anchor in certain positions. An old motor torpedo boat was used, to chase after the track at the torpedo after it was fired, in case trouble developed. We had to account for every torpedo that was fired and in the event of loosing one, we had to keep looking for fourteen days before abandoning the search. The torpedo would loose speed at the end of its run and a flap would come up under pressure of a spring. This would allow compressed air, to empty the water out of the blow head and so give it boyancy. The follow boat would then indicate the torpedo's position and we would go down to pick it up with a crane, which was mounted on the forecastle. Once recovered, the torpedo would be run through, to get rid of the salt, and a roll of graph paper, which we had inserted before the shot, in a special recorder, would be taken out. We would study this graph to see whether the torpedo had run satisfactorily. If not, we would alter some settings and give it another go. If the torpedo had performed well, then it would be sent back into storage. This work was mainly carried out in the summer months and we used to start at first light and finish quite late in the evening, as at the northerly latitude where we were living, the sun used to set late during the summer. If a torpedo became lost through malfunction, we had to search until dark and employed divers to go down in the position it was last seen. As there was a strong tide running in the area, it used to be quite difficult at times to recover the lost torpedoes. It did not happen often and only one was lost for good during my stay there. One day a torpedo was set for a certain hook shot but malfunctioned and raced up onto a beach where people were swimming and sunbathing. You should have seen the panic that developed there.
Except for occasional watch keeping duties on the headquarters ship, I would be home after work. We acquired two motorised bikes, on which we would drive around the country side or to the beach, depending on the weather. It was not very often that we went to the beach though. All the houses in our street were lived in by navy personnel, mostly of our own age group, with the result that there were always a lot of children playing in our back yard. Mum had established a vegie garden which helped a bit, as in those days the navy pay was nothing to write home about. At one time, we borrowed a car from one of our friends, and made a bit of a trip through Holland. We slept in or beside the car, which made it a bit of a rough trip but nobody seemed to mind. We still have shots on our eight mm. film of this trip. In the winter, the paddocks behind our house used to become waterlogged and turn into a sheet of ice. We used to slide to the back fence with a chair and our skates. While learning to skate, it was easiest, to push yourself along behind a chair. This gave you balance, while getting the feel of the skates. In the end, Mum, Helen and I, used to get along quite well. Helen used to fall a lot on her behind for a start, but I think this was half the fun for her. One time, we stayed with my parents in Baarn for a few days, while there was quite a bit of snow about. We took our sled to a small hillock in one of the parks and had quite a lot of fun. Most of the times, Willem wanted to pull the sled along and used to get quite peeved when we tried to get it off him. Winter was not much fun, the nappies which Mum put out on the washing line, used to freeze solid and then had to be defrosted in front of the fire. Another problem was, that the water pipes used to freeze up quite frequently.
All in all, it was a dreadful change after living in Australia and the tropics. A lot of our friends were talking about resigning and migrating and quite a few actually made that move around 1950. Around that time we made a car trip to the south of France with our friends, the Schotmans, the people we had lived together with in Java. It was a nice change from life in Holland. We left one evening, after having parked you children with my parents in Baarn. We drove through the night and arrived in Brussels very early in the morning. We found a little bistro, where we had breakfast. There were quite a few locals there already, drinking glasses of wine and a kind of liquor, at that early hour. From Brussels, we headed for Paris, where we arrived that evening and moved into the hotel, recommended by some acquaintances. This proved to be a terrible dinghy joint, but as we were only staying for two nights, we decided to put up with it. We had a good look around in Paris, climbed the Eiffel Tower and walked along the Champs Elysées. Here we found a small restaurant and decided to have a drink. We decided on a nice glass of red wine and as I had forgotten the French word for glass, I asked for four glasses de vin. Unfortunately, the waiter understood this to be four glaces de vin and arrived with four icecreams, with wine poured over them. After that, I left the ordering to the others. From Paris, we drove via Lyon, situated on the banks of the Rhone river to the province of Savoye, where we camped near Aix-les-Bains. This township was situated close to the Swiss border, alongside a lake. As we had brought a tent, we decided to camp out for the night. We found a spot between the lake and the railway line, in the middle of a nice grassy paddock. The tent was only made for two or three persons, but we managed to squeeze all in. During the night some cows arrived, and in due course started to nudge the sleepers who were on the outside. Not much rest was had by any that night. Early in the morning, the train rattled past and we decided to cook breakfast and get on the road again. We travelled south, through some very mountainous country. The road was clinging to the side of a high rockface in a lot of places and it kept winding in all directions. Late afternoon, we drove through a little hamlet, where we bought home made cheese and wine. With thoughts of having a delicious dinner, we tucked into this lot, only to find the cheese tasting like soap and the wine like vinegar. As our supplies had run out, we just had to go rather hungry that night. The next day, we arrived in Nice. A relative of our companions was consul here and put us up for a few days. We had our lunch, on the terrace of a little restaurant which had a pergola covered with grapevines and with a lovely view of the country side. We made side trips to Monaco and Juan-les-Pins and one night we went for dinner to a little village, perched on top of a rocky mountain, called St. Paul de Vence. This was a real medieval town. The towns gate and streets were too narrow to drive a car in and they had to be parked outside the city wall. We climbed the narrow streets and finished up in a town square, right on top of the rock. There was a restaurant there, where we had a nice dinner and we danced and drank a lot of wine. At day break, we went to the old bakery and bought some fresh French bread, which was delicious. It was soon time for us to go back to Holland, where we arrived in due course. We stayed a few days with my parents and then took you children home.
My grandmother [Oma Cor] had passed away in December 1948 and had left her three story house to my aunt and my father. My aunt and her husband [Nel & Gerrit van Sillevoldt], had been living in with my grandmother for quite some years, but when my uncle died in July 1950, it was decided to make some alterations to the house, so it could accomodate my aunt as well as my parents. Separate entrances were constructed and my parents took over the top stories, leaving my aunt to occupy the bottom section. This arrangement worked out very well.
As the navy had plans, to acquire some American submarines, I was sent to the American torpedo works in Rhode-Island, to learn the ins and outs of the American torpedoes and their firing systems. For this purpose, I spent two months down there, during the months of January and February 1951. It was bitterly cold, worse then Holland. During 1951, we made enquiries in regards emigration to Australia. There were that many people with the same idea, that it proved very difficult to get anywhere. In the meantime, Mums parents had written to us, telling us that there would be a job for me on the goldmine, that Mums father was developing. Papers were sent over, to prove that I would be employed upon arrival and with these, we had another go. The navy however was not in any mood to let me go and in the meantime put me in command of the Mercuur, with the instructions to sail her via the North-Sea and the Caledonian canal. which joins the east and west coasts of Scotland, to Loch Long, west of Glasgow. There we had to assist with the testing of a new torpedo firing system, in the development of which I had been involved. We had to test this from a depth of three hundred feet. As I was part of the test team, I accompanied the other members when we went down with a submarine to this required depth. The first shot went fine, but with the second, something went wrong. The door, that normally closes the torpedo tube automatically, could not be closed and we were stuck in the mud at the bottom of the Loch. The commanding officer, alternatively blew ballast from the front and rear ballast tanks, which resulted in benches and crockery sliding in all directions. Eventually, we worked ourselves free and surfaced. The accompanying ship was just ready to send an emergency signal to "Submarine rescue" as the worst was feared. The experience was not worth repeating. On the trip home, we encountered a severe storm in the North-Sea and I had to give the order, for everybody to wear life jackets. The heavy crane on the forecastle made the ship slightly top heavy and she was not really designed for this kind of weather as she was more meant as a support vessel operating close to base. The end of the year, we decided to do what some of my other colleagues had done. They had sent their wives and children back to Australia and had asked for a posting to New-Guinea. In practice, it seemed easier to receive a discharge from the navy, doing it this way. Mums parents booked the passages for her and you three and we started to get things packed. I put a request in, to be transferred to New-Guinea and this was approved. There were not many volunteers around for service in that far off land. Early February , the four of you embarked on the Oronsay, and sailed from Tilbury to Fremantle. As soon as the date of my own departure came through, I sold the remaining furniture to the people who were going to move in to our house and went to Baarn, to spend a tew days with my parents, before leaving for New-Guinea. Was given all the necessary shots for typhoid and cholera, which made me as stiff as a board and then finally the day came for me to leave. My parents took me to the plane and I said farewell to Holland. As the plane took off, the meadows and neat little villages disappeared in the mist and a new chapter of our lives had begun.
Thus, early in March , I flew by KLM Constellation, via Cairo, Karachi, Bangkok and Manilla to Biak island, situated at the north Coast of Dutch New-Guinea. Here I spent a few days in transit in a navy camp. The Americans had used this island as an air- and supply base during the war. The camp consisted out of Qonset huts, which were constructed out of curved, corrugated iron. No air conditioning, and conditions on a whole were pretty primitive. Except for KLM personnel and some harbour authorities, nobody else but some Papuans, lived on this island. Finally, I was transported by an old DC 3 to the oil town of Sorong. The flight along the north coast of New-Guinea was breath taking. Never before had I seen anything so wild and unspoiled. We landed on a little island near Sorong and then had to be transported by motorboat to the town proper. This took a full hour. My destination was the corvette Boeroe, ex RANS Toowoomba, which we had bought from the Australians in 1946 [minesweeper renamed Hr.Ms. Boeroe]. My new job was executive officer or second in command. My task was, to keep the ship running as efficient as possible, which included maintenance, personnel distribution, training and any thing else you could think of. At sea, it was my lot to do the midnight to four a.m. watch every night, as this would relieve the commanding officer of responsibillity during the most difficult hours of the night. This was a standard procedure in the navy. When not at sea, I was totally free of watch keeping. Sorong, was a specially created loading point for the oil, that was being extracted far inland. Huge pipelines, constructed along tracks bulldozed through the jungle, brought the oil in to a tank farm and a loading jetty. We only came into Sorong to take on supplies and refuel, otherwise we were patrolling along the islands, forming the new border with Indonesia. There are hundreds of little coral islands out there, completely deserted. Some afternoons, we used to anchor just outside a coral reef and lower the motor launch. Everybody who could be spared from duty, was then taken ashore to go swimming or walking along the beach. We also did a lot of fishing, by hanging a light over the side at night, to attract the fish and then use handlines. When steaming along, we used to watch for schools of Kingfish or Mackerel and then stream lines with cotton lures attached to them, from the mine sweeping booms. The whole ships crew was then munching big hunks of fried fish for lunch or dinner. We used to check on small communities along the coast line, right up as far as Hollandia on the, at that time, Australian New-Guinea border. To do this, we had to go up big rivers in our motor launch and were then received with a lot of fanfare by the native village heads. One day, while inspecting an area along the northern coastline, a group of bush Papuans emerged from the jungle. They were trading bush products and one of them traded me a drum tor an old pair of shorts. I brought this drum back to Australia with me, but it eventually fell apart in our changeable climate. Another time, I acquired two stuffed birds of paradise.
The area along the south-west coast was particularly interesting, because there, the first Dutch settlement had been made during the last century. The buildings had by now crumbled into ruins, but there was an interesting old graveyard. In a settlement, a few hundred miles away, there lived a lonely Dutch administrator, who livened up considerably when our ship dropped anchor in the bay. The C.O., the chief engineer and myself, went to pay him an official visit. His house and office were in the same bamboo building. He organised a rice meal and the beer and bols gin were flowing in quantity. As we did not want the motor launch to be kept waiting, we sent it back to the ships with the message that we would wave from the ramshackle jetty, when we wanted to be picked up. As the lunch was rather drawn out and the administrator kept us spellbound with his stories of New-Guinea, it was on dusk, when we got back on the bamboo jetty. Our arm waving did not produce any results and the CO therefore decided to jump in a canoe, made from a hollowed out tree, and paddle to the ship which was anchored about a quarter mile out. Nobody saw him arrive and there was some consternation when he suddenly climbed over the rail. Needless to mention that the launch arrived very smartly after that. Our CO had a parrot, of which he was particularly fond. One day, while steaming along in full sea, the parrot decided to go for a spin and flew off the ship, doing some circles and then flopped into the water. The CO, who had seen his wayward bird take off, did not hesitate one moment. He peeled off his shirt and dived over the side, while I virtually stopped the ship and made it do an around turn. We were ready to lower the launch and dropped a rope ladder. The CO in the meantime, had recovered his pet and with it sitting on his shoulder, was breast stroking towards the ship. The whole crew was petrified that our CO would become a snack tor the many sharks that inhabit these waters and I was wondering what kind of telegram to send to navy HQ in that case. Luckily, we got him and his bird back on board in one piece. In the meantime, I was trying to obtain my discharge from the navy. All efforts had so far failed, but by a stroke of good luck, we received a visit of the chief naval chaplain one day. He was prepared to put in a good word for me and lo and behold, two months afterwards, I was given the good news that I would be honourably discharged on the first of September. It came in very handy, that we had to call in Hollandia at this time, where our navy HQ was. First of all, I had to get certificates of good behaviour, so I could apply for an entry permit into Australia. These were easily obtained and sent off in a hurry. My entry permit arrived about a week before I was due to fly out. My flight to Sydney was paid for by the navy, after that
I had to find my own way. The last week on board. I did my packing and had a look at the area around Hollandia. My relief had taken over and I was waiting tor transport to Biak, from where I would fly by KLM to Sydney. As before, I flew to Biak in the usual DC 3 and had the misfortune to have to wait there for a few more days. For the Sydney plane. At last, I stepped on board a Constellation of the KLM, late one atternoon in early September and Ianded the next day in Sydney. The Dutch consulate provided me with some cash and organised the flight to WA. I tried to ring the mine, where I thought you would all be, but finished up getting the sheep station. They said that they would check whether Mum was there and I would ring up again later. It proved that you were all in Kalgoorlie and as I did not know where to ring to, I phoned aunt Edna, to let her know that I was on my way and notify you all. The day, I had to wait in Sydney for my connection to Perth, I utilised by seeing the Mc Kenzies. He came to fetch me in his car and also brought me back to the hotel that night. The next day I flew to Perth, where Uncle Les picked me up at the airport. Stayed the night with the Huntleys and was put on the plane to Kalgoorlie the next morning. About ten a.m. that day, I landed in Kalgoorlie, where you were all waiting for me.
