Haagmans, Cornelis. biography completed
Captain Haagmans wrote his memoirs shortly before he passed away. He gave them to Mr. Scot van Valen. When I met him, he asked if I could do something with the typed manuscript. The result was a limited book, hardbound of which we donated a copy to the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam,one to the Head Office in Seattle and to the nearest family. Then about 200 ring-binder copy’s were made for sale on board. The proceeds went to the ships crew fund of the ms Veendam.
Due to the memories we now know a lot about his sailing period and as it covered two World Wars there are quite some unusual facts. The complete text of the book can be found below. It was put on line in 2011. Most of the illustrations come from my collection, although I was given some memorabilia and photos for my collection by Mr. Hans Haagmans, the nephew of the captain with he had a very good understanding. Some of those photos are also integrated in the text.
This is the November 2019 Update:
- At the end of this biography, there is the regular sail and ship listing.
- His oldest brother passed away in Ede in 2005 and unfortunately just missed the publication of the book. I was born in Ede as well and had made arrangements to visit him, when coming over to Ede to visit my mother. By the time I was on leave and went across with the ferry I was just too late. Other updates in bold in the original text.
- The first Mrs. Haagmans passed away on 14 June 1967 in the Hague. As the captain was at sea during the war most of his wages, by means of an allotment of 200 dutch guilders, was paid directly to her by the company or by the government. (Seethe Captain Filippo biography of how that went during the occupation)
- A few insertions in the 2011 text are in bold.
This is the manuscript as published.
Introduction: The Family Background of Captain “Kees” Haagmans.
Captain Cornelis Haagmans or “Kees” as he was called by his family, was born on the 31st of May in the year 1898 in the Wijnstraat in Dordrecht. His father G. Henri Haagmans was a teacher at the local School of Music in this town and worked there for 35 years. Both his sister and his brother were musicians (pianists) and the latter, Dirk Haagmans, was quite famous in the USA. Apart from given music lessons, he was the regular organist of the St. Patricks church in New York. It was this brother who was responsible for the fact that his nephew Kees decided to go to sea. (*) In the mean time, his father made sure that Kees became an accomplished Violist.
Kees was born into a family of three and he was the oldest. There was a younger sister called Toos (this is the Dutch version of Tosca) a spinster who was born on Jan 16th. 1900 and passed away on Nov 16th. in 1996. And there was Hans, who was born on Sept. 29, 1905. He became later a dentist and is still alive, living in the Netherlands. As far as known there was no “salt blood” in the generations before Kees was born, but his nephew Hans Haagmans, went to sea as an navigator sailing for the Rotterdam Lloyd, before going into the travel industry. It will come as no surprise that the two sailors kept in close contact during their whole life.
As he knew that he wanted to go to sea, he did not finish his regular education completely. In the early days of the 20th. century in Holland, there were several sort of schools for secondary education and depending on the quality of the school a number of years would be sufficient for certain professional educations. So instead of finishing the complete five years of HBS (a higher form of High School), Kees went to the Maritime Academy in Amsterdam after three.
The Maritime Academy in Amsterdam called the “Kweekschool voor de Zeevaart”. Established in 1786 it trained many officers for the Holland America Line.
When he finished his training, he joined the Holland America Line as an apprentice. Family recollection has it, that on his 2nd trip as an apprentice, uncle Dirk was on board as a passenger.
While going through the ranks, he managed to find time get himself engaged and later married to a Dutch girl called Nel van Versendaal (***) (born as Neeltje Maechtelina van Versendaal on Feb 25th. 1895 in Utrecht, the Netherlands)
As a result of this union, a daughter (Cornelia, Johanna Haagmans) was born on 11 January 1928 in Rotterdam . She later moved to the USA where she got married and still lives. After the 2nd world war he divorced his wife and married Jean Lesser (7 April 1896 – 21 Oct. 1974) whom he had met during the second world war. There were no children from this marriage. They set up house in Forest Hills, N.Y. but later moved to Rosslyn Heights, where the captain continued to live after his final retirement.
When the Captain retired from HAL, he became a Cruise director / Social Host for 10 years, working for American Express, mainly on the ships of the Swedish America Line. American Express used to bring a complete staff on board when they partly or fully chartered a ship, to look after their own guests. (**) Around the same time he became an American citizen. Throughout all his years at sea, the captain had a hobby of collecting stamps, was a member of several stamp clubs, and as his interests were world-wide the collection was of a considerable size.
Captain Haagmans lived to a ripe old age and passed away on 17 April 1998 in New Jersey USA, just six weeks before his 100th. birthday. In the final years he was looked after by his daughter and spent the last few months of his life in an retirement home, where he passed away peacefully. His body was cremated and, offcourse, his ashes were dispersed at sea, 5 miles out of New York harbour.
As he lived until almost his 100th. birthday, it will come as no surprise that he was the senior member of the “old boys association” of the Maritime Academy of Amsterdam. He was very much involved with them and upon his death, he requested to all who knew him, not to send flowers, but to donate instead to the benevolent fund of the Association.
With thanks to nephew, Mr.Hans Haagmans of Hampton Ontario and the Daughter Mrs.H Klecanda of Hillsdale N.J. for providing additional information.
(*) Dirk Haagmans crossed the Atlantic so frequently that HAL paid all his on board expenses when he made his 50th. crossing, and received a complimentary crossing when he made his 100th. This is the first recorded instance of Holland America acknowledging a repeat guest.
(**) Until the end of the 1987 world cruise of the ss Rotterdam, shore excursions on board for the world cruises were in the hands of American Express.
(***) She had a brother, Antonie Catharinus van Versendaal who was an officer in the Royal Dutch Navy, born on 09 Jun. 1904 (Amersfoort nut live part of his life in Ede) and who was killed during the war on 11 January 1942 East of Borneo while in command Her Majesty’s Navy ship “Prins van Oranje”. (information via Mr. R.D.W. Kho)
The below is almost the complete story as published in a book that I wrote for the family based on the Captain’s memoirs as given to Mr. Scott van Valen. It is divided in the same chapters as used in the book and nearly all the illustrations from the book have been used.
Chapter 1. A boy goes to sea.
As a boy of eleven I went on vacation with my family to a seaside resort and made a couple of trips on a shrimp fishing boat with my father. I also had an uncle living in New York who came to Holland every year and we met him on arrival in Rotterdam and were allowed to go on board on departure day to see him off. I still remember the old “Potsdam” 12,500 ton, the ship with the very high funnel, later sold to the Swedish American Line under the name: Stockholm. It was some sight that big ship. So those experiences gave me the idea to become a seafaring man. It was funny because everybody in my family was a musician.
The Potsdam docked at the Wilhelminakade around 1905. This is what Captain Haagmans would have seen during his visits. Note the enormous funnel towering above everything.
After three years of High School in Dordrecht, I went to Amsterdam for two years at Navigation School and was ready to go to sea. We were allowed to choose the steamship company that we would like to join. My mother advised the H.A.L., in former days N.A.S.M. meaning: Netherlands American Steamship Company (M=Maatschappij or in English Company) or as people said: Never Arrives Saturday Morning or backwards: Mostly Sunday After Noon. The French said: Nous Arrivons Sans Malheur (We arrive without accident). So I applied for the Holland America Line because my mother thought, that it meant only trips lasting four weeks from Rotterdam to New York and back, not knowing that we also had freighters.
On September 11th, 1916 I was accepted and sailed at 2.50 am. on September 13th on the good old ss “Maasdijk” (4,860 ton) in ballast from Rotterdam via Kirkwall to New York, where we arrived October 1st at 3 p.m. and docked in Brooklyn. On board we had, besides the Captain, three deck officers, two apprentices (incl. myself) and five officers in the engine room. The rest of the crew counted about twenty-five men if I remember correctly. As an apprentice we stood double watch, this means one day we were on duty from midnight until 4 a.m., then from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. and then from 7 p.m. until midnight; the next day from 4 a.m. until 8 a.m. and then from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. During the dark hours we were assistant to the officer on the bridge and during the day we worked with the sailors on deck under the supervision of the boatswain. Wages were $8 a month. On the bridge we took sights of the sun, moon, planets and stars or bearings from lighthouses etc. The “Maasdijk” was a coal burner without electricity, so to save money we had on Sunday, because we did not get overtime, to clean and fill the oil lamps in the various quarters and the navigation lights.
The Maasdijk during the first world war. Note the neutral lettering on the hull.
In the North Sea we ran into some very bad weather, so sailing in ballast with little draught we pitched and rolled like a barrel. The third day out during lunch, having the famous thick Dutch pea soup, I became ill but could not make it to the bathroom in time. After cleaning up I went back to the mess room and apologized to the Captain and Officers and asked if I could finish the dessert (Pancakes). Everybody laughed but I did it without any mishap. That day I was on the 1 to 7 p.m. watch so the Chief Officer told the boatswain to send me in the bilges to clean them (some job!!). Every day we received one bottle of Heineken beer and once a week half a bottle of Medoc red wine. I was not a beer drinker so I often gave my bottle to the boatswain and instead of sending me into the bilges I cleaned the hold. Coming up at 5 p.m. the Chief Officer sniffed me all over and told the boatswain: “send him back to the bilges again tomorrow, he does not stink enough!!” We also washed the decks, polished the brass, holystoned the bridge and boat deck (the other decks were steel), inspected the inventory of the lifeboats under supervision of the Second Officer; painted where necessary etc. etc.
In New York we were chartered for a trip to South America, so I had to watch the loading of general cargo and tally the special cargo. We stayed four weeks in New York and having my uncle there I saw a lot of the city, the suburbs, shows etc. while off duty. We sailed the 28th of October and arrived in St. Thomas (in those days it still was Danish) on November 3rd for bunkering. This was done by women. They carried the coal on board in baskets and we had to give them 1 cent per basket. Our Chief Officer passed away just before arrival, so we buried him in St. Thomas. The next day we sailed for Montevideo where we stayed from November 22nd to the 26th. Sailed from there and arrived the same day in Buenos Aires. Here we discharged the rest of the cargo and sailed again on December 4th for Chile via Strait Magellanes. Sailing through the strait was most interesting but very cold. During the passage we saw many Indians and stopped a few times to lower a bottle of Dutch gin (genever) for which we received ice for our meat, fish and vegetables, having no refrigerator rooms of course. Coming out of the Straits we encountered very high swells in the Gulf of Penas. We had a pilot on board from Punta Arenas until Lebu for 100-Pound Sterling. In Lebu we bunkered again and were supplied with water on Dec. 14th. Water was very scarce on board. We got one bucket of fresh water per day for washing and showering. During our night watches on the bridge we had to make coffee for the officer on duty. The freshwater pump had a lock otherwise the crew would use too much water. If it took us too long to boil the water, we used the poker and put it in the fire and then in the coffee kettle!! Fast work what?
We arrived in Galeto Bueno (Chile) on the 18th and took a full load of potassium nitrate. To show us how inflammable it was, the Chief Stevedore put some on a shovel and lit it, in no time the shovel melted. On the coast of Chile we saw many of those beautiful five mast sailing ships, all German and trying to hide from the enemy. Having no fans, you can imagine the heat in the cabins under a steel deck in the tropics and only ONE bucket of water. We sailed again on Jan. 5th, 1917 via the Panama Canal where we just entered after a rockslide in the Culebra Cut; so the traffic was very slow. After leaving the canal we set course for Norfolk (Virginia) for bunkering where we stayed the 24th and 25th. In the North Atlantic we hit a terrible gale, making one day 12 knots in 24 hours. Keeping the ship on course was nearly impossible, but thank God we had still a sail on board that we hoisted on the aft mast and it helped us a lot for steering. I forgot to tell that we also took turns on the wheel during the entire voyage. It took 15 days to cross the Ocean to Falmouth!! On account of the war we were brought up to this port and there were at least another twenty Dutch ships. During our stay there from February 8th until May 15th, we had to paint the entire hull with vertical red and white stripes. Running short on flour we used the grain in the cargo of other ships to bake bread. Of course there was not much to do during all those months and only the Captains were allowed to go ashore for any news. We tried to build canoes so we could visit other ships and this was allowed as long as we did not go ashore. One day we asked the Captain to buy bicycle pedals. The Chief Engineer made a small propeller and so we were the only ship that owned a self-propelled canoe by treading the pedals. I can assure you it was great fun. It was not until May before we received orders to proceed via Plymouth, the Downs and the river Thames to Rotterdam. We left Falmouth on May 15th and arrived at Rotterdam on the 19th. So instead of the four weeks that my mother thought, it was nearly thirty-six weeks!! All I can say is that I enjoyed everything and knew this was my future. If you asked me if there was anything that I didn’t enjoy, I have to say NO.
