From April 1962 to February 1963 I was posted aboard the supply ship HMS. "Pelican" with which I left on May 22, 1962 (the day after the diving training had started) for a stay of eighteen months to the former Dutch New Guinea. At least that was the intention. Because at that time a normal military mission period was eighteen months. But it eventually got shorter because New Guinea was handed over to the United Nations in October 1962 and we arrived back in Den Helder on December 21, 1962, just in time to celebrate Christmas at home.
Although I naturally wanted to sail, I left with mixed feelings, because I had been dating for a few years by then and it was also the first time for my girl that I would go away for so long. The home front did not like it at all, mainly because of the war conditions there. And luckily they didn't know what we all had on board, I'll come back to that later.
The journey went via Willemstad on Curaçao, where I turned eighteen. (So old enough for a broadcast) By the way, we don't sail alone because the HMS. "Walrus" accompanied us throughout the journey. She had the same destiny. In Willemstad, the ship had to dock for a while because there were some problems with the lubricating oil supply to the propellers. But that problem was quickly rectified. In Willemstad I met my buddy from HMS. "Willem van der Zaan" in Vlissingen. He was there for deployment and was placed at the Marine Barracks Suffisant. We then celebrated our birthday with acquaintances of his because his birthday is one day after mine. So that worked out nicely.
The journey continued through the Panama Canal to Suva on Viti Levu, one of the Fiji Islands. The journey across Panama was an experience in itself. You actually sail at altitude (26 m above sea level) through the jungle (81 km) of that country. The ships are pulled through the locks with diesel locomotives. The crossing from Panama to Suva took about 3 weeks. We were supposed to go to Tahiti and the reason why we weren't “allowed” to go to Tahiti was because it was still a French colony, and they found it a bit confrontational. That was also the reason why we did not want / were not allowed / dared to go through the Suez Canal on the outward journey. The Fiji Islands were under "supervision" of New Zealand, and they were not that difficult. There was also talk of New Caledonia and we eventually steamed on to Suva. On June 16, we passed the Equator and received a visit from King Neptune. This means that those on board who have not previously passed the Equator are baptized by Neptune and his cronies as his subjects. Of course I was also screwed and was soaped with all kinds of rubbish and then thrown into a large (made of tarpaulin) container with sea water. When mooring in Suva we got a cobratros (mooring line) in the propeller (10 turns around the propeller shaft). The port side steam turbine (7000 HP) then suddenly stopped. With our own divers and equipment, we couldn't get the job done and had to wait for the US Navy. It happened to be nearby with a diving work ship. They still worked continuously for 2 days to get that line loose, it was really stuck. In the meantime we could of course go ashore with the motor-launch. It was nice to stretch your legs after three weeks at sea. I met a Dutchman there who had lived there for 40 years. He originally came from Haarlem and asked what it was like there now. I couldn't say much about that because I actually only got through it by train on the way to Den Helder.
After having moored there for a week, we left for our final destination Hollandia in the former Dutch New Guinea where we moored in the evening on July 12, 1962 in the dark. I was very curious what the landscape would look like. Judging by the lights we were at some distance from the city and the lights were visible at different heights, so it must be mountainous. You smelled the typical rotting air of the jungle that we had also smelled in Panama. Anyone who had never been there was very curious what it would look like in daylight.
The next morning on deck as quickly as possible to view the surroundings. Seen to starboard (for the landlubbers below you on the right) it was very mountainous (the Cyclops Mountains) and green. All jungle and at some distance was the "city" of Hollandia (nowadays it is called Jayapura) hidden among the greenery. On the port side (for the landlubbers below you on the left) we looked out on a large bay, which I later learned was Humbold Bay. Nearby was a mountain in the water where a Papuan kampong (village) was built on wooden poles in the water, it lay between the wreckage of American landing craft and tanks from World War II. Later in time we saw that in other places on the north coast of New Guinea, the Papuan houses were also built on wooden poles, often between the war wreckage in the water.