9. Kalgoorlie and Yundamindra.
A few days after I arrived in Kalgoorlie, we packed up the old Chevrolet three tonne truck, which grandad used for carting stores and materials to the mine site, and started on the one hundred and eighty mile trip to Yundamindra. The bitumen ended near Broad Arrow, about twenty miles north of Kalgoorlie and after that there were deep, wide corrugations for another one hundred miles. It was a dusty and rough trip. The load kept coming undone and we were glad to get to the old mining town of Kookynie, where the road changed into a one car bush track. From here on, it was nice and peaceful. Kangaroos and rabbits everywhere. We crossed the stone bord of lake Raeside, the water coming halfway up the wheels, as there had been quite a bit of winter rain. Eventually we arrived at the mine, which would be our home for the next four years. There was not much at the site in the form of buildings. Grandma and grandad had a small house and there was a slightly bigger one a few hundred yards away, housing the Cox family. This was a large family, pretty rough, but very dependable. Cox was the machine miner and a Jack of all trades. In between these two houses was another one, more like a duplex. We were housed in one end and two Italians, named Tony and Joe, at the other end. Uncle Edmund slept in a humpy across from grandma and grandad. Another Italian, also named Joe, had a camp in the bush with an underground cellar, in which he kept his barrel of claret. This to keep it cool as well as hiding it from the niggs, who had broken into his place once and knocked off all the grog. The mine itself had a little workshop, an oil and fuel store, an engine room and a change room, in which we made up the fuses needed for firing the charges. A poppet head had been erected over the main shaft which at the time of our arrival was down to about one hundred and twenty feet. The shaft was going down at a so called 'underlay' which means at a gradient and then at about a hundred feet it straightened up to the vertical. Alby Cox and Joe used to drill down below and fire. Young Joe and Tony were labourers and gave a hand where needed, something we all had to do anyway. Edmund was on the hoist and did a bit of maintenance work, until a proper engineer arrived. I ran the ten head battery, looked after the slimes dump and collected the amalgam, a mixture of mercury and gold. From the copper collecting plates, when the broken dirt came to the surface, it was dumped into a cracker, where it was broken into a fairly even size. From there it went to the ore bins above the battery by means of a conveyor belt. From the ore bins it was guided into the boxes where the stamps would pulverise the stones. Water was added and the movement of the stamps would slosh the mixture through a screen onto the copper collecting plates, where the gold would adhere to the mercury treated surface of the plates. Every now and then I would scrape the amalgam up in a heap with the aid of a rubber scraper, but leave it on the plates so it would collect more gold. The trick was, to keep it like putty. If it became brittle, the amalgam would break off and flow away with the wash water. At the bottom of the plates was a small trough, to trap any gold that might slip past, but we always lost a very minimal amount, that could later be recovered by a cyanide extraction method. To keep the plates clean, I had to scrub them with cakes of cyanide and at the end of the working days I used to remove all worth while amalgam from the plates and take it home for safe keeping. In the beginning. there was quite a bit of development work going on as the mine was an old working, which had been abandoned in 1904, due to the gold seam moving into a strata of hard rock and the heavy groundwater seepage. The softer oxidised zone, nearer to the surface had been worked out except for some pillars, left to support the workings. The gold was situated in seams of blue and white quartz, sandwiched between granite and greenstone. The seams were not all that wide but very rich in places. A lot of virgin rock had therefore to be moved, to sink the shaft further down and to put in horizontal drives. Once the drives were in place, rails were laid for the skip or trolley. Some timber frames were put in one on which timber was placed and chutes constructed at certain intervals. When this was done, the drillers would drill the rock above them and shoot it down on the timber. By opening the chutes, it could then be dropped into the trolley and carted off to the shaft. Here, the dirt was tipped into the ship in which it was hauled to the surface. The rock was shot down until the drive above was reached, which then created better ventilation tor the drillers. This method of mining is called stoning.
We worked six days a week and as long as was needed to keep the place running properly. If the dewatering pump broke down, we had to keep going until it was fixed. The mine used to make a lot of water and after a day and a half of pump stoppage the drive used to be under water. Once a week Mum, grandma and you three children used to go for a stores run to Murrin-Murrin, situated about fourty kilometers north of the mine alongside the Leonora-Laverton railway line. The track used to be very sandy and rocky in places and passed a lot of old abandoned gold mines. This trip to Murrin-Murrin used to be the event of the week as it provided some contact with the outside world. [Perth is located 900 km to the west.] Except for the people on the mine, there were not many families around. The main station building was about twenty kilometers to the south-east, but there was a woolshed and an old hotel building, a couple of miles away. Here lived a man and wife team, who looked after the shearers when they were there and kept an eye on this part of the sheen station. They were nice people, who used to kill and dress a sheep for us when we wanted one. For the princely sum of ten shillings to one pound we used to get a big heavy sheep. In the cooler times of the year, we used to go for Sunday picnics in the bush, which was good fun. There were a lot of places to go to and the wild flowers, especially the Sturt desert peas, turned the country side into a colourful picture. We also did a lot of rabbit trapping as there were thousands of these around and Alby Cox used to shoot kangaroos. I used to be quite fond of the kangaroo tail soup and the meat of the back was quite palatable as well.
Helen did correspondence school, supervised by Mum. When the lessons were over, you three used to keep busy with the Cox children or were entertained by the Aborigines. We had a few members of the Wongai tribe camped near the mine. In the morning they would came tramping down, to see whether they could get flour or other supplies in return for some housework or wood-chopping. Kitty was the leading female and the wife of Raymond, an imposing buck of great stature. He was bone lazy and needed Kitty's exhortations to keep him doing the smallest of jobs. Bob was Kitty’s father, an old and grey bearded native, always wearing a woolen beanie and in the winter donning a heavy green army greatcoat. He was a nice old man who could not talk much English, but made up for it with hand signs. He was very valuable when tracking kangaroos and could made nice boomerangs and other native implements. All the weapons we have at home were made by him. Sometimes the other natives would go walkabout and leave old Bob behind as he was getting a bit long in the tooth. During the day he sat in the shade of our bough shed and at night he camped on our back verandah. Mum used to keep him fed and in return he chopped all our wood. With the mine trucks we used to get large loads of dead mulga wood, which kept us going for months. He also had to cart our drinking water. There was a so called prospectors dam, built by the government at Eucalyptus. This dam was constructed tor the gold prospectors who were in this area around the turn of the century and was situated about twelve miles away from our mine, at the bottom of a long, gently sloping hill. It was made of concrete, with a root of corrugated iron and a mesh screen at either end. This to prevent animals getting in and fouling up the water. A handpump was also provided, which gave us plenty exercise while filling up a four hundred gallon tank. When we needed water, we usually made it a family outing and the long, slow and bumpy ride and the time spent pumping, filled a good part of the day. Yundamindra used to be quite a big township in its heyday. There used to be four hotels and about six thousand people. Judging by the huge pyramids of bottles, the hotels must have done a roaring trade. It used to be a fossickers paradise, with old bottles and tins and other delectable objects, all around the place. Funny enough, we did not bother much about those things at the time, but coming back there a few years ago, there were still some bits and pieces around, worth collecting. There used to be one more family living in the neighbourhood. The Crocker family was a typical example of the Dad and Dave mob. They lived in a two room dwelling, the walls constructed out of rammed mud and here and there reinforced with stones. The walls were covered with hessian and the floor also consisted out of dirt, stamped hard as concrete. The roof was made of tin. Corrugated or otherwise. A few lean-tos of mulga sticks and greenery completed their mansion. The family consisted out of mother, father and son and made their living out of collecting and selling sandal wood and a bit of prospecting. They had a small three head battery to treat their ore and their backyard would have done a salvage yard proud. In the beginning we used to collect our mail there, but later on when the mail run stopped, we did the Murrin-Murrin trip ourselves, as I already mentioned earlier on.
On one of our trips in the neighbourhood we went to Mount Margaret Mission. This place was situated somewhere in the bush on the way towards Laverton. The Mission educated Aboriginal children, who at this point in time used to be forcibly taken away from their families and brought up by the Government. The children were housed in separate buildings for the girls and boys. The girls dormitory had even barbed wire around it. They looked all well dressed and waved and smiled. The boys were taught a useful trade and the girls learned how to keep house, sew and cook. The unfortunate thing was however, that when they were let out at a certain age, all the fine clothes were discarded and all the things the girls had been taught, were soon forgotten as they were again assimilated in their tribes and vanished into the interior.
Every few months or so we all went down to Kalgoorlie, shopping for stores etc. Grandma and grandad had a house in Kalgoorlie, where we stayed on those occasions. As grandad had decided to spend more time in Kalgoorlie, he appointed a mine manager in his place. This change created a chance for Helen to go to a proper school, as correspondence lessons were not really the answer to a proper education. She would stay with grandma and grandad and they would bring her up when they visited the mine or we would come down on a weekend at the end of a production month, bringing a gold bar with us for lodging in the bank. At the end of every month we would clean out the battery boxes and scrape the plates. The gathered amalgam would then be retorted to extract the gold from the mercury and the gold, which looked at that stage more like a yellow honey-comb, would then be melted and poured into a mould to form a bar. With a bit of acid and a steel brush, the bar would come up nice and shiny.
Our first holiday we spent in Perth. We had rented two rooms in one of the University dormitories. These became empty during the end of the year break and were then rented out. We visited some friends while in Perth, and on the whole had a good time. We made the trip from and to Kalgoorlie by train, which was also entertaining.
After about a year, we decided to bring Helen back to the mine as she was missing family life. You children had quite a good time up there. The Aborigines used to take you for hunts and gave you the taste of bardie grubs and roasted goannas. You used to swim in the water tanks next to the battery and later on in a concrete pool underneath a cooling tower, erected for one of our big diesel engines. The water in there was always luke warm, which was handy when the cool season arrived.
During the rainy season we all used to go to the creek, which was situated about one kilometer down the hill. There used to be thousands of mushrooms and we enjoyed having them on toast for breakfast or with mashed potatoes for dinner. They were there every year, which was quite a boon. Sometimes we had severe rain squalls, when everything loose or not too securely fastened would blow away for hundreds of yards. On one such occassion the chooks yard took off and our chickens were running around in circles, squawking like mad and with feathers coming off. After the storm had passed, they looked virtually plucked.
During one wet winter, a claypan on the track to Mount Remarkable had been flooded. A lake of a mile in diameter had been created with a good depth of water. The weekend after the rain, we packed up the three tonne truck with matresses and food and had a lovely time out there, swimming and walking. There was an anxious moment, when butcher birds started to dive bomb you children, but we managed to scare them off.
One day, some different native groups came together on the
flats down from the mine. They gathered for a corroboree, and
singing and dancing went on for most of the night. Dozens of
mangy looking kangaroo dogs were scrounging around the place and
naked piccaninnies were running around the fringes of their camp.
The following evening, grandad decided to give them a bit of a
scare. He obtained some fuze lighters from the munition store and
sneaked off into the bush, next to the Abo's camp. There he put a
bundle of these lighters in a tree, lit them and made off in a
hurry. The commotion in the camp was enormous and the bucks came
racing out, brandishing their spears. If grandad had not been so
fast, he would have been in for a nasty surprise. The natives
must have thought that some evil spirit was stalking them and
were quite upset for the rest of the night. They left soon afterwards. Later on we told Kitty and Raymond what had happened and
they had a bit of a giggle about it themselves. We never saw this
particular bunch of natives again.
A new shaft had been sunk, to try and pick up an extension of the gold reef. We went straight down to two hundred and fourty feet and then cross cut to see whether we could pick up the seam. Production was stopped during this period and we worked in two shifts. It was long and hard work and when we hit the reef, a terrific amount of water came gushing up. All the water which had accumulated in the old workings above it for the last fifty years, was released and filled our shaft right up to the surface. We pumped two weeks to get it down, which enabled the Italians to grow a vegie garden. When we eventually got the water down, further exploring proved the reef to have been petered out. Extra men put on to assist with this job were now put off. The mine manager also went and the engineer took charge. This was an older man, called Walton, whose wife, a very corpulent lady, was living there with him. Old Walton taught me quite a few things of the engineering trade and was a real good sort. Mrs. Walton became ill and was taken to the hospital in Leonora, where she passed away. We all drove the hundred kilometers to Leonora for her funeral. This was to be held in the morning, but heavy rain had made the job for the grave diggers rather difficult. It took a bit of doing to keep the coffin down in the hole as seepage tried to float it up again. A bit embarassing to say the least. We had made the big mistake to accept a ride to the funeral from the Cox family. At that time we did not have a car of our own yet and Alby and his wife were heavy drinkers. The few nips after the funeral turned into a lot and it was not until dusk that we could entice Alby to start on the way home. Halfway there, he suddenly stopped the car, announced that he was tired and rolled underneath the car. We tried to pull him out, but he became so violent and abusive that we gave up. Eventually he condescended to come out from underneath and Mrs. Cox then drove us home. This was the last time we went for a ride with him. It was a bit of a draw back to live that far away from everywhere, especiIally as far as medical help was concerned. One day, Mrs. Cox was bitten by a redback spider while on the dunny. Their car was under repairs, so grandad's had to be used. His car however had headlight trouble. Thus we drove to Leonora in the dark with Mum driving and me standing on the running board of the old Buick giving directions. Luckily there was some moonlight later on, so I could get back in the car. Standing out on the running board was quite a cold affair. We had Mrs. Cox treated and returned home without much trouble. One time, we had very heavy rain. Just on the day that grandma, grandad and Edmund were supposed to come up from Kalgoorlie. Late in the afternoon, grandma and grandad came walking up the track, announcing they were bogged down the creek, but were quite happy to leave it there until the morning. A while later Edmund arrived. He was also bogged down. Now it was decided to try and pull them out but our car also got bogged. The cars were there for three days before we managed to free them.
Another time, we came up from Kalgoorlie with the runabout. We were running late and by the time we passed Menzies, it was dark. Had to have the headlights on and slow down because of the state of the road. There were many gates to open and at one of these we decided to stop for a refreshment. When trying to start the car we could not get it going. The battery was flat and it was impossible to push start it in the heavy sand. In the end I finished walking eighteen kilometers through the pitch dark bush, to get help from the mine. I arrived there at day break and went back in the truck to pick you all up.
As in the not too far off future you would all have to go to school, Mum and I decided to see whether we could find a job away from the goldfields. During our next leave, we went to Perth again and bought a Ford custom sedan. We had a look at some blocks of land south of Busselton but they did not look very promising. Also applied for a job with BP in Kwinana. When we arrived back on the mine, things had changed a bit. Grandad had decided that the mine was no longer a Company proposition and the directors in Melbourne agreed to let it out on tribute. This meant, that anybody could come to an agreement to work the mine as it stood, sell the gold and pay a percentage to the company.
Grandad had arranged for Edmund, old Joe and myself, to take this on. The three of us managed to run the place satisfactorily and used to get a good living out of it. We therefore decided to knock the job back which I had been offered in Kwinana and try to boost our finances for another year before making a move to leave.
One time, Mum and you three were staying in Kalgoorlie with grandma and grandad to do some shopping or whatever. As old Joe wanted to go down there the weekend after – I thought it a good idea to take him down and see you all. This I did and Sunday night I took off again for Yundramindra. About ten miles before reaching Kookynie, the car started to play up and I had trouble to start it and to keep it going. Therefore I called in at the Kookynie pub, which was run by an ex policeman who used to sell grog on Sundays. He could not be of much assistance, but thought that one of the six inhabitants of this hamletian old prospector might be able to help. This old chap was living in the old gold storage room of a long defunct mine, and was only too happy to have company. He talked and talked and opened up a flacon of extra heavy port. By the time we got that down it was pretty dark, and my host who must have been fortifying himself since day break, was becoming rather incoherent. At last I managed to coax him into giving me some advice on what might be wrong. He thought that it might be the glass bowl inserted in the fuel line as a filter, that might cause the trouble. It could possibly have a hair-line crack. He had an old Ford truck, which he used to go out gathering sandalwood with. The fuel pump on that looked the same as mine, minus the glass bowl. He told me to take it off and to return it when I came along next time. He staggered off to bed and I dismantled his fuel pump under the light of a kerosene pressure lamp, took mine off and replaced it with his. It worked like a charm and I was off like a shot as it was now about midnight. The next weekend I went down to pick you all up and returned his pump after having done repairs to our car. It just shows you, how in those days people used to help and trust each other in the bush.