I stayed on the “Maasdijk” until September 11th in Rotterdam where, we as apprentices were on duty for 24 hours on and 24 hours off, from 5 p.m. until 5 p.m. We had to take the (warm) lunch ashore and had sandwiches and coffee on board for dinner and the next morning’s breakfast. The ship was dead, so no heat or anything. You have to sail one year before you can take your 3rd mate’s license and thus I went to school (in Amsterdam) from September 15th until December 5th, and passed my examination for 3rd mate on December 6th and 7th, 1917. Having your 3rd mate’s license you have to sail again for two years before you can take your next examination. In those two years you mostly sailed for one year on a passenger ship as a 4th. officer and one year as 3rd. on a freighter. In those years on the passenger ships they mostly carried, besides the Captain, one Chief Officer who did not stand a watch and three 2nd Officers. This meant one 2nd. Officer to stand each watch, with a 4th. Officer as the assistant and one extra 4th. Officer for the administration. On the freighters there are mostly one of each rank and two apprentices.
From December 17th, 1917 until January 10th, 1918 I served as 4th Officer on the ss “Poeldijk” (4,225 ton) docked in Rotterdam harbor. Wages increased to $12 a month. On February 22nd, 1917 seven Dutch ships were torpedoed just outside the English Channel by the German submarine U21. Of the seven, two were from the Holland America Line, the ss “Zaandijk” and ss “Noorderdijk”. The same size and kind of freighters (German) were tied up in the Dutch East Indies in Surabaya, Batavia and Padang (*). So on January 15th, 1918, I was sent to the Far East as a passenger, together with seven more deck and engine Officers, on the old Nieuw Amsterdam (1906, 4 master – 17,150 ton). Instead of being on a four-week voyage again, this one was going to be 125 weeks or rather two and a half years. During the war this was the safest way to go to the East. We had a little over 1,800 passengers on board, not only were all the cabins occupied, but there were also beds and hammocks in the hatches on various decks. (**) The senior passenger was appointed as “Mayor” of that section. Among all those passengers we had a little over 400 girls married in Holland by proxy. If their husbands were working for the Dutch Government, the Government paid for the passage. The fares for the other wives were paid for by the Company if their prospective husbands had completed two years work for them. While sailing through the minefields in the North Sea we were escorted by two big Dutch seagoing tugboats, they remained with us until the Shetland Islands.
We arrived in New York on February 6th and not yet having a ship sailing from the West Coast we stayed in a hotel until April 16th. We then crossed the country via Montreal, Canada, by train (a most interesting and beautiful ride) and arrived in Vancouver B.C. on the 22nd. There we boarded on April 25th the old “Empress of Japan” of the Canadian Pacific Company. She was one of the ships that still had a “Figure Head”. Via Victoria B.C., Yokohama, Nagasaki and Shanghai we arrived in Hong Kong on May 16th. Because we were eight officers, the Canadians were a little afraid that we were spies, so on the farewell evening all of the international flags were hung in the lounge BUT the Netherlands. While onboard and later in Hong Kong, we met again a few of our Nieuw Amsterdam passengers. In Hong Kong we stayed just over three weeks in a hotel. On June the 9th we boarded the Dutch ship ss “Van Overstraten” of the KPM (Royal Packet Steamship Company) to sail to Singapore where we arrived on the14th. We left the same day again with the ss “Roggeveen” of the same company going to Batavia, our destination where we docked on June the 16th. So it took us exactly FIVE months to get from Rotterdam to Java. By train we went to Buitenzorg in the mountains, because the British Government would not yet allow us to take over the ships. So to make a little extra money I had a job with the Dutch Government and also gave violin lessons. Later the Holland America Line gave us a beautiful trip all over Java (for our health?) for sixteen days lasting from March 15th until April 2nd 1919, which was both welcome and interesting.
The ss Zaandijk (ex Silesia of Hapag Lloyd) see here after the first world war.
In the middle of November we took over the ss “Zaandijk” (ex “Silesia” – 4,512 ton) but slept in a hotel in Weltevreden. The ship was of course very dirty having been laid up for four years. There were no rats but hundreds of big cockroaches. We were not yet able to sail the ship so on January 5th, 1920 I was transferred to the ss “Sommelsdijk” (6,300 ton), which was sailing on the Java – New York service, going to New York via Durban. I happened to be the last (of the group of original officers coming out –ed) who was leaving the Far East. In Durban and Capetown we took in some more cargo, bunkered in Barbados and loaded fresh water. We arrived in New York on February 26th. The “Sommelsdijk” sailed back to the Far East, so I stayed again in a hotel and then sailed on May 22nd on the “Noordam” (12,500 ton) as 4th Officer to Rotterdam via Plymouth and Boulogne sur Mer, were I docked on June 4th, 1920 after an absence of 871 days. As mentioned before on both ships I signed on as 4th Officer for $80 a month and was the assistant to the Chief Officer on the 12 to 4 watch both a.m. and p.m. It was very difficult to come back to a seafaring life after more or less two years ashore. I had to refresh my memory about navigation but was very happy to be on board a ship again, to work and to smell the salt water. In July 1920 the “Zaandijk” came back to Rotterdam and after a one month vacation I went back to her while she was reconditioned in dry-dock, which lasted until Sept. 4th. Then I went back to school for my 2nd mate’s license. I passed my examination on December 10th and 11th. I was then back on port duty on the ss “Sloterdijk” (6,480 ton) and the ss “Rijndam” (12,500 ton) as 4th Officer from December 12th, 1920 until January 21st, 1921. From January 21st until August 21st I was in another uniform, namely that of a soldier in the Dutch Army (conscription). I returned to the Holland America Line on September 1st and on September 14th was promoted to 3rd Officer at $90 a month. That same day I joined a new ship that was being built in Flushing and on September 17th we had a trial trip with all the big shots from both the dockyard and the company on board. After all the different trials, the ship the ss “Edam” (8,870 ton) was taken over and we docked that same evening in Rotterdam.
The ss Edam at the fitting out pier of the shipyard. This photo was taken on 8 September 1921, a week after Captain Haagmans joined the ship.
On September 28th we left Rotterdam with passengers and cargo bound for Canada via Antwerp. That evening however, while I was on duty from 8 p.m. to midnight, we had a collision on the river Scheldt with an English freighter, the “Glenogle” at 9:08 p.m. Besides the Captain, we also had a pilot on the bridge. How it happened is still a mystery but something must have gone wrong with our steering engine. Our damage was not as bad as on the other ship (we only had a flattened nose as we had hit her amidships) so we continued to proceed to Antwerp. After an inspection by a Lloyds Surveyor we went back the next day to Rotterdam and on October 1st into dry-dock. For sometime we were moored alongside the repair shop of Wilton’s Dry Dock Company. On Sunday afternoon the 2nd of November, during a heavy storm we broke loose and drifted up the New Waterway for about two miles. I was lucky because it happened just about an hour after I was relieved of duty. On Monday she was towed back again and I found her again at Wiltons repair shop. While drifting up the Waterway she had hit several ships, but no severe damage was done.
From March 9th, 1922 until September 9th, 1924 I sailed as 3rd Officer on the “Edam”. The ship was employed on the Cuba – Mexico Service, calling at Antwerp, Boulogne sur Mer, Bilbao, Santander, La Coruna, Vigo, (sometimes at the Canary Islands), Havana, Vera Cruz, Tampico, New Orleans and back via – Vera Cruz, Havana, Vigo, Santander to Rotterdam. A ten-week voyage. Apart from the cargo we carried about 800 tweendeck and 12 first class passengers. As a 3rd Officer I was on duty from 8 to 12 a.m. and the same in the evening. Besides the navigation, I was in charge of the lifeboat inventory and kept the meteorological logbook for which, later on in 1954, I received a barometer and a silver medal from Queen Juliana, handed to me by her husband Prince Bernhard. Further, when loading or discharging cargo, we were appointed by the Chief Officer to a certain hatch to see that the cargo was properly stowed and the special cargo tallied in or out. The “Edam” burned oil and had a steam turbine. Refueling always took place in Rotterdam and Tampico.
(*) The Dutch government took these ships over as repayment for the sunken tonnage of the Holland America Line.
(**) Collapsible cabins were used for this. Thus outward bound the ships hold (hatch) was filled with passengers and for the return voyage the cabins were dismantled and stored. The holds could then be used for general cargo,
Chapter 2, Going through the ranks.
On one of our trips the Captain was taken off of the ship (May 1924) for an appendicitis operation in Havana and I was promoted to 2nd Officer at $125. a month, while the Chief Officer took over the command. We sailed in this way from Havana via the Canary Islands to Rotterdam. I made in total twelve trips on the “Edam”. Of course as junior officers we were not allowed to mix with the passengers but one evening our Captain was ashore in Havana and the Chief Officer, whose cabin was opposite mine, had a lady with her daughter in his cabin. Having my eye on the daughter I began to play my violin and it did not take long before the daughter kept me company. After a short while we heard the Captain coming back and that was the end of a very short romance. To give the passengers a good impression, the “Edam” and its three sister ships the “Leerdam”, “Spaarndam” and “Maasdam” had two funnels but the aft one was a dummy. Most of the passengers were immigrants from France, Germany, Greece, Egypt and Syria etc., looking for jobs in Cuba and Mexico; only the first class passengers were bound for New Orleans.
September 4th. 1924 saw me back to Rotterdam from (for the time being) my last trip on the “Edam” and was transferred the following week to the ss “Blommersdyk” (6,800 ton). The company had eight ships of the same type, the so-called “B” freighters. I joined her on September 10th as 2nd Officer sailing to Philadelphia and back for two voyages until November 28th when she was laid up and I did harbor duty on her until January 15th. as 3rd Officer again. I went back to school in February, and on July 1st and 7th I passed my examination for Chief Officer. In Holland this equals to a Masters-license for other countries. On July 20th. 1925 I was placed on the ss “Grootendyk” (8,365 ton) as 3rd Officer, not- withstanding my masters license for a trip to: Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Newport News, Norfolk and was back in Rotterdam on September 4. Ten days later we sailed again via London, now heading for Cristobal. In London we had taken sixteen racehorses as deck cargo with an attendant bound for Balboa on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. Just before entering the Caribbean sea we ran into bad weather during which the horses were getting nervous and started kicking and once during the night one threw his hind leg over the partition of the next stable and was badly wounded so we had to take her out of the box. I said “we” because the attendant was too old to give a hand but just good enough to feed and keep the horses and their boxes clean. When we had her on deck we discovered that the wound was so bad that we decided to kill her by one pistol shot in her head. We then stopped the ship and buried her at sea. All in all it was a very sad experience. After the funeral many papers had to be filled out, this being a valuable racehorse. Without any further accidents we arrived in Balboa on October 6th. There the other fifteen horses were landed in good shape. We continued the trip to the West Coast via five American and two Canadian ports until we reached Vancouver. Returning via the same way we were back again in Rotterdam on December 24th just on time to celebrate Christmas and New Year. On December 30th I was promoted again to 2nd Mate for the same voyage, lasting from January 5th until April 17th 1926. One week after arrival I was 3rd Mate again, now for harbor duty on the “Beemsterdyk” and “Westerdyk” (8,260 ton) until May 12th. I then rejoined the “Blommersdyk” as 2nd Mate again and sailed on May 17th.
This time the ship was in charter for the Holland Africa Line for one voyage. It was a very interesting voyage sailing from Hamburg via Antwerp, Amsterdam and Las Palmas to seventeen African ports on both the South and West Coast of Africa. In Lindi we anchored for one hour to embark an English lady, the wife of the Chief of Customs in Mombassa. She has been hospitalized for a miscarriage and had no other way to go home. In no time she was called the QUEEN of the ship. The interesting part was that during the Second World War I called as Chief Officer on the troopship “Volendam” at Mombassa and spent a wonderful day and evening at her home with her husband and six daughters. As you can see it is a small world. We sailed back from Mombassa via the Suez Canal, Genoa, Marseilles and Antwerp to Rotterdam where we arrived on September 9th, 1926. That brings me to the end of my first ten years with H.A.L. By the way, the next day I was promoted to Chief Officer. Around that time the Holland America Line counted thirty-seven ships, and now in 1979 we have only five and they are all passenger ships. Namely: Rotterdam, Statendam, Volendam, Veendam and Prinsendam.
This was a lucky day because September 10th, 1926 I was promoted to Chief Officer at $170 a month after we arrived in Rotterdam on September 9th from Africa. The original Chief Officer became Captain. We sailed on the 11th to Hamburg where our charter finished and were back in Rotterdam early in the morning on the 15th but sailed again the same evening in ballast to Montreal. Crossing the Newfoundland Banks we passed a few icebergs pretty close which was a beautiful sight. The same night we ran into fog and were lucky to arrive in Montreal on September 27th without an accident and without radar. We loaded grain and on September 30th. and topped the cargo off with some more grain in Quebec. We departed on the 3rd. of October and arrived back in Rotterdam on October the14th. On the 17th we sailed again in ballast and made the same trip to Montreal and Quebec for grain and back in Rotterdam on November 14th. But before steaming up the New Waterway we had to anchor and while dropping it the chain broke and we lost the anchor plus about sixty fathom of chain. On November 18th I was demoted again to 2nd Officer on the ss “Leerdam” (8,850 ton). We were in dry-dock for two days and sailed from Rotterdam on November 23rd. via Antwerp, Boulogne sur Mer, Bilbao, Gijon, La Coruna, Vigo, Havana, Vera Cruz, Tampico to New Orleans where we arrived on January 4th. 1927. On this voyage we had about 450 passengers on board and a full load of cargo for various ports. We started to load again in New Orleans and sailed on the 10th. via Vera Crux, Havana and Vigo back to Rotterdam where we arrived at midnight on February the 6th.
