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Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Pauw, Klaas

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Klaas Pauw was born on 24 April 1884 in Blokzijl which was and is a small town in the Province of Overijssel in the Netherlands. His father was Johannes Hendrik Pauw. A general Salesman but who took over in 1885, together with his brother, the family firm and from then specialized in butter. Grandfather passed away shortly in December 1886. The name of the mother was Berendina Oosten. (a)

It is unknown why he wanted to go to sea but the area around Blokzijl had lots of water around it due to the excavation of peat. The whole area was prone to flooding until the 1930’s when the Afsluitdijk closing off the Zuider Zee was put in place. And it had a port which is now a thriving watersport location. Maybe that was the reason he choose to go to sea as I have not been able to find any fore bears with salt in their blood.  The family itself had lived for generations in Blokzijl without any sea- links being mentioned in the local papers.

He joins the Kweekschool voor de Zeevaart in Amsterdam on 21 August 1899. After the three year education he joins Holland America on 07 August 1902 and is placed on board the ss Noordam. On 12 September 1903 he returns from sea with a very good report. For unknown reasons he does not pass the exam for 3rd mate (although his school reports were good) and thus he returns to Holland America on 05 Jan. 1904 as acting fourth officer.

The ss Noordam (I) was the second of three sisters which financial success put the Holland Amerika Lijn on the map as one of the major players on the North Atlantic.

He returns back to school on 16 June 1904 again with a very good report and then passes his exam for 3rd mate on 28 July 1904 with a special notation for speaking 3 languages.  Consequently he is released from the Kweekschool on 29 July 1904 with very good reports for skills, behavior, and attests.

He returns on 29 June 1904 as 4th. Officer on board the Potsdam. When looking at his sailing list it is peculiar, compared to some of his colleagues, that he remains assigned to the passenger ships on a regular basis until promoted to captain.

It seems that this has to do with his parallel career in the Royal Navy. He enrolls in December 1903 and remains in the Reserve Service until his untimely death. By 1925 he had reached the highest rank possible for a Merchant Navy Officer, namely that of Lieutenant First Class in the Reserve.  Holland America liked to have RNR officers in command of their Royal Mail Passenger Ships and thus he must have been given all the support needed to go for his RNR training periods.

This coincides with an entry in his sailing list when he fails his First mates (captain’s ticket) exam. It can be assumed that he did not have enough time to prepare himself with the Royal Navy moving him from (training) ship to ship. So the company did not take it very seriously that he did not pass at the first go.  Because as soon as he passes he is assigned as the Sr. Navigator to the flagship ss Rotterdam and then shortly after to First or Chief Officer.  (See his Royal Navy at the very end of this biography)

Now he should have spent several years as first mate /first officer on the cargo ships but again he is assigned to the passenger ships and the two senior (ss Nieuw Amsterdam (I) and ss Rotterdam (IV) ones on top of that.

The ss Rotterdam (IV) came into service in 1908 and renamed the flagship of the company until 1929 when the ss Statendam (III) arrived.

On 08 April 1913 he marries in the town of Zwolle Debora Johanna Mesdag (passed away 19 April. 1932 at Rotterdam) Her parents (Uco Mesdag and Hedwig Maria Koemer) had a factory there. But by 1925 the Pauw family is listed as living in Rotterdam. (a)

By the end of 1914 he is promoted to Captain with his first ship being the cargo ship ss Waaldijk. This only lasts for a short while as for the next three years he remains with the Royal Navy due to the First World War, although the Netherlands was neutral during the conflict.  He then returns to the cargo ship and ends up in 1922 for ones very short voyage on board the ss Koudekerk. This was not a Holland America Line ship but belonged to the VNS or United Steam, a joint venture of several Dutch shipping companies in which the HAL participated with ships and personnel. This company had been founded in 1921 to enable services to Africa and to the Far East all the way to China, routes where there were no established Dutch companies.  The VNS had bought a ship, the ss Kirkshall Abbey, which had been sailing a few times in charter for HAL and Captain Pauw was dispatched to Hamburg to pick her up and bring her to Rotterdam via Antwerp. There Captain Siebe Vlietstra took over and Pauw was transferred to take out the brand-new ss Breedijk on its trial trip and subsequent maiden voyage to Philadelphia and back.

The ss Vechtdijk. This ship had not been ordered by the company but had been bought in 1920 while under construction in England. Upon delivery it was assigned to be  chartered by the VNS.  It remained in this charter, but owned by HAL until 1933 when it was sold.

