From 14 November 1977 to 12 February 1979 posted aboard Hr.Ms. "Utrecht". A Anti-submarine destroyer.
Finally a sailing placement again after nine years.
After sixteen years, I got what I wanted. Because in 1961 when I was in Vlissingen I had asked to be transferred to a destroyer. Then my request was rejected. And now it was my turn to sail again and I will get there by myself.
Normally there was no warehouse manager on board a destroyer in those days. But an exception was made for a station ship because the ship would then be away from home for a long time (seven months in the Caribbean) and there was always a lot to arrange for supplies.
I was placed on board there in the position of assistant to the DOCO (Detail Officer CO-ordinator). However, there was a problem when I came on board, there was a bed for me but no work space. But luckily there was a very creative carpenter on board and within a few days I had closet space with my own desk where I could do my work. My “office” was located in the signal station 40 mm behind. Of course, this means nothing to a layman. But that was a room that housed the fire control systems for the four 40mm machine guns mounted aft of the ship. That system consisted of a number of large amplification cabinets and the master compass “behind” was set up here. That last device was the only one still working and the entire fire control system was no longer used. However, the air condition in this room was fantastic because it was of course tailored to a room full of working equipment that gave off a lot of heat. When we were later in the tropics it was sometimes so cold inside that I had to go on deck about every hour to recover.
My boss was the LTZA1 Eugène Luycks. Nice guy that I got on well with. My commander was the KLTZ Veenendaal. I also met him again later when I was posted to The Hague, but then he was a rear admiral in the position of deputy chief of staff. He was also a pilot and had been with the VSQ 320 like me. I sometimes had to do business with him and then it is useful if you get along well with your commander, he was a very sympathetic man. The head of technical service (with whom I had to do a lot of business) was the LTZT 1 Ben Mooiman. Fine guy. He later became director of the Naval Ship-yard in Den Helder.
My explicit task was to coordinate the flow of goods from the supply authorities ashore, such as maintenance companies and warehouses, to the end users on board and vice versa. The actual request and deposit of goods to be repaired was done by the various service groups themselves. I just kept an eye on it. If there were logistical-technical problems on board, I dived in to solve it. That is why I sometimes had to do business with the heads of service on board. Abroad, I also had to deal with the customs clearance of the goods that were sent to us from Holland, or that we sent back. All in all, I had a very instructive position there from which I learned a lot.
My mates were the corporal electrician Arend Robbe. We were never allowed to say Arend, he always wanted to be called Rob. And the quartermaster Kees Smalheer (unfortunately passed away on October 23, 2010). I still have annual contact with Rob around Christmas time.
With this destroyer I have visited the following countries and ports/cities; England, Portland, Weymouth, Rosyth, Inverkeithing, Dunfermline, Edinburgh. Cape Verde Islands, Sao Vicente. Barbados, Bridge Town. Trinidad, Port of Spain. Saint Lucia, Castries city. Martinique, Fort de France. Sint Eustatius, Oranjestad. Saba, The Bottom. Saint Martin, Philipsburg. Aruba, Oranjestad. Curacao, Willemstad. Bonaire, Kralendijk. Puerto Rico, San Juan, Roosevelt Roads. America, Port Canaveral, Cape Canaveral, Orlando. Bermuda, Hamilton. Azores, Ponta Delgada. Columbia, Cartagena. Surinam, Paramaribo, Albina. French Guiana, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni.
From April 28, 1978 to December 1, 1978 we were sent to the Ned. Antilles as a station ship.
The highlight of this placement was of course the trip to the Antilles. With the highlights of that trip of course being a visit to Paramaribo, Florida, and Columbia.