Four days later I became engaged to a Dutch girl and transferred on the 23rd. to the ss “Westerdyk” (8,260 ton) as 2nd Officer and sailed the same day to New York. Returning to Rotterdam a month later on March 25th. On the 30th I got a vacation, got married on the 31st and went on our honeymoon, returning to Holland on April 10th. In our Rotterdam Office we had in a part of the cellar a so called “Chart Room” where we corrected the charts for all of the ships of the company. So when a ship sailed all of her charts were corrected to the date of sailing. The company saved a lot of money this way; otherwise they would have to be sent out. In charge was a retired naval officer and with him there were two or three employees of H.A.L. (second officers) for the work. This job was mostly given to those whose wife was expecting. But I was lucky to be placed in this chartroom and remained there from April 22nd. until September 30th. However the pay was not as much as when being at sea. At the end of this period I had three days leave and became 2nd Officer on a passenger ship the ss “Ryndam” (12,000 ton). Left Rotterdam on October 4th. And went via Boulogne sur Mer and Southampton to New York, where we docked on the 15th.
In those days the docks were at the foot of 5th street in Hoboken, New Jersey. We left on the 22nd and were back again in Rotterdam on November 1st. It was always a beautiful sight on to see all the big liners sailing between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, sometimes eight or ten of them. I made two more trips on the ship between November 9th 1927 and January 10th. 1928, both times sailing via Halifax to New York. The next day my daughter was born so I came home just in time. In those days you didn’t go to a hospital so I was present during the birth. From January 14th. until the 24th. I was back again in the Chart Room and then was transferred to the freighter ss “Binnendyk” (6,875 ton) and sailed on her on January 28th. in the so called
The ss Ryndam (I) in the center of the port of Rotterdam and outward bound for sea.
“Out ports” service for four voyages. Calling at Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, Newport News and Rotterdam. We stayed on average one week in Rotterdam. After the third trip we were laid up for a month. After returning to service I made my last trip on her, calling first at New York and was home again on October 20th. 1928.
On the 29th I was transferred to the ss “Waaldyk” (5,010 ton) This ship was making a charter trip for the Holland Africa Line and left Rotterdam on November 3rd. in ballast sailing to Hamburg. We called at the following ports: Hamburg, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Capetown, Mosselbay, Algoabay, East London, Durban, and returning via Capetown, Las Palmas, Dunkirk, Antwerp, Hamburg and Rotterdam. As you can see it was a very interesting voyage and quite different from the North Atlantic. The difficulty on this trip was that of the about 6,000 tons of general cargo loaded in Africa, approximate 5,000 tons was optional. This meant it had to be stowed in such a way that it could be discharged in any of the four European ports, Dunkirk, Antwerp, Hamburg or Rotterdam without shifting any other cargo that would be stowed in front of the one that we had to discharge, which would then have to be stowed back. All in all that would have cost a lot of money and a lot of TIME. We were very lucky and only had to take away about 250 tons. Thank God that there was space on the same deck so there was hardly any extra cost. Coming back to Rotterdam on March 3rd, 1929 exactly four months after sailing, the ship was sold to another Dutch Company on March 12th.
On April 11th. I was transferred to the ss “Kinderdyk” (7,650 ton) after four weeks vacation and was back again on the West Coast service as before in 1925 and 1926 on the “Grootendyk”. We sailed from Rotterdam on April 16th. 1929 via Antwerp, London to St. Thomas where we took a telegraph cable on board in one of our deep tanks, which had been partly filled with water. The ship being a coal burner we bunkered here too. The ports of call were more or less the same as on the “Grootendyk”. The only difference was that on a few trips we called at Curacao to discharge steel plates for the oil refinery tanks. In total I made six voyages on the “Kinderdyk” each about four months long and had about ten days off in Rotterdam at the end of each voyage. On January 1st 1930 we received an increase in wages and I was now earning about $138 per month as a 2nd Officer. In September and October 1929 we had a big survey for the ship and then returned to our regular service. On a few trips we called on the homeward bound voyage at Champerico, Acajutla and La Libertad in Central America for a couple of hours to load coffee. We arrived in Rotterdam on July 11th 1931 for the last time.
On account of the depression I was sent home for five months at $60. !! Many ships were laid up and the officers were discharged. First the bachelors went, then those without children and later on those with one child. So I was lucky so far and became 2nd Officer again at $112 on the ms “Delftdyk” (10,200 ton) a freighter with accommodations for twelve passengers. This ship (as all the other company ships starting with a “D”) operated in the same service as the “Kinderdyk”, sailing to the West Coast but was faster. A roundtrip took 100 days. There were not many (if any) airplanes going from Los Angeles to London so we often had film stars on board, but being only a 2nd Officer, I was not allowed to mingle with them. I made only one trip on her, from January 2nd. until April 8th. 1932. Coming home was always wonderful but during those days you never knew what was going to happen next. Stay on the same ship, transfer to another, or being sent home for good. So we were waiting on board until the Captain and Chief Officer came back from the office with good or bad news. I was lucky again and was transferred on April 14th to the “Leerdam” but as 3rd. Officer at $78 a month. Anyhow, I was just happy not to be discharged. With the “Leerdam” I made three trips to the Gulf of Mexico via Spain and the Canary Islands from April 20th to Oct. 22nd; these were two-month voyages with one week in Rotterdam at the end of each voyage (once only 40 hours!!) On November 5th the “Leerdam” was laid up and I went back to $42 a month. Anyhow, I was still with the Company. While the ship was laid up we had no light or heat on board so to keep warm we used a couple of oil burning lamps in our cabin and it happened to be a severe winter.
On December 8th. I was transferred to the ss “Burgerdyk” (6, 50 ton) and made just two trips back and forth to New York. When arriving back in Rotterdam, I was sent home between December17th, 1932 and March 2nd, 1933. I was sent home again from March 10th to the 31st. For one week in between I served on the ss “Beemsterdyk” (6,870 ton) as watchman. The Beemsterdyk was another ship that was laid up. Then on April 7th, 1933 I was promoted again to 2nd Officer and was to join the ss “Bilderdyk” (6,860 ton) at a wage of $80 a month. The ship sailed for one voyage to New York from April 12th to May 11th. On May 19th this ship was laid up too and I became 3rd Officer again until May 30th. I then heard that I had to sail the next day, (my birthday) as 2nd Officer on the ss “Rotterdam” (24,150 ton) for a seven day cruise with 558 passengers, working as the administrator for the Captain. The cruise went to Oslo and Copenhagen, returning to Rotterdam on June 6th and again sailing the next day to New York with only 25 passengers on board but with a cargo of GOLD BARS worth millions and the freight being 1% of the value, so not bad. Homeward bound we had 210 passengers. Back in Rotterdam on June 25th and the next day back to 3rd Officer at 70% wages. On July 1st the “Rotterdam” was laid up and on the 19th I went to the ss “Bilderdyk” (6,855 ton) and sailed as 3rd Officer on her on the 27th for one trip to the Gulf of Mexico.
The ss Bilderdijk of 1922, seen here laid up in Rotterdam during the depression
years. Next to her, on the inside, one of her sisterships.
In New Orleans there was a longshoremen strike and the crew (including the officers) had to discharge and load the ship. During this operation one bad accident happened; the carpenter who stood on deck near the hatch to give orders to the winch man was pushed over by a load of cotton and fell into the hold, and died. We were escorted by the police, while going to the cemetery, on account of the strike. (We never got paid for those two hours either!!). But all in all we made some extra money and that was of course very welcome during those depression months. We were back in Rotterdam on October 7th and on the 26th I was transferred to my old “Binnendyk” and promoted again to 2nd Officer. I made two trips on her to New York until Jan.19th, 1934. But if you think that was the end of changing back and forth from 2nd to 3rd Officer and visa versa (and changing your stripes) you are wrong.
On January 25th I was transferred to the ss “Boschdyk” (6,870 ton) as 2nd Officer. Then from February 1st until the 15th I was the 3rd Officer again and from the 16th, the 2nd Officer, sailing the next day via Boulogne sur Mer to New York with more gold bars and returning to Rotterdam on March 23rd. From March 30th until April 16th, I was sent home on a 70% salary and the next day I was back on the “Boschdyk” and sailed on her as 2nd Officer (for $95 a month) for three trips to the Gulf of Mexico. Leaving Rotterdam on April the 20th and returning to Rotterdam on December the 28th. The ship went into dry-dock from January 3rd until the 17th, 1935 and sailed on the 19th to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Hopewell, Baltimore, Newport News and Norfolk.
We sailed from Norfolk on February 18th, 1935 and on the 26th we entered the so- called “Dirty Thirty” (about 30o West. Long.) where you mostly hit bad weather (the “Foggy Forty” is where you run into fog). The bad weather really started on the 30th. So early in the morning we started to pour oil on the waves (I was on the 4-8 watch both a.m. and p.m.), to break the high swell a little and we also slowed down our speed, because even if you are sailing before the storm, the force of the stern wave increases with the speed of the ship. At about 7:20 p.m. when I was on the bridge, a very heavy sea came over the boat deck. One lifeboat was smashed against the funnel and went to pieces, leaving a big hole in the funnel. Another lifeboat broke loose and hit the hull with such force that we had to let her go. The third lifeboat was hanging outside so we secured it as much as possible. By then all we had left was one lifeboat that was still in good order and two little sloops. The heavy sea that hit the boat deck also broke the door of the wireless room that was situated on the same deck behind the funnel. The room became a swimming pool with all the water coming in. Luckily the Chief Engineer came to the boat deck a little later and opened the door of the wireless room on the leeside so the water could run out again. Some cloths and personal belongings of the wireless officer were lost or spoiled of course. During the night the entire crew (34) made stand by. The same night we received an S.O.S. from the English steamer “Macgowrie”. We did not dare to increase our speed to reach her position to assist on account of our own damage, also the German liner “Europa”, the American freighter “American Banker” and our sister ship the “Blommersdyk” were all closer to her. According to the telegrams the “Macgowrie” had heavy damage. Later we heard from the “Europa” that she did not hear any more signals from her. At 6 a.m. the next day we passed the position from where she had sent her S.O.S. signals, but nothing was seen, so she must have gone down with her entire crew of 26. We passed another ship that had lost a crewmember and even the “Europa” had some injured passengers. In the end we arrived safely via Antwerp in Rotterdam on March 5th after an eventful voyage. I made two more “Out port” trips on the “Boschdyk” leaving on March 14th and May 10 and arriving back in Rotterdam on June 20th, 1935. I then had a vacation from June 27th until July 24th, after which I was appointed to junior 2nd Officer on the ss “Statendam” (29,500 ton). This was “Statendam 3“. Another “Statendam” had been built in 1917 at Harland & Wolff in Belfast but was taken over by the British and completed as the ss “Justicia” during the war. During the night of the July 19th, 1918, two German U-boats, the UB 64 & U 54, had torpedoed the ship off the coast of Scotland, so it was never delivered to Holland America. This ship had a size of 32,230 ton and was replaced in 1929 by the above mentioned “Staten dam 3” which was also built at Harland & Wolff in Belfast.
On the “Statendam” we carried a Captain, a Chief Officer and three 2nd Officers who kept watch with a 4th Officer as an assistant and a fourth 4th Officer for the administration; so no 3rd Officer. The junior 2nd had the 8-12; the Middle 2nd the 4-8 and the senior 2nd the 12-4 watch. The first trip lasted from July 26th until August 2nd and was the same cruise as I had made in 1933 on the “Rotterdam” to Oslo and Copenhagen. After this cruise I made five North Atlantic voyages to New York via Boulogne sur Mer and Southampton and back via Plymouth and Boulogne sur Mer lasting until November 16th. On one of these trips we had 1,297 passengers and a crew of 573 on board. When this happened we had to lease our cabins to passengers and we slept in the hospital. We received however $55 compensation for it. On three of these voyages we also carried gold again. We were in dry-dock from November 25th until December 5th, and were then ready to make ten Caribbean Cruises out of New York, during the period December 21st, 1935 and April 27th, 1936. With the exception of an eight day cruise that went only to Havana when the ship was chartered to “liquor dealers”, there were two seven day cruises to Bermuda and the others were between ten and eighteen days in length. We sailed from Rotterdam on December 10th, 1935 and returned on May 10th, 1936. Two days later we went into dry-dock again from May 12th until the 14th because in the West Indies and Bermuda, the hull became overgrown with barnacles. On May 15th we sailed from Rotterdam to New York and on the Declaration Day Cruise to Bermuda from May 28th until June 1st, and then left on the 5th to return to Rotterdam. In the meantime I was promoted to Middle 2nd Officer (same wages). We arrived in Rotterdam on June 13th and two days later left for a short three-day trip to Flushing and Amsterdam, returning to Rotterdam on June 18th. We had on board about 300 passengers from the: International Union d’Electricians. Upon return it was back to the regular North Atlantic Service and I made four trips from June 20th until Sept. 19th, 1936. This brings me to the end of my second ten years with H.A.L. So in these ten years I served on seventeen ships as Chief, 2nd and 3rd Officer.