After a while, we again became a bit fed up with the way things were going at the mine. A bit of bad feeling developed and we had enough of the life up here. We used to receive a magazine, in which government crown land was advertised and in one of these, we noticed blocks just south of Bunbury coming up for selection. We put in for these old Mr. Walton, who was now living in Perth with his daughter. He promised to put in a good word for us, as he knew one of the members of the selection board. When I was called for an interview we all went down and had a look at the block we had put in for. It seemed allright to us and when we got back on the mine we started to make plans, what to do if we were succesful. Not long after, we received news that we had been allotted Boyanup AA no. 257, a property of one hundred and fifteen acres, six miles south of Bunbury.
My Father had passed away in November 1955 and as there was a possibility of my mother coming for a visit we decided to make our move sometime in 1956. We packed all our things in July and carted them to the rail siding at Hurrin-Hurrin. We still had the large packing cases in which our belongings had come from Holland. The few things we needed every day we could take in the car. I told my work mates that we would be leaving after the next battery clean up. That day arrived in due course and the same evening we piled all our remaining belongings in the car. There was just enough room above the back seat for you children to lay flat and be comfortable. Our chickens were put in the back boot. It was already dark when we left and that night we camped in the bush, somewhere south of Menzies. We lit a huge campfire that night and we all felt excited with our new adventure. The next day we called in to see grandma and grandad in Kalgoorlie, took some money out of the bank and were on our way. The tyres on the car were a bit old and we suffered four punctures, the last two of which had to be repaired in pitch darkness with rain drizzling down. We also carried three galahs, which we had taken out of a hollow tree some months ago. Mum had hand fed them and they were now very tame. One sat on the steering wheel of the car while we were driving along. The other two marched along the back of the front seat. This caused quite a few inquisitive looks from people in Perth when we passed through there. One chicken died on the way, but the other four made the trip without mishap. We arrived on the block at about two o'clock in the morning. There was a slight drizzle and it was pitch dark. We drove up an existing track and pitched camp for the night roughly near where the house now stands. You children slept in the car, while we laid on the ground, protected by a thick blanket.
The next morning we went for a walk along the boundary to see what the back of the block looked like. After some deliberation, we decided to clear a spot for the house near where we had camped for the night. We made a bush pen for the chickens who by now, together with the galahs, were tearing out bits of grass and buttercups. A big dead red gum log provided us with a constantly burning fire and when the packing cases were carted in a few days later, we made our beds in them. For water, we had to drive to Bunbury, where we found a tap along Ocean Drive which in those days consisted out of a narrow bitumen track with very few homes along it. We organised a water borer to put a bore down and put a pump on. You children went to school and Mum managed to get a job in a hairdressers shop as she was a master hairdresser herself. This was the same shop she later managed and bought for herself. In the meantime, we had cleared a spot for a house and I had ordered some building materials. When you all arrived home in the evening, you used to give me a hand to put the walls up which I had put together during the day. We finally managed to get the roof on and then had a dry place to sleep. Then came the walls and a stove, the windows and doors and when this was done, I got a job at Western Titanium (in Cape), to add a bit to our finances. At that time, we were still thinking of farming, but as you all know, things developed differently. The rest of the house was gradually added, the block fenced, and some land cleared. As I am sure that all of you can remember what happened in the years following, I think this to be as good a point to finish my recollections, as any. This story will give you some idea of our youth and early experiences in life.
Researched and written by W.H.J. Haasse
[Crest by W.H. Haasse *1889]
Notes on Family History.
Originally written by W.H.J. Haasse in 1990, but now with additions added in 2003 after having obtained more information from German sources.
By making use of family documents and information obtained from family members when I was young, I have written a history of our direct family line and also included information in regards of those families connected to us by marriage. It has been very hard to dig so far back, as the last known abode of our family was in Römersberg, a village in central Germany, in the former principality of Hessen. Going from that last infomation, I have been able to delve further back. The family moved to Römersberg from Singlis, another village about 10 kms to the north. The damage inﬂicted during the last world war, had as a result that a lot of buildings were destroyed and with it a lot of documents. Römersberg and Singlis were in the path of the XX Corps 3rd US Army, when this unit carried out an offensive towards the city of Kassel in late March 1945. This city was the centre of major German war industries and the base of German Army group B under command of general Model.
The city and its surroundings were subjected to so called saturation bombing by the allied air ﬂeets over a period of about two years. Singlis, situated about 30 kms and Römersberg about 40 kms to the south west of Kassel, must have had their fair share during that period. When the XX Corps US 3rd Army advanced towards Kassel, there was heavy ﬁghting near the Fulda and Eder rivers, very close to the two above mentioned villages. The tanks of the 6th US armoured division steamrolled through the area, in order to break the last German resistance. The old church in Römersberg was partly destroyed with some of the old church registers.
During 1990, I managed to obtain some information from Das Kirchliche Rentamt in Fritzlar, a city to the north of Röfmersberg. Later on, when I got on the internet, I obtained information from Das Landeskirchliche Archiv in Kassel. This gave me information as far back as 1697 when the church made a start to keep registers in Singlis. Any information from further back is hard to obtain as some documents are too hard to decipher. Another problem, was the fact that whoever ﬁlled in the registers, spelled the given name as they thought it sounded and did not bother too much to make sure they got it right. Luckily I had enough to start out from and managed thus to piece, whatever I got hold of, together.
At present, I am the only one able to translate our family documents and therefore decided to do this little exercise, especially as later generations might like to look back and then might be able to detect in themselves certain characteristics or capabilities, already displayed by their forebears. It is also interesting to note, that a leaning to administrative, military, artistic and literary tendencies runs in the family.
[Some of the archivalia that Wim adds are nearly illegible ; we give them nevertheless, because Wim attached importance to them.]
1. Germany and the early period in the Netherlands.
Our family originates from central Germany, from the area around the city of Kassel, in the principality of Hesse. This area was, since the fourth century the heartland of the old German tribe, called the Franks, who eventually extended their inﬂuence over the area now known as France, Belgium and part of the Netherlands. This became known as the empire of King Charlemagne in the seventh and eight centuries. In the ninth century, this empire was split between his three sons. The area of Hesse being in the eastern part of the so called Holy Roman Empire, ruled by a succession of German Emperors. Thios Empire gradually fell apart in a conglomeration of independent Kingdoms and Principalities, who more or less did as they pleased from the fourteenth century on. The principality of Hesse operated as an independent entity from early in the ﬁfteenth century. When a new German Empire was created in 1871, the King of Hesse recognised the overlordship of the then created German Emperor. In 1918, all the royal houses in Germany abdicated and Hesse became a province of Germany.
My great-great-great grandfather, Johann Conrad Haasse was born in Singlis on 20-12-1733. My great-great grandfather Johannes, had left a document stating the names of his parents, brother and sister, which gave me a point to work back from. Johann Conrad was a musketier in the Hessian army and was absent for long periods. All the men in Hesse were required to do military service and were well trained. The Ruler of Hesse made money out of hiring his forces out to anyone who needed military assistance. This caused the men under his rule quite a bit of hardship, as they could be shipped off without much notice. A lot of them were sent to the British American colonies, to try and put down the insurrection by the colonists. Approximately 17000 Hessian soldiers fought in America, 6500 did not return home. About 75% of them were killed, the others stayed in America.
Johannes Haase so im Vorigen
Jesu allso gedienet [ ? ]
hat sich bei dem Gottesdienst und Gebrauch des heiligen Abendmahls unsers Herrn JESU Christi in unserer Gemeinde eingestellt. Wird demnach für ein Mitglied der nach GOttes Wort Reformirten Kirchen erkannt, und als ein solches männiglich, denen diser Schein vorkommt. bester maßen empfohlen,
Hessen Erfurt ....9 t. May 17...
This letter was issued in the town of Erfurt, in Hesse. He either joined the Army of the Duke of Brunswick-Wolffenbüttel, whose domain bordered onto Hesse and whose troops were lent to the United Provinces of Holland, or he must have gone to Holland on his own accord and joined the army there, or he may have gone to Holland with a French regiment, which was stationed in the town of Hannover near by. He ﬁnished up however in the forces of the United Provinces of Holland, who were embroiled in wars with their neighbours and who were also having internal squabbles. On the 26th of July 1791, he joined the third battalion of the third half brigade of the regiment Westerlo in the capacity of corporal, in those days the highest non-commissioned rank in the army.
The Netherlands was engaged in wars with the Emperor of Austria and on and off with the English. The French had decided to come to the aid of the Dutch, more or less for selﬁsh reasons. The Prince of Orange had been forced to leave the country due to political intrigues, and the English, who gave him shelter, made use of this fact to gradually capture most of the Dutch overseas territories. This was done under the guise of protecting it for the Prince of Orange and his family, but in reality, it turned out differently. In 1797, a Dutch Admiral, named Braak, made a name for himself while defending the Dutch islands of Curacao and St Eustatius, situated in the West Indies, against English fleets. This is mentioned because in years to come, his great-granddaughter would marry Johan's grandson. [There is no evidence for this claim.]
Johan was ﬁrst based in the township of Woerden. While based there, he married Anna Elisabeth Smit [Anna Elisabeth Schmidt], who also originated from Johan's hometown, Römersberg [also written Rheimsberg, Riemsberg]. Whether she followed him from there or whether she arrived with her family it is not known. It is probably right to say that Johan must have known her in his home town, as it would be too much of a coincidence for people from the same small village in Germany to meet in the same town in Holland.
Marriage Certificate of
Johannes Haasse & Elisabeth Smit
The marriage took place on the eighth of November 1795, with the burgomaster and council members in attendance. As far as we know, no children were born out of this marriage [George Nicolaas was born out of this marriage on 9 Dec 1797 in Leiden]. Anna could possibly have died in child birth or could have died due to sickness. Another possibility is that she could have been killed during an invasion of the province of North Holland by the English and Russians, as Johan's regiment was stationed there at that time for its defense. In any case, no further data are available about her.
[Doc. text In Dutch : Den 8en November 1795 zijn ten overstaan van Schout en Scheepenen der Stadt Woerden in den Huwelijkschen staat bevestigt
Johannes Hasse/Haasse N van Römersberg Corporaal onder het 3e Battalion der 3e halve brigade alhier als Guarnisoen
Johan left the army on the 18th of May 1801, in the township of Hoorn, situated in the Province of Nth–Holland. His discharge paper is to be found on IV, Afst.lijn Haasse. He went to Amsterdam for a while, but it seems that he joined another army unit later on.
This cannot have been to his liking, as in 1804 he was back in civilian life, applying to the city council of Amsterdam for a permit to carry out work as a carpenter and he worked in this profession for some years.
Ik ondergetekende secretaris van Schepenen der Stad Amsterdam verklaar, dat Op Heden — in de Echtstand zijn verenigt Johannes Haase en Maria Elisabeth Fischer. Alhier Amsterdam, den 6. May 1804. J G Cornet.
On the 6th of May 1804, Johan married again, this time with Maria Elisabeth Fischer. The marriage took place in the so called "Oude Kerk", or "Old Church", in Amsterdam. In 1806, a son named Johannes Christiaan was born.
Marriage certificate Maria Elisabeth Fischer and Johannes Haasse
5me A r r o n d i s s e m e n t.
Passport Johannes Haasse
Appartenance au nommé
baston de }
département de }
arrivé à Amsterdam
et surveillant en qualité de }
chez........ demeurant }
Signature du person
Donné à Amsterdam,
agé de 52 ans à Rheinsberg
de depuis gent [Gand]
den Haage Prinsestraat nr. 9
le 30 Juillet 1817
The French were now in full control, having enthroned a brother of Napoleon as King of Holland. Not long after, Holland was completely incorporated into the French Empire. Dutchmen were called up to serve in Napoleon's regiments, many times conscripted with force. All existing army units had also been incorporated in French regiments and many regulars and conscripts died on the fateful march to Moscow in 1812. Johan served for a while in the French armies and then returned to his carpentering. A passport issued to him at that time describes him as being 5 feet 7 inches tall with brown eyes, small mouth and pale skin.
The second son, Willem Hendrik, was as a result of his absences, not born until the 29th of July 1816. His birth took place in the township of Nieuwkoop, situated in the province of South Holland. Johan and Maria had
made their home there after the end of the French occupation. It is interesting to look into the background of Maria Elisabeth Fischer, especially as her father, Carl David Fischer, left a notebook containing comprehensive information in regards to his family and his own career.
1) Permission to join carpenter's guild for Johannes Haasse
2) Birth certificate Willem Hendrik
2. Life Story of Carl David Fischer.
Carl David Fischer was born on the 14th day of July, 1733, in Dresden, the capital of the Kingdom of Saxony and was christened on the 16th of July in the St Cray's Church. His father was Johann Christoph Fischer, who was serving with the Saxony–Weissenfeld regiment and stationed in Dresden at that time. Johann Christoph was born in Thuringia, in a place called "Thamsbruck" [now part of Bad Langensalza], situated about 40 kilometres north west of the town of Erfurt.
His father, named Hans Barthol Fischer, lived in the so called "Tham House". Carl David's uncle Johann Christian Fischer, still lived there when Carl was born. Another brother of his father, Johann Michael Fischer, lived in Langen Salza and died without leaving any children. Johann Christian Fischer had two sons, Bladius and Johann Christoffel. Both went missing during the war with Austria. There were also two daughters but their names were not recorded. A third brother of his father was in the army in Bohemia and died in Carlsbad. His father's fourth brother, Johann Heinrich Fischer, went to Hildesheim and worked as a bricklayer. He had seven daughters.
Carl's mother was Anna Maria Wank, born in Langen Salza in Thuringia. Her father was Christian Wenk, Master carpenter of the city of Langen Salza. The surname of Christian's wife was Pfafﬁn. Carl's mother had two brothers. The eldest one was named Christoph Carl Wenk and lived in Wernigerode in the Harz mountains, near Halberstadt. He was a master pewter and silver smith. The second brother, Johann Christian Wenk, also lived in Wemigerode and was a master tailor. He had four sons and three daughters. Nothing else is known about them. Carl David was brought up in the Lutheran religion, just as parents, relatives and ancestors had been. He diligently attended school lessons and church services. When his father was not in the army, the family lived in Langen Salza, where he attended school. When his father was off to the wars, his mother saw to it that he kept to his studies and taught him the moral values of life. On his 14th birthday, he was confirmed in his church by the head dean Hedenius. He was then sent to his uncle, Christoph Carl Wenk, in Wernigerode, to be apprenticed in the profession of pewter and silversmithing. After completing his ﬁve year apprenticeship, he travelled around in order to gain more experience in his trade. He worked one year in Nordhausen, then again for a while at his uncle's workshop. Then he went to Heilbronn, Switzerland, Meinigen, Dresden and Bohemia. During the war of 1756 and 1757, he travelled to Tirol and worked for a Mr Gallus Topeller, in Innsbruck. He also worked for some time with a Mr Hertzing in Graubundenland. He decided to return to Heilbronn and while travelling through Schwabenland, in Württemberg, he was pressed into serving in the Württemberger militia. During a revolution in the town of Stuttgart, he escaped together with thousands of others, who had also been forced into military service. He made his way back to Heilbronn and started work again with his former employer. Not long afterwards, the press gangs also arrived in Heilbronn and Carl decided to go back to Switzerland for the time being. He made his way back there via Frankfurt am Main and Strassburg. He found employment in Bern, the Swiss capital, but after a year, he was forced to leave due to bad treatment by his employer. As a last resort, he joined the Swiss-French regiment of Marshall Jenner. He turned to his commanding ofﬁcer for help, in order to obtain the money owing to him by his former employer. Through that man's operation, he managed to recover the money. With the regiment, he was transferred to Hannover and served a few more years while stationed in that town. Then he left the army and followed his trade in Osnabrück. Two years later he travelled to Holland and settled in Amsterdam. On the 12th of December 1761, he married Margretha Lynetha Lethmades, of Osnabrück. On the 11th of November 1762, at half past ten in the evening, a son, named Lodewijk, was born, who was christened on January the 14th. On the 1st of July 1764, at three a.m., a son named Johann Christoffel, was born. He was christened on the 25th July that year. On the 15th of August 1771, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, a daughter named Anna Maria was born. She was christened on the 18th. On the 3rd of November 1773, at half past ten in the morning, another daughter was born, her name was Maria Elisabeth and she was christened on the 5th of November. She was the one Johan married on the 6th of May 1804. On the 11th of December 1773, at half past five in the morning, Carl's wife died, probably due to complications which set in after childbirth. Carl and Margretha had been married for 12 years minus one day. She was buried in the Antonius graveyard on the 15th of December 1773. Carl never remarried and passed away on the 2nd of January 1786 and was buried on January the 8th.
