- Captain Albert's Website and Blog -

Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

Sjerp, David

Captain Sjerp seen here as 2nd Officer in the 1920’s. (a)

Captain David Sjerp was on born on 01 August 1885 at Schiedam (near Rotterdam) as the son of Bastiaan Sjerp (1851 – ??)  and Hijltje Prins (1857 – 1890). Sofar very little is known about his youth and early years.

Most likely he went to school in Schiedam and later Rotterdam as that was his home town. However there is no archive from the Maritime School in Rotterdam from before 1936. The company archives also do not indicate which Nautical School he attended.

He joined Holland America on 31 July 1903 as cadet on board the ss Rijndam (I). Followed by two periods on the cargo ship Sloterdijk (I) and then back to the passenger ships, in this case the ss Potsdam.

The ss Potsdam of 1900. She was the lead ship of a three ship class. The other ships were the Noordam (I) and the Rijndam (I).  Of 12,500 Tons, she could carry 282 passengers in 1st. class, 210 in second class and 1800 in third class. The crew came to a total of 255. (e)

While assigned to this ship he is fired from the company on 8 August 1904. . The company archives indicates this was because of a “boyish prank”. But even it being a boyish prank, a Gentleman company like Holland America could not tolerate this and he had to go. The Archives indicate that he was dismissed because he:

Kicked in the door to the doctors office when he could not find the key fast enough.

The records do not tell why he did this. It can be assumed if it was to save a life then the company would have looked at it from a different point of view.

Cadet or 3rd Officer Sjerp. As his cap emblem is not  a HAL logo  I assume this photo was taken when he started his career with the Japan-China -Japan Line or during a ships visit when he was at his Maritime School. (a)

However by this date he had completed his 365 days at sea and thus he could sit for his 3rd Mate’s exam which he passed passed in December 1904.  Going back to the HAL was not possible so he joined the Dutch Java-China-Japan Line which was an Amsterdam based company operating in the Far East. Here he remains until 1909.  In April of that year he obtains his 2nd mates certificate and applies to Holland America again. The company was expanding around that time and thus they needed more officers. As a result he was signed on again and joined the cargo ship the ss Zijldijk.

David Sjerp and his wife. Date and location of photo unknown. But Sjerp is in white Officers uniform. (a)

Around 1913 he married Jacoba Petronella Schotman (05 April 1887- 05 April 1946) There were three children (Bastiaan 19 Sep. 1914 and Robine 1916 both born in Rotterdam) (b). Later there was a 3rd daughter called Be(atrice). She emigrated in 1953 to Nieuw Zeeland.

Bastiaan or Bas but also called Bob (by the nearest family)  went to the Air branch of the Dutch Royal Navy (Naval Air Service) and became commander of the Navy Airforce Base in Valkenburg and lateron of the whole Dutch Naval Air Service  (f). He served with distinction in the war in the Dutch East Indies and served from 1944 onwards in the RAF.  Decorated twice with the Dutch DFC.

With the first world war in play and many ships laid up and some later confiscated by the USA, David Sjerp, is one of the lucky officers who is more or less constantly employed alternating between cargo and passengers ship.

Here a photo taken from the bridge of the ss Veendijk while in the Panama Canal. The photo comes from the family album and was most likely taken by the Captain himself as it was only with this ship that he sailed through the Canal. (a)

As soon as the war is over, he is assigned to the “long run” which meant being away for a whole year. Thus he sailed as passenger to New York on the Noordam (I) , joined the ss Veendijk as Chief Officer, sailed on her for a year to the Far East and then returned as passenger to Rotterdam on the Nieuw Amsterdam (I).

Captain Sjerp enjoyed photography. We see him here as Chief Officer (see 4 pips on his revers) taking a photo. However he has a gold braid along the base of the cap so this might be taken after his promotion to captain. Cargo ship captains did not always go to 4 stripes on their uniform. Please note the officers caps. The 2nd Officer to the right is wearing the new version, while Sjerp still has the old one. This dates the photo to the late 20’s. (a)

By  1921 the company had taken a share in the VNS or United Netherlands Steam; a joint venture of several Dutch company’s to fill the gap in the Dutch services as there was no dedicated company sailing to (South) Africa and making loop voyages to the Far East. Each company brought in one or two ships which were then later officially bought by the VNS. Also crew was supplied until the new company could deal with it. As a result he is sent as Chief Officer on 01 November to the ss Bovenkerk (*) and within a month promoted to Captain. (* The naming system of this company was KERK = Church endings for their cargo ships and FONTEIN = Fontain ending for its passenger ships).

ss Sloterdijk (1) Built in 1901 as one of the first purpose built cargo ships by Holland America. Apart from carrying cargo the ship could accommodate 350 head of cattle.