Chapter 3: Sailing into the Second World War.
On September 19th I sailed again on the “Statendam” as Middle 2nd Officer on the
North Atlantic Service going to New York. On one of the previous crossings we had had Hugo
Eckener on board. He was then on his way to the United States to see the airfield where he
expected to land the Zeppelin. On this voyage when we were Eastbound he was West bound and circled over our ship, pretty low, so we could see each other. For everybody on board it was an exciting moment. After two more trips the ship went into dry-dock, and received two new propellers.
The ss Statendam (III) was extensively used for cruises during the depression years.
We sailed on December 9th again, to arrive in New York on December 17th. From there we made nine West Indies cruises, and in all of those cruises we only missed a port once on account of high swell, so we could not land the passengers on our own tenders. This was at Pointe a’ Pitre in Guadeloupe. On March 3rd we anchored off Guadeloupe at Basse Terre where the Chief Officer and myself visited the Governor with his entire entourage. It was nice to be able to brush up on my French but after the champagne it was not too difficult. The ladies were one of the most beautiful I ever saw except the ones on the various Islands in the Pacific Ocean. In Havana we often had boat races with the crews of the other liners using lifeboats. Sometimes there were six or seven Dutch, British, German, French and Italian liners in port at the same time. Back in Rotterdam on May 10th, we went in dry-dock for a one day “haircut and shave” and sailed again on May 18th to make the yearly Declaration Day cruise out of New York Taking place between May 27th and June 1st, the cruise went to Bermuda. We returned to Rotterdam on June 12th and on the 15th I was promoted to senior 2nd Officer. This was followed by six Atlantic voyages lasting until Oct. 27th. During our stay in Rotterdam, from October 27th until December 8th the ship went in dry-dock again and took her old propellers back. Left Rotterdam again on December the 9th for New York and made from there eight West Indies cruises lasting until May 5th, 1938. Back in dry-dock we received new propellers again to try to get better speed. Then, as every year, the ship sailed on May 19th to make the Declaration Day cruise out of New York to Bermuda and returned to Rotterdam on June 11th. On June 13th I was promoted to Chief Officer ($140) until August. Nothing special happened on those crossings or cruises, except once on June 20th, we passed an iceberg during the daytime at a distance of about two miles. She was about 800 feet high (so more or less 7,000 feet was under water). It was a beautiful and exciting sight. On nine voyages we carried bars of gold again and also were able to let our cabins to passengers for between sixty and one hundred dollars. During those voyages we carried over 1,500 passengers with a crew of 635, so 2,150 in total. It happened that my cabin was let out six times during that period. We returned to Rotterdam on November10th and sailed again on December 14th for seven Caribbean cruises, returning to Rotterdam again on April 29th, 1939. All in all I made thirty-one North Atlantic trips and thirty-eight cruises on the “Statendam” in nearly four years.
The Statendam period was followed by three weeks of vacation from May 1st until the 21st and I was then transferred to the ss “Edam” as Chief Officer. This was the ship on which I had made so many trips as 3rd Officer in the twenties. Now I only made one voyage on her, to the Gulf of Mexico and back from May 25th until July 28th, 1939.
The ss Sommelsdyk of 1939, seen here during her trial trip under the Danish Flag. The neutral lettering on her side indicates that the Second World War is already raging although Holland is not involved yet.
During our stay in Brownsville (Texas) we received about 500 visitors on board, the “Edam” being the biggest ship that had ever entered this port. I had leave from July 31st until August 8th and went the next day by train from The Hague via Hamburg to Odense (Denmark) to supervise the building of a new ship the m.s.”Sommelsdyk” #3 (9,230 ton). The Chief Engineer who had already been there for a couple of months, stayed in the same hotel as I did. The Captain arrived September 13th with a few deck and engine officers and on the 15th we made the trial trip. This lasted from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. and then the ship was taken over from the shipyard. By the way, if we would not have accepted her they could have made much more money for the ship by selling her to the Germans.
On September 16th we sailed in ballast with only a 2nd and a 3rd Officer on board and a Danish crew, because the war was on and it was impossible to bring an entire crew over from Holland. On our way to New York we sailed via Fair Island where the light tower had been extinguished on account of the war. In that area we were stopped by a small British cruiser early in the morning just after we had passed an unknown submarine who just came up for a short while and most probably was a German. A sloop from the cruiser came over and alongside with a junior Officer in charge and about eight men (well armed) on the oars. After asking us where we came from and were bound for, what kind of cargo etc., etc., he intended to leave but I asked him to come up to see the Captain and sign our logbook. After that the officer gave us permission to proceed and left the ship. We just had the engines turned to full speed ahead when we got a flash from the cruiser by Aldis lamp: “Stop or I fire”; so we stopped again. The reason was that the junior Officer was not allowed to give us orders before he reported to his commander, so after he was back on the cruiser it did not take long before we got the order to proceed. “Proceed and bon voyage” he signaled. We arrived in New York on September 26th and sailed with a full cargo and eleven passengers on October 7th. No ship is allowed to sail with more than twelve passengers without a doctor. (*) On October 18th we had to anchor at the Downs (in the Strait of Dover) for inspection of contraband, ships papers etc. by the British Navy. This lasted until the 25th and arrived the same evening in Rotterdam. Having had some trouble with our motors we went after discharging into dry-dock and had to wait for new parts for our Burmeister and Wain motors coming from Denmark.
On January 1st we commenced a charter for the Rotterdam Lloyd Company for a trip to the Dutch East Indies in the Java New York Line. We were not allowed to sail as a H.A.L. ship on this service. (**) Thus we left Rotterdam not from the Wilhelminakade, The HAL pier, but docked and sailed from a pier of the Rotterdam Lloyd. The charter finished at the last port of discharge on March 6th, 1940 that being Makassar on the island of Celebes. The ship sailed from Rotterdam to Antwerp on January 7th 1940, but because my wife was in the hospital for appendicitis I was allowed to go by train to Antwerp on January 15th after the operation was over and a success. In the meantime a colleague took my place between those dates We sailed from Antwerp on January 17th, were held up in the Downs again for inspection from January 19th until the 22nd and sailed via the Mediterranean to Port Said where we were supplied with fresh water on the 31st. The same afternoon we went through the Suez Canal via Suez, heading for Sabang where we arrived on February 13th. Leaving the same day again and then called at Belawan Deli, Batavia, Cherbon, Semarang, Soerabaja, Balikpapan. Makassar was the final port where we discharged the last of our cargo and then began loading again. Leaving Makassar on March 6th and calling at Soerabaja, Panaroekan, Tjilatjap, Oosthaven, Cheribon, Batavia, Singapore, Penang to Belawan Deli. Here we loaded our last cargo by filling our deep tanks with latex. The rest of the cargo was “general” like tin, copper, tea, rubber, tobacco etc.
We sailed on April 3rd via Colombo and Capetown, where we loaded some lobster tails, to Boston where we anchored at 1 a.m. on May the 10th. I was on duty from midnight until 4 a.m. and turned on my radio to hear some news about the war in Europe. At about 3:45 a.m. (9:45 a.m. Holland time) I heard that the Germans had invaded Holland. So I went to the Captains cabin and told him the bad news but he did not believe me, until at 8 a.m., after docking when the agent and Dutch Consul came on board and confirmed my story. We docked the next evening in New York or rather at the Bush Terminal docks in Brooklyn where all Java-N.Y. ships docked. We sailed on May 22nd to discharge and load in the following ports: Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Norfolk and returned to Brooklyn. Here we stayed from June 12th until the 26th, to finish loading to capacity. We then made the same voyage again but this time via the Panama Canal. On July 30th a Dutch aircraft off the coast of New Guinea in the Straight of Salawati signaled us to stop. She landed on the water and I went to her in one of our sloops. All that they asked for was if we could spare them a couple of bottles of Dutch Genever and some Dutch cheese. They looked like Bushmen with long hair and beards. We called more or less at the same ports as the trip before. In Soerabaja I met my brother in law who was an officer in the Dutch Navy on board the “de Ruyter” and was torpedoed years later off Balikpapan by the Japanese after he was commander of a minelayer. In Soengi Gerong on Sumatra I visited my cousin and her family and in Batavia her sister and family. Going to anchor in Bali the anchor chain broke and we lost our anchor, a shackle just missing my head by a few inches. We made a total of three similar trips to the Far East until April 18th, 1941. We had been very lucky so nothing special happened on any of those three long voyages.
In New York I had leave from May 6th until the 26th and then was transferred again to the good old “Edam” sailing on May 31st to Halifax to go in convoy to Liverpool with forty-three ships and came back on July 11th in a convoy of fifty-six ships. I then had another week leave and made a similar trip with eighty-seven ships. This time we sailed via the Straight of Belle Isle leaving on August the 11th, and having thirty-one passengers on board. Back from Liverpool we came on September17th with twenty-nine passengers and three horses on board in a forty-five-ship convoy. Among the passengers were four officers from the ss “Maasdam” that had been torpedoed on June 26th, 1941 in the North Atlantic. We docked in New York on October 4th, had four days leave and made one more voyage via Halifax to Liverpool on October 17th with forty-three other ships, and back with twenty-three and thirty-two passengers, docking in New York on December 12th.
During those voyages we carried war material and food to the United Kingdom. Among other things, millions of eggs and loads of onions. Sometimes parts of planes in crates were carried on deck. During those three trips we often lost 25% to 35% of the ships in convoy, either by submarines or aircraft. Once a German auxiliary cruiser slipped into the middle of our convoy during the night, shot six ships down and disappeared. The worst was always if you heard the boys in the ocean crying for help and you had to go on otherwise you would get out of line and ran the risk of being torpedoed too. Sailing without any lights in the blackout was no fun. Ever so often you had to increase or decrease your revolutions to keep the right distance from the other ships. Once I was sailing behind a whale ship with a wide-open stern to haul in the whales. That was some sight, to see that big hole only yards ahead of you. Sofar I had been lucky again and I can tell you we enjoyed those couple of days vacation in the USA without any air-alarms or blackouts. In Liverpool we always docked at the same pier in the Huskisson dock; but going ashore and coming back by bus in the blackout it was difficult to know where to get off until we discovered that close by used to be a big meat refrigerator plant that had lately been bombed. So when the smell was the worst that was the place to get off the bus.
As I said before, we were back in New York on December 12th, 1941. The ship went into dry-dock and I was transferred to the m.s. “Sloterdyk, a sister ship of the “Sommelsdyk” for port duty until Jan. 7th, 1942. After that we had leave until March 7th. In the meantime my friend and I had a wonderful time visiting Bear Mountain, Atlantic City, and Washington D.C. A couple of years after the war we married. Between March 7th and 19th I was on the m.s.”Noordam” and ss “Edam” so those officers could take their vacation.
On March 24th I went by train to Baltimore with a Captain, a 2nd Officer and four Engineers, we stayed in a hotel and on the 31st sailed on the Swedish m.s. “Eknaren” to Capetown. Here we arrived on April 30th and stayed in a hotel until May 9th. Then we were transferred to the troopship s.s. “Volendam” (15,435 ton). This too was a very lucky ship. She was sailing in August 1940 to evacuate children between the ages of five and fifteen from the United Kingdom to Canada because an invasion by the Germans was expected, the “Battle of Britain”. 320 children with their escorts, 286 passengers and 273 crew. Thus a total of 879 were on board when she sailed from Liverpool. Immediately after sailing a couple of boat drills were held, especially for the children. The following day the convoy of seven ships was in the North Westerly Approaches when two German submarines attacked it. The U 59 and the U 60. Four ships were torpedoed and the other three stayed afloat. The “Volendam” got a torpedo in hold #1.This one as well as hold #2 were rapidly making water and #3 hold started to leak.
Damage to Hold # 1 of the ss Volendam (I) caused by the torpedo.
The Captain decided to abandon the ship. Before giving the signal, all the children were properly dressed and sent to the library and from there to the boats. Notwithstanding there was some swell all lifeboats were lowered and not one of the children or passengers were lost. Too bad that the only one we lost was our Purser.(***) The ship was beached off the Isle of Bute and later towed to the dry-dock on the Clyde. The hole in the ship was 45 X 60 feet and later going down in hold #2, a SECOND torpedo was discovered but missing the explosion cap which most probably (according to a Navy Officer) was blown off when the first torpedo exploded. Wasn’t that a miracle????
During the period from April 14th until July 3rd, 1941 the “Volendam” was transformed into a Troopship in Liverpool. When she arrived in Capetown she had 1,400 Italian and 1,000 German P.O.W.s on board which were transferred in Simon’s town (a few miles South of Capetown) to the Cunard liner Queen Mary. We sailed from Capetown on May 20th with 563 troops on our own to Freetown where we embarked another 200 troops and sailed in convoy with fifty-four ships to Liverpool where we docked on June 23rd. We were in dry-dock for some days and I had a week leave to visit my future brother in law in Parkeston near Bournmouth. On July 24th we went to the landing stage of the Cunard Line where we embarked 2,788 troops and left on the 28th for Gourock where a convoy was formed (one cruiser, one auxiliary cruiser and six destroyers) and sailed from there with twelve ships on the 30th to Freetown where we arrived August 10th, picked up three more ships and sailed to Durban on the 15th where we arrived on August 30th. I was lucky to be able to pay a visit to the Valley of the Thousand Hills outside of Durban. We left Durban on September 3rd with 2,627 troops, twelve ships and two instead of the original six destroyers.