Carl David wrote a little prose shortly before his death. Unfortunately this was written in a mixture of old German and old Dutch as Carl David had as yet not become ﬂuent in the use of the Dutch language. Therefore aspects of meaning may have become lost in the translation into English, but I have tried to reproduce it as close as possible to the original:
"My struggle in this world and how God revealed himself to me by means of a miracle.
I had always wanted to know what the meaning and purpose of God, the world, eternity, humanity and my own soul was and had therefore searched and researched and had not been able to come to a full understanding of this. With all the powers in my possession and by thinking deeply and with humble prayers and supplications, I tried to receive this knowledge and also knowledge about myself, from God. Instead of ﬁnding God and self knowledge during this diligent search, an evil ghost appeared, who I noticed several times after I ﬁnished my prayers. It hovered over me in the terrible shape of a bat with spread wings. My soul trembled and shook and it moved up and down my body, which felt dead at the time, as a yellow-blue ﬂame. I passed out and after coming to, my body used to shake and tremble for a long time.
The appearance used to make me very sad, more so as I saw it many times during a period of about four years, in which I lived in great fear wherever I went. Living alone, it affected me even more. I prayed daily to God to protect me and love me, so Satan could not hurt me. During this period of visitations by Satan, I was half silly with fright and alone at night in bed. I lay half dead with fear. My daily prayers to God and my faith in him, eventually made him give me an unexpected answer.
——————— "Search for me in prayer and you will ﬁnd me in time."
I could not put this answer out of my mind and from then on, during my daily tasks, during which I felt close to God, I felt happier in mind and body and I did not see Satan anymore and my suffering ended. God had redeemed me. Even when I failed to pray as much as I used to, or should have, I experienced no further visits from Satan. However when I failed to pray or did not do so with the necessary conviction, then I had to suffer with much bodily temptations".
3. The Period the Family spent in Nieuwkoop and surrounding districts.
Johan and Maria spent the rest of their lives in Nieuwkoop, where Johan made a living as a master carpenter. The date of Maria's death is not known, but Johan died on the 14th of January, 1845. Johan must have been a person of strong character and great determination to have been able to make a future for himself in war torn Holland, especially as he arrived in that country without any prior knowledge of the native language. It is possible, however, that he made himself understood in French, which was widely spoken in Holland at the time
and which was also the language in which different European countries communicated with each other in those days. Johan was also skilled in the making of furniture. A round dining room table which he made was in the possession of our family for many generations. Johan took a great interest in his sons‘ education, to enable them to have a better start in his new country, than he had as an immigrant. Johan must have acquired the old maps and several old 17th century books which we still have in the family, as he was a keen reader, a trait passed on in the family through the next generations. F rom him dates also the medallions with the painted miniatures of Napoleon's battles. Another memento, a cavalry pistol, dating back to Johan's army days, was still in my mother's possession just before she died. Though nobody knows where it could have disappeared to, it may have been stolen during the many shifts from ﬂat to ﬂat, which my mother made during the last years of her life.
The village of Nieuwkoop is situated about 24 kilometres south south east of Amsterdam and about 20 kilometres west of Utrecht. The area is fairly low laying, containing small lakes, left behind when a much larger area was reclaimed. At present, it is all farm land, mostly given over to dairying. The townships and villages of Noorden, Woubrugge, Zevenhoven, Harmelen and Nieuwkoop, which are all mentioned later on, all lay in close proximity of one another, the distance between the farthest, about 25 kilometres. In the time that Johan settled here, roads were in fairly bad condition. Most of the transport and travelling was done by water, by means of the numerous canals, rivers and lakes. At that time, there were only about 500 kilometres of hard, weatherproof roads in the whole of Holland. The remainder were dirt roads or sand tracks and these were hard to negotiate during winter. The rural areas therefore, were more or less isolated from the cities and this made life in these areas more close knit.
Johannes Christiaan became town clerk of the city of Harmelen and surrounding districts. He married Maria Mathilda Swillens, daughter of the mayor of Nieuwkoop, who was a Roman Catholic, and born in August 1801. Johannes Christiaan changed his religion and the couple settled in Harmelen. They had only one child, a daughter, named Gesina Maria Joanna Haasse. Her date of birth was the 26th of April 1835.
Johannes Christiaan died in Harmelen on the 26th April 1879, and was buried on the 30th. His wife died on the 18th August, 1879, and was also buried in Hannelen on the 1st of August 1879. Their daughter, Gesina, never married and died in Harmelen on the 5th of March, 1880, being buried there on the 9th of March.
Willem Hendrik was educated in clerical work and at the age of 27 years, became bailiff and clerk of courts of the townships and shires of Woubrugge, Nieuwkoop, Zevenhuizen and Noorden. His job also entailed the receiving of local taxes on land, property and drainage. As already mentioned, the rural areas were quite isolated from the cities and the long and difﬁcult routes of communication added to the responsibility of the job and made it necessary to be resourceful and independent.
He married Neeltje van Eyken, who was born in Zaltbommel on the 5th of August, 1810. The marriage took place in the year 1838, but neither the exact date nor the place are known. Neeltje's father had been in the navy and had been honourably discharged in Antwerp, then a Dutch city, on the 13th of July, 1830. His last ship had been the frigate "Java". He settled in Zaltbommel and bought a vessel with which he transported cargo up the [Rijn] Rhine River.
Willem and Neeltje stayed in Nieuwkoop and all their six children were born there. Johannes was born on the 5th of September, 1840, Hendrika on the 12th of June 1842, Maria Elisabeth on the 19th of January 1844. Unfortunately Maria Elisabeth died on the 6th of March 1846. Lucas was born on the 10th of January 1846, but he also died in his infancy on the 10th of May, 1847. On the 1st of November, 1847, another girl was born. She was also named Maria Elisabeth. Neeltje, born on the 10th of March, 1850, was the last of their children. On the ﬁrst of May 1850, the family shifted to Woubrugge. Another shift was made soon after, this time to the city of Rotterdam.
4. The period the Family lived in Rotterdam and Baarn.
In Rotterdam, Willen Hendrik again took on a job as bailiff. Later on, in the mid seventies he took the position of head clerk in charge of the administration of the newly created water supply department. The family moved into a new home, situated at Noord Plein no. 10. Whether this area of Rotterdam still exists, I do not know. [It still does.] A lot of that particular part of Rotterdam was destroyed in bombing raids in 1940.
Up until 1853, drinking water in Rotterdam had been carted to the houses and stored in tanks and a lot of people still used water from the rivers. This resulted in several outbreaks of cholera and typhoid epidemics, which claimed a lot of lives. The last one occurred in 1868. The new water supply scheme, was designed to provide water from the dune systems by means of a pipeline and pumps. It took until the year 1853 to get this system set up, but eventually the whole city was connected to this scheme and the health of the inhabitants improved markedly.
Willem's wife died in Rotterdam on the 11th of March 1855. The reason for her death is unknown. On the 30th of December, 1857, Willem remarried. This time to Geertrui Korpershoek, who was born in Hillegersberg, near Rotterdam, on the 17th of April 1815.
Willem's son Johannes was called up for military service on the 1st of May, 1859. Unfortunately he died on the 10th of March, 1860 and was buried in the Krooswijk cemetery on the 13th. The cause of his death is not known. Luckily another son was born on the 4th of April, 1860, named Willem Hendrik Johannes after his father and dead brother. Willem's daughters were by now all married. Hendrika married Hendrik Grimmelinkhuizen, Neeltje married David Floris Etienne de Wette, a merchant from Tiel, and Marie married Alphonsius Josephus Hendrikus Mouwen.
Birth certificate W.H.J. Haasse
Marriage certificate of W.H. Haasse and Geertrui Korpershoek
1) Birth certificate Johannes Haasse
2) Call up for national service Johannes Haasse
1) Geertrui Haasse-Korpershoek, Willem Hendrik Haasse, Willem Hendrik Johannes Haasse
2) Hendrika Haasse, Neeltje Haasse, Marie Haasse
Geertrui Korpershoek, Willem's second wife, had brought six children out of a previous marriage to Gerhard Hendrik Schupper, into the household, ﬁve daughters and one son. One of these daughters, named Pietje, never
married. Marie married Leendert van Kesteren, Cato married Hendrik Drukker, Geertruida married Karel Brandwijk and Hendrika married Hendrik van Ommen. The son, Hendrik Schupper, married Anna van Duin. Gerhard Hendrik Schupper had been shire clerk of the Shire of Kralingen, near Rotterdam.
All these children and their numerous offspring, used to come and visit their parents most Sundays after church, which kept the family close. Willem had a large garden behind the house and when the weather was favourable, everybody congregated out there and exchanged family news or talked about the topics of the day. Willem Hendrik was also a lover of books and started a collection, which his son would eventually enlarge. He also collected pieces of bric-a-brac, some of which are still in the family today.
Willem Hendrik Johannes did the necessary schooling and studied to be a teacher. He passed the ﬁnal exams for assistant teacher on the 25th of April, 1878.Two years later he succeeded in becoming a fully qualiﬁed teacher.
On the 18th of April, 1883, Willem Hendrik Johannes married Cornelia Francisca Braak. [The assertion,] Her mother Neeltje was a granddaughter of the earlier mentioned Admiral Braak [, is unsustainable. Nevertheless,] it is alleged by her peers and close relatives, that Cornelia Francisca's mother had been romantically involved with the Crown Prince of the Netherlands, Prince Willem of Orange (born 1840 and died 1879). This alleged relationship resulted in due course in the birth of a daughter named Cornelia Francisca, on the 2nd of September, 1861. Wim : “This fact has always been kept from my sister and myself, possibly because in those days, children born out of wedlock were not as acceptable as they are today.”
Marriage certificate of W.H.J. Haasse & CF Braak
However, this fact remains that during Cornelia Francisca's life, certain hints were often dropped in the close family circle about the great likeness between her son, Willem Hendrik and King Willem the Third of the Netherlands. It was not until later when my sister Helene Seraﬁa van Lelyveld, born Haasse, did research for one of her books, that more information came to light from one of Cornelia's relations, then in her 80's, who vouched for the truth of this matter. By chance, my sister met a grandson of Cornelia's half brother, who was cultural attache at the Dutch Embassy in Brussels, who conﬁrmed that Cornelia's father was in fact the earlier mentioned Crown Prince. The man’s name was van Dommelshuizen. His grandfather had been an actor and had his own theatre group. He had known my grandmother's mother and had married her shortly after my grandmother's birth. It is also interesting to know that Cornelia Francisca received regular sums of money from a source unknown to us, for the remainder of her life.
Cornelia Francisca Haasse and Willem Hendrik Haasse
However, due to a lack of documents, we cannot conﬁrm the identity of her father with absolute certainty. The amounts of money received by Cornelia Francisca, must have been quite substantial because the salary which Willem Hendrik Johannes received as a teacher, good as it was for those days, would on its own not have been sufﬁcient to keep them in the lifestyle which they enjoyed. The extra income must have certainly contributed to their ability to eventually purchase the lovely three storey countly home on a few acres of ground, in the township of Baarn, to which they retired in later years. On top of this, the couple became guardians and looked after ﬁve of their nieces and nephews after the parents of those children had died and took care of their education. This will be referred to later. [Hoofdst. III].
House in Baarn
On the 27th of March, 1884, the couple had a daughter named Geertrui: Nellie, or Cornelia, was born on the 17th of June, 1886. Geertrui died accidently on the 3rd of July, 1888. The next child was a son, born of the 19th of May 1889, named Willem Hendrik.
The couple lived in Rotterdam for many years. Willem Hendrik Johannes was of a rather artistic disposition and ﬁlled his spare time with the writing of prose and stage plays. He also liked to paint and took a great interest in art of any kind. He bought the folio with Albrecht Durer's wood engravings and did the translation of an earlier edited booklet, explaining the meaning of the engravings. He did a lot of reading and had a large library. PeopIe in those days did not have many forms of entertainment. They had to devise ways and means of keeping themselves amused. By reading, walking, and through arts and social get togethers in clubs or societies, where plays were enacted or people just congregated socially. Their lives must have been very full indeed. Willem Hendrik Johannes was called up to serve in the militia on the 16th of May, 1885, and therefore had to attend regular drill and training sessions.
On the 15th of August, 1890, he was released from his obligations to serve any longer on an active basis in the militia and was transferred to the reserve for another four years. He was also a keen stamp collector and at the time of his death, left his albums and boxes full of stamps, containing specimens of many of the earliest issued stamps of most European countries and the United States of America. He collected almost everything, including coins, matchboxes, mineral specimens and butterﬂies. He also kept ﬁles full of newspaper clippings of events that had occurred over the years.
Unfortunately most of these collections disappeared during the years of the Second World War, as did most of his books. In later years, he did a lot of bush walking and used to make a yearly visit to the provinces of Limburg and Overijsel where there were large stretches of natural habitat. Here he would walk through the forest or over the heather, observing birds and other animals through his binoculars. He was also a fairly good painter and created a few oil paintings, one of which is still in our possession.
Death notice Willem Hendrik Haasse and death notice Geertruij Haasse
On the 26th of October, 1898, Geertrui senior died. Her death was followed on the 11th of December 1899 by that of Willem Hendrik senior. On the 10th of January, 1900, Willem Hendrik Johannes was appointed guardian over Geertruida and Karel Grimmelinkhuizen, children of Hendrik Grhnmelinkhuizen. He died on the 18th of July, 1893. His wife Hendrika Haasse died on the lst of November 1899. On the 18th of June 1900, Willem Hendrik Johannes also became guardian of Willem Hendrik David Floris Etienne de Wette and Geertrui de Wette, children of the late David Floris Etienne de Wette senior and his wife Neeltje Haasse, who
died on the 23rd of May, 1898. Gerhard Hendrik Schupper had carried out the function of guardian since May 1898, but had passed away on the 27th of March 1899. This resulted in the need to appoint a new guardian over the children.
Nellie married Gerrit van Sillevoldt who had extensive land holdings in the shire of Kralingen, adjacent to Rotterdam. He lived off the proceeds of his holdings and speculated on the market. He kept at least a dozen hunting dogs at the time, in kennels in the backyard. Every year, since his young days, he used to go shooting goose, quail and pheasant during the open season with his ﬁiends who owned large properties in the east of the Netherlands. According to his wife, Nel, his family had owned a small castle near the hamlet of Silvolde, in the province of Overijsel, but were dispossessed during the internal troubles in the 1790's.