Here he remains for 2 years and then returns to HAL as Captain on the ss Sloterdijk (1), the ship he was cadet on in 1904. From then onwards he spends most of this time on the B Class cargo ships of the company. These ships had been added to the fleet in the years after 1923.  Again he is the lucky one as with the world’s economy in the doldrums many officers were laid off but Captain Sjerp kept sailing.  By December 1929 he is back on the Bovenkerk, on loan, to bring the ss Bovenkerk back to Rotterdam. For this he had to wait almost a month in New York after having arrived there a passenger on the Nieuw Amsterdam (I)

Then it is back to the B class cargo ships which were mainly employed on the short routes from Rotterdam to New York and the USA ports on the Eastern Sea board and also to the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and Cuba.

On 04 June 1931 he is awarded the Silver Medal of the Dutch Royal Meteorological Society for maintaining and submitting  Weather Journals.

The ss Boschdijk. built as one of a series of 10 cargo ships in the 1920’s. She was mainly employed on the North Atlantic service to the East Coast of the USA and the Gulf of Mexico. In May 1940 she was docked in Rotterdam when the Netherlands was invaded and she caught fire during the battle  in the port. She was then scrapped. (e)

On 16 September 1931 the ss Boschdijk departs from Rotterdam for a roundtrip to Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico. The ship calls at Antwerp in Belgium and then sails to Havana, where it arrives on October 04. Just after arrival he suffers a stroke and is taken to hospital in Havana,. The Boschdijk sails on with the Chief Officer in command and calls at Vera Cruz, Tampico – Houston – Galveston – New Orleans and then returns to Havana. There on 05 November he reboards his ship but as a passenger for the journey back to Rotterdam. He is now partly lamed and can move one of his legs very slowly. Upon return home he is put on 70% wages, waiting for medical assessment.

Captain Sjerp was forced to retire on 01 April 1932 as his physical state did not allow it for him to continue sailing. Once the retirement grant of the company ran out he had various odd jobs. Times were not easy as the depression was at its severest and for each job available there were 10 able bodied persons waiting in line. The family moved from Den Hague to Kijkduin which in those days was a small village on the outskirts of the large city and a fishing village and summer bath resort.  In the end he found work in running a bicycle parking shed.(Believed to be near the beach). The house and road they lived at was destroyed by the German occupier when the “Atlantik Wall” was extended to stop the Allied Invasion. So they had to move  which made the family live even more difficult.

He passed away on 14 Aug. 1945 at Zutphen, where he and the family had ended up after having been evicted from Kijkduin. His wife did not survive him for long and passed away a year later. Both were buried at the Old Grave Yard in Zutphen. (b)


The captains grave. (c)

Sailing Dates; (d)

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

31 Jul.    1903      Cadet                                  Rijndam                              10,–

11 Nov. 1903      Cadet                                  Sloterdijk                            10,–

01 Feb.  1904      Cadet                                  Sloterdijk                            15,–

26 May.1904      Cadet                                  Potsdam                              15,–

08 Aug. 1904      Dismissed due to a boyish prank. (Kicked in the door to the doctors office when he could not find the key fast enough)

Returned to the company after having served with the Java – China – Japan Line.