The ss Volendam as troopship during the second world war
After Sept. 10th we only had the cruiser and arrived at Mombassa on the 13th, where for a whole day I visited the family of the lady we had on board the ss “Blommersdyk” from Lindi to Mombassa on July 31st, 1926. We disembarked the troops and took 438 native troops on board and left on the 15th without escort, bound for Diego Suarez on the East coast of Madagascar where we anchored the 18th, took 547 more native troops on board and sailed the next day to Majunga where we arrived the 20th did not anchor but hove to. On the 22nd a small boat of the Government came out to tell us that there were no troops available, so we sailed that afternoon to Capetown via Durban where we disem-barked the troops on Oct. 1st. As there was no pier available dock, the ship sailed to Saldahna Bay (five hours journey) and anchored there from the 2nd of October until the 7th and then sailed back Capetown where we embarked 100 troops. We sailed with three escorts (too many Germans around) on the 14th to Freetown where we stayed for one week and sailed in convoy with five ships and 644 troops on the November 4th to Liverpool, arriving there on the 17th.
Leaving again on November 27th with 3,001 (!!) troops, twenty-five ships and nine destroyers in convoy bound for Algiers where we landed 2,800 on December 6th. We sailed on the 8th but returned the next day due to bad weather and departed on the 9th with a frigate as escort to Bona. Early on the morning of the 10th a Messerschmitt flew over and we expected the worst; but by the grace of God a small shower came over when he was dropping bombs and they hit the frigate who was loaded with depth charges, so when she sank those depth charges exploded at various depths and that was the end of our escort. In the meantime the aircraft disappeared. On the 10th of December we landed our 200 men who were going to detonate the German mines in the desert of Africa. We sailed the next day back to Algiers where we picked up two more ships and three escorts and on the 13th two more ships off of Oran, and arrived in Gibraltar on December 14th. We sailed on the 16th with six ships for Liverpool. I celebrated New Years Eve here.
Whenever you saw one or two planes flying over Liverpool around noon or 1 p.m., you could be sure that there would be an air attack that night. When you were entering the straight of Gibraltar what would mostly happen around new moon, there were always fishermen who passing under your stern were reading the name of the ship and reporting it to the Germans. Once anchored in Gibraltar, a large tanker was anchored about a mile from us. A diver attached a bomb under the tanker who after an hour and a half blew up and since that happened every allied ship at anchor in Gibraltar had a corvette circling it and throwing depth charges all the time. Of course it shook the ship every five or ten minutes, but you felt safe.
We sailed from Liverpool on January 20th, 1943 with 2,795 troops. Met up with our convoy at the Clyde and left with twenty-six ships for Freetown. Our escort consisted of two auxiliary cruisers, one airplane carrier and six destroyers. We disembarked the troops and sailed with eighteen ships to Durban in convoy. We left Durban on March 6th with 500 Italian P.O.W.s, 200 Lascars and 100 British escorts for the P.O.W.s but also had fifty Dutch passengers on board. We sailed with eight ships in convoy but without any escort and our Captain was made Escort-Commodore until the 9th and after that we dispersed. Everybody was then on his own until Freetown where we arrived on March 27th, zigzagging all the time of course. We left Freetown on the 31st with twenty-four ships and nine escorts (fast convoy) until latitude 35 degrees North where twenty-five more ships and seven more escorts joined us (now becoming a slow convoy) on our way to Liverpool. The Commodore of the escort received a report that a few submarines were cruising South of Ireland, so near Kinsale the entire convoy turned around, followed another route and we all arrived safely on April 23rd (Good Friday) on Liverpool roads where we stayed for two days and docked on the 26th. During our two months in Liverpool we went into dry-dock and shifted berths from one dock to another about four times. The entire crew had leave in shifts. I had a little over three weeks and visited Llangollen in Wales, which was most interesting, however it was difficult to understand the people.
On June 21st we left Liverpool with two new propellers installed. This increased our speed to fifteen knots. Liverpool was not very safe anymore so we sailed to Gareloch whenever we were to be lying idle in port for a long time. On July 3rd we left for Gourock (Clyde), degaussing and calibrating our compasses while on our way. At Gourock we took 1,050 R.A.F. personnel and 404 Navy people on board, sailing on the 6th with two destroyers to Reykjavik (Iceland) arriving the 9th and leaving the next day again with about 1,500 U.S. Army personnel, 350 R.A.F. and 54 American nurses with the same two destroyers arriving at the Clyde on the 13th. On July 19th we sailed from the Clyde with on board 1,625 R.A.F., 1,324 Army, 21 ENSA (British entertainers), 26 NAAFI girls (canteen aides), in an eleven-ship convoy. The next day we were joined by five additional ships and had an escort of nine destroyers and one cruiser bound for Algiers. We disembarked all of them and then took 2,900 British Army people on board and sailed the next day (July 29th) to Philippeville with four escorts. We disembarked all on July 31st and sailed on Aug. 1st with 2,500 Italian P.O.W.s and 170 escorts to watch them. We picked-up three more transports off Algiers and arrived at Oran on the 2nd. From there we sailed on the 3rd with five ships and eight escorts via Gibraltar (in and out on the 4th) to Gourock arriving on the 11th, and leaving on the 14th for Glasgow where we disembarked the P.O.W.s. We were then back in Gareloch on the 15th of August
* The Sommelsdijk was a cargoship but had an accommodation for twelve passengers, which is the maximum of passenger berths allowed without a doctor. On cargo ships the chief Officer acts as the ships physician.
** The Netherlands government operated a cabotage system with the various routes to and from the Empire allocated to different companies.
*** Fell overboard when stepping into the lifeboat.
Chapter four: The final years of the war and aftermath.
I had vacation from August 20th until September 2nd 1943 and visited Wales again. We left Gareloch on the 8th the Clyde on the 10th and sailed from Liverpool on the 15th with 3,012 Army personnel, in a convoy of fourteen ships and eight escorts. Peter the 2nd, King of Yugoslavia was traveling on the “Reina del Pacifico” and because she was the ship next to us in the convoy, we saw the King every morning doing his exercises on deck. We arrived in Philippeville on the 24th, disembarked the troops and took sixty-three Italian P.O.W.s on board. We then sailed via Oran and Gibraltar to Freetown, in a convoy of seventeen ships, where we embarked 2,410 African troops aboard and left Freetown on October 14th We were allowed to go ashore in Freetown and visited the hospital where the nurses had invited us for dinner. Via Gibraltar we sailed through the Suez Canal and after Suez we sailed on our own passing Aden and arriving in Bombay on November 17th. I should have said that we were on our own from Port Said until Aden where we formed a convoy with forty ships and five escorts. We disembarked all of the troops in Bombay and then sailed empty back to Aden where we picked up forty passengers. We arrived in Suez on December the 5th and stayed there until the 11th. In the meantime, I made a car trip with the Officer Commanding Troops (O.C.T.), the Doctor and our Chief Engineer, to Cairo and saw the Pyramids. At the same time, Roosevelt and Churchill were in Egypt too (in the Mina House).
In Port Said we embarked 2,700 Polish troops and sailed to Taranto (Italy) where we disembarked those troops and embarked 2,700 troops of the British 8th Army and the next day 250 Royal Marines. Leaving on the 24th, with eight other ships, via Gibraltar where we picked up four more ships, six escorts and an auxiliary cruiser to escort us while sailing to the Clyde (Gourock) where we arrived on January 4th, 1944 and were in Liverpool on January 17th. We left Liverpool empty on the 20th, departing from the Clyde the next day in a convoy of twenty ships escorted by one cruiser and an aircraft carrier, bound for Oran. We sailed from Oran on March 11th with 2,828 U.S. Army troops for Naples where we arrived on the 14th and moored alongside a capsized Italian warship. We were lucky to be able to disembark the troops right away because during the evening Mount Vesuvius had an eruption. The fire and smoke from this eruption gave the German aircraft a good idea as to where Naples was, so all night long we had air attacks and were busy extinguishing the little fires on our wooden decks from the anti-aircraft guns, but we were very, very lucky not to get a single bomb on our ship. Here again, the lucky “Volendam”. We left Naples on the 16th. with six ships and when we were halfway into the straight of Messina when we received orders to turn around on account of enemy attacks. We arrived in Port Said on the 21st, embarked 2,700 troops (2,630 Poles; British Navy, British ATS and nurses) passed Augusta on the 27th, arrived in Naples on the 28th, left the same evening for Mers el Kebir (Oran) where we disembarked those troops. We then embarked 3,035 American forces and sailed with nineteen ships on April 6th to Port Said, the Suez Canal to Aden and with six ships to Bombay where we arrived on April 25th. Here we were lucky again because eleven days earlier on April the 14th there had been a big explosion in Bombay that had killed thousands of people, damaged ships etc. Here we disembarked the troops again and took 1,500 Italian P.O.W.s on board with 430 Officers and men as guards and 111 families with children, all bound for England. We left Bombay with five other ships on May 3rd and embarked 350 R.A.F. personnel in Suez on May 13th. We sailed from Port Said on the 15th with ten ships and six escorts. On the 20th we picked five more ships up off of Algiers, four escorts and an auxiliary cruiser; off of Malta four more ships and later an aircraft carrier.!
We passed Gibraltar on the 22nd with eighteen ships and arrived in Liverpool on May 31st. And that was my last voyage on the “Volendam (also had a nice birthday party). On those trips we often had Brigadiers, Full- and Lt. Colonels, even two female Lt. Colonels, nurses, the band of the famous Coldstream Regiment etc. on board. I was always working with the Officer Commanding Troops, had our inspections, meetings, boat drills etc. The bars on board had the same time of opening and closing as in the U.K. of England. But for us (the Hollanders), they were always open, so we could entertain the officers and / or nurses. I stayed on board the “Volendam” until June 6th and during those two years from May 1942 to May 1944 I made eight trips on her and carried 50,869 troops.
The ss Delftdyk during the second world war.
On June 6th (“D” Day) I went by train from Liverpool to Glasgow to be transferred to the m.s. “Delftdyk” (10,220 ton). This ship would later on in 1950 strike a mine. It was amazing that the British did not pay more attention to the invasion (Overlord was the codeword); but as they told me they had expected it already for some time. We sailed from Gourock (Clyde) on June 18th in ballast, in a convoy with 100 ships (my biggest convoy), accompanied by three aircraft carriers, one cruiser and six destroyers, heading for New York. Being in ballast we carried 2,235 tons of sand and 1,350 tons of water on board. We docked in Hoboken, New Jersey on July 3rd and I had leave from July 18th until September 25th. I received a good ration of gasoline (telling that I had to visit the family of many Colonels etc.) and enjoyed three weeks in the White Mountains (New Hampshire) and later the Pocono’s. On September 14th we had a bad hurricane hitting Long Island.
On October 5th I sailed as Chief Officer on the s.s. “Nieuw Amsterdam” (36,670 ton) to Gourock with 7,614 U.S. troops and 43 U.S. gunners to man our guns. So including the crew we had 8,216 persons on board. We arrived on October 13th and sailed to Boston on the 18th with a total of 2,714 troops amongst whom about 125 were stretcher cases, where we arrived on October 25th. The ship went into dry-dock from October 27th to the 30th and stayed in Boston until November 10th. In the meantime I went to New York for a week in November. We left Boston on the 10th with 7,099 troops and were on our own until the 16th when we had two destroyers with us and arrived on the Clyde via the Irish Sea on the 17th. Mostly we had sailed through the Northern Entrance. We sailed from the Clyde again on November 22nd with 1,248 troops plus 481 wounded and a permanent staff of thirty-eight for the forces on board. Also twenty civilians were on board. Until the following day we had a two destroyer escort,and then we were on our own to New York where we arrived on the 30th.
During the Second World War there were seven troopships sailing without escorts (once in a while we had some air cover) and they were called the seven “Monsters”. These were the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mary, the Mauritania, the Aquitania, the Isle de France, the Pasteur and the Nieuw Amsterdam. The Nieuw Amsterdam was however the only ship that served three meals a day with sometimes 8,216 people on board.
Leaving New York on December 4th with 7,043 troops and the Secretary General of the Ministry of Dutch Shipping on board, for the Clyde where we arrived on the 12th and sailed again on the 18th (North out) with 2,284 troops and two destroyers until daybreak the next morning. Off the coast of Nova Scotia we had as escort an aircraft. About one and a half hours before embarking the pilot for Halifax, the pilot of the aircraft spotted a German U boat in a position ready to torpedo us. The pilot not having time to put his message into code gave it to us in plain language: “Hard Starboard ram a German U boat”. Well we just missed the submarine and thank God she missed us too and in the late afternoon on December 25th we safely docked in Halifax. That certainly was a narrow escape. We did not leave Halifax until January 3rd, 1945 and celebrated a wonderful New Years Eve party in the Hotel Nova Scotia. We sailed on the 3rd with 6,293 Canadians, for the Clyde where we arrived via the Northern Entrance on January 9th and sailed again on the 14th with 1,946 U.S. troops to New York. We arrived on the 22nd and sailed on the 28th for Halifax. We left Halifax on February 1st with 6,801 Canadians and one destroyer for fourteen hours for the Clyde where we anchored on the 7th.