On the first day in Dutch New Guinea, we were addressed in the morning by the Commander of the Navy there, Rear Admiral Reeser. He was a tall thin man and better known among the navy people as "cross-eyed or pokhouten Leen". It was a fire eater. We were told that we had to reckon with the possibility that we would have to give our lives for the people and the fatherland. We just had to make do with that. That was a bit of a swallow of course, but because of our young age it didn't really dawn on us what exactly was meant by that (in hindsight). That same first day, we as warehouse managers were able to get to work immediately because two trucks with army soldiers and a major of the marines Major De Keizer appeared. He told us that the soldiers had come to help us unload a load of 12 cm shells for the destroyers in New Guinea. The intention was that we as warehouse manager only had to give instructions when unloading and operating the cranes and they did the heavy work. So we spent the rest of the day doing that.
In the beginning we had to get used to that humid tropical heat and that always clammy feeling. But everything went. Because we had no air conditioning on board, we were soon covered in rashes due to profuse sweating, in the form of rubella, ringworm and monkey pox (vesicles under your armpits). We were treated for that daily in the infirmary. But it didn't help much, the only thing that generally helped was showering with salt water or swimming in the sea. Then you got rid of it for a while, but it came back just as hard. We eventually learned to live with it. Sleeping was also a disaster. We slept three high and for every twelve beds there was a ventilation ball that you could turn to different sides, so you understand when you got off your post at night and dived into bed, you naturally aimed that ball at your bed, but if the next one, who slept near you, came from post a few hours later, then of course he aimed that ball at his bed and then you swam out of bed in the morning from sweating.
We sometimes came on board of a destroyer to supply them, then we immediately had a cold after our visit because the destroyers did have air conditioning on board and what kind of air conditioning. The people there slept under two blankets and they didn't walk around with all those rashes. We used to be jealous of that.
We only sailed on the north coast during our term there. We were not allowed to go to the south coast (that was the side opposite Indonesia) because we had far too few defenses and no anti-submarine equipment at all. Even on the north coast we were not allowed to sail alone, we always had a submarine chaser close to us who could assist us in case of alarm. All we had on board was a bit of anti-aircraft defense in the form of nine 20 mm Oerlikon machine guns and two 40mm Bofors rapid firing guns for sea and air targets. I myself was assigned to the war watch as a gunner and loader at the Oerlikon on the highest (signal) deck behind the bridge. We've been on lit war watch all this time in New Guinea (six hours on six hours).
During sea watch I was helmsman or blind man (assistant to the helmsman) or I was a lookout on the bridge.
Helmsman and lookout was always a nice job for me. Fortunately, the wheelhouse was directly under the bridge and had a porthole through which you could see out and two doors that were always open. Most larger warships at that time had their wheelhouse somewhere deep in the ship, usually below the waterline within an armored belt. Well protected so but then you couldn't see outside at all. Of course that wasn't all.
Hollandia and Biak were our home ports. From there we kept commuting to Manokwari to supply the marines and Ransiki to load fresh vegetables.
Sometimes we just anchored somewhere off the coast and then went ashore with the motor-launch to swim or go into the bush, but then we always had to have a Papuan guide with us otherwise you would get lost in no time.
We regularly went fishing with one of the two motor-launches when we were in Biak or Hollandia. I then controlled that motor-launch. I was happy to do that and the skipper apparently had confidence in it if I sailed with it. I had to take a test first and that went well.
In Hollandia we often went to the naval barracks called "Kloofkamp", which was in the hills with a nice swimming pool with ice-cold water. That pool was filled with water by a river from the mountains. The fish nibble on your toes. We also sometimes went to Lake Sentani in the Cyclops Mountains, about thirty kilometers from Hollandia. The drive to there was already very nice, a coastal road along the Humbold Bay. Everywhere you saw wreckage from the American landings in World War II.