Death notice W.H.J. Haasse and death notice Maria Elisabeth Haasse
Aunt Nell and uncle Gerrit Corrie Cosgrove
They only had one daughter, Cornelia, who was born on the 11th of February 1915. In later years, Nel and Gerrit were troubled ﬁnancially. Soon aﬁer Willem Hendrik Johannes' death, which occurred on January the 3rd 1935, they moved in with Cornelia Francisca, who by then had bought a slightly smaller home, big enough however, to house two families in comfort and privacy. It is interesting to note that Willem's sister, Maria Elisabeth, died on the lst of January, 1935, in the town of Leiden.
National service call up W.H.J. Haasse
Nel had a leaning towards writing and produced some children's books. One of those, called "Grandmother‘s Magic Box", was written when I was a very young child. It was based on the life of my Grandmother Cornelia Francisca and her grandchildren. I remember reading a copy of this book later in life. Willem Hendrik grew up and was educated in Rotterdam. He attended primary school, high school and technical college where he studied accountancy and bookkeeping. As a boy he also received spiritual education in the Scottish Church, which came the closest to the Lutheran-Evangelical religion of his family. He won several prizes for good attendance and scholastic effort in the form of books. These books are still in our possession. As a young man, he took an interest in school stage plays and choirs, and he was a good essay writer. On the 27th of November 1909, he passed his exams for bookkeeping and accountancy, and on the 29th of October, 1910, he passed his exams in English Commercial and Business correspondence.
His ﬁrst job was with the water supply department, where his grandfather had previously worked. Not long after, he joined the Shell Company. Eventually the urge for travel, which appears to be a recurring trait in our family, made him leave his job and apply for a position with the American Petroleum Company.
Cornelia Francisca Haasse-Braak and Willem Hendrik Johannes Haasse
a "Navy wife" of the eighteenth century.
D.J.A. Roodhuyzen-van Breda Vriesman wrote in 1992 Anna Braak, een achttiende-eeuwse marinevrouw in the Tijdschrift voor Zeegeschiedenis (1992 jg 11 nr. 2), pp. 115-136. As Wim came to read this article, I suppose, he got the idea that his grandma Neeltje Braak possibly descended from the Braak family of sea captains and naval officers in the service of the Republic, and told Hella about it. Wim translated the main part of the article, forgetting to state the author's name, wanted to incorporate it into his writings but was unsure where to put it, so he shoved it somewhere in between until further notice. Of course we don't publish it.
Wim writes under Roodhuyzens article : “The last Pieter Braak mentioned in the above article, appointed Lt 1795, is the direct forebear of my grandmother Cornelia Francisca”. Wim nor Hella nor others have been able to substantiate this claim with documents. The genealogical bridge from Pieter (*1773) to Neeltje (*1830) Braak cannot be constructed. See here for further information.
5. The period in the Netherlands East Indies and the Netherlands.
At the age of 22, Willem Hendrik left for Java, in the steamship “Wilis”. He arrived there on the 11th of November 1911 and received a permit to take up residence there. He worked in Soerabaja and Batavia (now Jakarta), and at some time joined the Department of Finance and Taxation of the then Netherlands East Indies. In 1915, while stationed in Batavia, he met my mother, Katharina Diehm-Winzenhöler, who had come out to Java in 1914. He saw her play the piano at a recital in the concert hall in Batavia and got to meet her afterwards. They struck up a friendship and three months later, he asked her to marry him. They were married on the 2nd of March 1916, in the “Willems” Kerk in the city of Batavia. My mother Katharina Elisabeth Diehm–Winzenhöler was born in Frankfurt am Main, on the 5th of June 1893. This city is situated in Germany alongside the Main river. Her mother, whose maiden name was Helene Weitzel, had been born in 1871 and was of Hungarian descent. The Diehm-Winzenhöler family owned vineyards and a winery near a town called Kreutz-Wertheim, also alongside the Main river. Leonhard D-W married Helene when she was about sixteen years old. He was 30 years her senior. He was a master dress maker and tailor, who had come to learn this trade from his father in law. He was not much of a husband to his younger wife and her life was unhappy. He was rough with her and she started to detest him. In 1892, during a festival, in which she was crowned as the festival queen, she met A.G.C. de Vries. They fell in love with each other and a romance developed. As a result, my mother was born on the 5th of June 1893. Helene already had a daughter Lily and a third daughter Suzie was born two years after my mother. In 1895, my grandmother decided to leave her husband and she asked for a divorce. She went to Holland and the girls went to a boarding school while divorce proceedings were in progress. A.G.C. de Vries and my grandmother were married. He was an antique dealer and stockbroker. After the marriage, the young girls moved into the home of A.G.C. de Vries, which was situated on the Keizersgracht, nr.633, Amsterdam. This was a 17th century house, built long, high and narrow, because of the building requirements of that time. Properties were taxed on street and canal frontages. The house had four storeys and was filled with beautiful antique furniture, drawings and paintings. The family lived there most of the time and de Vries had his ofﬁce in the same building. The family also owned a villa in Heemstede with a large back garden fronting the river Spaame.
The address was Jeroen Boschlaan 7. The villa was named De Meermin ["The Mermaid"], after the mermaid on his family crest.
After the daughters had all left and got married, Helene and A.G.C. retired to this villa and only visited Amsterdam for business or to go shopping. My grandparents de Vries liked the good life and were much involved in the social events which took place around them. As a child I visited both houses. The one on the Keizersgracht always made a gloomy impression on me, possibly because it was so old and some rooms were musty, as the house was built alongside the canal. The house in Heemstede however, was nice and sunny, with ﬂowers in the garden and a shed alongside the river where my sister and I used to enjoy ourselves. Because of us living overseas, I did not see these grandparents much, neither did I have much contact with them. My grandmother Helene contracted cancer and died on the first of July 1933, after a protracted illness. She was then 62 years old. Grandfather Gerard lived for another ﬁve or six years, and died of a stroke. There is no record of the exact date.
Death notice Helene Serafine de Vries
My aunt Lily married Sander Bijl de Vroe, an ofﬁcer in the Netherlands East-Indies army. When he retired, he was in charge of the Pyro technical workshops in Bandoeng, on the island of Java. He was then a Lt Colonel. They had three children, Lily junior, who married an air force captain, but later divorced. Corry, ﬁnished up marrying a concert violinist, and Gerard junior, joined the Netherlands army. After ﬁnishing his studies at the Royal Military Academy, he was posted to the Netherlands Grenadier Guards regiment and was made a prisoner of war in 1940. Towards the end of the war, he was transported by train from a prison camp in Poland to another camp in Austria.
He managed to escape through a lavatory window and made his way to Vienna, where he went into hiding. Was liberated by the Russians, but promptly arrested again with many other allied prisoners and put on transport to Russia. Luckily he managed to escape again and reach the American sector in Germany, from where he was shipped home. He continued his army career and finished up as commander in chief of the Guards regiment. After his retirement, he went to Kenya to grow tobacco, but returned to Holland a few years later. He died in 1989 at the age of 74.
Aunt Suze married a Mr Spoor, but later divorced and remarried Jan Schatborn. They had one daughter, called Kathe.
My father and mother spent most of their working lives in the Netherlands East-Indies, except for seven month leave periods which were spent in Holland. My sister, Helene Seraﬁa, was born in Soerabaja on the 2nd of February 1918, and I was born in Rotterdam on the 4th of October 1921.
My mother had studied at the Royal Conservatorium of Music in Amsterdam and became so proficient in piano playing, that at the age of 16 she performed in the main concert hall of Amsterdam, for the King and Queen of Belgium, who were on a Royal tour.
My mother and father
Photo taken in Government Gardens Perth W.A.
After her marriage, she kept on playing and gave quite a few performances
in the concert hall of Batavia. One such performance was for the King and Queen
My mother also gave piano lessons and directed a women’s choir. This was made possible by the fact that the housework was done by servants and she only had to organise the daily tasks. Our normal home life was only disrupted when my mother contracted a bad form of pleurisy and was, as we found out in later years, wrongly advised to go to Switzerland for a cure in a Sanatorium. During this period, my sister and I stayed in Holland, while my father stayed in the Indies. In 1927, the family was reunited again, after having been separated for almost three years, and we all returned to Indonesia at the end of the year, after a short stay in the village of Baarn. My father gained steady promotions and became General Inspector of Finance and Taxation, a job similar to Deputy Commissioner. In this job, he travelled a lot around the Indonesian archipelago, to inspect the various offices and improve their efﬁciency, if necessary. My father was a strict, but just, administrator, who looked after his subordinates' well-being as a matter of pride, and treated everybody the same regardless of racial origin. One Javanese clerk, whom he assisted with obtaining a transfer for family reasons, was so grateful, that he gave my father a silver cigarette case with an inscription in the old Javanese script. In 1938 he was rewarded for his long and loyal service with a Knighthood Order of Officer, in the order of Orange-Nassau.
My sister and I went through the normal process of schooling and passed our leaving and tertiary entrance examinations. My sister went to Holland to continue her studies when she left school. She went to the University of Amsterdam and also studied a short while in Göteborg, in Sweden. When the war broke out, it became quite difﬁcult for her to carry on, but she managed somehow. She had a bad time during the German occupation of Holland. During these years she married Jan van Lelyveld, a lawyer, who spent some time in a German concentration camp.
As already described in my "Recollections of the past", I was called up into the army before entering the Naval Academy on the 6th of August 1940. My father had been due to retire in 1940, but could not return to Holland due to its occupation by the Germans. He carried on with his work and was arrested by the Japanese in March 1942 and spent the remainder of the war in a Japanese prison camp. My mother was interned about a year later and was kept in a camp near present day Jakarta.
After Japan's surrender, I removed my mother from the internment camp she was in, and sent her to Australia in a ship which was especially chartered for evacuation. My father was freed about a month later, and declared medically unﬁt for further tropical service. He was evacuated to Australia where he joined my mother. After spending some time in Darlington, near Perth, they returned to Holland and settled in Baarn.
As already stated elsewhere, my father was given a government job. He became director of an ofﬁce, which had the task to trace and track down valuable antiques, jewellery, paintings et cetera, which had been stolen and
removed by the Germans during the war. After some years however, he felt it was time to call it a day and tried his hand at the writing of detective novels. This proved to be a very lucrative hobby as his books sold extremely well and were later translated into English, French and German. He managed to write 15 books during a period of two years, under the "nom de plume" of "van Eemlandt", this name relating to the area where the township of Baarn is situated. His last book was only half written at the time of his death. The book was eventually completed by my sister Hella, Literary critics found his work to be as good as that of Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle.
Cornelia Francisca died on the 26th of December, 1948, and was buried in Baarn on the 29th. She was interred in the same grave as her late husband Gerrit van Sillevoldt died on the 30th of July, 1950, and was buried on the 2nd of August.
Death notice Cornelia Francisca and death notice Gerrit van Sillevoldt
It was now decided that my parents and
my father‘s sister would share Cornelia's house, and after some
alterations were made, to allow for separate entrances, my parents moved
My aunt Nel however, passed away, on the 2lst of September, 1952,
buried on the 25th. My parents now decided to build a smaller
themselves, as the old one they were in was too cumbersome to
and also much too large for the two of them. About
later, they moved to their new home, but unfortunately, my
father would not be able
to enjoy it for long. He had a severe heart
attack and passed away on the lst of November 1955.
He was cremated on
the 4th of November. His urn was placed in a niche underneath a big elm
tree, on the slope of a hill in the graveyard "Westerveld". As he had been
a rather active member of the Netherlands Astronomical Society, and had
left his self built telescope to this organisation,
honoured him by placing a specially designed plaque on his gravestone.
Death notice Nelly van Sillevoldt and death notice Willem Hendrik Haasse
My mother, Katharina, stayed on in the new house until my sister persuaded her to come and live in Amsterdam. She sold the house and acquired a flat in Amsterdam, so she could be closer to my sister. She made two trips to Australia in order to visit us. Eventually she moved to The Hague, as my sister had shifted there. Her health started to deteriorate however, and ﬁnally she had to be entered into a home where she could receive proper care.
On the 24th of January 1983, she passed away, and was buried on the 28th. On her special request, the urn containing my father's ashes was removed from "Westerveld", placed in a small box and buried with her. She was buried in the same grave where Willem Hendrik Johannes and Cornelia Francisca already rested, as this was large enough for four people.
Death notice Katharina Haasse
My sister, Helene (Hella) Seraﬁa van Lelyveld, became a proﬁcient writer. So far, her work includes twenty two books, historical and fiction, and also various plays and some poetry. Her books are studied in the Netherland's Universities and High Schools. She had won the most prestigious literary prize given in the Netherlands, and also some international prizes, such as the "Atlantic" prize. Many of her books have been translated into foreign languages. She regularly appears on television, giving lectures. She was also chosen to organise certain festivities for the 50th birthday of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who is also one of her personal friends. She did a talk back programme with the Queen, also in connection with the above mentioned celebrations. She has made trips to the United States, Canada and Indonesia in order to help with the marketing of her books, or on missions for the Netherlands government. Her latest book, based on records and information from early Dutch settlers in Indonesia, describes the founding of tea and rubber plantations by the
Dutch colonials in Java, and the struggles the early plantation owners experienced during their efforts, to carve these plantations out of the jungle.
Hella and her husband Jan, who was a High Court Judge, lived in Amsterdam and The Hague until Jan retired. Then they moved to the village of St. Witz, near Paris. In 1990 however, they returned to the Netherlands where they moved into a new built flat in the centre of Amsterdam.
During the year 1992, she received the Netherlands Knighthood Order of the House Order of Orange-Nassau, for all the work done for Dutch Literature. This is an order which can only be awarded by the Queen. Since its inception, only four of these have been awarded by the Royal Family. Upon my sisters death, the order will have to be returned to the queen, in contrast with orders awarded by the government, which can be retained by relatives.
In 1988 she received an Honorary Doctorate in Literature and History of The University of the city of Utrecht.
In 1984 she received the order of “Ofﬁcer des Arts et des Lettres“ from the French Government and was asked to lecture at the Sorbonne University in Paris. The first foreigner ever to be asked to do so.
Hella and Jan van Lelyveld
6. The Netherlands East- Indies, the Netherlands and Australia.
As already stated in my life story, I ﬁnished up in Australia after the Japanese invasion of the Netherlands East-Indies. After months of being shunted around, I finally reached my posting, the Netherlands anti-aircraft cruiser "Jacob van Heemskerck", which was a unit of the British Eastern Fleet, defending the Indian Ocean against Japanese incursions. In October 1942, we were transferred together with two Netherlands destroyers to the American 4th Fleet, based partly in Fremantle, Western Australia. Here we were employed on convoy duties, ocean sweeps, anti-aircraft defense duties, and one of our destroyers successfully evacuated Netherlands and Australian army units ﬁom East-Timor, where they had been operating against Japanese forces. Earlier attempts by several Australian vessels only resulted in the loss of some ships.
While based in Fremantle, I met Ethel May Annear, a local girl. We had planned to marry in June 1943, but operational changes made a postponement necessary. Eventually we got married on the 3rd of August, 1943, in the St George's Cathedral.
My fellow ships Officers formed a guard of honour with crossed swords when we left the church.
The ship was posted to a different theatre of war in December 1943, and I did not return until December 1945. In the meantime, Helen Elisabeth had been born on the 15th of July 1944, in the township of Midland-Junction, near Perth. We went to live in Java for a short while and Ingrid was born there on the 22nd of June, 1947. Transferred back to Holland in November 1947, we went to live in den Helder, the main Dutch Naval Base. Willem Hendrik was born there on the 23rd of June 1948.