We again sailed from the Clyde on February 14th with 3,115 Canadians amongst whom there were about 450 wounded men. During the crossing we encountered very bad weather, so we did not dock in Halifax until late in the afternoon of the 21st. The night before the troops were in high spirits and happy to come home. At sea the Water Tight doors (there were 37 of them) were always closed. Which means that you had to go to a higher deck when going from area to area in the lower parts of the ship. Well one of the soldiers had visited some friends in another hold or deck and decided to take a short cut home instead of going via the Upper Promenade Deck. He opened a Water Tight door on Main Deck by hand (this is possible too, however they are normally opened or closed electrically from the bridge). When the door opened enough so that he could go through, he let go of the handle but before he was through the door closed again and you can imagine what the result was, almost unrecognizable.
On February 26th we left Halifax with 6,841 troops and sailed with two destroyers for the first twelve hours of the trip, to arrive in Liverpool on March 4th. We sailed again on the 8th with 1,803 U.S. troops (including 647 wounded) and two destroyers for Hoboken, New Jersey arriving on the 16th and disembarking the troops. During our stay, we landed our heavy gun and the slabs on which it was placed and also our ballast in hold #1V. We sailed from Hoboken again on April 7th with 5,695 U.S. troops and some Dutch V.I.P. passengers on board heading for the Clyde where we arrived on the 16th. This voyage was via the Irish Sea, so approaching the Clyde from the South. We sailed from the Clyde on April 22nd with 4,447 Australian troops, 180 WRENS (females) and twenty-nine U.S. gunners for our anti aircraft guns. We passed Gibraltar on the 27th, Port Said on the 1st of May and arrived the same day in Suez from where we sailed on the 3rd. May 5th was V.E. Day and the entire crew received two days extra pay and later, where possible, two days leave. We arrived at Fremantle (Australia) on May 16th at the same time as one of out Dutch submarines. We disembarked a part of the Australian troops and sailed on the 18th, to arrive in Sydney on the 23rd where the rest of the troops were disembarked at the Wooloomooloo pier. Here we got our extra two days pay and leave. I had lunch one of the days with Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser. I forgot to mention that the officer in charge of the WRENS (British) was a Lt. Commander, Irene Farqueharson. A well known name in the British Navy; she was a divorcee of an American multi-millionaire whose name I would rather not mention. She made three voyages with us.
We sailed from Sydney on June 2nd with 361 passengers, 224 Royal Navy personnel and ten Italians for Durban, where we arrived on the 15th and sailed on the 19th with some more passengers (450 women and 152 children) to Capetown arriving the 21st and sailing the next day. Here we embarked a Princess from Greece and some passengers. We arrived in Freetown on June 30th and sailed the next morning for Liverpool, arriving on July the 7th. This was the first time that we received direct mail from our relatives in Holland that was not censored. Besides the passengers and R.N., we also disembarked our permanent staff. On July 18th we sailed with 7,588 Canadians, a new permanent staff of fifteen and a few civilians. Among the troops were 348 nurses. We arrived in Halifax on July 24th, left the next day and arrived in Hoboken N.J. on the 26th. We were in dry dock in Bayonne between Aug. the 1st and the 10th. We celebrated V.J. Day on Aug.13th and the crew again received two days pay and two days of leave.
The ms Nieuw Amsterdam (II) seen here arriving in Halifax on 29 September 1945
We sailed from Hoboken on August the 24th with 507 passengers and about 200 children and arrived for the first time in Southampton on August 31st. From there some of our officers and crew sailed on the Dutch passenger ship “Sibajak” of the Rotterdam Lloyd Line back to Holland but I stayed on board for another four months. In Southampton all of our armour was taken off of the ship and we sailed on September 4th with 7,718 Canadians and some V.I.P.’s of various Dutch steamship companies to Halifax, arriving on the 9th and sailing again on the 13th with 1,530 Canadians and 196 German P.O.W.s to Southampton, arriving on the 19th of September 1945. Here too a few officers and crew went back to Holland, but I sailed back to Halifax on Sept. 24th with 7,714 Canadians, arriving there on the 29th. We then sailed on October 3rd, returning to Southampton with 260 passengers on the 8th. On October 10th, 1945 the “Nieuw Amsterdam” was returned from the Cunard White Star Line management to the Holland America Line. A very nice lunch was served on board to the V.I.P.’s of both companies when the ship was taken back.
During one of our stays in New York, the Dutch Crown Princess Juliana visited the “Nieuw Amsterdam”. On board we had an American doctor who had also sailed with us on the s.s. “Volendam” and could speak a little Dutch. He was one of the last to arrive at the cocktail party that was held in the so called “Golden Coach” (ex childrens playroom) because only those with three or more stripes were allowed there. When the doctor walked in I got up to introduce him but he was too fast and said to the Princess “I am Cassendyk from Alblasserdam” where upon she immediately answered: “With that accent!” Wasn’t she fast? In Holland some of the old families added to their name the name of the village that they had more or less owned. The doctor’s name was Cassidy and Alblasserdam is a small village just outside of Rotterdam.
So on October 28th with our own house flag in top we sailed from Southampton with 4,722 Dutch troops and about 203 females of the Dutch navy and army for Trincomali on the East coast of Ceylon where we embarked about 200 more people and 50 of the Red Cross on October 14th and arrived the 16th at Penang where we disembarked about 2,200 troops and left on the 18th for Port Swettenham where we received a message that we were not allowed to disembark the rest of the Dutch troops in Batavia (Java) and had to go to Port Dickson only 130 miles away to disembark the rest. During the voyage, we had a few M.P.’s on board. One was a 1st Lt. of the Dutch Navy who had escaped THREE times from the concentration camp “Dachau” to take British Officers out and then had gone back again!! He was very much in love with one of the Dutch nurses on board and their being no privacy for them, they could always have their morning coffee and / or afternoon tea in my quarters. Before he left the ship he asked me to take his duffelcoat to Holland for his father who was a doctor there. And now I skip a few years. On March 7th, 1948 I was promoted to Captain and gave a big cocktail party in my house in the Hague. Via the Dutch Navy I invited the 1st Lt. too. Was I suprised when he walked in as one of the last, and as a married man, with his wife the ex nurse of the “Nieuw Amsterdam”. For all I had done for them he gave me a pair of beautiful Zeiss binoculars with the Haken kreuz (Swastika) on it. He had stolen them from a German Naval Officer in Dachau. Wasn’t that touching??
Between Port Swettenham and Port Dickson a soldier jumped over board. We heard later that he was afraid to go fighting again. Anyhow I was sent out in one of our motorboats to pick him up. He was in the hospital for a few days under doctor’s care. On November 21 we sailed empty from Port Dickson to Singapore where we arrived on the 22nd. We sailed from there on December 8th with a total of 4,550 souls on board of which about 2,000 were Dutch widows with their children, all out of Japanese concentration camps. Most of the husbands were either executed (with their wives watching, as had my cousin) or died in hard labor camps. Among the widows was my cousin with her two children, the one that I had visited in 1940 in Soengei Gerong. Also on board, the Sultan and Sultana of Johore (Malaysia). Later I heard that he had been a spy for the Japanese and had to go to prison in England. Further on we had 730 British troops on board. Via Colombo where we embarked twenty-three nurses, we arrived in Suez on December 20th. We moored alongside a pier and there the Dutch people received warm cloths, donated by various countries, as it would be winter in Europe. We sailed on the 24th via Port Said and Gibraltar to Southampton where we anchored on the 31st to celebrate New Years Eve and docked the following morning, January 1st, 1946. Via two Dutch passenger ships the Dutch people sailed the next day to Rotterdam. I left the ship on January 17th, when she was sailing for another voyage, by train via London to Harwich where I embarked on the s.s. “Mecklenburg” and arrived in Rotterdam with 350 other passengers on January 18th. From there I went by bus and truck to Ede where my family was living since the invasion in 1940. All in all, from January 7th, 1940 until January 17th, 1946 I had carried 169,000 troops and covered 328,765 miles, making twenty-eight trips on seven different ships. During the war the Holland America Line had lost seventeen ships and had seven ships that survived. I was very lucky to have sailed on all seven of the ships that came back to Rotterdam.
After three months leave in Holland I sailed as a passenger on the m.s. “Delfdyk” on April 25th to New York where I had another two and a half month leave. I sailed back to Holland as a passenger on the East bound maiden voyage of the m.s. “Westerdam” (12,150 ton) on July 17th and we had on board His Excellency the Dutch Ambassador in Washington. I arrived in Rotterdam on July 26th. This new ship had already quite a story beind it. In May, 1940 when Holland was invaded she was under construction in Schiedam (about five miles West of Rotterdam) but after the invasion the building was slowed down. Everybody was afraid that the Germans would take her. On May 22nd a big fire broke out on board that gutted the interior. In March of 1941 construction was stopped and she was towed to our own pier in Rotterdam on the 21st. On June 1st, 1942 the Germans wanted to take her over, so back to Schiedam. On August 24th the British airforce attacked Rotterdam harbor to prevent the Germans from taking our ships. As a result of the attack the “Westerdam’s” engine room was badly flooded, so back again to Rotterdam where she was cleaned. All the electrical wires were damaged. Then the Germans intended to take her again so the Dutch opened a stop cock and….. she sunk again. In September of 1944, the Germans took her over again, closed the stop cock and refloated the ship. The Germans idea was to use her to block the New Rotterdam Waterway by sinking her so no other ships could enter or leave Rotterdam anymore from the North Sea, so they loaded her with sand, gravel and cement. On the evening of January 16th, 1945 two Dutchmen went out to the ship in a canoe and attached two mines to her side, a few minutes later they exploded and…… she sank for the THIRD time! After the liberation of Holland she was brought afloat again on August 4th, 1945 and the construction was finished on June 24th, 1946 when she was taken over by the H.A.L. She should have been delivered in June of 1940. I sailed on her as Chief Officer ($268 per month) on August 2nd to New York and back to Rotterdam, arriving on August 30th. On September12th I was transferred to the m.s. “Noordam” as Chief Officer, and that brings me to the end of my third decade with Holland America Line.
Chapter 5: New ships and my own command.
I departed on September 22nd 1946 on the m.s. “Noordam” (10,730 ton), sailing from Rotterdam to Antwerp and returning to Rotterdam on Sept. 25th. After that I was transferred back to the “Nieuw Amsterdam” after she had been reconditioned for passenger service during the period of October 1st, 1946 until January 9th, 1947. On January 11th I went back on the “Noordam” on which I made three trips to New York with about 150 passengers aboard on each voyage. I had vacation from April 27th until May 14th and then went to the m.s. “Westerdam” (12,150 ton) as Chief Officer for nine round trips between Rotterdam and New York from May 16th, 1947 until February 16th, 1948. On the second voyage we sailed from New York to Albany, because this city had adopted the city of Nijmegen in Holland and sent us boxes and crates with all kind of food, cloths etc. for the folks in Nijmegen.
We were dry-docked from September 27th until October 2nd to put on our reserve screws. On this ship too we had about 150 passengers until January and then it slackened of to about 50. During those trips we were mostly five days in Rotterdam as well as in New York. I had vacation from February 22nd until March 23rd 1948. In the meantime, on March 1st I was promoted to Captain, and boarded on March 24th the s.s. “Blydendyk” (7,230 ton), the only Liberty ship the company had.
The ss Blydendyk (II) was purchased after the war to replace sunken tonnage.
Whenever you were promoted to a higher rank, you went back to the smallest ship and climbed back up again, until finally sailing on the passenger ships. So on April 2nd, 1948 I had my first command at $400 per month and sailed via Antwerp to New York, Norfolk, Newport News, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Albany (for grain), New York, London, Antwerp and Rotterdam, where we arrived on May 19th. We made three of the same trips between April 2nd and September 22nd, 1948. Between these voyages I followed a radar course in Holland. On October 4th I was transferred to the s.s. “Arendsdyk” (Victory ship of 7,640 ton) and left Rotterdam on October 6th for two trips via Antwerp to the Out ports, and on December 24th I sailed for one voyage on her to the Gulf of Mexico until February 6th, 1949. On February 12th we sailed to Norfolk and took a load of coal on the 22nd and instead of sailing for H.A.L. I sailed for H.I.L. meaning the Holland Inter America Line. This was a service in cooperation with the Dutch Company Van Nievelt & Goudriaan. They maintained a regular service between Holland, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. We sailed from Norfolk on February 23rd via Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York to Port of Spain (Trinidad) where we bunkered and loaded drums with asphalt. We left on March 8th via Receife, Rio de Janeiro, Santos and Buenos Aires where we discharged the balance of our cargo and sailed to Rosario where we began loading again. We started the homeward bound trip on April 6th via Montevideo, Victoria (where we loaded ore), Santos, Bahia to New York where we discharged; and started loading again in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk and New York, where we arrived on May 21st. I made three trips to South America until October 20th, 1949. On one voyage from New York to Boston, we ran in to dense fog in the Cape Cod Canal. The pilot gave up and you can not anchor in the Canal, so I had to take over but was very lucky because there were many cars riding along the canal and I could see their lights and so more or less guess the distance from the shore. Coming back to New York on October 20th, there was not enough cargo available. Thus we made a trip to St. John (New Brunswick) for a load of potatoes for Norfolk and then went back on the South American Service from November 4th and made five more trips between then and December 15th, 1950. That was the end of the H.I.L. for me (for the time being). So in total I had made eight voyages to the sunny South.