Every now and then we experienced exciting moments. While sailing we always sail a zigzag course to make possible submarine attacks by the Indonesians more difficult. And then it sometimes happened that a strange periscope was observed and then it was immediately an alarm with combat guard on post. And then nothing happened. At those moments, the adrenaline flew through your body. Or it sometimes happened when we were somewhere on shore that an air raid alarm suddenly sounded in the evening. Then you saw the lights go out all over the city and everyone flew to their combat posts and then it turned out to be a friendly plane that had forgotten to report. Then another sigh of relief went through the ship. Because we always had in the back of our minds the thought that if we, in any way, were to be attacked one hit would have been enough to blow up the whole ship in one fell swoop because we were bursting with ammunition. Of the six loading bays, four were full of ammunition consisting of 28 torpedoes, aircraft missiles, depth charges, depth charge missiles, 12 cm grenades and smaller types of ammunition for mortars, machine guns and small arms. The remaining two cargo holds were for spare parts and food.
Later it turned out that the strange submarines, whose periscope was sometimes spotted, were Russian submarines. See the following story from the Historical News of 11/2013, "Russian submarines for New Guinea"
Our main task was to supply Naval vessels, Marine units and aircraft of the Naval Aviation Service at Biak.
At the end of July we were personally told by our boss the Lieutenant commander of administration Bruins that we could enter the petty officer training. It would start in Hilversum at the Marine Training Camp in August. We were on board with four warehouse managers second class and we knew no better than to qualify for a petty officer training you had to be at least first class. That was true, but what we didn't know was that they were short of corporals. Especially because it was still a young service profession. We were interested in that, of course, then we would be back in Holland in August and we didn't have to sign up because we still had enough term ahead of us in terms of employment. One boy didn't feel like it. That was Cor Hopmans, my old schoolmate from primary school, who just wanted to serve his first contract and then leave the navy. Our boss would arrange everything, we had to submit a request for the record, but that was really just a formality.
Disappointment came about a week later. Mr. Bruins came to inform us that the entire training had been postponed to the end of that year because no one would be relieved in New Guinea because it was an end there due to the upcoming transfer to Indonesia and everyone therefore went home early would come. But he had been promised that as soon as we were back in Holland we would immediately be placed in the next petty officer training course. And that is how it happened.
On September 1, I was promoted to warehouse manager of the first class. We just celebrated that then. With beer and heavy rolling tobacco. Before I went to New Guinea I didn't smoke or drink a drop of alcohol. But over time in the tropics, more out of boredom and the routine of the war watch, I started smoking and drinking. I also grew my beard there for the first time. That was later for the home front, when I was back home, take some getting used to.
At the beginning of November, I think the tenth, we left New Guinea as the penultimate naval vessel. Hr.Ms. “Overijssel” would be the last. We met them a few times later on our way to Holland. Once in Cochin (India) and in Naples.
The journey home went smoothly thanks to a good bunch of engineers. During our stay in New Guinea, they repaired and renewed so many things in the engine rooms and boiler rooms that we no longer had any significant defects. That was different on the outward journey. Then we sometimes spontaneously floated on that large puddle because a device in one of the engine rooms failed again or refused to work. Or it sometimes happened that the steam supply suddenly failed.
On the homeward journey, our first port of call was Cochin in India. We stayed there for a few days because we needed spare parts for our radar and our commanding officer did not want to continue sailing, especially through the Suez Canal without radar. Mr. Ms. "Overijssel" who was the last ship to leave New Guinea had spare parts for us and so we waited for that. Cochin is the second largest port in India, but the city was very dirty and smelled terrible. There we also saw the sacred cows walking around for the first time.
In the Red Sea, on our way to Suez, we encountered a strong wind that came in diagonally from behind. Then you swing nicely. At Suez we had to anchor so that a convoy could be formed to pass through the Suez Canal. Each ship was given a large headlight on the bow and a number of Arab merchants boarded. That passage was quite an experience for me. On board I was always assigned to mooring and anchor role as telephone operator on the foreship. Your task then was to pass on the orders from the bridge to the mooring crew. We left Suez at eleven in the morning, when I was still wearing short khakis for a while. That's shorts with a T-shirt. Then it was still very hot because you are sailing right through the desert. But around six o'clock in the evening when it started to get dark (and that always goes very quickly in the tropics) it also started to cool down immediately. Fortunately I was relieved for a while to eat and then immediately changed into European uniform with a jacket over it. That was a good thing because it had become quite cold by now. Later that evening I put on a duffle coat (winter coat) over it. We arrived in Port Said around eleven o'clock in the evening. There we stopped briefly to disembark the Arab merchants we had on board during the passage. There were quite a few poufs and camel sets bought by the mates. But also fake gold rings. In addition, the headlight also had to be removed, of course we were allowed to take it with us.