After another spell with the Royal Navy he is sent away for “the long run”. This was the service to the Dutch East Indies the so called Holland Britisch Indisch Service from New York.  Which was operated under the VNS banner. For relieve the company had come up with a clever idea, namely sending new crew over while working on a ship on the short North Atlantic service, transfer in New York, while the relief crew sailed the ship back to Rotterdam and then went on leave. For captains does was not always one and as the B class ships had a few extra cabins, Captain Pauw sailed as passenger to New York and took command of the ss Vechtdijk on 21 September 1923 in New York.

He makes 3 round voyages from New York going as far east as Colombo on Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka) by 10 Oct. 1924 he is back home again.  After a year away the captains where then assigned on the ships which did the shorter voyages to the East Coast of the USA and thus he is assigned to the ss Grootendijk a cargo ship built in Holland in 1923. This ship makes one month voyages between Rotterdam and New York with about 10 days in between while the ship is turned around in Rotterdam.

The ss Grootendijk (I) from 1923 to autumn 1925 she was assigned to the New York service but then went to Rotterdam – Vancouver service. Here she is seen on  16 Sep. 1926 docked at the Canadian Pacific Terminal in Vancouver, then under construction. On this location is now the Pan Pacific Cruise Terminal. (Photo courtesy Mr.  H.A Price ??)

On the return of the 4th. Voyage a tragedy occurs as he suddenly passes away on 09 May 1925 due to an unknown cause. The ship was coming from New Orleans and was just passing Folkestone. Cause of death unknown. The Chief Officer sails the ship home and it arrives in Rotterdam the same day. He was buried on 12 May at the General Cemetery at “Crooswijk”, Rotterdam

There seem to have been several children. The death notification of 1925 lists:


J.M Pauw

A Pauw – Noordhof

J Pauw  & Children from Kota Radja Dutch East Indies.


  • Additional Genealogy E.H Kruidhof
  • Comportementen boek Kweekschool voor de Zeevaart as held by the City Archives of Amsterdam
  • (c) Stamboek Personnel records of the Holland Amerika Lijn as held by the Municipal archives of the Rotterdam
  • (d) Various newspapers via Delpher

 Sailing List:  (c)

Date:                     Function:                             Ship:                                      Wages and/or remarks.

07 Aug. 1902       Cadet                                    Noordam                             10,–

16 Oct.  1902       Cadet                                    Rotterdam                          10,–

14 Feb. 1903       Cadet                                        Soestdijk                             15,–

12 Sep. 1903       Temporary dismissed for school did not pass the exam.

29 Dec. 1903       Act. 4th. Officer                  Statendam                          20,–

16 May. 1904       Act. 4th. Officer                  Sloterdijk                             20,–

29 Jun. 1904        Temporary dismissed to go to school. Passed exam for 3rd mate on July 1904.

11 Aug. 1904       4th. Officer                           Potsdam                              30,–

19 Nov. 1904       4th. Officer                           Statendam                          30,–

21 Dec. 1904       Temporary dismissed to join the royal navy.

03 Jan. 1905        Placed for a 3 month exercise on board ss Gier of the Navy Reserve.

05 Apr.  1905       4th. Officer                           Amsterdam                        30,–

27 Apr.  1905       4th. Officer                           Soestdijk                             30,–

05 May 1905       4th. Officer                           Potsdam                              30,–

19 Jul. 1905         4th. Officer                           Noordam                             30,–

17 Jan.  1906       Act. 3rd officer                   Rijndam                               40,–

15 Aug. 1906       3rd. officer                           Amsteldijk                          40,–

30 Nov. 1906       Temporary dismissed to go to school passed for 2nd Mates ticket 21 Feb. 1907.

25 Feb. 1907       3rd. Officer                          Nieuw Amsterdam          50,–

10 Apr.  1907       3rd. officer                           Sloterdijk                             50,–

13 Jul. 1907       Act. 2nd officer                   Sloterdijk                             60,–

13 Feb. 1909       2nd officer                            Potsdam                              60,–

03 Mar. 1909       Temporary dismissed to go to school. On 22 April failed exam

Note: this failure to pass should absolutely not have any negative consequences for this person.