Before we left for the West, the ship had to be refurbished, of course. This means that the ship and the crew are "steamed" completely ready to be able to act flawlessly in wartime and in the event of any calamities. That workup is always done in England in Portland and is called the FOST (Flag Officer Sea Training). Both ashore and at sea on board. Seariders are then placed on board. These are people who are specialized in coming up with all kinds of disaster scenarios, who will then also carry them out and the crew will then have to solve it. That way you get trained in weapons control, combat control, emergency procedures, etc. It takes about four to six weeks. Usually it ends with a large exercise with many ships and aircraft near the Shetland Islands. We successfully completed the entire training so that we did not have to come back for certain parts. However, we were unable to complete the final days of the major exercise as we ran into heavy weather which broke up the whole fleet and at one point we found us some seventy miles off the Norwegian coast. We had suffered quite a bit of damage on the half deck because everything on deck had been knocked overboard, such as the depth charge rack, the rubber boat, a rack with petrol jerry cans, and the railing benches. Because I “lived and worked” in the back of the ship, I could not, like the other crew members who slept there, go to the cafeteria in the bow to eat. We were then forced to eat only some bread with toppings in the non-commissioned officers' quarters. This also applied to the non-commissioned officers and officers who slept in the stern. Because if you had to go to the fore ship and the galley, you could only do so over the open deck, and that was forbidden because it was life-threatening. Because you would wash off the deck midships. The (non-commissioned) officers and men who "lived" in the bow were lucky, they could eat hot food, the non-commissioned officers only had to be satisfied with the cafeteria to eat. You don't sleep much, because you're just rolling back and forth in bed. But I also couldn't sit on a chair in my "office" because it would tip over when I sat on it or slide away. You couldn't work that way either. Fortunately I was not seasick then. I've actually never had any problems with that during my sailing periods. This was the worst weather I've ever experienced in the Navy. Quite an experience in itself. But you do get tired.
Finally we were ready for our task in the West and we left on April 28, 1978. The journey went without any significant problems. Only when we left Den Helder did we immediately have technical problems with the HOSIPO, which has something to do with the main steam pipe. It broke down and we left the jetty with tugboat assistance. Because the commander insisted on leaving in front of the wavers on the jetty and we anchored in the roadstead until the problem was resolved. That was just the other day. We went via Cadiz to the Cape Verde Islands, where it looked like a lunar landscape due to the drought. It hadn't rained a drop in eleven years. Then we went to Barbados where we had to load oil. Then the journey continued to Willemstad on Curaçao. During that trip we of course passed the Tropic. That means that you end up in a tropical area. At the Navy we have the tradition that the youngest sailor and the youngest officer on board, brotherly wrapped in polar clothing, paint the Panama safe (that is a large eye on top of the bow through which the mooring lines are guided when mooring) blue. That is of course a sweaty affair for the person involved, but to compensate there is of course a party afterwards and the drinks flow freely. Usually a bingo is linked to it. On arrival in Willemstad we still had an exciting moment because while mooring at the Rimasteiger (our permanent berth at the Naval Base Parera) a fire broke out in the aft engine room, which was fortunately extinguished fairly quickly. In retrospect, the damage turned out to consist of the renewal of about fifteen meters of electrical cable and some junction boxes, so luckily that was not too bad.
While crossing to the Antilles, shortly after we left Barbados (where we really only loaded oil) we rescued two fishermen from Grenada. We met them in the middle of the sea in a rudderless fishing boat. They were a father and his son. Both were showing signs of dehydration. It turned out they had been floating around for fourteen days without an engine. They had had engine trouble after which they unscrewed the engine from its foundation to repair it on the foredeck because they could reach it better. Unfortunately, the engine was then knocked overboard by the movement of the waves and they had nothing to move forward. They were actually discovered by accident by one of the lookouts who was just coming off post. He descended the stairs of the bridge while unconsciously looking out over the sea and saw something in the distance. It was too far to discern clearly what it was, so he went back to the bridge to grab a pair of binoculars. Then he clearly saw two people in a boat, one of whom was waving. We then turned around and they were taken aboard after which they were immediately admitted to sickbay. We hoisted their boat out of the water and lashed it against the railing before rushing them to Curaçao. There they were immediately taken to the hospital to recover. Their boat had suffered so much damage during the hoisting up and the trip to Curaçao that they could not sail it back to Grenada. We then organized a special Bingo night with the proceeds going to the fishermen so that they could buy a new boat. The proceeds were surprisingly high at the end of the evening so they still had money left over. Later, when they were back in Grenada we received a message from the mayor of their village inviting HMS. "Utrecht" to visit his village, if it fitted into our sailing schedule. Unfortunately that could not happen because we had a busy sailing schedule.