In February, 1952, Ethel and the children returned to Australia while I got posted to New Guinea in March as executive officer of the frigate "Boeroe". On the 1st of September, 1952, I obtained an honorable discharge and flew to Australia, where I joined the family in Kalgoorlie.
7. The Australian Period.
As already told elsewhere, we spent four years in the goldﬁelds. My father-in-law was developing a mine at Yundramindra, about 180 miles north east of Kalgoorlie. A couple of houses had been transported to the site and engines had been acquired from old mining ventures. When we arrived after a bone rattling trip in an old lease-lend Chevrolet three ton truck, all that was there was the so called poppet head over the shaft, some engines and the quarters for the people employed. The mine had been worked in the late 1800's, and the reef had started to become narrow and unproﬁtable for the then existing mining methods. The shaft was further developed, the battery ﬁnished and production started. As also already stated, the mine eventually proved a bit of a dud and we decided to try our luck in the south west of the state, where we had acquired 115 acres of Crown land south of Bunbury.
While I cleared an area to build a house on, and started on the construction of it, Ethel returned to her profession of hairdressing, and eventually bought her employer out. After a few months, our house was far enough advanced for me to look for a job. I obtained work at a mineral mine called "Western Titanium NL", which was situated near the township of Capel. The plant was then only in the first stages of deveIopment, and thus I came in "on the ground ﬂoor," so to say. While there, I slowly climbed up the ladder, progressing from construction gang, to plant operator, shift foreman and a short while later as day workers’ supervisor. Then I became Shipping Ofﬁcer and eventually Personnel Manager, at which position I retired on the last day of February 1982, after 26 years of service with the company. The company had quite a few changes over the years due to take overs. When I retired, it was called Associated Minerals Consolidated.
Ethel taught Helen and Ingrid the trade of hairdressing, by having them apprenticed to her. Eventually, after both girls had married, she sold the shop (in 1974) and spent her free time on pottery.
When we had finished building the house, I started to clear small parts of the property in order to keep up with the requirements of the Lands Department, from which we had bought the property. In 1969, we were offered a house on the mine premises as this would be more convenient for the type of job I then had. In 1975, we decided to sell our property. We tried to get permission to sub-divide, but every attempt was refused. Therefore, we decided to sell it as a whole. While waiting for a sale, we bought a 1100 square metre block on the beach front in Busselton on which we built a home, as soon as the old pmperty was sold. When the house was finished, we vacated the mine house and moved into the new one.
10. Final Notes.
Helen Elisabeth married Douglas Mac Arthur Scott on the 16th of May 1964. They have three children, Natalie Elisabeth, born on the 25th of April 1966, Craig Douglas, born on the 11th of March 1968 and Ranae Andra, born on the 2nd of September 1971.
Natalie Elisabeth married Rupert Hartill on the 13th of April 1996. They have two children. Harry Scott Hartill, born on the 12th of September 1997 and Eleanor Mary, born on the 31st of May 2000.
Renea Andra married Peter Noone on the 7th of November 1998. They have two children, Jack William, born on the 20th of July 2001 and Daniel Scott, born on the 8th of July 2004.
Craig Douglas married Claire Alexandra Mac Neill on the 25th of July 1998. They have three children, Grace Frances, born on the 20th of December 1998, Rose Elisabeth, born on the 18th of July 2000 and Douglas Craig, born on the 2nd of September 2002.
Ingrid married Howard Max Pascoe on the 10th of September 1967. They have two children. Jason Morris, born on the 22nd of April 1970 and Katrice, born on the 11th of December 1971. Howard passed away on the 20th of November 2003.
Jason Morris married Angela Whitehead on the 20th of June 1998. They have two children, Robert, born on the 17th of September 1999 and Isaac Max, born on the 3rd of August 2004.
Katrice married Lorenzo Mascaro on 14-9-2003.
Willem Hendrik married Beverley Ann Guile on the 22nd of July 1972. They have three children.
Adam John, born on the 12th of December 1972,
Ryan William, born on the 6th of December 1974 and
Paul Andrew, born on the 24th of August 1976.
Adam John has a daughter by April Kirby, named Alexia Anastasia, born on the 20th of November 1995.
ANNEAR FAMILY HISTORY
Researched and written by W.H.J. Haasse
I receive to distribute
8. The Annear Family
There are two versions for the meaning of the family name :
1: That it is derived from the old Cornish word ‘Ennor’, meaning ‘black earth’ and ﬁnd its origin in the Cornish town of Penzance.
2: That it is derived ﬁom the ancient Phoenician-Greek word ‘aneer’, meaning ‘a man’. The Phoenicians used to trade as far as Cornwall and some might have settled there or in any case might have left some progeny.
In any case, the family originates in Cornwall [SSW England] and Annears are still to be found living in places like Probus and Truro.
In the early days, the family must have held a position of prominence as there is a registered ‘Blazon of Arms’ for the name Annear. A silver chevron on a red shield. Three black crosslets on the silver chevron. A red lion passant on a golden bar at the top third of the shield. On top of the helmet a black stork covered in golden dots.
The story goes that in the days of the Civil War, one branch lost everything and was what it commonly called ‘beggard’. The ruins of their estate are still visible at Balstock in Cornwall. This is believed to be the branch, the Australian Annears come from. The other branch is still well off. The Truro Annears still have an estate there. One of their members was a colonel in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry during the ﬁrst world war.
There is also a branch in Wales, represented by a Dr. Annear, medical ofﬁcer of a mental institution near Cardiff.
A branch also settled in Portsmouth or Plymouth at some time, others settled in other parts of England. The Registers containing Births, Death and Marriage notices in Cornwall, name a lot Samuels, Johns and Davids and a William Francis in the village or township of Probus. Possibly this could be where the Australian branch originates from.
Samuel Annear, came out to Australia in the ‘Scindian’ on the ﬁrst of June 1850. According to documented evidence, Samuel had been to America, serving in the Army. It is mentioned that he was a sapper (member of the Army Engineers) and a blacksmith by trade. With him came his wife Susan, a daughter Emma and two sons, David Samuel and James. A daughter called Mary Jane (1848-1850), died during the passage to Fremantle. Another son, called John, was born in 1852 but died in 1853.
Edmund John Annear
Samuel was a so called enroled pensioner, an ex-army man overseeing a
batch of convicts on their way to Fremantle. After arrival in Fremantle, he became cook at the convict establishment and in February 1851 he was
promoted to assistant Warden, in which capacity he served at Guildford and
Fremantle. His promotion is mentioned in a letter from the Comptroller General
Ofﬁce to the Colonial Secretary. Samuel died in 1853. His wife Susan, who was born in 1805, died on
Emma Annear was born in 1830 and was married to John Tonkin in 1850. David Samuel was born in 1837 and died on 4-8-1909. He married Elisabeth Mary Loton on 24-6-1858. She was the daughter of Sergeant Loton, an enroled pensioner who arrived on the ‘Robert Small’ on 19-5-1853. Sergeant Loton was ﬁrst a Warden in Fremantle but was later on put in charge of the Barracks in Kojonup. Eventually he became the Postmaster there and also chairman of the Roads Board. His wife established the ﬁrst school. For more information read the book ‘First the Spring’ by Merle Bignall.
David Samuel moved into a home next to the prison where he was a Warden from 1874 to 1879. He employed four ticket of leave men and also became a storekeeper in 1877. In 1881 he became Supervisor of the Music Council. His wife was a dressmaker from 1871 to 1881. On 6 December 1874 he made a trip to South Australia on the ‘Cleopatra’.
James, who was born in 1840, married Emily Hosking(s) in 1860. He was a messenger at the Fremantle Convict Establishment from 1861 to 1873 and Warden from 1873 to 1874. Became a Storekeeper in Perth in 1874. Owned Perth Lots 1865 and 1868. His wife was matron of the Perth Poor House from 1873 to 1879.
As from here on the family grows into so many different branches, 1 will only follow the path of the branch with which we are concerned.
David Samuel Annear and Elisabeth Mary Loton had the following children :
Robert Samuel born 1859 died 1906. Married Euphemia Mills on 4-9-1879. Messenger for the Fremantle National Bank from 1876 to 1881. Visited Melbourne per ‘Clyde’ on 11-1-1883. Mason 1887. The couple had three sons and one daughter. One son called Loton was killed at Gallipoli, Kenneth Charles was killed in France. Their remaining son William Murray had two sons, named Loton and Murray and a daughter called Jean. Robert Samuel’s daughter Jessica married a man called Sinclair
David, born 1861, died 1940. Never married.
Elizabeth Jane, born 1864 died 1940. Married twice. First to Tom Cooper, with whom she had seven children. Secondly to Roben Burnside. With him she had one child.
Edmund John Annear, born 26-7-1866, died 3-9-1928. Married to Hannah Cook, born 29-1-1865, died 6-8-1945. Hannah was the daughter of the well known Solomon Cook and Louisa Burgess (maiden name Joyce). The couple had four children. Roydon Loton who married May Paull, Horace Edmund who married Isla Paull, Leslie Charles who was married ﬁrst to Heather Anderson and secondly to Elsie Weston. The youngest was Edna May who married Leslie Norman Huntley.
|5.||William, born 1868 died 1901. Never married.|
|6.||Thomas Henry, bom 1870 died 1917. Never married.|
Charles Francis, born 1873, died August 1951. Married on 22-6-1898 to Maud Margaret Donegan, born 25-2-1878, died 30-6-1934. Charles Henry was a Telegraphist at Kalgoorlie in 1894, then Postmaster at Beverly, Coolgardie and Carnarvon.
|8.||Susan Ann, born 1875. Married to John Heath. They had six children.|
Edmund John Annear was a builder and contractor. He built the hotel on the facine in Carnarvon, the locks near Wonnerup, lots of houses and was also a contractor on the rabbit–proof fence. His son Horace Edmund was good at school, but decided it was more fun to join his father along the fence. He used to bring supplies up, which were loaded on camels. Horace Edmund was still quite young at that time, and used to sleep on top of one of the camels as he was scared of the blacks, who in those days, could be very unpredictable. On one of these trips, he chanced to come upon an outcrop of a quartz reef containing good specimens of gold. As he was too young to peg a claim himself, he got his brother Royden, who was a bank ofﬁcer in Kalgoorlie, to come down and help him peg a mining claim. Horace Edmund named his claim the ‘Edna May‘, after his sister. His father and brother Royden helped him to evaluate the ﬁnd, by sinking shafts and sampling. Once they knew its potential, they sold their interests to a Company. The mine proved to be very rich and long lasting. It is still operating at the present time . It is situated north of Westonia, which itself is some distance north of Carabin, a hamlet along the Great Eastern Highway about halfway between Merredin and Southern–Cross. Horace’s mother took care of the money obtained from the sale and lent him enough to set himself up on a farm near Moora.
Horace married Isla Paull and they had nine children. They are in order of age; Dulcie, Ethel, Verna, Edmund, John, Horace, Edna, Marjorie and Yvonne. Edna died accidentally at a very young age. Edmund and Isla farmed near Moora and also near Regan’s Ford at the Moore River, close to where the Brand Highway crosses the river. This last Property was quite isolated in those days. During the winter, they had to fetch supplies by swimming horses across the river. The children were able to amuse themselves by trapping rabbits and catching gilgies. During the depression they fell on hard times and found it impossible to keep the farm going. In the end they just walked off and went to Kalgoorlie.
Horace started off by working on the Golden Mile in a tribute party. Later he came to some arrangement with a prospector called Joiner. Horace paid this man to look for a likely prospect to be developed into a goldmine. Joiner was successful in ﬁnding a gold bearing deposit near Wiluna. Horace and Joiner sold their interest to an Eastern States Syndicate and shared the proﬁts. Horace stayed on as manager on the Mine known as Joiner’s Find. The family used to go up and down to Perth quite frequently while stationed in Wiluna. Horace acquired a 25 acre property at Greenmount, just out of Midland. There was a big house with verandahs all around, fruit trees and good grass paddocks.
When Italy joined Germany in the second world war, most of the labour force was rounded up and interned. The mine closed down and Horace and family moved to Greenmount. They then moved to Kalgoorlie for a short while and then back to Greenmount. Ethel May was living at Greenmount when I met her in 1942.
Isla Paull and Horace Annear
SOLOMON COOK 1813 - 1871
Blacksmith Shipwright, Engineer and Entrepreneur.
Hannah Cook, the wife of Edmond John Annear, and Ethels grandmother had a rather adventurous father called Solomon. His life story follows underneath.
The ﬁrst whaling vessel to be built in Plymouth, Massachussets, was constructed in 1821. It was aptly named Mayﬂower (1), for the Pilgrim Fathers and their families, the ﬁrst English settlers in America, had arrived in a boat called Mayﬂower in 1620 from the port of Plymouth in England. On 10 July 1839 the whaling boat Mayflower left New–Bedford, Massachussets on one of its many voyages (2). This time they sailed for New- Zealand whaling grounds. On board was a young man named Solomon Cook. His Protection Certiﬁcate dated 2 July 1839 (information obtained from Free Public Library, New-Bedford, USA in 1972) states that he was 25 years old, was 5ft 9-1/4 inches tall (approx. 1.75m) with a light complexion, brown hair and blue eyes (3). Solomon was a blacksmith and millwright; his father Jacob Cook was a blacksmith who was descended from Francis Cooke, one of the Pilgrim Fathers. Eli, one of Solomon’s brothers, lived to be 102 years old and once claimed that he owned a cane which came over in the original Mayﬂower (4).
Solomon Cook had ﬁrst visited Western-Australia in 1831 and again in 1837, presumably in American whaling ships (6) as Albany was a regular calling place for visiting whaling vessels for many years. The Journal of the Whaling Ship Mayﬂower, 1839-1841, which is held in the manuscript collection of the National Library of Australia (MS505), records in the entry for 27 February 1840, while the ship was at Port Albany, that Liberty men, naming Solomon Cook, blacksmith, and others, the number unclear, took a boat ashore with clothes and a week’s provisions. The boat was found abandoned and pursuit made, with no success. The Captain informed the
Constable and in a day or so Mayﬂower continued on its voyage. After absconding in this manner, Solomon worked as a carpenter and shipwright. He acquired occupation of a former commissariat store, a long thatched building which soon after caught ﬁre and was consumed in half an hour (7). By 1846 Solomon was in partnership with John Craigie and John Thomas in a whaling venture for at least one season at Albany (8).
On 19 May 1847 Solomon Cook applied to Albany’s Government Resident Phillips for naturalization. He stated that he had assisted in building the vessels Chance and Vulcan and was ﬁnishing Emma Sherratt. He was most anxious to build a vessel so that he might become a share owner, but this was not possible without ﬁrst obtaining naturalization papers. He was fully prepared to pay expenses to have an Act of Council passed and on 3 July 1847, Government Resident Phillips wrote to the Colonial Secretary in Perth with the required information - that Solomon Cook was an American, born in the town of Dixmont, County of Penobscot, in the state of Maine. His occupation was blacksmith and millwright and his intended trade was ship and mill building. Aged 34 years he had lived in Albany for several years (9). On 9 May 1849, almost two years after he had ﬁrst applied, Solomon Cook was naturalized at the same time as Dom Rosendo Salvado (later bishop and Abbott of New-Norcia), Abraham Meyers, the Reverend J.J. Joostens and Louis Langoulant. These men were now able to purchase land and to enjoy, within the limits of Western-Australia, all other privilages of natural born British subjects.....”save and except only the holding or exercising of any ofﬁce or place of trust in the Courts of Law or within the Treasury (10).
