My dad never talked much about the war. I knew he sailed with the dutch merchant navy and also that his ship was torpedoed. But that was about all. That all changed when my dad took me on a camping trip in Scotland. For the first time he talked about the ship, the MS Abbekerk, about how it was to work in the engine room of a ship during the war, about the heavy casualties the merchant navy suffered and mostly about the sinking of a beautiful ship and how pointless a war is. I was about 13 at that time and didn’t really comprehend what he was telling and looking back now I think it was also an attempt to change my mind on joining the army or merchant navy.
Later I realized how special this kind of “untold stories” are to always remember how people in the second world war were just caught up in events totaly out of there control or influence. Just doing their jobs. I was glad (my mother and) I convinced my dad to put his story on paper (harddisk it was), which he started in 1999. Unfortunately he passed away before he completely finished his memoirs. My mother and I finished them as good as we could, but getting deeper in the story actually raised more questions than it answered. Last years the Internet opened a whole new source of information. Thanks to Henk Meurs of the dutch merchant navy1939-1945 website for the first time I got a substantial amount of information about Abbekerk and restarted my search for information to complete my dads story.
In 2007 I came in contact with people who were in search of information about the evacuation of American and Australian troops from Tjilatjap with Abbekerk in 1942, and I realized the logical next step will be a website, to share the story and all the information I collected. Thanks to mr Ben van Essen from Adelaide (Australia) who translated my fathers story in English and so made it possible for everybody to read it.
This website is basically his story with a lot of relevant information he couldn’t remember or simply never knew. Since he never kept a diary and most of his belongings were lost during the sinking of Abbekerk, he wasn’t sure of date’s and times. So reconstructing the timeline of events proved to be quite a challenge.
Most of the date’s that are in the chapter name’s are added later, but further the story is kept original as he wrote it. Although some of the humor and some of his ways of writing we were not able to translate properly in English.
I did put in some comments were I have additional information.
By now the website has grown far beyond my expectations. Some highlights: the contact with Bill Heath, an American Soldier who was evacuated from Tjilitjap by Abbekerk; The painter of HMS Wallflower finding the survivors of Abbbekerk by Shirley Fielden and my visit in England to Walter MacNab, gunner on Abbekerks last voyage. I’m still find working on the website very rewarding and hope to extend the website even more in the future
Zaandam, 10 july 2007
Zaandam, March 1, 2010
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