I normally always take a lot of pictures during my travels. That didn't happen this trip to the West. I did take some pictures but I filmed a lot on super 8 with sound. I had taken quite a few photos of that area over the years so I bought a film camera to show moving pictures for a change instead of photos. It ended up being a two and a half hour film. Altogether I shot about forty-two three-minute cartridges. When I got home later I had some work to do to tie it all together. Anyway, that keeps you off the streets. It ended up being a beautiful film, which I have also digitized in the meantime. I was so bold as to download some pictures from the site of HMS. "Utrecht" from the crew members who put their pictures on that site. I hope they will not blame me. Of course I have put them here to clarify my story.
Of course we visited the Leeward and Windward Islands during our stay in the West. Unfortunately I could not participate in some of the exercises of the landing detachment because I had sustained a whiplash injury while playing badminton during the HMS. "Utrecht" Sports Day in Curaçao. As a result, I had to sit on a chair for fourteen days and was not allowed to participate in any exercises or other activities. As a result, I missed a mountain climb to the top on Saba and a landing exercise on Bonaire. On Aruba, we took an excursion to the old gold mines of the Indians. On our tour of the other Caribbean islands. We visited Trinidad where we took a boat trip through a large nature reserve with mangrove forests where the Red Ibis breeds. And we visited a natural asphalt lake of which part is national park and the other part was operated by an asphalt factory. It was a strange sight at the houses around that lake, though. There the plants grew right through the asphalt. On St. Lucia we visited a drive-in crater on an excursion. It stank terribly of sulfur and rotten eggs and everywhere you could see smoke coming out of the rocks and air bubbles bubbling up in the pools of water.
In Columbia, we spent several days in Cartagena. That is a large port city of over a million inhabitants. Founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia. It is also the largest Naval Base in the Caribbean. The one thing we immediately noticed was the heat. I have never had it so hot, even in New Guinea. When we were at the jetty, it measured 45 degrees in the shade under the sun tent. Drug control was very strict there. When you left the port you first passed through a checkpoint. Even a packet of shag was mistaken for drugs. If the police saw you rolling a cigarette you were immediately arrested. That's how a few ended up at the police station there. Because of the guerrilla war in Columbia, we were not allowed to go on shore leave alone; at least five of us were allowed into town. We had signed up for an excursion. It was only held in the city because outside the city was just too dangerous. No one was allowed outside the city either. But in the city there was plenty to see because it is an old city with many colonial buildings and statues. Like the statue of the Indian princess India Catalina. Today she is a national symbol of this country. We then also visited the fort Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. It was a large fortress that still looked very robust and impressive today and dates back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
In Paramaribo we stayed for an entire weekend. It was then a very neglected city. With generally poorly maintained wooden houses and office/business buildings. The wooden cathedral was also in a sorry state. But it was pleasant on the streets with lots of little shops where you could buy delicious food. The people were very hospitable and without exception they all spoke Dutch very well. You couldn't say that about the people of Curacao. I participated in a nice excursion there. We had enough guides and enough food and drinks were provided. Because we were going to go on a whole day. The trip went by bus to Albina where we transferred to a korjaal (a long canoe made of a tree trunk) that took us up the Marowijne River a long way upstream. We stopped at an Indian village. There we were allowed into the village to make contact with the Indians and, of course, to buy souvenirs. These people were also very friendly. What struck us on the river were the huge boulders lying in it. We regularly had to sail around them. On the way back to Albina we ended up in a sudden downpour that turned into a hailstorm with hailstones like pigeon eggs. It was a good thing that the canoe was covered with sturdy canvas, otherwise we would have been soaked to the skin and would have gotten bumps. But as suddenly as the storm came, it disappeared and the sun shone cheerfully as if nothing had happened.