In December 1848, at the District Registrar’s Ofﬁce in Albany, Solomon married Elizabeth West aged 17, daughter of Bob West, a sealer (11). Disputes between various parties over the building of two vessels, Emma (12) and Fairy (13) interfered with Solomon Cook’s plans and he and his bride left Albany for York.The following years were to be very challenging and productive and he made considerable contributions to the industrial growth of the Colony through the introduction of innovative equipment and industrial processes. Solomon Cook later referred to himself as "Engineer etc”; certainly he was involved in many different projects. He constructed paddle steam boats for the river, built three bridges, farm machinery, dutch ovens,
coaches and boilers and was the ﬁrst to introduce a steam hammer and to install steam engines in Swan River paddle boats. He owned cattle, mills, a hotel at York and one of the largest market gardens in Perth. He was one of the ﬁrst ment to start business as an iron founder, coachbuilder and wheelwright in the Colony (14) and was widely known for inventive abilities and usefulness in the community. Although he had progressive principles and was a large employer of labour (free and bonded), he was deeply respected by all classes as a humble and unostentatious citizen (15).
Solomon Cook applied at York to Resident Magistrate Captain Meares to build the ﬁrst Windmill for grinding wheat which was build on Lot 4, between Avon Terrace and the river in Macartney Street (16).
Captain Meares wrote to the Colonial Secretary on 16 April 1849 :
A person named Solomon Cook, a wheelwright, has applied to know whether he will be permitted to take Stone from Government Lands for the purpose of erecting a Windmill at York, which he is about to do immediately and as there is no one thing more required in the District, I have informed him that I should lose no time in soliciting His Excellency’s Sanction (17).
Permission was granted on 2 May 1849 (18).
Mrs Millett, the new parson’s wife, on her arrival in York, was very
impressed with the windmill and described it as very picturesque, being
rounded in shape with a peaked roof out of which rose a weathercock (19).The
windmill was later converted to steam and the weathervane, all that remains of
the mill, now adorns the roof of the York Post Ofﬁce. The weather-cock has
In the same month that he applied to Captain Meares for the stone for the windmill, Solomon Cook was in Perth signing documents to build the ﬁrst bridge over the Canning River, one of many Government contracts he was granted. Canning Bridge was to be erected to Mr Manning’s plan, to be 520 feet long and 12 feet wide; the platform to be of mahogany timber at a total cost of 400 pounds. Solomon Cook accepted the contract on 26 April 1849 (20), and in June advertised for labourers (21). The "Inquirer” of 12 September 1849, reported:
We believe that this structure is progressing in a very satisfactory manner. The ﬁrst piles were driven on Monday last. The contractor Mr Solomon Cook has made from Colonial materials, a pile-driving machine or monkey which is of larger proportions than usual, being eight feet square.
The bridge was open to the public three months from the time the ﬁrst pile was driven. His Excellency the Governor notiﬁed the public on 27 December 1849 through the Government Gazette that Canning Bridge was now sufﬁciently completed to allow entrance of horses and carts. Tolls were to be charged for crossing the bridge at the same rate as the ferry boat at the same place (22). Charges were :
For every horse, ass or mule 3 pence; for every score of sheep, 3 pence;
unweaned stock following mothers, exempt; for every gig, chaise, cart, dray or
other vehicle drawn by one horse, ass or mule or pair of oxen, 6 pence (23).
Malcolm Uren wrote in “The City of Melville” that:
The opening of the bridge was attended by what was then a public
scandal. There were complaints that the cost of 425 pounds was excessive and
that Solomon Cook had cut timber on the river banks nearby and ﬂoated it
down to the job, thus saving himself a lot on money. These days we would not
get much of a bridge for 425 pounds (24).
Despite all the grumblings, our ﬁrst Carming Bridge was considered to be a piece of ﬁrst-class engineering work and was spoken of in the highest terms, giving all due credit to Mr Solomon Cook (25). Before the bridge was completed, the only means the early settlers of Melville had of getting across the Canning River was by a ferry, but many times the operator refused to provide the service. This was frustrating for the settlers, who ﬁequently complained to the Governor. He ﬁnally had to rebuke the ferry operator for his slothfulness (26).
By 1850 Solomon Cook and Son, and Engineering ﬁrm, manufactured the ﬁrst iron wool-press at Beverley for a Mr J.W. Broun at "Avondale Park" (27). Miss Mary Broun, a grand-daughter, used to throw the wool on to the press and Mr Roy Chester, who later became Miss Broun’s husband, would climb up onto the platform to work the wool–press which was a huge affair, standing as high as the wool shed.
This picture taken in Beverly by Mr A.T. Thomas, of the press, over sixty three years ago, showing Mr Roy Chester aged about 22 years standing on the platform and turning the handle. After the wool-press was erected, settlers in the vicinity took their sheep to "Avondale Park" for shearing so that they could use the press, which was workable for nearly 100 years. All that remains of the wool-press today are the cog wheels and part of the axle which were found and photographed by Mrs Robon Roe on the Avon Rivers banks at "Avondale Park" Beverly on 10 May 1985. The remains are now in the W. A. Museum. The photographs were positively identified as Solomon Cook's wool-press by Mr Roy Chester (28).
Referring to Solomon Cook and Son who had built the press, the "Son" could have been John Stephen Maley. It is believed that when his father died, John, born in 1839, left Albany and went to York with Solomon Cook in 1849. Solomon looked after the boy and treated him as a son and later John served his engineering apprenticeship under Solomon. When Solomon Cook died in 1871, it is believed that John Maley was a pallbearer and that he said sadly, “I have lost a father”. They had a very good relationship with great respect for one another as their ties were always strongly interwoven (29).
Settler’s wives at York had constantly complained about how irksome it was having to grind wheat in a hand–mill day after day for their supply of ﬂour. First they had Solomon Cook’s windmill then his steam mill. Mrs Millet writes :
Two ingenious men, one of whom was a blacksmith, chivalrously endeavoured to remedy this hardship by constructing a steam engine from such odds and ends as could be picked up in the Colony, which probably then afforded a narrower choice of materials than the contents of an ordinary marine-store at home. They manfully hammered a lot of old tire-iron into the form of a boiler and actually succeeded in making their engine grind com, but it was so noisy over its work and devoured such a quantity of fuel, that it soon wore out on its own constitution and became useless. It remained however, even in our day, standing in the old mill in its cashiered condition, an interesting monument of colonial perseverance and courageous struggle with difﬁculties (30).
Further tributes were paid by Mr Alfred Carson who wrote to the "Perth
Gazette" in 1852 regarding the steam mill at York (31).
The "Inquirer" reported in 1853 :
Mr Solomon Cook’s new steam engine is at work and I believe it works well. Much praise is due to Mr Cook for his untiring exertions and much credit is also due to John Stevenson who made it. This man ought to receive great encouragement, as he will be ever valuable in this country (32).
The "W.A. Almanack" for 1853 states that the ﬁrst steam engine in the
Colony was made by Messrs Cook and Stevenson (33).
There was a great need for a bridge over the Avon river at York and Solomon Cook was anxious to build one but money was not available for a solid bridge in the 1850’s.
Among Solomon Cook‘s numerous and varied business interests at York was a hotel which was aptly named the "Dusty Miller". Here, one evening after the York races in January 1852, an excellent dinner was provided by Solomon Cook to a large company of people (34). The hotel, steam four mill, granaries, together with a good shop and store room, cottages, outhouses and stables with stockyard were situated on Lots 3 & 4, each 9/10ths of an acre (0.364 hectares) bounded by Avon Terrace and Low Street (35). Cook bought this property from John Barker and Thomas Pope of Fremantle in 1852, with two promisory notes, each for 400 pounds (36). However he found it necessary to relinquish the hotel in April 1852. He leased it to Mr William Dunham but informed the public through the "Perth Gazette"; that he was still continuing with his store and that his best attention would be given to supplying it constantly with every variety of useul articles at special prices. He was also a large purchaser of wheat and paid in cash or goods upon delivery in York (37).
Solomon Cook also purchased 1 acre (0.405 hectares) of land between Howick Street and Avon Terrace on Lot 18, where he is believed to have had a blacksmith’s shop (38), which he later sold for 160 pounds to Frederick Croft of Fremantle on 2 September 1853 (39).
In November 1852, Cook paid one pound deposit for a depasturing license for 1000 acres (404.7 hectares) of York land, taking Barker’s Gully as the centre of the run for keeping up to 400 sheep (40). He held a contract to supply ticket-of-leave men at the Depot at York with fresh meat and was understandingly perturbed when in 1852, the Wesleyan Institute was granted the de-pasturing lease of the York townsite for a mission for Aboriginal children and Reverend Smithies ordered Cook’s stock off the reserve (41). Cook organized a memorial to the Governor in protest which was signed by many residents asking for rights of commonage on this land. Captain Meares, Resident Magistrate, however declared to the Governor that Solomon Cook had sent a spurious document and that his own signature had been forged in a reply to the Governor, Solomon was most upset and said that someone was trying to injure his reputation and that he had proof for every signature on the memorial (42). He was greatly relieved when Captain Meares retracted his charges, so clearing Solomon Cook’s good name. The Wesleyan Institute’s lease was not renewed when the original contract expired (43).
The indifatigable Mr Cook appled for the mail run from Guildford to York in January 1853, intending to use a vehicle similar to the American Fly waggon (44). He later contracted to take six immigrants from Perth to York and claimed demurrage for a delay. Captain Bruce, the Immigration Ofﬁcer, gave him little sympathy and Solomon received much less than he claimed (45). During 1853, he was responsible for the ﬂooring of the new York courthouse (46) and registered in a partnership with Joseph York and Thomas Wallace in a Northam property known as the "Vulcan Arms" (47).
Solomon Cook being an active person and interested in new ventures, obtained the contract for machinery for the ﬁrst locally made Swan River paddle steam boat in Perth. This resulted in his being the first person to introduce and install steam engines in boats. He was also engaged to superintend the manufacture of those parts of machinery which could be made in the colony. The boat named "Speculator", was constructed in T. W. Mew’s shed near Mount Eliza, the engine was made by J . Stevenson at York (49). A Steam Boat Company was formed with thirty 20 pound shares on 2 percent deposit. Both Mr Mews and Mr Cook had shares in the Company (50). "Speculator" was ﬁfty feet long and ten feet wide (51), the boiler was made from the tyres of wheels which were welded together (52) and she had paddles on each side of the hull (53). She made her ﬁrst trial run in October 1854. Within a few months, however, she was proved a failure, the engine was taken out and sold to Burgess’s mill, the boiler and other machinery was sold to Habgood’s mill in Murray Street and the hull was converted into a sailing vessel (54). Newspapers in 1855 reported that Solomon Cook had made many attempts to make both the steam engine (which John Stevenson built and the boiler which he himself had built), suitable for a steam boat, but it is obvious that they were more suitable for a ﬂour mill.
Not daunted by this failure, Solomon built a paddle steam boat, engine and all complete, at his modest engineering works, on the site now occupied by Aherns in Murray Street, Perth. (Work carried out by Ahem’s in this area in the 1950’s revealed that there had been a blacksmith’s shop there. The work also exposed a well and many horse-shoes) (55). Mr E.W. Read commented in the "The West-Australian" in 1933 that :
Murray Street was a queer locality in which to engage in a boat building enterprise. How to get this craft to the point of launching on the river presented a problem, its transport over the rise at Hay Street being ultimately effected by a team of 20 or more horses and by the aid of rollers, the operation lasting several days.
Mr Read described this paddle steamer as;
A weird contraption, in which the steersman was drenched and often half drowned with the water thrown up by the paddle and besides in hourly peril on almost every voyage by blasts of steam from bursting pipes that were plugged up from time to time with clay from the river’s banks (56).
The paddle steamer was aptly named "Pioneer" and was built for
dependability more than appearance; she carried passengers and cargo for many
years. For passengers to the races fares were two shillings and six pence up and
down; children under twelve half price (57). "Pioneer" was Perth’s ﬁrst
successful locally made paddle steam boat. Nicknamed "Pufﬁng Billy" she
made her initial run on 15 January 1857.
The "Inquirer" stated;
Mr Solomon Cook’s colonial built steamer started for Guildford on Thursday last, with about 20 passengers and performed the trip in a very satisfactory manner, the time occupied from Perth to Guildford being two hours and ﬁve minutes and upon the return trip against the sea breeze, two hours and ten minutes. A number of inhabitants of Guildford were on the bridge when the steamer arrived and greeted her appearance with cheers, which were returned by those on board. The machinery is at once simple and efﬁcient and might be adapted to any ﬂat on the river. We have not received any information which will enable us to furnish our readers with a description of the machinery, but all parties agree that it reﬂects great credit upon Mr Cook (58).
This vessel was an open ﬂat with an upright boiler in the stern with a stem paddle. Passengers were carried near the stern, the bow when unloaded was well clear of the water, presenting a comical sight (59). Soon after the initial run, Solomon Cook wrote to the Colonial Secretary:
I would beg most respectfully to draw the attention of His Excellency the Governor to the fact of my having built and prepared a Steam Boat to ply between Perth, Guildford and the Upper Swan, but on trial I ﬁnd it most difﬁcult to navigate her through the crooked and shallow channel of the sand bank below the Perth Bridge and also through the canal on account of its inadequate size and depth and the Upper Swan through the many trees which have fallen into its channel, but at present the greatest difficulty will be in crossing the sandbank below the Bridge and steaming through the canal. I would also beg to inform His Excellency that I intend the steamer should perform daily trips between Perth and Guildford in about a week from this date. Hoping that the above may meet with His Excellency’s earliest consideration (60).
"Pioneer" made another trial trip to Guildford two weeks ater the initial
run when His Excellency the Governor and Mrs Kennedy were among her
Solomon Cook’s tender of 650 pounds was accepted on 11 May 1860, to widen and deepen the Perth Canal below and above the Perth Bridge (62). He encountered many difﬁculties with this project and obviously underestimated the problems involved in making the Swan River navigable for larger vessels. Contract time ran out and costs of construction rose well above the tender and he was forced to seek compensation for extra costs. E.M. Grain Royal Engineer, after assessing the work, reported that he could see no reason why the contract was not completed on time.
A petition was signed by the inhabitants of Perth and Fremantle in September 1861, on behalf of Solomon Cook and sent to His Excellency, Governor Kennedy stating:
That although in every other respect the requirements of the contract were fulfilled, it was found impossible to attain the depth required owing to the shifting nature of the river beds and after using any endeavour the contractor was compelled to appeal to His Excellency the Governor, to be released from the obligations of his contract to which appeal His Excellency was pleased to accede. That although the contractor was unable to excavate the canal to the depth required, yet a sufﬁcient depth has been obtained to allow of the free passage of all craft now plying between Perth and Guildford and having stood the test of a winter ﬂood may be considered as permanent as works of such nature generally are.
Your Memorialists beg respectfully to call the attention of Your Excellency and the Honorable the Executive Council to the fact that the trade of the Colony has received a great impulse from the enterprise of the contractor in placing upon the river the Steamboat Pioneer and the great reduction of freights consequent thereon.
Your Memorialists do therefore pray that Your Excellency and the Honorable the Executive Council take the circumstances of this case into your favourable consideration and grant the Contractor Mr S. Cook such compensation as may seem meet (63).