After Port Said we only visited Naples in Italy. There we saw the entire US Sixth Fleet lying inside. We could just lay there. And there I also saw the volcano Vesuvius for the first time in my life. An excursion to Pompeii was organized but unfortunately I could not participate because I was on guard. When we had just left Naples, there was no radio connection with Holland for a while. It seems that they were still looking for us at the time. We didn't notice that at the time. We heard that later when we were back in Holland.
We arrived in Den Helder at the beginning of December. It was terribly cold. We could only just enter the harbor as it had already frozen. I've never been as cold as I was then. Because when I came in I was of course back on the foreship. You don't want to know what I had put on then. I looked like a Michelin man and I was still cold.
We were then allowed to go home for a few days to celebrate Sinterklaas, after which we had to be on board again to empty the ship completely. Everything had to be disembarked. Our bed mattresses were immediately thrown on a funeral pile. They stank of sweat. When that was all done we were allowed winter and disembarkation leave. Fortunately, that lasted several weeks. During that leave I already had my first malaria attack. Years later, it came back several times.
Looking back on this military mission period, I am glad that I was able to experience this. I have gained respect for the Papuan people. They are a proud people that I think that we (the Dutch Government) have failed despite all the promises that were made. We had two Papuan boys on board during the entire deployment period who worked in the laundry. We, my boss and the commander, then made every effort to be allowed to take one of those two boys to Holland. He really wanted that, accommodation and work had already been arranged for him in the Netherlands and it was not allowed from The Hague at the last minute. That sucked.
On FaceBook you will find the group "Pelican A 830".
Click on the image below to watch the film about my New Guinea period.
On March 7, 2018, the first reunion of HMS. "Pelican" was held in the former Naval Training Camp Hilversum. It was a very successful and pleasant day. If you want to see the photos of that, click on the photo on the right.
I made this book via Veteranenboek.nl and slightly modified it to be able to make a pdf of it. If you want to view the book, click on the photo on the left.
Do you have any comments, or perhaps additions to the content of this New Guinea story?
Use the adjacent contact form or the guestbook for this.
I had this memory wristband made by Joris Gadellaa. If you are also interested in such a wristband, you can find him on Facebook.
(Most images can be enlarged by clicking on them.)
HMS. "Pelican" on its way to the former Dutch New Guinea
HMS. "Pelican" was built at the Harland & Wolf yard in Belfast and was commissioned in July 1948.
Originally it was a large tank landing craft in service with the Royal Navy under the name HMS. "Thrusters". In 1947 it was bought from the English. And initially put into service as a floating warehouse in Den Helder.
Length 122,37 m
Beam 15,39 m
Draught 5,08 m
Displacement 4280 tons
Power supplied by
2 steam turbines 7000 pk Speed 12 kn
40 mm machine guns Bofors 2
20 mm machine guns Oerlikon 9
Some more pictures of HMS "Thruster"
The supply team on board consisted of:
Lieutenant commander of administration Bruins, who was our boss and division chief; Sergeant major warehouse manager Kuizinga, our chef; Sergeant warehouse manager Luisterburg, head of the office; Corporal warehouse manager Gijs Overgauw, our immediate supervisor in the warehouses and then four second-class warehouse managers, namely: second class Ruud Nienkemper, second class Dirk Oostdijk, second class Cor Hopmans and my person. Corporal torpedo maker Verstraten was also added to our team when he had nothing to do and the conscript male nurse Vorstenbos when it was quiet in the sick-bay
The 4 warehouse managers, from left to right Ruud Nienkemper, Cor Hopmans, Dirk Oostdijk and my person.