We moored at Saint Laurent du Maroni in French Guiana, opposite Albina. There we visited the infamous penal camp where "Papillon" by the writer Henri Charrière had been held. It was no longer used as a prison and now housed poor citizens. Although the buildings looked tattered, the whole thing was impressive to see. Then we left again for Paramaribo. It had been a nice, educational day.
We did meet old acquaintances in Paramaribo. These were Surinamese who had served in the Navy in the Netherlands and had returned to Suriname after their functional retirement to continue serving in the Surinamese Army.
On November 1, 1978, I was promoted to sergeant warehouse manager. Finally after thirteen and a half years as a corporal. The only luck I had was that I had become a corporal very early so I was still a relatively young sergeant compared to the other service branches. That promotion meant I had to move aboard from a corporal's sleeping quarters to a four-person petty officer's cabin. That transition was somewhat of a luxury because in the corporal's sleeping quarters we slept with nine men. I slept there on the middle bunk three high. At my foot end was a colleague, who was more than two meters tall. In other words, he regularly lay with his feet next to mine because the beds were actually too short for him. I was no longer bothered by that in the petty officer's cabin. That was kind of nice. That accommodation change was the only thing that changed for me because of that promotion and my salary. It made no difference to my work because I was alone. We celebrated the promotion well because we were in Oranjestad, Aruba, where we had delivered a company of marines from Curaçao for a big exercise that afternoon. Among those marines I saw an old acquaintance with whom I had formerly served in The Hague. He lived with his family on Aruba, so after we had celebrated my promotion on board, which of course he also attended with his wife, we had a drink at his house. That went on into the small hours, but he still delivered me neatly on board.
The last great trip was to Port Canaveral in Florida. We also spent several days there. We went on an excursion there to the Kennedy Space Center. That was very impressive. The complex is about the size of the province of Flevoland. Enormously vast and very well secured. Not only by security services but also, because it is a large swamp area, by natural security in the form of alligators. We also saw these clearly sunbathing along the banks of the creeks, moreover, we also saw them being fed by attendants. Various types of large launch platforms could be seen for different types of missiles. Also the path of the vehicle on which the complete rocket was transported to the launch platform of the Saturn V rockets. Just one link of the tracked vehicle weighs one ton. Such a Saturn rocket we also saw in the "Rocket Garden." What an enormous thing. Nearby there was the Vehicle Assembly Building. It is said that the Empire State Building seems to fit in there four times. That is where shuttles are assembled today and then hoisted onto the vehicle that then transports them to the launch pad. All in all, it was an educational excursion and very impressive.
Of course, we also took an excursion to Walt Disney World. We couldn't let that pass us by. You must have seen it if you have the opportunity. Because it was not American vacation time, the crowds at the various attractions were not too bad. There were no long queues, as we have seen in Holland at the Efteling among other places. So we could see the various attractions at our leisure. Of course, we did not see everything because that would take at least a week I think. What we immediately noticed was that everywhere was very clean and tidy and that everything was in one piece. Also the lights were on well, there was not a single bulb broken. The attractions we saw were just great. Even the movable puppets were so well made and the movements they performed were so true to nature that at first we thought we were dealing with real people. But they were really puppets. Unbelievably so beautiful. To get an impression of the whole park, we took a tour on a monorail train and went around the park on a cable car.
The next day I went with my two mates, Cees and Rob, by rental car to Orlando where we visited Sea World and the wax museum of Madam Tousseau. At Sea World we did have a good laugh, especially at the Orca show. That beast was so big that, when it jumped out of the water only to fall back again, so much water splashed up that the spectators on the first rows of the stands got soaking wet. I was glad we were at the top so my film camera couldn't get wet. We also saw a great water ski show there, which was totally finished.
On the trip home, we visited Bermuda´s and the Azores. I noticed nothing of the infamous Bermuda Triangle. We only loaded oil and then left. We spent a weekend in Ponta Delgada, where we were dressed in European or Navy blue for the first time. We played a soccer game with our ship's team against the local soccer club. I just don't remember who won.