Having made many Dutch friends in Brazil, they often came on board in Santos or Rio to enjoy the Dutch Gin (Genever) and Dutch meals, even if it was on a freighter. If long enough in port, I went to Sao Paulo by bus from Santos (a one and a half hour ride). On one trip sailing from Receife (Southbound) on April 26th, 1950 I must have hit a submerged object because the engine started to run a little irregular. I slowed down a bit and we arrived in Rio de Janeiro on April 29th. The pilot does not come on board until you are far into the harbor. So I first stopped outside, not knowing what happened to my propeller. I did not dare to reverse the engine, being afraid to loose my propeller. After the ship was stopped in the water, I proceeded very slowly into the harbor until I could anchor. Because I was steaming dead slow ahead, I hardly made any speed and the many ferry boats between Rio and Niteroi were blowing their whistles like crazy. Well we came to anchor and boarded the pilot, asking him for two tugboats, still not daring to go astern while docking. In the afternoon a diver came and reported that I had lost about a quarter of one of my propeller blades. Thank God. I could not loose my propeller anymore and could go astern if need be. In Hoboken in June, the ship went into dry-dock and had a new blade put on. In September of 1950 on my way from New York to Port of Spain we ran into a hurricane, so I had to make quite a detour. Otherwise nothing special can be mentioned on these voyages.
We sailed on December 16th, 1950 from Norfolk via New York and Antwerp to Rotterdam. So I was away from Holland from February 12th, 1949 until Jan.4th, 1951. I had hoped to be home for New Years Eve because we arrived on the Schelde Roads on December 29th; but no pilot was available and when we boarded one the next day we ran into fog off of Flushing. Then no berth was available in Antwerp, so we anchored again and docked in Antwerp on New Years Eve at 6 p.m. We sailed on the 3rd and arrived in Rotterdam on January 4th, 1951 at 5 a.m.
From January 9th until February 19th we were in dry-dock and alongside the repair shop of the Rotterdam Dry-dock Company for our four year survey. We sailed from Rotterdam on February 21st via Hamburg, Bremen, Rotterdam, and then from Antwerp to New York with general cargo for Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Norfolk, and also loaded in the previous ports for South America. I went over from H.A.L. to H.I.L. in Norfolk on March 29th, and sailed the next day to New York. We made five more trips to South America between March 1951 and May 24th, 1952. They were all regular voyages and only a few interesting things happened. On August 2nd, 1951 just off of Montevideo we ran into a South South Westerly gale, we could not anchor and the pilot would not come out, so we rode the storm until the next day and docked in the late afternoon. On a North bound voyage I was supposed to pick up some coffee in Bahia, but entering the anchorage I received a cable to continue the voyage as there was no coffee. I was lucky that I had not taken the pilot on board otherwise we would have had to pay him and the harbor dues. New Years Eve December 31st, 1951 I celebrated with my friends in Sao Paulo. On a Northbound trip we had to moor alongside another ship of the H.I.L. that was Southbound, in Santos on April 13th. Coming back from clearing the vessel, the platform of the accommodation ladder came down about one foot when I stepped on it, so I slipped and fractured my ankle. I stumbled on board from this ship to my own, where my Chief Officer put a stiff bandage on my ankle. “Gee, may be I will be promoted if you have to stay behind in the next port”, he said. The next day the carpenter made me two crutches but it was not easy to go up to the bridge when we came into Bahia with a little rolling and pitching. In Baltimore on March 2nd, I went to a hospital to have my foot x-rayed. The Doctor said that it was a very bad fracture but thanks to my Chief Officer I was OK. That voyage we sailed from Baltimore to Philadelphia via the Chesapeake Delaware Canal. In March we loaded twelve garbage trucks (painted white!!) for Rio de Janeiro where we arrived in April. The Mayor of Rio came on board and films were made of unloading the trucks while the Mayor and I were watching. In May, we could not go through the Chesapeake Delaware Canal because it was closed on account of a fire on a tanker.
After arriving in New York on May 24th, I had leave from May 30th until July 1st and then was transferred to the s.s. “Arkeldyk” (7,665 ton). I was sorry to leave the H.I.L. but I was getting to expensive for the company, because after having been away for over nine months we received an extra percentage on top of our wages. I made one Out port voyage via Antwerp to Rotterdam from July 3rd until July 23rd, and then I had leave in Holland from July 28th until August 23rd. On August 28th I was given command of the s.s. “Alblasserdyk” (8,295 ton) and sailed the same day to London and from there to Bremen, Hamburg and Rotterdam, this ending on September 4th. The next day I was transferred to the s.s. “Schiedyk” (9,595 ton) for a voyage to the Gulf of Mexico and sailed on the 11th via Antwerp, Havana, Vera Cruz, Tampico and Houston with twelve passengers, disembarking them in various ports and arriving in Houston on October 9th. The next day the ship went over from H.A.L. to the Java – New York – Line and loaded for the Far East in the following ports: New Orleans, Newport News, Baltimore and New York where we docked on October 22nd at the Bush docks in Brooklyn. The next day I sailed on the s.s. “Arnedyk” (7,640 ton) leaving from New York and going to Rotterdam via the Out ports arriving on November 11th, 1952. this was followed by two more trips to the Out ports between November11th, 1952 and February10th, 1953.
During the evening of February 8th, leaving the Straight of Dover on my way to Antwerp, I picked up the pilot off Zeebrugge (Belgium) when we ran into a snowstorm and sleet, so I slowed the ship down. Suddenly I saw a green light and a mast disappearing on my starboard side and heard a big crash. Many, many ships sank in that neighborhood during the war and some were loaded with explosives. So I expected to be blown up in a matter of seconds. Nothing happened, so I sent the carpenter around to take soundings of all oil, water, and ballast tanks and held boat drill with the entire crew. In the meantime the pilot had ordered full ahead.
The ss Arkeldyk (1945) one of a whole series of Victory ships bought by HAL after the war.
I told him over my dead body, and I headed the ship on dead slow towards the coast, to beach her in case she was sinking, to save her and the cargo. After the carpenter reported to me that all soundings were normal, we proceeded at half speed to Flushing where you have to change pilot for the voyage to Antwerp. Around the whole world the pilot is an “ADVISER” but the captain is still in command, only in the Panama Canal the pilot takes over the responsibility.
While on our way to Antwerp I ordered soundings to be taken every hour. I arrived in Antwerp on February 9th at 11 a.m. and reported the accident to the Lloyds Surveyor who gave me a certificate of seaworthiness to go to Rotterdam where we docked the next day at 6 p.m. There too I had to report the accident to the office and the Board of Shipping. In the meantime I asked my office for a diver and then I was told to take the s.s “Appingedyk” (7,625 ton) out on the 13th to the Gulf of Mexico. So I advised my replacement not to sail before he had a diver. Coming back to Rotterdam on March31st 1953, I heard the following story: A diver was not given and the captain sailed for Bremen and discharged some cargo on account of which the ship came a little by the head, so the captain ordered some of the fuel oil from tank #1 to be pumped into one of the after tanks. Well the pumps were working all right but NO OIL. The weather was good so he sailed to Hamburg and had the ship put into dry-dock where they discovered a hole in the bottom of tank #1 of eighteen by twenty-six feet! Had we all been lucky!! Because it was pitch dark when I struck the wreck, nobody saw the spilled oil on the water. If you know that a tank is full of fuel and you take soundings, you only lower your sounding rod until it just hits the top of the tank (so your cord does not get full of the thick fuel oil). The pipe must have had some oil in it, so everybody thought the tank was full. I was called into court many times between trips where they intended to blame me for not taking the right soundings and to take my masters license; but thank God after a lot of talking I won my case.
I sailed again with the “Appingedyk” on April 8th via London and German ports to the Gulf of Mexico where I called in two new ports for me, Coatzacoalcas in Mexico and Panama City in Florida. We arrived back in Antwerp on June 30th and sailed the same evening with a deep draft of thirty-one feet. Being low water just outside of Flushing, I advised the pilot to go slow and wait until there was a little more water near the buoy of Kaloo in the North Sea. Well, he said if we go slow we can pass the buoy on our Starboard. So I said I thought there was more water on our Portside. To make sure, I went to the chartroom and found out that I was right; but the pilot said: “Lately there is more water on this side”. Thank God my officer stood close to me when the pilot said it and made a good witness. Anyhow, at 10:27 p.m. we sat high and dry on a sandbank off Kaloo. We waited until 1:30 a.m. for high tide and got afloat again. In the meantime tugboats asked me if I needed assistance, but knowing it was a sandbank, no harm could have been done to the bottom of the ship. Of course I was called into court again, but because the pilot did not show up, the case was closed. That trip we arrived in Rotterdam on July 1st. My plan was to get married in July in the United States, so I asked for a transfer to a passenger ship being five days in New York. I sailed to New York with 103 passengers on July 10th, as captain on the m.s. “Westerdam” (12,150 ton). We docked in Hoboken on the 20th, and after a lot of difficulties, I got married at last in Alexandria (Virginia) on July 24th, drove back to Hoboken where we arrived at a hotel at 2 a.m. and sailed the same day at noon, so we had some honeymoon. I came back to Rotterdam on August 3rd and was transferred to the s.s. “Andyk” (8,380 ton), sailing again the next day with twelve passengers to the Gulf ports, and back with ten passengers, arriving in Rotterdam on October 18th.
During the voyage from Houston to Rotterdam via Antwerp I had a lady alcoholic on board who made herself a nuisance to the other passengers, so I tried to land her in Florida to get rid of her. The Coast Guard replied: “Can not land her because she is a deportee”. I later tried it again in Bermuda, but just twelve hours before she promised me to behave herself, so I had to cancel the boat that was going to pick her up near the outer buoy. Anyhow, after a lot more trouble, I disembarked her in Rotterdam on Oct. 18th. I made the same voyage again between October 24th, 1953 and January 18th, 1954 with twelve passengers one way and nine back. In New Orleans my wife came on board, but she had to take a bus to Mobile to see me there and a plane to Houston, flying back to New York on December 22nd. In those days you were not allowed to have your wife on board at sea. Coming back to Holland, on January 30th I received, in person, from Prince Bernhard the consort of our Queen Juliana, a silver medal on account of my reports about hurricanes.
In February I was called back into court for the last time for that case of running aground. I had vacation from January 22nd until February 22nd and then was transferred to the s.s. “Almdyk” (8,286 ton). With this ship I made two trips to the Gulf of Mexico with about eight to ten passengers, during the period of February 23rd to May 6th and from May 16th until August 4th 1954. My wife met me in Antwerp on July 30th and we had a vacation in Holland from August 5th until September 6th. I introduced her to my family and visited England where we went to see the house where she was born, in the heart of London; so a real cockney.
Another captains duty. For a long time there was an organization in the Netherlands called NEVAS who arranged for schools to adopt a ship. In this way knowledge and interest for the sea and seafring professions would be nutured fom a young age. In this photo we see Captain Haagmans and two junior officers taking a schoolclass around the ss Almdyk.
On September 8th I sailed on the s.s. “Eemdyk” (9,895 ton) via London, Hamburg, Bremen, Antwerp and Lisbon, with eleven passengers to the Gulf Ports, returning with five passengers. In Le Havre I was just in time to see my daughter who was a passenger on the “Ryndam” one hour because they sailed at noon, the Ryndam being docked at the same pier. She was going to the United States to get married. We docked in Rotterdam on December 4th and made a short coastwise trip on her from December 9th until the 19th, to London, Bremen and Hamburg.
From December 24th (Christmas eve, some date for sailing) until January 17th, 1955 I made one round-trip to New York on the m.s. “Noordam” (10,724 ton) with sixty passengers, had ten days leave and sailed on February 1st on the s.s. “Duivendyk” (8,340 ton) with thirty-two passengers, four bulls and a cow via London, and Curacao to the Pacific Coast calling at Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, Tacoma, New Westminster, Victoria and Port Alberni; back via Guaymas with thirty-six passengers to Rotterdam, where we arrived on May 20th. On the way we docked for a week in Los Angeles and I visited my stepson and family in Pacific Pallisade and my brother in law in San Francisco.
Chapter six: My final years.
