The Clyde, Glasgow, still at anchor
English sergeant Walter MacNab recalls boarding Abbekerk for the first time. As a so called DEMS gunners he and three colleagues are assigned to strengthen the shipâ€™s defense capability. But, as the rest of the shipâ€™s crew, he is not impressed with the means available.
For such a large vessel the defences were laughable: On a platform at the rear deck an antiquated 4” gun was fitted ( the so called ‘anti U-boatâ€™ gun). Furthermore 6 depth charges and smoke canisters. 2 ‘stripped’ Lewis machine guns ( relics from WO I and hopelessly inefficient) fitted on portable tripods on the bridge. The Lewis machine guns were operated by us, the four DEMS gunners who boarded at Gourock. The other weapons were operated by the shipâ€™s crew. Gunner Walter MacNab
Depth charges on board a freighter are very unusual, even during wartime. But because of her top speed Abbekerk should be able to launch them without blowing herself out of the water. The crew are not convinced by that and would have rather had more and more modern anti aircraft artillery.
Assistant engineer Adriaan Kik remembers another bizarre weapon: The Holman Protector.
It was a sort of tube on a hinge that could rotate in all directions. An air bottle which contained compressed air â€“ provided by the engine room- was welded on the bottom. It was a kind of a mortar in which you could lower a special grenade from the top of the tube, when the grenade hit the bottom of the tube it was launched with a big blast. The thing was, there were no special grenades, so we had to use hand grenades. They were shoved in a kind of cigarette tin, safety pin removed. It was meant to come out of the tin in the air and explode after six counts. Abject poverty, but there was simply nothing else. Ass engineer Adriaan Kik