From the Azores the last leg to Den Helder. The rest of the trip went well and in the Bay of Biscay we had quite a swell. On November 29, a few days before entering Den Helder, I thought, "Let me surprise Agnes." After all, that day is her birthday. I then called her from sea via the communications center on board and Radio Holland and congratulated her. (There were no mobiles in those days, all communication was by (air)mail). So that was a complete surprise for her. I had never done that before. She was so surprised that she didn't know what to say. I had really overwhelmed them with it, but she was happy about it.
A few days later on December 1, 1978, we entered Den Helder like a ghost ship. For Den Helder was jammed with fog. It was so foggy that the collectors on the jetty only saw the ship when it emerged from the mists just in front of the jetty. Even Sinterklaas and his Black Pete were waiting for us. But by the looks of it, Sinterklaas had been waiting a very long time because he stood a little shaky on his legs!!! The children on the jetty were looking at him a bit strange and had their own thoughts about that.
Somewhere among all those people I saw Agnes waving with Fabian on her arm. He was staring his eyes out. He had never seen this before because when we waved goodbye they had not gone with us to Den Helder. When we were moored, everyone was allowed on board, which became quite a commotion. After all customs matters had been dealt with, everyone was allowed to go home to enjoy their debarkation leave.
Most of the crew would be transferred after disembarkation leave. Except for the logistics department, to which I thus belong. They had not heard of a transfer. I had heard indirectly via via.... that I was going to the Logistics School in Amsterdam but officially I didn't know anything about it. Later, when I was back on board after my disembarkation leave, I was officially informed that I would indeed be transferred to the Logistics School in Amsterdam. I then handled the materiel logistics matters on board because I would not be replaced. So that each service group could fully manage its own affairs again. This period aboard the destroyer has been a very instructive period for me that I wouldn't have wanted to miss for anything.
If anyone is interested in the film I made of this period aboard HMS. "Utrecht," click on the photo below.
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Images and additional information
(Most images can be enlarged by clicking on them.)
HMS. "Utrecht" was a type B submarine destroyer and belonged to the Friesland class. 8 of these were built. The other 4 were of type A and belonged to the Holland class. The difference between the two types was that the "A" destroyers had fewer machine guns (1) and the propulsion had less power (45,000 hp). The length, width and draught were also less (111.30 by 11.33 by 3.88m.).
The ship was built at Koninklijke Maatschappij De Schelde under construction number 272. The keel laying took place on February 15, 1954. The christening took place on June 2, 1956 and the ship was commissioned on October 1, 1957.
The ship was decommissioned on August 1, 1980 and transferred to Peruvian Navy on September 5, 1980 where she was commissioned on October 6, 1980 under the new name BAP Castilla (71).
Following are some technical details of the ship:
Length 116 m
Beam 11,78 m
Draught 5,02 m
Displacement 3070 tons
Power supplied by 4 Babcock boilers
en 2 Werkspoor steamturbines 60.000 shp
Speed 36 kn
120 mm guns in 2 twin turrets Bofors 4 pcs
40 mm machine guns Bofors 6 later 4 pcs
(in 1965, 2 were removed)
Four-barrelled depth charge mortars 2 pcs
Depth bomb racks 2 later 1 pcs
10,3 cm Lichtraketwerper 1 pcs
In the New Guinea period, the Utrecht was also equipped with 8 torpedo launch tubes 4 on each side in the midship.
Within the yellow framed section was located my "office," the corporal's quarters and my sleeping quarters, a nine-man hut.
The group photo of the party committee shows the following people as far as I still remember them.
Standing from left to right: The coordinator on Curaçao, Victor Maduro, singer Dulce Marugg, Toon Hondijk, Gerard Eggen, Jan Kieft, KLTZ Veenendaal (Cdt., we wanted to have him on the picture), crouching from left to right: My person, Mike Hermans, Jan van Tongeren, Jaap van Baaren, Joop Gerrits and lying Gerrit de Bruin.