03 May.1909       2nd Officer Sr.                   Rotterdam                          70,–

06 Dec.  1909       Temporary dismissed to go to school passed for first mate’s ticket on 9 March 1910

17 Mar. 1910       Act. Chief Officer             Amsteldijk                          100,–

26 Jun.  1910      Temporary dismissed to go to the Royal Navy.

08 Oct.  1910       Act. Chief Officer             Zijldijk                                   100,–

01 Jan.  1911       Due to restructuring of wages                                    130,–

16 Apr.  1911       Chief Officer                      Zijldijk                                   140,–

03 Nov. 1911       Chief Officer                      Rotterdam                          140,–

29 Dec. 1911       Chief Officer                      Nieuw Amsterdam          140,–

12 Feb. 1912       Chief Officer                      Sloterdijk                             140,–

10 Apr.  1912       Temporary dismissed for Royal Navy.

30 Aug. 1912       Chief Officer                      Rotterdam                          150,–

01 Apr.  1913       Temporary dismissed.

24 Apr. 1913       Wages increased to                                                        175,–

24 Apr.  1913       Chief Officer                      Noordam                             175,–

09 Jan.  1914       Wages increased to                                                        190,–

01 Aug. 1914       Due to mobilization of the Dutch forces temporary dismissed to go to the Royal Navy.

17 Dec. 1914       Act. Captain                        Waaldijk                               250,–

20 Oct.  1915       Temporary dismissed for the Royal Navy.

01 Dec. 1918       Dismissed from military service and on standby,300,-      wage increase

07 Feb. 1919       Captain                                 Amsteldijk                          300,–

01 Jul. 1919         Captain                                 Amsteldijk                          625,–

01 Jan.  1920       Captain                                 Amsteldijk                          650,–

15 Oct. 1920        Captain                                 Amsteldijk                          675,–

15 Aug. 1921       Captain                                 Vechtdijk                             675,–

16 Oct.  1921       wages decreased to                                                       610,–

16 Jan. 1922       Captain                                 Koudekerk                          610,–  (Holl. Br. India Line)

01 Mar. 1922       Temporary ashore

08 Mar. 1922       Captain                                 Boschdijk                             610,-

ED: the Boschdijk was only delivered in October, hence he was re-assigned to the ss Breedijk

15 Mar. 1922       wages decreased to                                                       585,–

Per movement book 22:  on Breedijk (First Captain) 15 Mar – 01 June

01 Jun.  1922       Temporary ashore Placed on board HMNS Cornelis Denkbl ??? for one month

01 Jul.    1922       Temporary ashore

02 Nov. 1922       Captain                                 Binnendijk                          585,–

05 Mar. 1923       Ashore due to illness                                                                     585,–

12 Mar. 1923       Captain                                 Drechtdijk                           585,–    relieve joins at Glasgow.

14 Jun.  1923       Captain                                 Koudekerk                          625,–    VNS

17 Jul.    1923       Ashore                                  Royal Navy.

08 Sep.  1923       Captain                                 Vechtdijk                             585,–    transferred via the Burgerdijk

10 Oct.  1924       Ashore                                                                                 585,–    to Boston.

16 Oct.  1924       Captain                                 Grootendjk                        585,–

08 Sept. 1924     Captain                                 Bilderdijk                             585,–

11 Oct.  1924       Temporary ashore.

16 Oct.  1924       Captain                                 Grootendijk                       585,–

01 Mar. 1925      Promoted to Lieutenant Royal Navy First Class.

09 May.1925       Deceased on board while sailing through the English channel.


Dutch Royal Navy career:  (d)

1903 Dec. 03 Placed on Hr. Ms. training ship Gier  Extraordinary Ensign First Class K Pauw.

1904 Dec 21 Placed –unknown

1905 Jan. 03 Placed for 3 months on board Hr. Ms. Gier

1906 Apr. 03 Released from  Hr. Ms.  Gier

1908 Oct. 12 Promoted to Extra Ordinary Ensign First Class

1909 Dec. 06 Placed – unknown

1910 Aug. 26 Placed on board Hr. Ms. Van Speyk

1910 Oct. 07 Released from Hr. Ms. Van Speyk

1912 Apr. 15 Placed on board Hr. Ms. Hefring

1912 May. 17 Placed on board Hr. Ms. Evertsen

1912 Jun. 15 Placed on Hr. Ms Heemsckerck

1912 Sep. 28 Released from Hr. Ms. Heemsckerck

1912 Oct. 21 Promoted to Lieutenant 2nd class (*)

1914 Aug. 01 Assigned to Royal Navy  Reserve  for the duration of the war.

1914 Aug. 15 Placed on board Hr.Ms. Bellona

1918 Dec. 1918 Dismissed from service

1920 Jun. 14 Allowed to fly the Royal Navy reserve flag on board the merchant ship he will command as long as he is in service of the Holland America Line.

1925 Feb. 17 promoted to Lieutenant First Class (*)

(*) together with C.J de Kup also HAL Captain



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