On June 8th I was transferred to the s.s. “Diemerdyk” (11,195 ton) for just one round trip to Antwerp and on the 21st I went to the m.s. “Dongedyk” (10,940 ton – the old “Delftdyk”) to take her to London. Since no berth was available, we anchored off Southend from June 27th until July 4th. I was relieved by another Captain and went on the 12th by train to Harwich and crossed the North Sea to Hook of Holland on the m.s. “Duke of York” as a passenger. Next came the transfer on July 14th I to the s.s. “Groote Beer”. This was a Government ship and sailed under the H.A.L. flag. There were two more, the “Zuiderkruis” and the “Waterman”, sailing under the flag of two other Dutch Companies. I made four voyages on her to New York, Halifax and Quebec via Southampton and Le Havre, and one trip to Australia. On the first trip we left Rotterdam with 667 passengers plus 92 in Le Havre; disembarked 289 in Halifax and 470 in New York, and returned with 556 passengers for Southampton, Le Havre and Rotterdam, where we arrived on August 5th. We mostly carried immigrants and government people. The second trip we left Rotterdam on August 8th with 793 passengers and disembarked them all in Quebec on the 16th, embarking 317 for Rotterdam where we arrived on the 26th. The third trip we left Rotterdam on September 1st with 777 passengers for New York and back with only nineteen for Southampton; arriving in Rotterdam on September 21st. The fourth trip we left Rotterdam on September 26th with 519 passengers and embarked an additional 107 passengers in Le Havre. We disembarked 132 passengers in Halifax and 494 passengers in New York, sailing back to Rotterdam with only 68 passengers, where we docked on October 17th.
Then on October 25th we left Rotterdam with 809 passengers of which about 260 were under the age of twelve and 190 were in the crew, via the Suez Canal and Aden bound for Freemantle, where we arrived on November 20th and disembarked 122 passengers. On November 25th we disembarked 475 passengers in Melbourne and on the 28th we disembarked 212 passengers in Sydney. We had plenty of teenagers on board so passing the equator was a big success and many of the young girls had to drink a concoction of everything and on top a raw herring to eat. The herring was appreciated by all; it is a real Dutch treat. After that they were thrown in the swimming pool on deck. We sailed the same day from Sydney to Surabaya via the interesting Great Barrier Reef off Australia and Thursday Island. In Surabaya we embarked 465 passengers, and later in Batavia another 195 passengers who were mainly Indonesians.
Crossing the Equator party on board the s.s. Groote Beer. Captain Haagmans welcomes King Neptune on board.
We left Djakarta (old Batavia) on December 10th, 1955 and arrived in Rotterdam on January 2nd, 1956 via Aden and the Suez Canal. Of course everybody was disappointed to have missed New Years Eve.
On January 22nd I was transferred to the s.s. “Ryndam” (15,015 ton). This ship carried about forty in 1st Class and about 860 in Tourist Class. On this voyage we left Rotterdam on January 27th via Le Havre, Southampton and Cobh with 915 passengers for Halifax and New York, where we arrived on February 7th. From New York we made a cruise with 563 passengers to St. Thomas, La Guaira, Curacao and Havana from February 9th until February 23rd. The crew was 376 and we carried twenty-three staff for shore excursions. Most of the passengers were from General Electric. Quite a crowd. We left New York on the 25th with 483 passengers via England and Le Havre for Rotterdam, where we arrived on March 5th. On the 12th I was transferred to the m.s. “Westerdam” for one round trip to New York because the “Ryndam” had to go to dry-dock, and I joined her again on April 24th. On the “Westerdam” we had 117 passengers Westbound and 98 passengers Eastbound.
The ss Ryndam of 1951, here seen approaching Rotterdam from New York.
I left Rotterdam on the “Ryndam” on April 24th with 711 passengers via Halifax to New York. We arrived in New York on May 4th and sailed on the 7th with 425 passengers on a cruise to the Mediterranean and back via Lisbon, Southampton, Le Havre to Rotterdam, where we docked from May 27th until June 1st, just in time to celebrate my birthday. We left Rotterdam with 570 passengers, plus an additional 107 passengers in Le Havre, 193 passengers in Southampton and 42 in Cobh, via Halifax to New York (in total we had 912 passengers on board) and back from New York on June 14th with 906 passengers, arriving in Rotterdam on June 23rd. I made two more New York trips, from June 29th until July 21st with about 900 passengers round trip and from July 28th until August 18th with a little over 900.We left Rotterdam August 21st full to New York, arriving on the 30th and sailing September 1st on a Labor Day Cruise with 610 passengers to Bermuda. We were back to New York on the 7th and sailed the next day with 856 passengers back to Rotterdam, where we arrived on September 18th, 1956.
And that brings me to four decades with Holland America Line and only two more years to go, because at sixty we have to retire.
From September 22nd until November11th. 1956, I made two more trips to New York on the “Ryndam” with about 875 passengers Westbound and about 600 Eastbound. On November 17th I went to Schiedam where they were building the “Statendam” #4 (24,295 ton) for supervision. In the meantime my wife came over on the “Noordam” from December 10th until January 4th, when she sailed back on the “Seven Seas”.
On December 15th I took the “Statendam” out for an engine trial trip and ran into a very bad storm. The next day the engines broke down and we had to be towed back to Schiedam by five big tugboats on the 17th with 264 people on board from the builders yard and H.A.L.
The ss Statendam (IV) returning to Rotterdam after breaking down on her technical trial trip.
After repairs we left the Wilton Shipping Yard in Schiedam again on January 14th, 1957 at 9 a.m. with 476 people for the technical trial trip. Tried out her top speed, the smallest circle to turn her around, how long it took to heave the anchors home again etc., etc. Everything worked to our satisfaction and we were back in Schiendam in the early morning of the 17th. On January 19th the ship left Schiedam and docked two hours later at our own pier in Rotterdam. We sailed her from there at 5 p.m. on the 23rd for the Official trial trip on the North Sea. Besides 510 guests we also had on board our Crown Princess Beatrix, who christened the ship at sea when it was taken over by the H.A.L. Because the ship was built in a dry-dock, the christening took place at sea. The next morning we docked again in Rotterdam at 10 a.m.
The Statendam left on February 6th for the maiden voyage from Rotterdam, sailing via Le Havre and Southampton to New York. On board 877 passengers and 474 crew. We arrived in New York on the 16th. There was a tugboat strike going on but I was still hoping that it would be over by the time we arrived; but not so. I was lucky to arrive off the pier in Hoboken at slack water and had to moor the ship without tugboats, or dock pilot, myself. It was not an easy job because I did not have enough practice with her to know how she would behave in handling without the help of tugs. I first brought a headline ashore with our own lifeboat and dropped one of my anchors, then I heaved her slowly alongside, not too slow to beat the incoming tide. At 7:10 a.m. it was all over and we were docked without any mishap. The first one being allowed to come on board was my wife. When I came home the next day she asked me if I had read the New York Times; you know there is an article about you under the editorial. Well I did not know that that was an honor! And was my wife proud of me.
After many cocktail parties and dinners with governors, mayors and other V.I.P.s from shipping and passenger agencies, I sailed on February 23rd for three cruises to the West Indies with roughly about 650 passengers each cruise. That evening I was on TV and later in the movies, which were shown in Holland too, and did my family enjoy seeing it. The first cruise was from February 23rd until March 12th, the second from March 16th to March 27th, and the last one from March 29th until April 13th. On these cruises we had 500 in the crew and a cruise staff of twenty-eight for the excursions ashore.
We sailed to Rotterdam on the 16th with 823 passengers, where we arrived on the 24th. From between May 7th and November 16th, 1957 we made nine North Atlantic voyages via Le Havre, Southampton and Cobh to New York, with mostly over 950 passengers on board in each direction. At the end of each voyage we were in New York for two days and in Rotterdam for three. Back in Holland the ship was dry-docked from November 19th until the 23rd and I had five days leave. We sailed again from Rotterdam to New York on November 29th, and made two West Indies cruises between December 10th, 1957 and January 4th, 1958. After that we made the ship ready for a trip around the world of 110 days. I hoped to get a Staff Captain with me for entertaining but had to do without it. For officers I had one Chief Officer, three 2nd officers, one 3rd officer and four 4th officers, a crew of 503, and a cruise staff of twenty-six.
We sailed with 351 passengers on January 7th. Besides our regular life and motorboats, we carried two extra motorboats on top of hatch #2. Our first port of call were the Cape Verde Islands, but we ran into a terrible East South Easterly gale and not only did we miss our first port, but we also lost one of our motorboats on hatch #2, so a good start for a 110 day long cruise. We arrived in Dakar on Jan. 14th, from where some passengers paid a visit to Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Lambarene. The next port was Freetown and then Pointe Noire where I warned the pilot before leaving that we had very good reverse power. He thought he knew better, so trying to leave the pier, where we were docked very close between two other ships, he ordered slow instead of dead slow astern and before we knew it our last headline snapped; so he gave up and I took over. How we just missed the ship in back of us was a wonder, we passed her along her whole length at a distance of not more then four feet. From there we sailed via Luanda, Walvisbaai and Capetown to Durban. During the war there was an opera singer called “the Lady in White” because she always wore a white dress and a big hat (against the sun), who on the arrival or sailing of every troopship sang for the troops. I knew her from those years so asked her via my agent by wire, if she would sing for my passengers on our arrival, being the first ship that made a around the world cruise after the war. And there she was with that beautiful voice. The British Government gave her a silver plated megaphone after the war that she used on this occasion. It was quite a meeting again when she came on board after all of those years.
From Durban we sailed via Zanzibar and Mombassa (from where I still have pictures and signatures of Teddy Roosevelt’s big hunting trip in 1909) to Bombay where we stayed a week so passengers could make a trip to Nepal. There were also overland trips from Durban by air via Kruger Park to Mombassa, where the passengers joined the ship again. To bad I never could leave the ship in those days; now in the 1970’s the Captain and staff officers are allowed to have their wives on board and can visit some countries. I was lucky and saw all those countries in the eleven years I sailed for the American Express Company as an escort.
After Bombay we sailed via Ceylon, Penang and Singapore to Bangkok where we could not sail up the river to the city on account of our draft and size; so we anchored outside where a big coaster came alongside and could take all of our passengers to the city. We supplied all kinds of food and drinks plus a band on board for the three and a half hour ride. From Bangkok we sailed via Bali, Manila, Hong Kong, Formosa, and Okinawa to Yokohama and from there we sailed via Honolulu, San Francisco, Acapulco, the Panama Canal, and Cristobal to New York, where we arrived on April 26th. During the entire cruise every night at sea, I invited ten passengers to my quarters for cocktails. Say four whose name began with the letter “A”, four with “Z” and two with “M”. That night they had dinner with me and after dinner I spent the rest of the evening with them in the Grand Lounge watching the show, dancing or what ever was going on. So toward the end of the cruise, all of the passengers had sat at The Captains Table and everybody was happy. The world cruise ended in New York and we sailed on April 29th with 848 passengers returning to Rotterdam, where we docked on May 7th and were in dry-dock for a shave and haircut from the 9th until the 14th.
On June 15th I was transferred to the flagship “Nieuw Amsterdam” for my last trip as Captain and sailed Westbound with 890 passengers on the 17th, and Eastbound from New York on the 27th with 1,288 passengers (the largest amount of passengers ever to sail her) and a crew of 740, to Rotterdam arriving on July 5th. And that was the end of my career with the Holland America Line. I sailed back to New York as a passenger on my good “Statendam”, who was on a Scandinavian Cruise and did not call at Rotterdam, so I joined her in Le Havre on the 22nd and arrived in New York on July 29th, 1958.
Not being used to the life of a landlubber I joined the American Express Company from December 1958 until October 1969. So all in all, I was 53 years at sea, carried 167,277 troops, 147,848 passengers and covered 2,982,090 miles, so nearly THREE MILLION.
Captain Haagmans in his function as Cruise director/ships host/dance host/Cruise Escort. Nbr 3. from the right standing.
Captain Cornelis “Cees” Haagmans
1898 – 1998
Time Line of Dates and Ships:
March 11, 2019 at 10:14 am
Kees H was a very good friends when we lived in Brazil where he often came to meet his girlfriend after she became a widow. She and her husband knew him from cruises where he was the captain.
We even went to his 90th aniversary in the States in 1988.
February 1, 2020 at 11:26 pm
Geachte Kapitein Schoonderbeek,
Graag wil ik u ere op attenderen dat uw verhaal over Cornelis Haagmans, een kleine maar niet onbelangrijke fout staat. Bij de derde noot schrijft u “(***) He had a brother, who was an officer in the Royal Dutch Navy, born in 1905 and who was killed during the war on 14 January 1942.” U bedoelt natuurlijk “(***)She …” . De broer was Antonie Catharinus van Versendaal. Hij werd op 9-6-1904 geboren in Amersfoort en bracht een groot deel van zijn leven in Ede door, net als u. Hij sneuvelde op 11 januari 1942 ten oosten van Borneo, als gezagvoerder van de Hr Ms “Prins van Oranje”.
Ik ben op zoek naar (foto) materiaal over hem. Er zijn echter weinig sporen van zijn familie. Uw blog is er een van.
February 3, 2020 at 9:12 pm
Ik heb de correctie toegevoegd.