Obtained 3nd mates certificate in Dec. 1904

Obtained 2nd mate’s certificate in Apr. 1909

26 Apr.  1909      2nd Officer                          Zijldijk                                   60,–

19 May.1910      2nd Officer                          Andijk                                    60,–

17 Aug. 1910      2ND Officer                         Amsteldijk                          60,–

01 Jan. 1911      2nd Officer                          Amsteldijk                          100,–

15 Jul.  1911      Temporary dismissed for study for  3month period for first mates license.

29 Nov. 1911      2nd Officer                          Rotterdam                         100,-

03 Jan. 1912      2nd Officer                          Gorredijk                            100,-

21 Aug. 1913      2nd Officer                          Gorredijk                            100,-

15 Sep. 1913      2nd Officer                          Gorredijk                            120,–

25 Nov. 1913      Temporary dismissed for study for 2 month period.

25 Feb.  1914      2nd Officer                          Soestdijk                             120,–

21 Apr.  1914      Did not pass first mate’s exam

24 Apr.  1914      2nd Officer                          Noordam                            120,–

29 May.1 914     Obtained chief mates license, during lay over of ship in port.

03 Jul. 1914         Wage increase                                                                   130,–

15 Aug. 1914      Chief Officer                      Noordam                            130,–

22 Sep. 1914        Chief Officer                      Noordam                            140,–

28 Nov. 1914      Chief Officer                      Veendijk                              140,–

09 Mar. 1915      Chief Officer                      Veendijk                              150,–

16 Mar.1915       Temporary ashore due to trip to England

30 Mar.1915       Chief Officer                      Rijndam                               150,–

27 Aug. 1915      Temporary dismissed.

01 Sep.  1915      Chief Officer                      Maasdijk                             150,-

28 Apr.  1916      Wages increased to                                                         170,-

11 Sep.  1916      Wages increased to                                                        180,–

19 Jul.    1917      Wages increased to                                                        190.—

18 Sep.1918        Chief Officer                      Schiedijk                             190,–

01 Mar.1918       Chief Officer                      Schiedijk                              200,–

05 May. 1919      Came home as  passenger on  Noordam.

03 Sep. 1919      Chief Officer                      Veendijk                               300,–

01 Jun.  1920      Chief Officer                      Nieuw Amsterdam        320.—   at New York.

13 Jun.  1920      temporary ashore for leave                                        320,—  (wages and per diems) for 18 days.

01 Jul.  1920      Chief Officer                      Rijndam                              320,–

01 Jan.  1920      wages increased                                                                340,–    (starting 1 Jan. 1920)

01 Oct.  1920      Wages increased                                                               370,–

11 Nov. 1920      Chief Officer                      Soestdijk                             370,–

19 Nov. 1920      Chief Officer                      Gorredijk                            370,–

01 Sep.  1921      Wages decreased                                                              338,–    per 16 Oct. 1921

22 Oct.  1921      Temporary ashore.

01 Nov. 1921      Chief Officer                      Bovenkerk                          398,–

25 Nov. 1921      Act. Captain                       Bovenkerk                          585,–

25 Nov. 1922       Act. Captain                       Bovenkerk                          650,–

17 Mar. 1923       Ashore

03 Apr.  1923      Act. Captain                       Bovenkerk                          650,–

13 Apr.  1923      Act. Captain                       Sloterdijk                            560,–

15 Oct.  1923      Chief Officer                      Ashore                                 360,–

24 Dec. 1923      Act. Captain                       Boschdijk                            560,–

24 Mar. 1924       Act. Captain                       Westerdijk                          560,–

01 Mar. 1924      Act. Captain                       Boschdijk                            560,–

25 Jun.  1924      Chief Officer                      Ashore                                  360,–

08 Sep.  1924      Act. Captain                       Blommersdijk                    560,–

01 Dec. 1924      Act. Captain                       Burgerdijk                           560,–

19 May. 1925      Act. Captain                       Blommersdijk                    560,–

03 May. 1926      Act. Captain                       Ashore                                  560,–

08 May. 1926      Act. Captain                       Boschdijk                            560,–

29 Dec. 1926                                                        Ashore                                  560,–

07 Jan.  1927      Act. Captain                       Blommersdijk                   560,–

01 Apr.  1927      Wage increase                  Blommersdijk                   580,–

05 Apr.  1928      Captain                                 Beemsterdijk                     580,–    by train from NY to Phil.