Solomon Cook was paid 500 pounds provided that he signed a receipt in
full of any further claims made on account of his contract (64).
Another paddle steam boat called "Friends" launched in February 1859 was built by Solomon Cook. There were now three steamers plying on the Swan, one between Perth and Guildford and two between Fremantle and Perth (65). A pricecutting campaign was started on 4 May 1859 against "Lady Sterling" by Maley and Randell with the eleven–ton paddle steamer "Friends". "Friends" had the lower fares which attracted custom (66).
Before Solomon built the paddle steamer "Pioneer", he applied to the Government in September 1854 for land at Claisebrook for water-mill; he also requested the use of the mill machinery, at present lying unused at Kingsford’s mill (67). He was granted a ten year lease of two acres (0.809 hectares) of crown lands adjoining the Perth Abbatoir in June 1855 (68) on the agreement that he was to erect a mill which was capable of grinding one ton of ﬂour per day (69).
The "Inquirer" was reported to be "Happy to find that Mr Cook has commenced his operations for the establishment of a mill at Claisebrook and in a few months it is conﬁdently expected that a considerable grinding power will be established there". (70)
In 1859, the Kingsford’s mill and premises, which were situated in Mill Street, Perth (now the site of the Parmelia Hotel) was in the possession of Mr Henry Burgess (71). When Henry died in May of that year, his friend and business associate Solomon Cook, leased the Kingsford’s mill on 2 August. He then leased the Kingsford’s mill store on 16 August 1859. Henry Burgess lived with his wife Louisa and their children in the house next to the Kingsford’s mill (72).
Solomon Cook’s ﬁrst wife and daughter Isabella had died but no record of the dates has been found. On 29 January 1861 he married Mrs Louisa Burgess, widow of his friend Henry Burgess, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Perth. Louisa was the daughter of William Joyce, a carpenter (73). Solomon is believed to be a member of the Church of England. Louisa had seven children by the Burgess marriage, Amelia, the eldest, being eleven years old and Walter, the youngest, three years at the time of the wedding. Caroline, aged seven years, had died just before. Solomon and Louisa had four children, of whom the ﬁrst, Julia Ann, died aged twelve months of teething (74). The others were twins George and John and Hannah (75). All told, Louisa gave birth to twelve children, the ﬁrst being the son of William Deacon, her ﬁrst husband, who died in 1844, aged twenty four, of atrophy (76).
A tribute was paid to Louisa in the "Western Mail" in 1935:
No doubt Solomon was one of the most useul and enterprising colonists of his time, but don’t forget his wife. She was a wonderful woman who reared three families. I remember them all. First one son, William Deacon; then four Burgesses, James, Mrs John Chepper, Mrs Frank Armstrong and Mrs Captain Leidecke, three splendid women; thirdly George, John and Annie Cook. Later she married a Mr Hill, but I don’t remember if they had any children (77).
In 1860 John Stephen Maley, aged 21, had just completed his engineering
apprenticeship under Solomon Cook. Solomon and John went into partnership
in a ﬂour mill and shop at Greenough, on Lot 142 which George Shenton had
bought from the Crown in 1860. Cook and Maley’s mill and shop were built by
a ticket-of-leave man named Edmund Willis (78). Maley himself would have
had very little capital behind him; Cook was a commercial associate of George Shenton (79). It is believed that Solomon Cook may also have played a part in
the building of another ﬂour mill at Greenough which was later owned by the
Clinch family, as his name was written on one of the walls or beams (80).
In 1861, Solomon formed another partnership with John Stephen Maley. This was in Murray Street on Lot V8 (later the western side of Boans.) They bought the Perth building allotment from Robert Habgood and Patrick and Margaret Farmer for the price of 410 pounds. This allotment comprised a corn mill and other buildings.
John Maley’s partnership was later dissolved in October 1863 (81) when he concentrated on the Victoria Flour Mill enterprise at Greenough. Solomon established a large workshop and foundry on Lot V8 in Murray Street, with departments which included coach and waggon building, wheelwrighting, the manufacture of steam engines, general farm machinery and other blacksmith’s work, indicating his enterprise and versatillity (82). He later purchased Lots V9 and 10 where his large home was situated (present site of Angus and Robertson) and where he housed his many apprentices (83). He employed a Chinese cook to cater for his large family and his apprentices. Some of the latter became notable citizens of the State; among these were Frank Armstrong who later became Major of Geraldton and whom Solomon ﬁnanced in his business (84), James Byﬁeld later became Mayor of Northam; Harry McGlew, Edward Clarkson, James Burgess (who was Solomon’s stepson), W Winbridge and John Maley whom Solomon also ﬁnanced in his business at Greenough (85). Frank Armstrong married Solomon Cook’s stepdaughter Maryann in 1871.
With his many enterprises, Solomon Cook was a large employer of both free labour and also one hundred and twelve ticket-of-leave men. From 1862-1871 his wife Louisa, employed six ticket-of-leave men at "Bamdon’s Hill", their extensive market garden on Swan Location 35. Solomon leased this property from Mr Henry Camfield in 1865; he later purchased it on 16 February 1871 (86). One portion of the land consisted of 53 acres (21.4 hectares). The second portion of 469 acres (190 hectares) Solomon bought for the sum of 400 pounds. The following day he sold it for a proﬁt of 100 pounds to Dr John Ferguson (87). This property was in the vicinity of Rivervale Station and the Burswood Island Resort Casino.
Solomon Cook then ventured into making one of Perth's first reaping machines which were similar to Ridley's and Mellor's of South Australia (88). He notified the "Inquirer" in 1862 that he had twelve reapers and could make twenty more before next harvest, selling at 80 pounds each (89). Letters were received from Champion Bay, favourably reporting on the working of one of these reaping machines, stating that "Mr Warrener had cut all of his barley" (90).
These reapers were all made by hand, including the washers, bolts and nuts. One night when a reaper was being delivered to Fremantle by road with horses, there was a brilliant display of meteorites. The young men delivering the reaper had never witnessed anything like it before and were convinced that the world was coming to an end. They got in the reaper, waiting for this, but after some time when nothing further happened they proceeded to Fremantle (91).
In February 1866 there was a huge ﬁre on Solomon Cook’s Murray Street business premises which resulted in the ﬁrst voluntary ﬁre brigade being formed in Perth. It was a tribute to Solomon when public subscriptions paid for the 440 pounds damage which the fire had caused (92).
In the next few years, Solomon was involved in many different projects. He built dutch ovens for the Colonial Hospital and for private homes; he built the second causeway in 1865 (93); he obtained the contract for repairing the Upper Swan bridge in 1869 (94); and also ﬁnanced a gold prospector at Northam in 1869 (85).
When Solomon Cook died cruelly of dysentry on 24 February 1871 (96), in his ﬁfties, the newspaper obituaries heaped praise on him (97). He had played a very signiﬁcant part in our Colony’s history.
A paving stone memorial plaque was laid outside Boan’s Murray Street, Perth (the site of his engineering workshop) in 1983. It was donated by his descendants in association with the Royal W.A. Historical Society and was organised by Mrs Greta Kuchling, one of his descendants and the person responsible for gathering and compiling the above life story of Solomon Cook (98).
1.“The Sea Hunters. The New England Whalemen During Two Centuries 1635-1835” Endouard A Stackpole (New York, J.B. Lipincott Coy 1953).
2. Information in a letter dated 26-5-1972 from the Curator of Free Public Library, PO Box C 902, New Bedford, Massassuchets 02741 sent to Sister Mary Albertus, now in the possession of Mrs Greta Kuchling.
3. Ibid. (In the same place).
4. Information in a letter dated 26-7-1982. James Vickery, Bangor Historical Society, 79 Broadway, Bangor and Maine 04401,U.S.A. sent to Mrs Hinton. Copy given to Mrs Greta Kuchling.
5. Reference material deleted as no longer relevant because of new information.
6. Dictionary of Western Australians, Volume 3, 1850 to 1868. Compiled by Rica Ericksen.
7. Albany-Past and Present by George Edward Edgenon-Warburton. Page 2.
8. "Inquirer" 24 May 1847.
9. C.S.R. Vol 164, pages111, 124, 128.
10. The statues of western Australia 12 vict. No 10 1849.
11. Copy of Wedding Certificate of Solomon Cook and Elizabeth West in possession of Mrs Greta Kuchling.
12. C.S.O. Vol 186, page 311.
13. "The West Australian" 21-3-1936. 'Albany Memories' by Captain James Sale.
14. "Western Pioneers", by J.E. Hammond, page 189.
15. "Inquirer" 1 March 1871.
16. "A survey of the Historical Development of the Avon Valley" by John Deacon Q994-12 page 141 Battye Library.
17. C.S.O. Vol 190, page 300.
18. "Mills at York" R.N. 858 Battye Library.
19. "An Australian Parsonage" by Mrs E. Millett London, 1872 page 52.
20. C.S.R. Vol 184, pages 273, 276, 272, 273, 274.
21. "Dictionary of West Australians" Vol 1, 1829-1850.
22. "Government Gazette" 1 January 1850, page 2.
23. "The West Australian" 30 April 1968.
24. "The city of Melville" by Malcolm Uren, Ch8, page 56.
25. "A survey of the Historical Development of the Avon Valley" by John Deacon, Q994-12, page 142 Battye Library.
26. "The city of Melville" by Malcolm Uren, Ch8, page 55.
27. "Beverley" by A.T. Thomas, pages 10 and 11.
28. Interviews with Mr and Mrs Roy Chester of South Perth, 1984, 1985.
29. Information given to Greta Kuchling by a friend of the Maley family in 1983.
30. "An Australian Parsonage" by Mrs E. Millett, London 1872, page 120.
31. "Perth Gazette" Friday 13 February 1852.
32. "Inquirer" 25 May 1853.
33. "W.A. Almanack" May and June 1853, page 37.
34. "Inquirer" 14 January 1852.
35. Ibid Wed 4 Jan 1853 (should be 1854).
36. Memorials held at Office of Titles, Perth. Book 5, page 45, 1852.
37. "Perth Gazette" 23 April 1852.
38. "Inquirer" 17 Juni 1857, page 4a.
39. Memorials held at Office of Titles, Perth, Book 5, page 257.
40. S.D.U.R., C3, pages 347, 359 and 362.
41. C.S.O. Vol 228. Misc. York 8 February 1852.
42. C.S.R. Vol 253, pages 75, 76 and 77.
43. "Australian Dictionary of Biography" Vol 3, 1969, Wendy Birman.
44. C.S.R. Vol 253, page 4. York, 3 January 1853.
45. "Australian Dictionary of Biography" Vol 3, 1969, Wendy Birman.
47. Memorials held at Office of Titles, Perth Book 5, page 281.
48. Information deleted as reference uncertain.
49. "Inquirer" Wednesday, 16 November 1853.
50. Ibid 4 January 1854.
51. "Perth Gazette" Friday 6 January 1854.
52. "Inquirer" 22 March 1854.
53. Mr K.O. Murray, R.W.A.H.S. Journal, Vol 4 Part 1, 1949, "From Oar to Diesel on the Swan", page 56.
54. "Inquirer" 11 October 1854 and 18 October 1854, 14 February 1855, 1 April 1857, 9 May 1883.
55. "Aherns Grapevine" Vol 1, September 1978, No 5.
56. "The West Australian" 17 August 1933.
57. "Perth Gazette" 13 February 1857.
58. "Inquirer" 21 January 1857.
59. Mr K.O. Murray, R.W.A.H.S. Journal, Vol 4 Part 1, 1949, "From Oar to Diesel on the Swan" page 58.
60. C.S.R., Vol 370, page 111, 2 February 1857.
61. "Inquirer" 4 February 1857.
62. "Government Gazette" 15 May 1860, pages 1 and 2.
63. C.S.O., 23 September 1861.
64. "Australian Dictionary of Biography" Vol 1, 1969, Wendy Birman.
65. W.A. Almanack" February 1859, page 30.
66. "Inquirer" 4 May 1859.
67. "Inquirer" 13 September 1854.
68. Lands and Survey's Inventory Acc. 660 511 Micro.
69. "Inquirer" 25 April 1855.
70. Ibid 16 May 1855.
71. Ibid 3 August 1859.
72. Interview with Mrs Madge Cross, a descendant of the Burgess Family, about 1983.
73. Marriage Certificate, held by Greta Kuchling.
74. Death Certificate, held by Greta Kuchling.
75. Cook Family Bible, held by Jim Cook and photocopies given to Greta Kuchling.
76. "Dictionary of Western Australians" Vol 1, 1829-1850.
77. "Western Mail" 14 March, 1935, page 7.
78. J.S. Maley Records, 1860-1863, 906A. Ledgers, pages 6, 7 and 11, Battye Library.
79. "Ancient Landmarks" by Sister Mary Albertus Bain, UWA Press 1975, page 249.
80. Information given by Mrs Madge Cook and Mr Arnold Armstrong. Gave information in a letter to Mrs Shirley Lutz dated 9 October 1966, copy given to Mrs Greta Kuchling.
81. Memorials held at Office of Titles, Perth Book 6, pages 1496 and 1527.
82. "Australian Dictionary of Biography" Vol 3 1969, Wendy Birman.
83. Memorials held at Office of Titles, Perth Book 6, pages 1385 and 1748.
84. "Quarterly Review, Geraldton Historical Society Inc" Aug 1972. "Snippets of the Past" No 10 by Effie Shaw.
85. "Western Pioneers" by J.E. Hammond, page 189 and "Western Mail" 14 March 1935, page 7.
86. Memorials held at Office of Titles, Perth Book 7, page 348 and "Western Mail" 11 October 1934.
87. Memorials held at Office of Titles, Perth Book 7, page 349.
88. "W.A. Almanack", August 1862, page 38.
89. "Ancient Landmarks" by Sister Albertus Bain, page 246.
90. "Inquirer" 12 November 1862.
91. "The Biography of Francis Gow Armstrong" by Lilian Evensen, Freda Armstrong and Arnold Armstrong. Copy given to Greta Kuchling by Tom Stokes.
92. "Perth Gazette" 2 February 1866 and 9 February 1866.
93. "Western Pioneers" by J.E. Hammond, pages 174 and 155.
94. "Government Gazette" (WA) 20 April 1869, page 94 and information contained in a letter from Eliza shaw to Elizabeth Belvoir, 8 July 1869. details sent to Greta Kuchling.
95. "Inquirer" 23 June 1869.
96. Death Certificate held by Greta Kuchling.
97. "Inquirer" 1 March 1871 and "Herald" 4 March 1871.
98. "The West Australian" 29 October 1983, page 1 and 3.
Notes on Solomon Cook’s ancestors.
Francis Cooke, possibly born in England ater August 1582, joined the Pilgrim Fathers and was the 17th. to sign the compact. He was Woolcomber purchaser by profession. At ﬁrst the Pilgrims went over to Leiden in Holland. Here, Francis married Hester Mahieu on 4-7-1603. They had 7 children. Hester did not go over in the Mayflower with him, but came over later on. She died sometime after 8-6-1666. Francis died in Plymouth, USA, on 7-4 –1663. He went with the first batch of Pilgrim fathers to England in the ship Speedwell and then to America in the Mayflower.
His son John went with him on this voyage. He was baptised in Leiden between January and March 1607. He was married to Sarah Warren, a daughter of Richard Warren, also of the Mayflower, on 28-3-1634. They had 5 children.