Photo taken on March 7, 2018 during the first and last reunion of HMS. "Pelican"
We regularly encountered the animals below. The flying dogs flew around in droves just like the Cockatoo. You had to go into the forest for the Bird of Paradise. The Crown Pigeon is the largest pigeon on this planet. The Netherlands New Guinea Aviation Company was named after it. The chattering beetles were not dangerous but they had a hard shell. It sometimes happened that they flew into your forehead in the evening, then you had a good bump on your head. If you went into the forest you came across many types of (very) poisonous snakes, cassowaries, wild pigs and deer. The latter two were the largest mammals.
You only encountered the cheerful boys below in the "Baliem valley" (which is located in the middle of New Guinea, so in the middle of the rainforests). They looked very combative. The penis sheath was a real status symbol.
In the photos below we were anchored in the roadstead at Biak. One of our home ports. Kees van Noord (on the first photo) was later on board the lifeboat in Den Helder and was then due to a violent storm thrown overboard during a rescue operation and unfortunately drowned.
In the pictures below we were lying on the buoy at Manokwari where a plane from the NNGLM "Kroonduif" happened to land. Followed by a 1999 newspaper clipping describing the Russian presence in New Guinea. In addition, some newspaper articles from that period.
The state insignia of first class (1 September 1962 promoted) with the confirmation below on a chain printout.
On the way home
In the Straits of Malacca we met a Chinese Junk on our way home. In that Strait we also encountered many "Portuguese Warships". Some kind of jellyfish.
However, the "Portuguese Warship" is not a true jellyfish, but a complex colony of four types of polyps. The Portuguese man-of-war can develop tentacles up to 70 meters long. In addition to the body, which is on average 9 to 35 cm in size, it has a gas bladder, which serves as a "sail". This sail, which is in fact a polyp (pneumatophore), can be filled with air if the warship needs to remain on the surface, and can deflate in case of danger, causing the warship to submerge. This sail can also be turned in a certain angle, so that the colony can "determine" where it "wants" to go. It is even possible to tack against the wind.
The other three types of polyps are the tentacles (dactylozoids), which trap and paralyze food (especially small fish), the digestive polyps (gastrozoids), and the reproductive polyps (gonozoids). Each polyp therefore has its own task. The tentacles catch the prey and inject it with poison so that it becomes paralyzed / stunned, after which it is transported to the gastrozoids.
Here we approached India's second largest port Cochin
Kochi, formerly known as Cochin, is the second largest city in the Indian state of Kerala. The town is located in Ernakulam district and the municipality has a population of 596,473 (2001). However, the conurbation has a population of 1,355,406 (2001), making it the largest conurbation in Kerala and one of the fastest growing urban areas in India.
The city is an important port city and has been the center of the spice trade for centuries. Kochi was called the "Queen of the Arabian Sea" at an early stage. In Kochi, gold, textiles and fish are traded and shipped. The city is attractive to tourists and companies active in IT. Kochi's natural harbor provides access to the Kerala Backwaters.
From 1503 to 1663 Kochi was under the rule of the Portuguese. Vasco Da Gama, the explorer, died in Kochi in 1524 during his third voyage to India. He was initially also buried there. His body was transferred to Portugal in 1539.
In 1662, the city, with the most important Portuguese occupation after Goa, was besieged for three weeks by Rijklof van Goens. The Portuguese received reinforcements and the winter monsoon set in earlier than expected. In 1663 the Dutch conquered the city.
From 1717 to 1723, the anthropologist avant la lettre Jacobus Canter Visscher was a minister in Cochin and wrote letters to his family about Malabar culture.
In 1663 the Dutch conquered the city of Cochin from the Portuguese. (Coenraet Decker, 1682)
In 1795 the VOC withdrew from Kochi, after which the area fell into the hands of the British in 1814.
The Dutch cemetery in Kochi is one of the oldest European cemeteries in India. Vera van Heininge was buried there in 1664. The most recent Dutch grave is that of three-year-old Helena Muller, who died in December 1814. The renovation of the colonial cemetery was completed in January 2007 and is open to the public.