07 May. 1928      Captain                               Ashore                                  580,–

31 Jul.    1928      Captain                               Gaasterdijk                         580,–

11 Jan.  1929      Captain                               Blommersdijk                    580,–

11 Jan.  1929      Wage increase to                                                              600,–

01 Mar. 1929      Captain                               Westerdijk                          600,–

09 May. 1929      Captain                               Blommersdijk                    600,–

12 Nov. 1929      Ashore

03 Dec. 1929      Captain                               Bovenkerk                          600,–

12 Dec. 1929      Captain                               Bilderdijk                            600,–

01 Jan.  1930      Wage increase                                                                  620,–

10 Aug. 1930      Captain                               Ashore                                  620,–

19 Nov. 1930      Captain                               Binnendijk                          620,–

09 Apr.  1931      Captain                               Bilderdijk                             620,–

11 Sep. 1931      Captain                               Boschdijk                             620,–

01 Mar. 1929      Captain                               Westerdijk                        600,–

09 May. 1929      Captain                               Blommersdijk                    600,–

23 Oct.  1929       Captain                               until 02 November 1929 ashore with leave.

02 Nov. 1929      Captain                               Nieuw Amsterdam           600,–    to New York as passenger.

12 Nov.1929       Temporary ashore                                                         600,–

03 Dec. 1929      Captain                               Bovenkerk                          600,-      Home trip for VNS

12 Dec. 1929      Captain                               Bilderdijk                            600,-      Home from Antwerp by train.

01 Jan.  1930      Wage increase                                                                   620,–

10 Aug. 1930      Temporary ashore

19 Nov. 1930      Captain                               Binnendijk                          620,–

09 Apr.  1931      Captain                               Bilderdijk                            620,–

11 Sep.  1931      Captain                               Boschdijk                            620,–

04 Oct.  1931      Hospitalized in Havanna. Stroke.

05 Nov. 1931       Boarded Boschdijk at Havana. Coming home as passenger

22 Nov. 1931      Temporary ashore at 70%                                           496,–

01 Apr.  1932      Dismissed and put on standby wages.


(a): Wim Noordhoek. Grandson of Captain Sjerp.

(b). H.A. Kruidhof

(c) https://www.online-begraafplaatsen.nl/graf/774446/1167615/David-Sjerp-1885-1945

(d) Stamboek / Personnel details.  Holland America Line Archive as held by  Municipel Archives of the City of Rotterdam.

(e) Author’s collection.

(f) David Sjerp, Grand son of Captain David Sjerp, Son of Bastiaan)

Last Updated: 14 Feb. 2022


  1. Interessant levensverhaal dat helaas niet in onze genealogie “Het geslacht Sjerp” van D. en N. Sjerp gepubliceerd is. Wel staat daarin een foto van David en zijn vrouw Jacoba Petronella Schotman. Hij is daarin genoemd in familietak 1A terwijl ikzelf tot 2B behoor. Mijn vader Antonius Martinus (1911-1971) heeft behalve in de crisisjaren altijd gevaren, zelf ben ik van 1970 tot 1980 radio-officier koopvaardij geweest. Helaas is er nog geen digitale versie van onze genealogie op internet met aardige levensbeschrijvingen en foto’s die door komende generaties kan worden aangevuld.

  2. Kapitein Sjerp was mijn opa. Er waren drie kinderen. Robine was mijn moeder en er was ook nog een tante Be(atrice).
    Ik ben van 1946 en heb mijn opa dus nooit gekend.

    • Mijn dank voor uw reactie.

      ik heb zojuist de biography aangevuld met photos en meer informatie.


      Capt. Albert

  3. Geachte captain Albert,
    Min of meer bij toeval kwam ik op deze beschrijving over het leven van mijn grootvader. Ikzelf ben de oudste zoon David van de door u genoemde Bastiaan, de zoon van David Sjerp senior.
    Dan een enkele aanvulling op wat u over mijn vader schrijft.
    De naam Bob was alleen in de directe familiesfeer. Verder diende hij inderdaad in de Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (net zoals ik gedaan heb) (in het Engels: Naval Air Service) en zijn drie laatste functies waren commandant van eerst het Marine Vliegkamp de Kooij, vervolgens van het Marine Vliegkamp Valkenburg en tot slot Commandant van de hele Marine Luchtvaart Dienst. Dan iets over terminologie. U schrijft “Navy Air Force Base” voor Valkenburg, maar de juiste Engelse term voor een marine vliegkamp is “Naval Air Station”. Om misverstanden te vermijden , dit is absoluut geen verwijt, maar wil alleen een bijdrage zijn voor een dan nog beter verhaal. Ik ben u dankbaar voor het feit dat ik hierdoor zo veel meer weet over mijn grootvader, die ik helaas ook nooit gekend heb

    Met vriendelijke groet
    David Sjerp

    • Mijn dank voor uw reactie en opmerkingen.

      Als uw nogmaals kijkt naar de biography zult uw zien dat alles is bijgewerkt.

      nogmaals mijn dank en mvg

      Capt. Albert

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.