The Suez Canal is a 163 km long canal in the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt. It connects Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea and Suez on the Red Sea, and borders the Sinai Peninsula to the east. It is also the dividing line between Africa and Asia. The canal has no locks because both seas have the same level. It consists of a strip with different passing options. Each year, approximately 15,000 ships undertake the 11 to 16 hour journey through the Suez Canal. In 2000, this was about 14% of the total tonnage of world shipping. The importance of the channel is very great. Ships between the North Atlantic and the Indian Ocean used to have to circumnavigate the continent of Africa. Since the Suez Canal exists, this is no longer necessary. You can also sail completely around Africa because it is now a separate continent. The canal opened in 1869.
The province of Naples is the most populous province in Italy.
Especially the northern part, around the metropolis of Naples, is very densely populated. In the center of the province is the infamous volcano Vesuvius. The immediate vicinity is also densely populated, partly due to the fertile soil. The Sorrento peninsula in the south is the most important for tourism. In Pompeii and Herculaneum you can see the remains of the cities destroyed in AD 79. Boats depart from Sorrento for the decadent island of Capri. On the other side of the peninsula lies the Amalfi Coast, which belongs to the province of Salerno.
A still active volcano. Located on the west coast of Italy, near Naples. Mount Vesuvius is 1281 meters high and has a diameter of 8 kilometers. The volcano erupted several times. The most devastating eruption occurred in AD 79. The city of Pompeii was buried under thick layers of ash. Things also went badly wrong in 1631. The last eruption dates from 1944. The damage was not too bad. Visiting Vesuvius is possible. For example, you can buy a bus return ticket to the volcano at the Pompeii train station. It is an hour's drive from Pompeii.
The Visuvius seen from Pompeii
Here we enter the cold Den Helder after a long journey. The arrow points to me. I'm standing there on the port Oerlikon platform on the forecastle as a telephone operator. That was my position during mooring and anchor roll.
Did you know that at the Government Dockyard there has been talk of a 3D radar on HMS. "Pelican"?
HMS. "Pelican" was withdrawn from strength and scrapped in 1973 after 30 years of service, 4 of which were in the Royal Navy.
The ship's doctor LTZAR2OC KMR bd. FJ Stols
During our outward and return journey we had a doctor on board, that was the
lieutenant at sea doctor 2nd class
RNR FJ Stols. He is now 87 years old (2020). He recently contacted me again to ask if I am still interested in more of his photo and film material that he made during his placement at the Pelican. That, of course, did not fall on deaf ears. He had no objection to this material also being placed on this site.
I am very grateful to him for that.
Of course I don't want to withhold the visitor of my site of these unique images.
Below I have 10 photos and two short movies of him.
At the helm of the motor-launch Commander de Vries, behind him in swimming trunks and sunglasses de Skipper van Galen. Behind the Skipper. the Sergeant major warehouse manager Kruizinga (my boss) and to the left of the Skipper one of the sailors.
Click on the photo below to start the film fragments.
The following fragments can be seen in this film:
- The entry into Hollandia of the first Indonesian warship after the transfer, a landing craft. - Images of the visit to Cochin (India) on the homeward journey. - The rough weather in the Red Sea. - The Egyptian merchants we tried to keep off the ship with the fire hose. - Entry into Den Helder.
Click on the photo below to start the film fragments.
The following fragments can be seen on this film:
- “Shooting exercises” (that's what I call it, experts were present) on the North Sea - Sailing past HMS. Walrus - Mooring (anchor in the coral…) at Klein Curacao - Entering Willemstad - Street images ditto - To Panama Canal (unfortunately, mostly fell asleep….) - Exit Panama Canal (big bridge briefly in the picture) - Suva, remove images of cobra bunch - New Guinea. There are a few shots that I made on the Snellius, including swimming and football, HMS. Limburg (a good friend of mine was a doctor there! They had patrolled along the south coast for a long time. - Last part again Pelikaan, Cdt. de Vries controls a sloop etc.